For almost two weeks now, CBC has been broadcasting an hour of Montreal radio morning show Daybreak on television, with cameras installed in the radio studio. Managing Director Shelagh Kinch explains a bit how it works on her blog. But basically, a handful of cameras are set up in the studio that allow us to see the people on the air as they’re speaking. Because the cameras are voice-activated, the switching happens without the need for human intervention (i.e. without needing to hire someone for it).
Shawn Apel, the soft-spoken CBC Montreal radio veteran with the driest of wits, has been named the permanent host of Radio Noon, he weekly radio show broadcast throughout Quebec on CBC Radio One.
Apel replaces Bernard St-Laurent, who leaves that job to focus full-time on his role as chief political correspondent in Quebec. It’s a move that comes concurrently with various cuts to local staff, though not directly related to it.
Last day for three staffers
Speaking of those cuts, Friday is the last day on the job for three others at CBC Montreal. Andrew Chang does his last show as anchor before leaving on paternity leave and coming back to some other job at CBC outside of Montreal. You can watch his last show here, or just the career retrospective here.
Web editor Corinne Smith is leaving the corporation to lecture at Concordia University.
And Pierre Landry does his last episode of Homerun as its arts reporter. He’ll be a fill-in on All in a Weekend over the summer, but there’s no guarantee of any work after that.
Here’s 11 minutes of excerpts from Landry’s last hour at Homerun:
Plusieurs collègues de CBC/Radio-Canada ont perdu leurs postes aujourd'hui, dont moi. Journée difficile. Aux nouveaux défis!
— Pierre Landry (@PierreLandry) April 30, 2014
For three weeks after CBC President Hubert Lacroix announced cuts equivalent to 657 full-time positions at the public broadcaster, employees at the CBC Montreal office finally learned how those cuts would trickle down at the local level.
This week, I met with Shelagh Kinch, the Quebec regional director for English services, who laid it out for me: 10 positions are being “affected” by the cuts, and at this point it looks like five people will be leaving the CBC as a result.
I explain it all in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.
The changes break down as follows:
- Management is being restructured, eliminating the job of news director. Mary-Jo Barr has been let go. Helen Evans will be in charge of both news and current affairs, while Meredith Dellandrea will be in charge of non-daily programs (like Cinq à six, À propos and Our Montreal) and have “a major role” in the CBC Montreal website. “Helen has an extensive background with us,” Kinch said. “She’s probably produced every one of those programs for us. She also has very strong leadership skills. I need somebody that people are behind and people want to work with.”
- Two retirements won’t be replaced: journalist Ivan Slobod, who left in September after 30 years at the CBC, and Sally Caudwell, who produces Radio Noon.
- The two part-time jobs producing Cinq à six and À propos are being replaced by one full-time producer. Tanya Birkbeck, who produced Cinq à six, will stay at the CBC as a news reporter. Sophie Laurent, who produced À propos, is out of a job. Frank Opolko will take over producing both jobs.
- Web development is being centralized in Toronto, and a local developer is being made redundant. The person in that position will be able to apply to the Toronto job, Kinch said.
- A communications officer position is being made redundant. Catherine Megelas is the unlucky one. She said in a Facebook post that it was “a super shitty day” the day she was told. Redundancy means that the union will try to find another job for her to fill, a process that could take up to 90 days.
- A late-night camera operator is being reassigned.
- One arts reporter position is being eliminated. Pierre Landry, the arts reporter for Homerun, is the only one who’s on contract, so his won’t be renewed past the end of June.
- One position, described as a reassignment, that CBC said it couldn’t give any details on. (UPDATE: It’s anchor Andrew Chang, who’s taking up a new job at CBC outside of Montreal)
The departures will be staggered over the summer, as contracts end, notices are given and alternative jobs explored. But by September, the changes should have taken effect.
Radio station CHOU 1450 AM, which airs programming in Arabic, French and other languages from the Middle East, has applied to the CRTC for permission to setup a low-power rebroadcasting transmitter on FM to help alleviate reception problems in the city’s northeast.
The transmitter would operate at 104.5 FM with a power of 50 watts, from an antenna on top of the Sami Fruits building on 19e Ave., near Pie-IX and Jarry.
The station’s primary transmitter is 2,000 watts from the St-Laurent industrial park. In its submission to the CRTC, the station says it has looked at other ways to improve its signal, including increasing power with a directional antenna, but that adding another antenna to its main transmitter site isn’t a practical solution.
Montreal doesn’t have much empty space on the FM dial, so trying to squeeze in another station, even a low-power one, is bound to cause some problems.
The biggest source of problems here would be CBME-FM-1, the retransmitter of CBC Radio One at 104.7 FM in the west end. Because they’re so close together, there would be interference between the two. Because the CBC transmitter is more powerful, that interference would be closer to where the CHOU retransmitter will be located. CHOU’s broadcasting engineer mapped out the interference pattern like this:
Normally, this kind of interference would kill an application in its tracks, unless the other station agreed to accept the interference. But CHOU argues that, because CBME-FM-1 is a retransmitter designed to cover Westmount, NDG, Côte-des-Neiges and Hampstead, where the main CBC transmitter at 88.5 was apparently experiencing reception problems, people in affected areas will be listening to the station at 88.5 anyway and won’t mind not hearing the retransmitter.
We’ll see if the CBC agrees with that logic.
The CRTC is accepting comments on the proposal until Oct. 31. Comments can be submitted through the CRTC’s website here. Note that all information submitted to the CRTC, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.
The departure of Catherine Verdon-Diamond, who is now doing weather at Breakfast Television on City, has resulted in a shuffling of staff at CBC Montreal. Verdon-Diamond was the weather presenter on the 11pm newscast with Nancy Wood for only a few months before getting the City gig.
Taking her place, officially as of October, is Sabrina Marandola, who was doing the weekend weather with Thomas Daigle. Her job, in turn, is being taken by Jeremy Zafran, who was doing traffic for Homerun on CBC Radio One. He will continue doing that job Mondays to Wednesday’s.
On the other days, Homerun’s traffic desk will be run by Jennifer Allen. Allen has been doing traffic at CBC for a while, mainly on Daybreak.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has just renewed the broadcasting licence for most radio and TV services run by CBC/Radio-Canada, for five years starting Sept. 1 (which means these provisions take effect then). It’s a long decision, and even the press release explaining it is kind of long. So here’s what the CRTC has decided and how it’ll affect what you watch and hear:
(For a Montreal-specific look, see this story I wrote for The Gazette)
- Ads on Radio Two/Espace Musique: The most controversial proposal has been accepted. The CRTC will allow advertising on the music radio network, but with some restrictions: They can broadcast no more than four minutes of advertising an hour, in no more than two ad blocks, and no local advertising is allowed. This allowance is also limited to three years. If the CBC wants to continue after that, it must re-apply to the CRTC for permission.
- Minimum playlist size: As part of a way to ensure Radio Two and Espace Musique are different from commercial radio, the CRTC is requiring that they air a large number of different musical selections, 2,800 a month for Radio Two and 3,000 for Espace Musique. That means about 100 songs a day that haven’t been played yet that month.
- More specific radio CanCon minimums: Currently, half of popular music and 20% of special interest music must be Canadian for all four radio networks. The CRTC has added, with CBC’s blessing, conditions that require that 25% of concert music and 20% of jazz/blues music also be Canadian.
- More flexibility in French music: On Radio-Canada radio networks, 85% of music played must be French. That requirement remains. But the rest is no longer restricted. Before only 5% could be in English and all of it had to be Canadian. Now that 15% can be in any language, including English, and half of non-French music has to be Canadian.
- More French local programming in Windsor: CBC’s cuts to local programming at CBEF Windsor caused controversy, leading to complaints that included the official languages commissioner. The CRTC has decided to impose a minimum of 15 hours per week of local programming at the radio station, above what the CBC had proposed and consistent with other stations in minority communities.
- No more Long Range Radio Plan: The CBC says, due to its budget, it has no plans to increase its radio coverage area (including plans to make Espace Musique available to more people) and wants to discontinue the Long Range Radio Plan. This plan includes hundreds of allocations for radio transmitters that don’t exist yet. Shutting this down would save a lot of headaches for private broadcasters, whose proposals for new or improved radio stations would have to take these imaginary stations into account.
- Public alerting system: The CBC is required to install a public emergency alerting system on all radio stations by Dec. 31, 2014. The CBC said it would issue alerts at the station level, not at the transmitter level. The CRTC said it was concerned this might lead to alerts being issued too widely instead of just to the communities affected. Similar alerting is being encouraged, but not required, on television.
- More local TV programming: Following CBC’s recommendation, the CRTC has harmonized requirements for local programming between CBC/Radio-Canada and private television stations.
- English stations in metropolitan markets (which includes Montreal) will have to produce 14 hours a week of local programming, and stations in smaller markets seven hours a week. In most cases, this is an increase over current levels (Montreal produces just under 11 hours a week of local programming), so we’ll need to see longer or more frequent local newscasts.
- All French stations must produce five hours of local programming a week, including those in English markets, who must have some local programming seven days a week (except holidays).
- CBC North (CFYK-TV Yellowknife) will have five hours minimum as a condition of licence, though the CBC says it will be more than this.
- Non-news local TV programming: Following a suggestion from the CRTC at the hearing, the CBC agreed to require at least one of the 14 hours of local TV programming in major markets be devoted to non-news programming. The CBC hasn’t said what this would be, exactly. They said they’re starting to look at this now that they have a decision.
- No blanket exemptions for local programming: The CBC had requested that it be allowed to calculate local programming on a yearly basis instead of a weekly one, because events like the NHL playoffs or Olympics pre-empt local programming. The CRTC decided against this (except for French stations in English markets), mainly for practical reasons (it would have to review a whole year’s worth of tapes to determine if it was meeting its licence requirements). The CBC then suggested that it be allowed an exemption of up to 16 weeks a year. The CRTC decided against that too, preferring a case-by-case approach and referring to a decision that allowed CTV and V to be relieved of their local programming minimums during the 2012 Olympics, saying that should be the model for future events.
- Higher Canadian TV programming requirement: CBC and Radio-Canada television is now required to devote 75% of their broadcast day (6am to midnight) and 80% of primetime (7pm-11pm) to Canadian programs. They already do this now (they boast of having a 100% Canadian primetime), but it’s higher than their previous official requirements.
- Regional television in French: Radio-Canada television is now required to devote at least five hours per week to programming produced outside Montreal. In addition, 6% of its budget for Canadian programs must go to independent producers outside Montreal.
- More English-language television from Quebec: The CRTC is requiring CBC television to devote 6% of its budget for English-language Canadian programs to independent producers in Quebec, averaged over the licence term (until 2018). In addition, it must spend 10% of its development budget on Quebec, to give a boost to English-language producers here by having them produce more new programming.
- No interference in The National/Le Téléjournal: The corporation’s national newscasts have been accused of being too focused on the regions they originate from (Toronto and Montreal, respectively). But the CRTC won’t interfere, saying it would threaten journalistic integrity. It will, however, ask for regular reporting on how official language minority communities feel about how well CBC and Radio-Canada’s programming reflects them, and has imposed this purposefully vague condition of licence: “national news and information programming shall reflect the country’s regions and official language minority communities, and promote respect and understanding between them.”
- Canadian films on CBC: Following CBC’s proposal, the CRTC has imposed a requirement that CBC television air one Canadian theatrical film every month. The CBC is being given the flexibility to schedule it, which means it could air on a weekend afternoon, but it will air. The CBC is being held to its commitment to air Canadian movies on Saturday nights during 10 weeks in the summer.
- Children’s programming: Judging that a commitment to children’s programming is more important as other conventional television networks move those shows to specialty channels, the CRTC continues to require a commitment to programming for children under 12. CBC and Radio-Canada must broadcast 15 hours per week of under-12 programming. Of that, one hour a week (CBC) or 100 hours a year (Radio-Canada) of original children’s programming (programs that air on other channels can be counted for this if CBC contributed to its financing). And three-quarters of these hours must be independently produced.
- No requirements for new over-the-air transmitters: Despite demands for the CBC to reverse its decision to shut down hundreds of analog television transmitters across the country, and to limit digital transmitters to markets with local programming, the CRTC says it will not impose requirements on the CBC due to its financial situation. Instead, it suggests people who can’t get CBC or Radio-Canada over the air to look to Shaw’s free basic satellite offer, which expires in November. It also suggests broadcasters look to solutions like multiplexing (multiple channels on one transmitter) to offset the expense of digital transmitters.
- Renewal of mandatory distribution: The CRTC will maintain orders requiring digital cable and satellite providers to distribute CBC News Network in French-language markets and RDI in English-language markets, for $0.15 and $0.10 per month respectively. This is to ensure access to news programming for official language minority communities.
- ARTV will be required to make 50% of its programming schedule devoted to programs from independent producers, replacing a condition that it spend all its profits on independent production. (Since ARTV’s profits are modest at best, this will be a net benefit, the CRTC argues.) ARTV will also have to devote 20% of its programming budget to programs produced outside Quebec, half of that to independent producers.
- Ombudsmen: The corporation’s two ombudsmen (one for CBC, one for Radio-Canada) are now required by a condition of licence, which establishes how they are hired, and says they must report directly to the CBC president twice a year.
- Digital media: The CRTC hasn’t set specific conditions as far as digital media, though it has encouraged the CBC to be more accessible (more closed captioning online, for example).
- Terms of trade: The CBC is being ordered to come to agreements with the Canadian Media Production Association and Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec within a year.
- Consultations with minority language communities: The CBC must hold formal consultations at least once every two years with minority language communities, including the English community in Quebec. It must also report annually on such consultations.
UPDATE: The Quebec Community Groups Network praises the CRTC’s decision and the increased English-language Quebec production that will come out of it.
Pia Marquard, managing director at CBC Quebec, is leaving her job at the end of the month for health reasons.
In a message to staff, which includes English television and radio in Montreal and Quebec City, Marquard said she was “very proud and happy that I’ve been part of the Quebec team during the last two years” but that breathing problems after failed operations on her vocal cords have made it difficult for her to continue in her position, and “this is not a job that can be done part time.”
CBC News Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire said she “accepted (Marquard’s) resignation with regret.” McGuire’s note to staff also said Marquard “intends to resume her consultant’s career in Montreal.”
Marquard became managing director at CBC Quebec in 2010, and is probably best known for a decision that was taken before she started. Marquard came into her new job amid a public backlash over the unceremonious removal of Nancy Wood from her job as host of CBC Daybreak. Marquard never commented publicly about the change, and to this day it remains unexplained.
Otherwise, her reign has been fairly uneventful, starting after the expansion of TV newscasts to an hour and a half and before the further expansion into weekends. There were two major on-air positions filled under her watch, with Mike Finnerty returning to Daybreak and Debra Arbec getting the co-anchor position with Andrew Chang on television. Also on her watch were technical upgrades, switching the transmitter to digital and upgrading the newscast to high definition.
Marquard’s replacement has not yet been named, but McGuire said one will be announced “within a few weeks.”
(The above video has nothing to do with this post. It’s a year old, but it’s Dave Bronstetter being Dave Bronstetter)
If you missed it when it aired, Dave Bronstetter’s goodbye from CBC radio has been (mostly) posted online on the All in a Weekend website. It’s broken up into half-hour blocks (though most of the audio segments are less than 20 minutes in length because news was cut out):
The show was appropriate for a goodbye to such an important part of CBC Montreal’s history. The three hours were completely devoted to Bronstetter, with guests that included also-retiring Katie Malloch, Melissa Kent, Nancy Wood, Brendan Kelly, Yvon Huneault, Maura Keeley, Shawn Lyons, Bernard St-Laurent, Jonathan Goldstein, Tom Harrington, Rick Cluff, Frank McCormick, Laurent Lavigne and Dave’s daughter Fiona.
But the show was plagued by technical problems so bad that the entire first half-hour block never made it to air. Instead, listeners who tuned in to hear the heavily-hyped show heard what can only be described as filler music from the time the national newscast ended at 6:10 until the problem was fixed at 6:31am. When the show did resume, there were further technical problems, and just about every recorded segment they wanted to play didn’t cue.
Still, for Bronstetter fans, it was a chance to say goodbye to a man who had disappeared from the air for reasons that weren’t made clear at first. The show included taped calls from listeners, plenty of trips down memory lane, and even a song by singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor (it’s near the end of the last half-hour).
The recording on CBC’s website cuts off the most important part: Bronstetter’s last words. The final goodbye was unfortunately brief because they were coming up to the top of the hour (host Sonali Karnick tried and failed to get in a brief end-of-show message before the network cut her off in the middle of a word).
Thankfully, my laptop was recording the show, so if you missed Dave’s final message, you can listen to it here.
The All in a Weekend website also has a few photos from Bronstetter’s final show.
There wasn’t much reaction to Bronstetter’s goodbye online, but there was a blog post from Brendan Kelly and another at The SWLing Post. As It Happens (starts at 21:21) gave him a quick nod, replaying Kaldor’s song.
When asked during the final show what he planned to do during retirement, Bronstetter was noncommittal, suggesting maybe some voiceover work. But the usual retirement things like fishing have never been quite his thing.
In case you didn’t see the article in Wednesday’s Gazette, CBC Montreal announced this week that it is adding newscasts on weekends as part of the Mother Corp.’s “Everyone, Every Way” strategy that has brought similar announcements of increased local services across the country.
To be specific (because the press release is anything but), starting in May (the exact date is still to be confirmed):
- CBMT will get a half-hour local newscast at 6pm Saturdays, replacing the national newscast at that same time. It leads into Hockey Night in Canada.
- CBMT also gets a late newscast at 10:55pm Sundays, after The National.
- CBME-FM (88.5) gets local hourly newscasts on weekend afternoons, extending local news hours from noon to 5pm on Saturdays and 4pm on Sundays
A couple of questions remain unanswered.
- Anchor: For the TV newscasts, an anchor hasn’t been chosen yet. The position is to be posted in the coming weeks. Top candidates would probably be Kristin Falcao, Sabrina Marandola, Catherine Cullen and Peter Akman, who have had experience filling in for vacationing anchors.
- Jobs: It’s not clear at this point how many people will be hired to fill these new newscasts. CBC Quebec managing director Pia Marquard told me there would be “a couple of people at least”. Certainly an anchor will be needed on the TV side and a second news reader on the radio side. Plus one would imagine more reporters being needed on the weekend to file fresh stories for these newscasts. But Marquard seemed to suggest a lot of this would be done by shuffling around existing staff.
I asked Marquard about programming for Quebec communities outside of Montreal. No news there, even though one would think supporting anglophone minority communities in Quebec is part of the public broadcaster’s mandate. Outside of the Quebec AM and Breakaway radio shows out of Quebec City and programs of CBC North out of northern Quebec, the only radio and TV programming produced in the province comes out of Maison Radio-Canada.
I also asked her about the possibility of more non-news local programming. Things along the lines of the Secrets of Montreal special that ran last fall. She pointed to the CBC Montreal Summer Series, which are one-off one-hour specials that air Saturday nights during the summer, when nobody’s watching. Last year’s crop wasn’t particularly impressive. Of the six one-hour specials, two were English versions of Radio-Canada’s Studio 12 music performance show (which won’t return after this season, by the way, so they’re going to have to find another way to produce cheap one-hour shows). It’s not that I don’t like Studio 12, but it’s like those “CBC/Radio-Canada investigations” in which CBC Montreal repackages the work of Radio-Canada and takes credit for it.
Marquard did point out that CBC News Network will be airing the best of these summer series shows on Saturday afternoons this summer (when even fewer people will be watching, I imagine).
I don’t want to be too negative here. CBC television in Montreal has made a lot of progress in the past few years. It wasn’t long ago that all it had was a half-hour newscast on weekdays, producing 2.5 hours a week of programming. With these changes, it’ll go up to nine hours of local news a week, which is still way behind CFCF.
It would be nice if more of an effort was made to produce more local and regional programming for Quebec’s anglophone community from CBC, especially since there are no private English-language TV stations and few English-language radio stations outside of Montreal. And it would be nice if we had some programming that’s not confined to two-minute news reports or six-minute studio interviews, that could reflect the unique culture that is anglophone Quebec.
But for now I guess we’ll have to be satisfied that news that breaks on Saturday morning doesn’t have to wait until Monday at 5pm to be reported on local public television.