Tag Archives: CBMT

Posted in My articles, Photos, TV

Photos: Behind the scenes at the Parc Avenue Tonight live taping

You might recall a few months ago I mentioned that CBC was going to record and air a special live-audience version of Dimitrios Koussioulas’s Mile End talk show Parc Avenue Tonight.

The show was recorded in front of a live audience on May 15 at Cabaret du Mile End. I was invited to witness the setup, and took a bunch of pictures. I talk a bit about the show for this story in Saturday’s Gazette, which discusses the state of local non-news television in English Montreal.

CBC Montreal presented Parc Avenue Tonight Live Saturday at 7pm as part of its Absolutely Quebec series of regional specials. You can watch it online if you missed it.
Continue reading

Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio, TV

CBC’s CRTC licence renewal: What’s changing in point form

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)

Radio

  • 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.

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.

Specialty TV

  • 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.

Other

  • 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.

Posted in My articles, TV

Montreal TV ratings: Global morning show struggles out of the gate with 500 viewers

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

Global Montreal’s Morning News hasn’t had the smoothest start. As a guinea pig for a new way of producing live TV, with local control-room staff using servers across the country, it has been plagued with technical problems, some so serious they have forced the show off the air a couple of times. Marketing for it hasn’t been terribly overwhelming, and if it has been generating buzz it hasn’t been for the best reasons.

Now comes confirmation that the show hasn’t started resonating with viewers yet. BBM numbers for the first survey of Montreal TV viewers since the show went on the air estimate its audience at about 500 viewers, which is about as much as it had before the show went on the air, when it was showing things like repeats of the previous night’s newscasts.

I break down ratings numbers for this story in Tuesday’s Gazette.

It would be easy to have too much fun with this, to make jokes about the show’s lack of impact (I’ve heard a few already). But it’s not for lack of effort from those involved. Hosts Richard Dagenais and Camille Ross are trying hard to get comfortable in their new roles, deal with the technical issues and make the show work. Jessica Laventure has been trying to make her presence as entertaining and informative as possible. And the people behind the scenes are tearing their hair out juggling everything to put three hours a day of live television on the air. They all deserve better.

If anyone deserves blame for this, it’s Global management and Shaw Media, which have put the bare minimum (one could argue even less than that) into the show in terms of resources. It’s understaffed, underfunded, undermarketed, and so it should come as no surprise that it’s underviewed.

This show is here to fulfill a commitment that Shaw made to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission when it bought Global TV in 2010. It promised to fund local morning shows in six markets, including $5 million for Montreal until 2017. That means no matter how badly the show is received, it will continue to be on air at least until then. So in a sense Global doesn’t have to care about ratings, certainly not in the first few weeks.

But it should, for two reasons. First, Global News Senior VP Troy Reeb told me he wants the show to be self-sufficient. Not necessarily to be profitable with advertising, but to come close enough to breaking even that it’s worth continuing the investment and building a viewer relationship. That won’t happen if it continues to build a relationship as an unwatchable show with nothing to offer.

Second, we’re now only a few months away from the launch of a competing local morning show on City TV. That show will launch with three times the staff, and you have to expect that the difference in quality will be noticeable almost instantly. If Global’s morning show hasn’t developed a strong connection with viewers by then, any morning viewing looking for a local alternative to Canada AM will switch to City instead.

Global: No comment

I tried to get comment from the three broadcasters for my story, but only heard back from one by deadline (though CBC did provide me with some data). It’s funny how those with good ratings information are always the easiest to get in touch with.

When I finally got Global Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald on the phone on an unrelated matter, I asked her about the ratings, and whether she’s disappointed in the numbers from the morning show. She said she doesn’t believe the ratings, that she feels Montreal’s English market does not have a large enough sample size, and she doesn’t have anything more to say on the subject.

Global has had various theories for why ratings show them so far behind their competitors (though they acknowledge that they are behind). They feel they have a strong francophone audience, which is ignored by BBM. They feel that the diary system is biased toward CTV’s self-marketing power that causes some people write down that they’re watching CTV News when they’re actually watching Global. BBM rejects the latter argument, saying diaries ask for network, channel number and program name, and survey takers are called if there is any discrepancy.

I can understand Global’s frustration with the ratings. This isn’t an easy market to crack. CTV had been the only private game in town from when it launched in 1961 to when Global opened in 1997. CFCF’s audience is intensely loyal, which leads to high ratings which leads to larger budgets which leads to better quality which leads to higher ratings. Only an overwhelming infusion of money over a long period of time could seriously compete with that, and even Shaw isn’t ready to spend that kind of cash.

At least with mornings, Global didn’t have to compete with CTV here. It runs the national Canada AM show (though “national” might be exaggerating since western CTV markets have local morning shows). But viewers so far are still happy enough with that and haven’t been switching. Shaw and Global need to do a lot more if they’re serious about making this show a success and keeping it going past that five-year mark.

More numbers

The rest of the ratings details don’t show much difference from the last report. CTV Montreal’s newscasts still dominate in every time slot by a wide margin. The weekday 6pm newscast has a 52.8% market share, compared to 4.5% at CBC and 1.5% at Global. In terms of actual viewers, that works out to 133,000 for CTV, 11,400 for CBC at 6, and 3,800 for Global.

The top-rated show overall in the market is CTV’s 6pm newscast. The second-highest rated is the weekend 6pm newscast.

There has been some variation. CTV says its 6pm weeknight audience is up 11%, the 6pm weekend audience is up 7.4%, and its late-night audience is up 20.5%, while its noon newscast has dropped by 21%. GM Louis Douville told me that they would be looking at the noon show. Coincidentally the next day he told me that Paul Karwatsky is being moved off of it so he can co-anchor the 6pm newscast an anchor at 11:30pm while Catherine Sherriffs is on maternity leave.

At CBC, the 5pm evening newscast continues to make gains. The spring 2013 numbers show that in the English Montreal extended market, the show has 21,000 viewers at 5pm and the same at 5:30. Its share of the audience has more than doubled for both those periods since 2011. But the 6pm newscast, which has to compete with both CTV and Global, hasn’t seen that kind of growth. It has only 11,000 viewers in the latest report, and only a 5% share, compared to a 16% share at 5pm.

And yet, when you watch the newscast, it’s clear that they’re trying to push viewers to tune in at 6. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “we’ll bring you more on this story at six o’clock.” But clearly viewers are switching channels at that time. You have to wonder why they don’t just come out with their news at 5 and either kill the last half-hour or turn it into something else.

Unfortunately decisions like these are made in Toronto, so we won’t be seeing any big changes unless they make sense on a national scale.

CBC’s late-night newscast has 5,000 viewers, or a 4% share, same as it had in the fall.

The BBM measurement covers three weeks in February and March. The next measurement of diary markets like Montreal will take place in October and November, for publication in January 2014.

 

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBC TV to air special episode of Parc Avenue Tonight

When Dimitrios Koussioulas, whose name I will one day learn how to write without having to copy and paste it, started his Mile End online talk show Parc Avenue Tonight, I thought to myself: This looks dirt cheap, but promising. This should be on actual TV.

Well, despite what can be said about our Toronto-controlled television networks that seem to have all but abandoned local programming, Koussioulas is being given his chance to be on Montreal television. In fact, he’s getting two, on two different stations.

A week after City announced that Koussioulas would be one of three hosts of a new weekly magazine show on local culture and lifestyle, CBC announced on Friday that it will be taping a special episode of his Parc Avenue Tonight show in front of a live audience and airing it this summer as part of its Absolutely Quebec regional series.

Absolutely Quebec is a summer series of (usually) one-hour specials that air Saturdays at 7pm during the summer (during hockey’s off-season). It is, for now at least, the only regional programming that airs on CBC television outside of the local newscasts. You can get an idea of what it’s like from last year’s shows.

Parc Avenue Tonight is an interview show in which Koussioulas speaks with fellow Mile Enders. Aside from its glorification of smoking, its canned audience applause and its strange love of bananas, it’s worth watching when it has a good guest. The episode above is an interview with Marianne Ackerman, an author, freelance writer and the person behind the Rover arts website. It showcases the solid (though modest) production values and Koussioulas’s warm and inviting personality.

The show’s live taping will happen May 15 at the Cabaret du Mile End (naturally), and will air on CBMT TV two months later, on July 13th. Ticket information and a copy of the press release are below:

Continue reading

Posted in TV

TV ratings: Market still belongs to CTV

Fall 2013 TV ratings

Market share for 6pm weeknight newscasts among Montreal’s three English-language television stations

Its competitors might be expanding their local programming, but CTV Montreal isn’t exactly quaking in its boots. Ratings released this week by BBM Canada show CFCF with huge leads in its local newscasts in all time slots.

For the flagship newscast at 6pm, CTV has a 58% market share among adults, which not only puts it far ahead of its competitors, but means that there are more Montreal anglos watching CTV News at 6 than there are watching everything else on television combined during that hour. It’s hard to beat ratings like that. As I mention in a story in The Gazette, the local newscast has more viewers than even the most popular CTV primetime program, The Big Bang Theory.

CBC, the closest competitor, can barely be described as such. With a 5.5% share, it has one tenth of the viewers of CTV at 6. Global is even further behind with a 2% share and only 4,100 adult viewers, which I would describe as less than its previous numbers but that might have more to do with statistical error than an actual drop in audience (I’d also be comparing 18+ and 2+ audience, and might be missing the thousands of teenage viewers to Global Montreal’s newscast).

CTV’s dominance is also unshakable at noon (52% share), weekends at 6 (46% share) and late night (37% share).

CBC added weekend newscasts in 2012, and then later expanded the late-night newscast from 10 to 30 minutes. The Saturday 6pm newscast has a 5.3% share, comparable with its weeknight newscast. The late-night newscast has a 3.5% share.

If either station wants to seriously challenge CFCF for viewers, there’s still a very long road ahead for them.

The BBM numbers above represent measurements taken via written diaries on Oct. 18-31 and Nov. 8-21, 2012, during which all three stations’ newscasts presented special reports. The next measurement of local English television will be taken in February and March, and released on May 7. At that point we should have an idea of how Global’s new morning show is doing early on, and whether it has started eating away at the 41% market share held by Canada AM.

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBC late local newscast expands to 30 minutes

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the Sunday night newscast will continue from 10:55 to 11:05pm. While it stays 10 minutes long, it will actually be 11 to 11:10pm, starting next Sunday.

Nancy Wood is excited, again

This weekend was the start of CBC television’s fall season, but its biggest effects will be felt starting today, as talk show George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight moves to 7pm and the late local newscasts expand from 10 minutes to half an hour.

Nancy Wood, who took over anchoring the late local news this spring, only to learn shortly thereafter that her on-air time would be tripled, tells me she’s excited but anxious about the debut.

I was curious about what kind of changes we could expect with this new newscast. Wood told evening anchor Debra Arbec that they would have two reporters working evening shifts to file reports between the two newscasts.

The biggest change one would expect for the expansion of a late newscast would be in sports coverage. Aviva Herman of CBC Montreal communications tells me there won’t be a specific sportscaster or sports reporter for late night, at least for now, but “Nancy will be reading sports highlights from a local and national perspective.”

Previously, the late local anchor would provide a voice-over recap of games involving Montreal teams, but there wasn’t a larger sports highlight package. This led to strange situations like the “CBCSports.ca update” during the NHL playoffs that spoke about upcoming games without saying what happened that night.

We’ll see what this new format has in store.

The biggest change, though, will be in timing. The previous 10-minute newscast was sandwiched between The National and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, running from 10:55 to 11:05pm. This meant anyone watching something other than The National at 10pm would miss the first half of the newscast, and anyone wanting to watch something different at 11 would either miss the first five minutes of that show or cut out halfway through their local news.

Now, with the start at 11pm and running a full half-hour, it fits schedules better. It also goes head on against Global Montreal’s low-rated late local newscast and the high-rated CTV National News. Those wanting to be in bed by 11:30 and preferring local to national and international news might decide check out CBC.

The illusion of a set disappeared for a few seconds behind Nancy Wood during her first 30-minute late newscast

How it went

The late newscast is still very focused on local news, since it follows The National. No filling of time with packaged reports from other cities, at least not for now.

Other features taking up all that extra time:

  • Three weather segments, which have different graphics but seem to present the same information. On the first show, weather segments with Frank Cavallaro lasted 3:51 total.
  • The CBCSports.ca Update is now done as a national package of a minute and a half, rather than voiced by the local anchor. Local sports news (including Canadiens/Alouettes/Impact highlights) are still presented separately.
  • There’s a next-day news look-ahead, teasing the stories that will make news the next day. It includes both a local and national component.

Stromboselfpromo

People like me who really disliked the awkward anchor throws to George Stroumboulopoulos promos in the middle of the newscast will be relieved that they’re no longer doing it that way. The promos still exist (even though they’re now teasing a rebroadcast of a show from earlier in the night), in the middle of the newscast as a self-contained promo ad, and at the end where the anchor says to stay tuned for Strombo.

Though it’s an improvement, I remain very uncomfortable with newscasts being used like this for advertising, even if it’s self-promotion.

Technical growing pains

Minor and moderate technical problems continue to plague the late newscast. It would be easy to dismiss this as the kind of mistakes that happen when you’re doing something new, but it happens too often, to the point where I’m now starting to expect such errors at 11pm.

The first show saw the virtual set disappear for a few seconds, as you see above, removing any illusion that there’s a futuristic blue set that in no way resembles their evening news set. (On Day 2, they pulled away the green screen and went with the real control-room background you see on weekends or in some reporter debriefs. Wood says a new backdrop should be coming in a week or two.)

The larger mistake happened when the first packaged report was played again in place of the second, forcing reporter Alison Northcott to ad-lib.

The second show went smoother. The worst thing I saw, besides some timing issues, was a graphic with a typo (“Tobacco trial” became “Tobacco trail”)

CBC News: Montreal at 11 airs weeknights from 11 to 11:30pm. The late Sunday newscast retains its 10-minute format from 10:55 to 11:05pm, but starting at 11pm instead of 10:55pm.

Posted in TV

The beginning of the end for over-the-air TV

See this map full-screen

  • Red: CBC
  • Blue: Radio-Canada
  • Yellow: TVO
  • Purple: TFO
  • Green: Télé-Québec

Small dots are transmitters being shut down (text appears in grey), large dots are transmitters that will keep running; dots marked “A” are privately-owned affiliates unaffected by this move.

This is a map I created (through a combination of a list from the CBC and Industry Canada’s database) of all 658 CBC and Radio-Canada television transmitters in Canada, plus those of provincial public broadcasters TVO, TFO and Télé-Québec. As of today, more than 600 CBC and Radio-Canada transmitters are no longer licensed by the CRTC and are in the process of being shut down if they aren’t already. Ditto for more than 100 TVO transmitters and four TFO ones.

The CBC’s mass shutdown of television retransmitters (all of them analog) is part of a budget-cutting process that is expected to save $10 million a year in maintenance costs.

The CBC littered the country with television retransmitters, most of them low-power, from 1977 to 1984 as part of its Accelerated Coverage Plan. The goal was to make sure that every community of 500 people or more was served by a CBC and/or Radio-Canada television transmitter (depending on their mother tongue).

But the transition to digital television and the need to cut costs has made the case for keeping these transmitters running much weaker. For one, more than 90% of Canadian television viewers have a subscription to a cable or satellite service. And most of the remaining viewers will be served by one of the 27 digital television transmitters running in markets where CBC and Radio-Canada offer local programming.

(This includes CFYK in Yellowknife, the flagship station of CBC North, which until now has been operating as an analog station. The CBC has replaced it with a digital one, CFYK-DT, effective Aug. 1.)

According to the CBC, only 2% of Canadian television viewers will be affected by this shutdown. The rest either have a television subscription or are within range of one of its digital transmitters.

What’s more, the CBC says in its submission to the CRTC, maintenance is becoming more difficult and expensive because of the lack of availability of spare parts for analog transmitters. Since the U.S. has already undergone a complete transition to digital, there’s little demand for analog transmitter servicing, and the companies that once did that have stopped. Price for parts has increased, in some cases as much as 100%, the CBC says.

And so, with the CRTC’s reluctant blessing (the commission explains in its decision that its licenses are authorizations to operate stations, and it cannot force a broadcaster to operate a station it doesn’t want to), the 607 analog retransmitters were remotely shut down Tuesday night by CBC technicians, the satellite feeds to them replaced with color bars. The equipment will be removed, says Martin Marcotte, director of CBC Transmission.

Continue reading

Posted in Montreal, TV

Absolutely Quebec: A taste of regional programming on CBC TV

For those (like me) who complain that there isn’t much local programming in English in Quebec outside of news broadcasts, a regional documentary and short film series is something to look forward to. This summer, CBC television presents Absolutely Quebec, a series of five one-hour documentaries and an hour of short films that reflect the anglophone community in Quebec.

The first episode, Hockey Migrations, aired last Saturday. It tells the story of a hockey tournament in Tasiujaq, an Inuit community near Ungava Bay. But it’s actually an inightful look into the culture of the region, how native communities are struggling with changes to their traditional way of life, and how hockey is a way to give kids something to do and keep them out of trouble. Its director, Tony Girardin, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend on Saturday morning, and explains that the footage was actually shot seven years ago, but only edited into a documentary recently. (One of the elders interviewed in the documentary has since died.)

You can watch Hockey Migrations on CBC’s website.

“In Quebec, we have an incredibly rich history of storytelling and filmmaking,” Shelagh Kinch, the new Managing Director CBC Quebec, is quoted as saying in the press release. “CBC is proud to produce a series that highlights some of our province’s emerging filmmakers and also allows new audiences to enjoy these local stories.”

The rest of the series, which runs Saturdays at 7pm on CBMT (except Aug. 11, when CBC airs Rogers Cup tennis coverage), is as follows:

Sadly, Videotron’s on-screen listings list 7pm Saturday as being The Nature of Things, but tune in anyway. It’s one of the few chances you’ll have to watch that independently-produced local programming you complain never sees the light of day on local television.

Some of these episodes might end up being aired nationally as well, as part of the Absolutely Canadian series. But which of those will get national exposure (on CBC television, CBC News Network or the Documentary channel) and when that will be hasn’t been decided yet.

Posted in Montreal, Radio, TV

CBC weekend newscasts off to a strong start

Thomas Daigle anchors his first newscast on Saturday, May 5

Whether it was despite some important breaking news or because of it, CBC Montreal’s first weekend newscast in eons went smoothly, leading with news that a tentative deal had been reached between the government and striking students. (Remember those days, how optimistic we were that this would all be over soon?)

Anchor Thomas Daigle and weather presenter Sabrina Marandola clearly showed the effects of rehearsals, and Daigle in particular was quite good for someone who comes into this with no anchoring experience.

Daigle credited weekday anchor Debra Arbec with helping him. “She gave me some good tips to improve my delivery and it has helped a lot. Debra has been a great coach,” he said during our interview the week before he started.

Sabrina Marandola on weather

In addition to Daigle, Marandola and the technical staff, the new weekend news means more weekend reporters. So far the plan, according to news director Mary-Jo Barr, is this:

  • On Saturdays, three television reporters and one radio reporter.
  • On Sundays, two television reporters, an additional national TV reporter filing to The National, and one radio reporter.

In addition, there’s an expectation that radio reporters will file to TV and TV reporters to radio wherever possible, and extra staff during major events where warranted.

The local online desk also gets weekend staff for the first time in a decade. No more waiting until Monday to post local news stories.

The staffing is similar to what you’ll find on the weekends at CFCF, where there’s a one-hour evening newscast and 35-minute late newscast each day.

Daigle does the late Sunday newscast from the newsroom set

It was a bit surprising to me that the station isn’t making use of its brand new set on either weekend newscast. The Saturday one was done from the newsroom studio, with the control room in the background. The Sunday one was done from exactly the same place, but with the green screen lowered behind and the same virtual set as the weeknight late newscasts.

While CFCF is doing all its newscasts from the same set, CBC is basically using three.

You can read more on CBC’s weekend newscasts and its two new personalities in this story I wrote for The Gazette.

The first weekend newscasts are online if you want to see them again: Saturday, Sunday.

CBC Montreal’s weekend newscasts air at 6pm on Saturdays and 10:55pm on Sundays, unless pre-empted or postponed because of NHL games.

More weekend radio

I should also mention that the addition to weekend news also applies to radio. Instead of pulling the plugs on local radio newscasts at noon, they continue until 4pm, and this since April 21. Katherine Canty, who assigns stories in the mornings, reads them in the afternoons, taking over from Loreen Pindera, who does 6:30am to noon.

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBMT to expand late-night newscasts to half an hour

Nancy Wood is excited

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had its big bash in Toronto on Thursday to announce its lineups for the fall television season. There are some big changes coming, besides the usual turnover of primetime series. The CBC has decided to drop Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune (mainly for cost reasons), opening holes in its afternoon/evening schedule. It will fill one of those holes with George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, which moves from 11pm to 7pm, but with a repeat at 11:30pm.

Not given as much attention is that CBC is expanding evening local newscasts in some areas, including Montreal. Rather than the 10-minute rush that it has been doing since 2009, CBC Montreal will have a full 30-minute newscast starting this fall, from 11 to 11:30pm.

The time slot puts the newscast in more direct competition with Global Montreal’s News Final, which has the same schedule. (Feel free to insert jokes about whether Global’s 2,000 viewers at 11 constitutes competition.)

CBC Montreal communications manager Debbie Hynes tells me the Sunday newscast, which you’ll recall is less than a week old, will remain at 10 minutes, or at least that’s the plan.

Nancy Wood, who just started as the late-night anchor, says she heard the news on Wednesday, and is excited about having a longer newscast and one that has a real time slot instead of being awkwardly sandwiched between two others.

While CBC News Montreal Late Night gets a good lead-in from The National, allowing it to get about 15,000 viewers on average (it has 30,000 at 6pm), the 10:55pm start time means it isn’t going to attract many viewers from people who watch something other than The National at 10pm. An 11pm late newscast could mean picking up people who watch U.S. primetime dramas on CTV, Global or other channels and want some local news before going to bed.

There’s no news yet as far as what specifically a late newscast would include. At the top of that list, I think, would be a local sportscaster. The 10-minute newscast includes a bizarre “CBCSports.ca Update” segment that previews the next night’s hockey games but says nothing of the ones that finished an hour before. This is mainly because there’s no one to put together a sports roundup on deadline, but it sticks out that you have a newscast talking about sports without saying what happened in the sports world that night.

The new local newscast launches in September along with the new CBC television schedule.

News headlines and weather on screen in mornings

Also announced is that some local information will appear in mornings on CBC television. During the 6-7am hour, when CBC airs CBC News Now (duplicating content from CBC News Network), the programming will be surrounded by a local wrap with local headlines, weather and other information. Something similar is done on CJNT, and people familiar with CityNews or CP24 in Toronto will know what this looks like. CTV also inserts local content into national programming (Canada AM) through an on-screen ticker. These are “rolling out across the country now,” Hynes says.

Posted in My articles, TV

Nancy Wood back in the saddle

Nancy Wood has a lot to be happy about these days

There’s a saying in radio that it’s not if you get fired, but when. People are pulled off the air all the time without notice, told their station is going in another direction, or has decided to make a change, or some other vague euphemism for the fact that they want a change behind the microphone. As someone who covers local media – and particularly broadcasting – I’ve seen quite a few of these. When I ask about it, both parties usually repeat the vague euphemism and offer some boilerplate about how they wish each other well in their future endeavours.

For those let go, it’s rarely good news. Even if they do end up finding a job quickly elsewhere, even if the reason for their departure isn’t their fault, it’s crushing to be pulled out of a public job like this, because you know they wouldn’t have done it if you were wildly successful.

I don’t particularly enjoy reporting on these things. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t take joy in seeing people lose their jobs. But a hiring is just as much of a change as a firing, and only the former tends to involve press releases. So I search them out (sometimes a difficult thing to do because they can’t be reached at work) and ask them for comment. Trying to manage the blow to their reputation, and protect future job prospects, they stay timid, keep a happy face and repeat management’s vague reasoning.

Nancy Wood is not one of those people.

Continue reading

Posted in TV

CBC Montreal has a new set

If you’ve been tuning in this week, you’ll have noticed that CBC Montreal has inaugurated its new set. Built in the same space in the Maison Radio-Canada’s Centre de l’Information as the previous one, it feautres a new smaller desk, a new background, flat screens and LED lighting.

Tearing down the old set and building the new one took two weeks, during which the newscast was done from the newsroom studio.

Anchor Andrew Chang takes viewers on a tour of the new set on the first newscast on Monday (it starts at the 24th minute).

Here are some shots from that first newscast to give an idea what it looks like.

Continue reading

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBC Montreal building new set

Debra Arbec doing the news from the newsroom set

UPDATE (April 18): The new set is done. See what it looks like here.

Much like CFCF did last year, CBMT is doing its daily newscasts from its newsroom set as its main set is being torn down and redone.

Andrew Chang gave viewers an idea of what’s going into the new set on Monday’s newscast. It will involve a new desk with a Plexiglas top. Behind the anchors will be five HD plasma screens, and a large 70-inch touchscreen will also be on the set, which is being designed in house in the Maison Radio-Canada.

Until then, the evening newscast will be hosted from the set that sits just outside the control room, which itself is just beside the newsroom. Reporters doing live in-studio segments, which were done from this set, have been moved to an adjacent room that is used for remote interviews for CBC News Network or The National. Frank Cavallaro’s weather set is a green screen just a few feet from the desk Arbec is sitting at above.

The 10:55pm newscast is done from this set as well, except with a green screen lowered behind it.

Because the camera for this set is standard definition, anchors won’t be appearing in HD until the camera is upgraded or they move into their new set. And, like with CFCF last year, the set only fits one, so Arbec and Chang will have to alternate behind the desk.

Posted in Radio, TV

Local broadcasters win regional broadcasting awards

RTNDA Canada (Radio and Television News Directors Association) is putting out awards like a drunken award-giver. The latest batch is the central region awards, of which there are 35 recipients, including “honorary mention” awards. When the medium is restricted to broadcasting, the language is restricted to English and the geography is restricted to Quebec and Ontario, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that some Montreal media are winning these awards.

Nevertheless, journalists deserve praise for their work over the past year, as marginally prestigious as it may be.

The full list of winners is here. Among Quebec (and by that I mean Montreal) media:

CTV Montreal was the big winner, picking up three awards:

  • The special report Dirty Little Secret (Part 1, Part 2) by Caroline van Vlaardingen, about how easy it is to get sexual services at massage parlours, won the Dan McArthur Award for in-depth/investigative reporting
  • The special report Caught in a Trap by Catherine Sherriffs, about the dangers to animals of traps in wooded areas, won the Dave Rogers Award (large market) for long features
  • The station also won the Hugh Haugland Award (named after a CFCF cameraman who died on the job) for creative use of video
CJAD won the Peter Gzowski Award for news information program for its reporting on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Host Ric Peterson gives his thank-yous on his blog. Clips from the report can be listened to on the show’s podcast page.

The Ron Laidlaw award for continuous coverage went to CBC Montreal for coverage of last year’s Richelieu flood. An honourable mention went to Global Montreal for its coverage of the same floods.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Nancy Wood replaces Amanda Margison as late anchor on CBC Montreal

Nancy Wood anchors her first late newscast on Monday, April 23

Nancy Wood is coming back.

Two years after being removed from her job as host of Daybreak on CBC Radio, Wood has been given the job of late anchor on CBC television. She will replace Amanda Margison, who is leaving Montreal to move to London, Ont.

An exact start date is still to be determined, but the change is expected to happen by the end of the month. UPDATE: Wood’s first shift was Monday, April 23. You can see video of it here.

Wood has spent the past two years working in a special capacity at Radio-Canada’s investigative show Enquête, doing stories for them but also repurposing Enquête’s stories for English television (you know, all those “CBC/Radio-Canada investigations”). Wood told me yesterday that it was clear when the project was renewed for a second season last year that this would be its last, so she’s been preparing to return to the English side for some time.

With the opening of the late anchor position, Wood said it was a convenient way of bringing her back without causing any disruption to other positions or bumping anyone out of a job.

CBC’s union rules allow Wood to return to her old job of national television reporter based in Montreal if the anchor job doesn’t work out. It’s what kept her at the CBC after losing the Daybreak job and what she had planned to do before news of the late anchor vacancy came up.

I asked Wood whether being on a 10-minute late newscast was better for her professionally than being a regular reporter for national news. She pointed out the advantage of being a daily presence on local television versus a letter and more intermittent one nationally. She also said being a national reporter can often mean being told on a moment’s notice to run off to some distant corner of the province to report on a breaking story. Being an anchor is more predictable in terms of work hours and location.

But there are downsides to the new job, she admitted. With a shift ending at 11:15pm, it means not being able to spend weeknights at home with her two teenage kids, and only seeing them in the mornings, when they are much less verbal, as any parent can attest.

Wood said she’d also be a bit sad about not being able to work on long features like the stories she’s doing for Enquête. She just came back to Montreal from Louisiana, where she worked on her final story, expected to come out next week. After that, she’ll move to the English side. (UPDATE: Her final investigative story has come out, about the health risks of an anti-malaria drug given to Canadian soldiers)

Ratings

It was actually Wood who used the R word first in our conversation, pointing out that part of her job will be to try to boost the ratings of the late newscast, sandwiched between The National and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.

Wood’s departure from Daybreak reportedly had a lot to do with the show’s ratings with her at the helm.

When asked whether she’s worried about ratings, Wood said it would be nice to see a boost, but that will depend more on how much promotion of the show will be done using the usual means as well as during advertising breaks of The National.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but I can’t help noticing how the timing of Wood’s job change matches that of CBC Quebec boss Pia Marquard. Though it’s unclear what role Marquard played in removing Wood from Daybreak, the move happened as she took over the job, and many CBC listeners angry over Wood’s removal blamed Marquard directly. Wood’s move back to a more public role happens just as Marquard is leaving the post for health reasons.

CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr couldn’t be reached for comment last Friday and has since left on a two-week vacation. I’ll try to talk to her when she comes back. UPDATE (April 18): CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr had nothing but praise for Wood. She also noted when I talked to her that Marquard was instrumental in Wood being given the late anchor job.

As for Margison, she confirmed she’s “moving on” but didn’t offer much comment on the matter, beyond her surprise that the news came out via Twitter.

“There are no secrets any more,” she writes in an email.

Not when it comes to anchors, I’m afraid.

Thomas Daigle

Sabrina Marandola

Daigle, Marandola hired for weekend newscast

Meanwhile, the second of two jobs opened as a result of the impending expansion into weekends have been filled. Sabrina Marandola will be taking over the job of weekend weather presenter.

Marandola confirmed the news Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

The move is hardly a surprise. Marandola has often acted as a backup to Frank Cavallaro.

Marandola joins Thomas Daigle, who was named to the anchor position last week.

UPDATE (April 18): Barr heaped the praise on both Daigle and Marandola, saying how thrilled CBC is to have them in these roles. Barr said Daigle, who has no previous anchoring experience, is nevertheless “a really strong live reporter” who is “engaging on camera, a great communicator”. Marandola, who started backing up Cavallaro around Christmas, is “dynamic and engaging” and “really has a love and passion for weather,” Barr said.

I asked Barr, because of Wood’s history, whether ratings would factor in to how these anchors are evaluated. Barr said that of course ratings are important (“that’s why we’re here,” she said), but that there are no expectations on anchors when it comes to ratings numbers.

The newscasts – 6pm-6:30pm on Saturdays and 10:55pm-11:05pm on Sundays – start May 5.