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).
Every summer, CBC Montreal broadcasts six hour-long one-off shows, usually documentaries, that have a local or regional focus. And every summer it gets largely ignored and poorly promoted.
This year, I had to do some searching to even discover it’s happening, and found only this page online listing what’s on the slate for this year. The first episode, Hacking Montreal, about the “hackathon” movement that CBC Montreal itself has been promoting recently, airs tonight at 7pm. The series then takes almost a month off because of the Pan Am Games, and returns with the five others in August and early September.
Of note here is that at least two of these documentaries focus on regions far from Montreal — Northern Quebec and Eastern Quebec. For these regions, it’s incredibly rare to see themselves reflected in English-language television.
Here’s the schedule:
Montreal is a global hub for ‘hackathons,’ weekend-long contests for innovating technology. CBC Montreal looks at how local infrastructure, healthcare, transportation and leisure are being improved by volunteer maverick thinkers.
Airs Saturday, July 04, at 7 p.m. ET
A City Is An Island
A DIY, behind-the-scenes look at the linguistic divide in the music and lifestyles of Montreal musicians Mac DeMarco, Patrick Watson, Sean Nicholas Savage, Tim Hecker, Colin Stetson and many more.
Airs Saturday, Aug 01, at 7 p.m. ET
Living on the Edge
Photographer and garlic farmer Joan Sullivan seeks to capture how people living along the rural coast of eastern Quebec adapt to major climate change events.
Airs Saturday, Aug 08, at 7 p.m. ET
NFB’s award-winning documentary profiling Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, better known as Seth, creator of Palookaville.
Airs Saturday, Aug 22, at 7 p.m. ET
A 60-year-old champion dog musher and amputee in Quaqtaq, Nunavik, prepares to race in the Ivakkak–a grueling, 600-kilometre Inuit sled dog race across the Quebec Arctic.
Airs Saturday, Aug 29, at 7 p.m. ET
Multiple generations of one family indulge over Labour Day weekend in a disappearing way of life–the cottage way of life.
Airs Saturday, Sep 05, at 7 p.m. ET
If you missed last year’s Absolutely Quebec series, you can still watch those episodes online. As are those from 2013.
As the CBC continues finding ways to save money, the corporation announced today that it is making changes to local programming.
The biggest one is that evening TV newscasts are being cut from 90 minutes to 60 or 30, depending on the market. Montreal is one of the unlucky ones, being cut to 30 minutes, starting at 6pm. This happens to be CBC Montreal’s weakest half-hour, because it competes directly with CTV News at 6 and Global News.
Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Windsor and Fredericton are also getting cut to 30 minutes. Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s will stay at 60 minutes because there’s still a “business case” for longer newscasts there, and CBC North will have 30 minutes in English and 30 minutes in Inuktitut.
Evening and weekend news are unchanged, as are local programs on CBC Radio One.
On the French side, the weeknight local Téléjournal broadcasts will be cut to 30 minutes everywhere but Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa/Gatineau and the Acadian region.
There are also smaller changes. CBC Daybreak will be broadcast on television from 6-7am. Currently CBC Television airs a national CBC News broadcast at this time, surrounded by local news, weather and traffic graphics.
There’s also going to be new one-minute hourly news breaks throughout the afternoon and evening on CBC Television.
How this will affect jobs at CBC is unclear at this point. Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs for CBC English Services says there are “no new cuts beyond those announced in June.” The CBC tells Canadian Press that it’s too early to talk about job cuts resulting from this, but not counting staff these changes will save $15 million a year.
Good news, too, kinda
If you want to ignore all that and pretend this is good news, as the CBC does in its press release, these “changes” are part of a transformation process that will focus more on digital. The corporation is vague on what changes are happening to the digital side, but apparently they will be improvements.
On the local side, the CBC will also be adding a videojournalist position in the Eastern Townships to expand coverage there. Right now there’s no private English-language TV or radio journalist permanently assigned to the townships. The CBC has a “researcher columnist” in the region covering it for radio, and occasionally supplements that with the travelling journalist who contributes to CBC Radio’s Quebec Community Network based out of Quebec City. This new position would be in addition to that, covering the townships for TV, radio and the web.
Fort McMurray, Alta., will also get a new news bureau.
In the spring of 2013, when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a new licence for the CBC that set a minimum amount of non-news local programming for major markets, I was hopeful. Finally, the CBC would give us local programming that wasn’t tied to a newscast, filling a hole that has been here for years.
But when I asked the CBC what this new programming would entail, I was told they didn’t know yet. Which seemed odd to me, since it was the CBC that proposed this hour a week of programming. Surely they had something in mind.
Finally, on Oct. 12, 2013, a year ago this week, Our Montreal debuted on CBC Television. Hosted by Sonali Karnick, who is also host of CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend, Our Montreal was vaguely described, and I didn’t really know what to expect even after talking with its host and other people at CBC. Nor really why its first airing was Saturdays at 6am.
And then I watched it. And I was disappointed.
Not only is this weekly show a lazy repackaging of content previously aired on CBC, most of it is so obviously either not local or not non-news that I think a compelling argument could be made to the CRTC that the public broadcaster is violating a condition of its license in all its major markets.
Three years after creating a two-person sports unit and rotating them regularly between morning and afternoon jobs, CBC Montreal has finally come to its senses and is giving them more stable schedules.
Douglas Gelevan announced on Friday that he’s moving to a full-time job as TV sports anchor and afternoon radio sports columnist as of Monday.
It`s been a great 3 years as sports columnist on @cbcdaybreak! I had a blast. Going to miss the early morning rush & our great team
— Douglas Gelevan (@DGelevan) July 25, 2014
“We’re going to experiment with exactly how the daily work flow will work with me over the next month,” Gelevan tells me. “By fall the permanent structure should be in place. I know the plan is to create a workflow that will get sports more involved in the 6 to 6:30 part of the program in addition to a sportscast in the 5. A back and forth scenario between the TV and Homerun studio is likely, but I can’t say for sure.”
Since Homerun airs from 3 to 6pm and the TV newscast is from 5 to 6:30pm, there’s some overlap, meaning the schedule has to be figured out (especially because it takes a couple of minutes to run from one studio to the other). But the team had been doing radio hits at 5:50pm after anchoring a sportscast during the 5pm block, so it should be manageable.
I asked Gelevan if he’ll enjoy the fact that he won’t have to get up as early for Daybreak. For a sports reporter especially, those kinds of hours can be very difficult.
But “it’s never been a issue for me,” he said. “Working on Daybreak is feels like getting fired out of canon as soon as you wake up. I’ll miss that aspect of being on the show for sure. And working side by side Mike, Monique, Jeanette and Brendan… They’re awesome.”
It’s been three years since Andie Bennett left what was then Team 990 to join CBC, prompting the creation of the sports unit. The move meant going on TV regularly, which clearly took some time getting used to, though viewers have seen her get more comfortable in the role as time has passed.
“I’m a radio girl at heart and we were all in agreement that it is better to have consistency on the airwaves,” Bennett said. “The TV work has been a great experience and I will still be doing some TV from time to time, ideally doing maybe one item a month that will be a bit more in-depth, thought-out, creative type of story.”
Aside from giving these two broadcasters more stable schedules, the change solves some practical problems. Promotions for either Daybreak or the TV newscast would either have to include both of them or neither. Now, Gelevan can stand next to Debra Arbec and Frank Cavallaro on those TV posters and Bennett can be more prominent in the B-roll they shoot for those tomorrow-on-Daybreak TV commercials.
“With Andrew Chang’s departure, we wanted to create a consistent on-air team for CBC News at 5:00, 5:30 and 6:00,” said CBC Quebec content manager Meredith Dellandrea (who’s filling in for other managers on vacation). “Doug Gelevan is great in the TV sports role and we’re so happy he agreed to this change. We are also pleased that Andie Bennett — also great on TV and radio — has agreed to be the Daybreak sports reporter on a daily basis.”
Both Bennett and Gelevan describe this as a win-win.
“It’s good news for everyone I think,” Bennett said. “I wanted to return to radio full-time and Doug does great work in the scripted TV format.”
And they insist they’re still a team. Their “sports unit” stories, where they go out together and try out new sports for our amusement, will continue.
With all the common sense that went into this, it makes you wonder why it took three years to get here.
For the third year, CBC Montreal will be airing six one-hour documentaries produced by people in Quebec on Saturday nights at 7pm this summer.
Here’s what I can tell you about them:
When CBC Montreal detailed the 10 jobs being affected as a result of the latest round of budget cuts, nine of those changes were well explained, but one remained mysterious, described only as a “reassignment”.
Now we know who it involves, though still not what the new assignment is. Andrew Chang announced on Wednesday’s newscast that he will be leaving Montreal for a new job at CBC. He said he couldn’t say where he’s going or what he’ll be doing when he gets there.
Chang has been at CBC Montreal for 10 years. (He started around the same time I worked there briefly. I remember because CBC user accounts for me and him were started at the same time, with the expectation that we’d both be around for a while. That wasn’t so in my case, though casual workers and interns for years would use my name to login to CBC’s systems, causing me to have some strange mythology there even in the years before this blog.)
After doing many different jobs at CBC, including being a reporter, he took over the anchor desk in 2009 with Jennifer Hall (now at CBC News Network) after Michel Godbout left. Though he was a young choice, Chang was instantly comfortable in the new position, able to mix gravitas of serious news and lightheartedness of news that wasn’t so serious. And though he was a hard worker, he never seemed to take himself too seriously.
Debra Arbec will continue to host the evening news on CBC Montreal solo. CBC tells me they’re not looking for a co-anchor for her.
Chang is expecting his first child in about a week (give or take the usual uncertainty with pregnancies). He’ll go on paternity leave, fill in as host of The Current for a week, and then go on to his new assignment.
Spent the last little while going through the mountain of well-wishing tweets you've all been sending. Thank you. Really.
— Andrew Chang (@AndrewChangCBC) May 22, 2014
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.
Rigueur, rigueur, rigueur.
Those words were uttered by TVA’s Pierre Bruneau on election night in 2007, after Radio-Canada had earlier incorrectly projected that Liberal leader Jean Charest had lost his seat in the election that swept the Action démocratique du Québec to official opposition status and ended the political career of André Boisclair. TVA held off on calling the race for that seat, and reaped the benefits.
The TV networks make big deals of their “decision desk” teams, the computers, political analysts and experts who wait until they’re absolutely sure that a race can be called before making a decision. That care is counteracted by the race to be the first to declare the result of the election.
But surely the chance of being embarrassed, as Radio-Canada’s Bernard Derome was in 2007, by calling even a single seat wrong would be enough to ensure that they always get it right.
Not so much.
On Monday night, all three local English TV stations with elections specials made more than one incorrect call. And, to their shame, I caught them on my PVR.
8:33: CBC calls Lévis for Liberals
Simon Turmel was one of a few Liberals to steal seats away from the CAQ in the Quebec City region. Or at least that’s what CBC seemed to think, announcing the gain with Turmel sitting in a seemingly comfortable lead of more than 1,100 votes.
But not quite. When the night was over, the CAQ’s Christian Dubé won the riding by 1,943 votes.
The first ratings report after the launch of City’s local programs is out, and so we can finally say which of the two local English morning shows has won the first ratings battle.
As it turns out, neither. They’re tied. Though both of them are far behind CTV’s Toronto-based Canada AM, which has three times more viewers in Montreal than the other two shows combined.
I have some analysis of ratings, and some quotes from the various parties, in this story, which appears in Friday’s Gazette.
But let’s get into some detail.
During its last CRTC licence renewal hearing, the CBC committed to increasing the amount of local programming it airs on its stations in large markets, including Montreal, bumping it up to 14 hours a week, consistent with private stations in large markets.
But rather than just adding more newscasts, CBC also committed that for these markets, at least one hour a week would be non-news local programming. Even after their licence renewal was approved, the CBC couldn’t say what form that programming would take. And even after the new licence came into effect on Sept. 1, there was no announcement, just confirmation that the new program would be an hour a week repeated twice over the weekend.
So without a new show ready, CBC Montreal has met its requirements for non-news local programming since Sept. 1 by re-airing the Absolutely Quebec series produced this summer.
Finally, today, even though the new show has been on the electronic schedule for a week and a half, we’re just now getting information from the public broadcaster about what these new shows are.
Here’s what we know so far. The new show is called “Our Montreal” (There’s also “Our Toronto”, “Our Ottawa”, “Our Calgary”, “Our Edmonton” and “Our Vancouver”, because local programming is still very much decided in Toronto). It’s an hour-long current affairs show, hosted by Sonali Karnick.
What will be on the show? According to the press release, it’s “the stories that made headlines and had everyone talking … weekly highlights plus a look behind the headlines on the issues everyone’s been buzzing about … the week’s top news stories plus timely features on books, health, one-on-one interviews and an interactive web column.”
The shows debut Saturday at 6am in every market — what kind of audience they can expect to get with this horrible time slot I have no idea* — and repeats at 11am on Sundays and 11am on Mondays.
Karnick will continue to host All in a Weekend on CBC Radio One in Quebec. Which means that her radio show and her television show will be on the air at the same time. Which also doesn’t make much sense.
I’ll be speaking with Karnick tomorrow for a story for The Gazette. I’ll ask her and others at the CBC about what they want the show to be, and which show she wants fans to listen to on Saturday mornings. If you have any other questions, let me know.
*Okay, I have some idea. Ratings for that timeslot show 1,700 viewers on average in Montreal last fall and spring. But will early risers for kids shows translate well into early risers (or insomniacs) among local current affairs watchers? We’ll see.
UPDATE: The story is here and in Friday’s paper. It goes into a bit of Karnick’s background, including her 2011 departure for Toronto and her quick return to Montreal. It also goes a bit into the timeslot. I never did get a very good answer, either from the local office or CBC nationally, about why 6am Saturday was chosen. Everyone reminded me that the show airs three times and is available online, and that some people are up that early on Saturday.
But while airing local shows at 6am is not unusual, it’s odd for that airing to be the premiere (unless it’s a three-hour morning show). Global Montreal used to repeat its evening newscasts at 6am the next day to meet CRTC local programming requirements. Some other stations elsewhere in Canada still do this, and even CTV Montreal has done it on occasion when pre-empted or cancelled newscasts have pushed it below its weekly minimum.
Maybe it’s just semantics here, and having a show air at 6am Saturday and repeat at 11am Sunday is no different from premiering at 11am and repeating at 6am.
But that 6am Saturday time slot still seems odd, especially because the Absolutely Quebec reruns were done at a much more reasonable hour of 11am or noon on Saturdays.
The press release
CBC Montreal launches “Our Montreal”: A weekly review program
Starting Saturday, October 12th on CBC Television
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 — Join CBC Television this Saturday, October 12 for Our Montreal an hour-long current affairs review program that looks at the best of Montreal.
“Each week, Our Montreal will bring you the stories that made headlines and had everyone talking,” says Shelagh Kinch, Managing Director, CBC Quebec “At CBC Montreal, we’re dedicated to sharing local stories and issues that matter to Montrealers. This program gives weekly highlights plus a look behind the headlines on the issues everyone’s been buzzing about.”
Hosted by Sonali Karnick, Our Montreal includes the week’s top news stories plus timely features on books, health, one-on-one interviews and an interactive web column.
“Montrealers love to boast about their city and what secret gems they’ve uncovered. And I’m no exception,” says Karnick. “It’s really a privilege to host this new program and talk about the people and places that make our city one of the best places to live.”
In addition to Our Montreal, Sonali Karnick will continue as host of All in a Weekend, Saturday and Sunday mornings, 6-9am (88.5/104.7FM). Our Montreal airs on Saturdays at 6 am on CBC Television with encore presentations on Sundays and Mondays at 11am.
The other shows
The CBC’s commitment applies to its stations in large “metropolitan” markets, which are defined as those in which the population “with knowledge of the official language of the station” is one million or more. The six largest metro areas in Canada each have a CBC station meeting this criteria. (The next largest is Quebec City, whose population is mainly French, and then Winnipeg, with a population of 730,018.)
- Our Toronto, hosted by Marivel Taruc
- Our Ottawa, hosted by Lucy van Oldenbarneveld
- Our Calgary, hosted by Holly Preston
- Our Edmonton, hosted by Adrienne Lamb
- Our Vancouver, hosted by Gloria Macarenko
Updated with post-debate comments.
It’s not often that CTV Montreal has special programming anymore, a fact that has left many people who remember the good ol days of CFCF-12 less than impressed.
But Sunday, Oct. 6, saw one of those special programs: A debate between the three leading candidates for mayor of Montreal: Denis Coderre, Marcel Côté and Richard Bergeron.
The debate was one hour, commercial-free from 6pm to 7pm on Sunday, Oct. 6. It will be moderated by anchor Mutsumi Takahashi. It was also livestreamed on its website and simulcast on CJAD, which is now also owned by Bell Media.
The debate did not take the place of the regular CTV Montreal newscast, which instead was moved up by an hour so it ran from 5pm to 6pm.
You might notice that the name of Mélanie Joly is not listed above. She wasn’t invited.
“We made the call, essentially using a similar logic that the consortium applied to Elizabeth May in the last federal debate: The threshold is having elected members,” CTV Montreal news director Jed Kahane explained to me. “She would surely be a dynamic and interesting participant; but that was not the criteria we used.”
Choosing who will participate in a televised debate is always a controversial issue. Limiting to those parties with elected members is a good way of filtering out the no-chance candidates. But it also rewards incumbency, and this is an election where Montrealers are really looking for change. Only one of the three leaders invited to the debate (Bergeron) currently sits on Montreal city council.
Montreal currently has 12 official candidates for mayor, seven of whom are listed as independents. (Michel Brûlé is the only other one with a party.)
Though the first televised debate included Joly, it looks like the broadcasters are moving toward three-way debates for the rest of the campaign.
Or they did until a poll came out on the morning after the debate showing Joly with 16% support, only one point behind Côté. That prompted Radio-Canada to change its mind and invite Joly to its debate despite previously excluding her.
Even Kahane admits that had this poll come out before the debate, CTV might have acted differently.
“We had decided that if she made a very strong showing in the polls we’d have to reconsider our decision,” he said. “This first major poll came too late for our debate, but I see it’s caused others to take another look, as we surely would have”.
The debate took place at CTV Montreal, and included pre-recorded questions from the public. Beyond that, Kahane wouldn’t give details, such as where exactly the candidates would be. (In the “cozy corner” interview area? Behind the anchor desk? Somewhere else?)
“Tune in to see,” he said.
As it turned out, the candidates stood on the floor near the windows, each with a transparent podium (and a fourth for Takahashi).
CTV Montreal hasn’t hosted that many debates. Federal debates happen in Ottawa, and provincial debates are low-key affairs because the Parti Québécois doesn’t bother trying to appeal to anglophones. During the last provincial election there was a short sit-down debate with members of the three main parties that was done during a noon newscast.
The debate is posted online if you missed it, along with post-debate scrums.
Among those covering the CTV debate:
CBC coming too
CBC Montreal is also working on a debate, set for Oct. 22. McGill will be hosting it, two weeks after their French debate. Joly is being invited to that one.
The debate, which will air live from 5-6pm on television, radio and online, will be moderated by Andrew Chang.
CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series apparently isn’t just a summer thing. As the documentaries that premiered this summer get a second airing on weekends while the broadcaster prepares a new local current affairs show set to begin next month, a new half-hour documentary has been added, and it’s airing tonight.
Looming Large is described by the CBC as “a look at innovations in Quebec textiles at the crossroads of business, art and technology” and a “unique documentary about the future of textile in Quebec.” You can see a 30-second promo for the show here.
It’s hosted by Jeanette Kelly, who hosts CBC Radio’s 5 à 6 on Saturdays and was also host of An Evening with Janina Fialkowska, the first of this year’s Absolutely Quebec specials. It’s directed by Carrie Haber, who produces the Absolutely Quebec series and told me this week she’s starting work on discovering next year’s batch.
The Looming Large documentary airs Thursday at 6:30pm, right after the evening news, on CBC Montreal. It repeats Sunday at 11:30pm
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.