Tag Archives: CFCF

First look: CTV News Montreal at 5

For the past two weeks, CTV Montreal has had an additional hour of local news on weekdays. First announced in June, the new newscasts precede the usual 6pm news on most CTV stations, including Montreal’s.

Two weeks after they launched on Aug. 28, I’ve watched several of them and can start to piece together a picture of what they generally look like, and the strengths and weaknesses of the format.

Continue reading

CTV Montreal cancels local sportscasts, lays off Randy Tieman, Brian Wilde, Sean Coleman

Last updated July 2 with videos of Tieman and Wilde from Impact game.

Staff at CTV Montreal were informed this morning that there will be no more locally-produced sportscasts at the station, and that long-time anchor Randy Tieman, reporter Brian Wilde and weekend anchor Sean Coleman have been laid off, effective immediately.

“We can confirm we’ve made an editorial decision to transition sports coverage from sportscasters to news anchors in response to evolving viewer behaviour. As a result, three positions have been impacted at CTV Montreal. Our viewers can continue to rely on CTV News to keep them informed about local and professional sports,” reads the statement from Bell Media.

According to Stéphane Giroux, who heads the station’s union local, the staff were informed of the cut at 11am Tuesday, an hour after Coleman and Tieman were informed of the decision in a brief, matter-of-fact meeting with HR. (Wilde was on the road and was informed by telephone.) There was no sports at noon on Tuesday, and there wasn’t one at 6pm either. Paul Karwatsky broke the news to viewers during the 6pm newscast (the 30-minute mark of the video, or 40 minutes into the newscast on TV):

Welcome back. Now a note to share with you tonight about our newscast and how we’ll be covering sports from now on. We’ll still be reporting on the sports beat with stories from Montreal and beyond. But we’ll now be doing it as part of our overall news coverage, in other words we’ll no longer have a separate sportscast. This was announced today and this also means very, very unfortunately that Randy Tieman, Brian Wilde and Sean Coleman are no longer with CTV. We want to thank them of course for their dedication and their excellent contribution to this station and this community that will of course be very sorely missed.

Lori Graham and Paul Karwatsky pay tribute to their former sports colleagues at the end of Tuesday’s newscast.

Karwatsky and Lori Graham also paid tribute to their departed colleagues at the end of the newscast:

Karwatsky: I guess we should address it, it hasn’t been an amazing day here at CTV Montreal. In fact all across the network sportscasts have been cancelled and that means unfortunately, very unfortunately we’re losing Randy, Brian and Sean. And we just wanted to take some time to tell you guys how much you’ll be missed.

Graham: That’s right. We’d like to definitely honour our colleagues, Randy Tieman, Brian Wilde and Sean Coleman. Not only were they great to work with, but they are really great guys, and we’re definitely going to miss your talent, we’re going to miss your wit and your humour and we wish you all the best.

Karwatsky: In the meantime we’ll carry on and we hope you continue tuning in.

Karwatsky gave a slightly shorter version of the announcement during the late-night newscast around 11:55pm (18-minute mark in the video).

Similar cuts to local sports have happened at other CTV stations (Barrie, Kitchener, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Victoria and Windsor have all been reported) to the point where the national Unifor union blew the whistle on the cuts to local news.

So Giroux said the union saw this one coming, but they were still surprised that such a popular newscast would cut such popular on-air personalities, describing Tieman and Wilde as “living legends” and Coleman as “such a promising sportscaster”.

“It made us realize nothing is untouchable in this business,” he said.

CTV Montreal news director Jed Kahane declined to comment, referring me to Bell Media.

Continue reading

CTV adding 5pm local newscasts nationwide this fall

Hot off the heels of Rogers announcing new evening newscasts in all its City markets (except Saskatchewan), Bell Media announced today it is also expanding local news across the country, adding 5pm local newscasts on weekdays to CTV stations that don’t already have one.

Details are scarce. There’s no launch date more precise than “fall”, no indication of how many jobs are being added, nor what the programming strategy is for these newscasts. The press release doesn’t even say how long they are (CTV PR confirms to me they will be an hour long).

The markets getting new newscasts are:

  • CTV Saskatoon (CFQC-DT), simulcast on CTV Prince Albert, Sask. (CIPA-TV)
  • CTV Regina (CKCK-DT), simulcast on CTV Yorkton, Sask. (CICC-TV)
  • CTV Winnipeg (CKY-DT)
  • CTV Northern Ontario (CICI-TV Sudbury, CKNY-TV North Bay, CHBX-TV Sault Ste. Marie, CITO-TV Timmins)
  • CTV Kitchener, Ont. (CKCO-DT)
  • CTV Ottawa (CJOH-DT)
  • CTV Montreal (CFCF-DT)

For the Prince Albert and Yorkton stations, CTV clarifies that they will rebroadcast the 5pm news from the larger Saskatoon and Regina markets, though those newscasts will have elements of Prince Alberta and Yorkton local news.

The new newscast will be an expansion of the existing 6pm shows. Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and CTV Atlantic already have 5pm local newscasts.

CTV Two stations appear to be unaffected by this announcement.

I asked CTV what we could expect these newscasts to look like, how they would differ from the 6pm newscasts, and how many jobs we can expect to see added. All I was told in response is that more details would come at a later date.

CTV, Global appoint Quebec City bureau chiefs

It’s not just the Quebec government that pushed through some labour deals just before Christmas. This week both CTV and Global filled their vacant Quebec City bureau chief positions.

Maya Johnson (CTV News photo)

Maya Johnson (CTV News photo)

CTV’s choice is Maya Johnson, who has been at CTV Montreal for a decade now, and was working on Quebec politics while the position was vacant following Max Harrold’s move back to Montreal (he’s now an assignment editor at CTV Montreal). The choice was, frankly, obvious and you wonder what took them so long.

As a result of the Bell Media cuts, Johnson’s Montreal reporter job won’t be filled.

Hopefully this will give CTV’s Quebec City bureau the kind of stability it hasn’t seen since John Grant held the position.

Raquel Fletcher (Global News photo)

Raquel Fletcher (Global News photo)

Global News, meanwhile, went with Raquel Fletcher, who was the anchor of Focus Saskatchewan at Global TV in Regina. Before that she was at CTV Regina. Fletcher was born and raised in the rectangular province, which means she’ll have a steep learning curve in Quebec City. But she won’t be the first child of Saskatchewan who’s now reporting on Quebec.

Fletcher’s career path is similar to that of Global Montreal morning host Camille Ross, who worked at CTV in Yorkton and Global in Regina.

Fletcher succeeds Caroline Plante, who was hired by the Montreal Gazette this summer.

The National Assembly is recessed for the holidays and resumes on Feb. 9. That gives these reporters a bit of time to get settled in their new positions.

Daigle heading to London

Thomas Daigle (CBC photo)

Thomas Daigle (CBC photo)

Not to be outdone, there’s staffing news at CBC as well. Thomas Daigle, originally from Quispamsis, N.B., but based for several years now in Montreal, will be the new CBC News correspondent in London.

Daigle, 28, worked at CJAD, Global Montreal and Radio-Canada Acadie before joining CBC Montreal. He was named the anchor for weekend newscasts when CBC Montreal added them back to its schedule, then he was moved to the National Assembly and eventually into the position of national reporter in Montreal.

 

CTV Montreal GM Louis Douville swept out in next wave of Bell Media purge

Louis Douville

A dramatic top-down purge at Bell Media, that swept out top executives Phil King (programming), Chris Gordon (radio and local TV), Adam Ashton and Charles Benoit (top man in Quebec) in August, then people like Discovery Channel head Paul Lewis and Quebec content chief Mario Clément in September, has now filtered down another level, and more managers are getting the boot.

They include the heads of specialty channels Canal Vie (Lyne Denault), Z (Jacques Mathieu) and CTV News Channel (Lisa Beaton), regional managers in Atlantic Canada (Mike Elgie), Abitibi (Marlène Trottier), Victoria (Kevin Bell), Peterborough (Steve Fawcett), Edmonton (Lloyd Lewis) and Windsor (Eric Proksch), and Louis Douville, the general manager of CTV Montreal. (Jean Martin, the manager for the Mauricie region, is also leaving, but that departure is being announced separately as a retirement.)

A Bell Media spokesperson said Martin Spalding, vice-president of radio operations and local sales in Quebec, would take over Douville’s duties. But an internal memo also listed Jed Kahane, CTV Montreal’s news director, as taking Douville’s reports “in the interim”. Those three words prompted a lot of speculation about who might be on the chopping block when the next round of cuts happen.

That is expected to be in about six weeks, which doesn’t exactly leave Bell Media employees in a relaxed state.

Douville, who grew up in Montreal, has been general manager of CTV Montreal since January 2012, taking over from Don Bastien. Before that he was general manager of CTV Ottawa for almost 11 years, and before that worked in sales at CTV stations in Edmonton and Saskatchewan. In all, he worked for CTV for 30 years.

He had recently taken over additional responsibilities, running the Bell Local (now Bell TV1) community channels in Montreal as well as Bell’s radio stations in the city.

On a personal level, I’ll add that Douville was a very good source, never ducking my phone calls, always helpful, always willing to explain the tough decisions and being honest about how things work, while other managers would try to avoid talking about bad news or find some way to obfuscate the issue. For that I’ll miss him.

Bell says these changes are necessary to remain competitive (even though it’s the largest media company in Canada) and operate efficiently. This despite the fact that Bell Media’s profits (before interest and taxes) increased to $734 million last year and $215 million in the last quarter.

UPDATE: Douville wrote a message to his friends on Facebook and forwarded it to me:

It reads like the script for the final episode of the television program The Amazing Race…
4 Provinces…7 Cities…7,266 Kilometres…33 years…Hundreds of amazing colleagues…Thousands of brilliant business partners… An incredibly supportive family…And one Amazing career !

This week my great adventure with Bell Media came to an end, and what a ride it has been !!!

I have been so fortunate to work in the field of my choice for so many years, growing through the ranks until I attained the goals I had set for myself.

I learned so much along the way, mostly about the importance of treating people like human beings, recognizing the contribution my colleagues made every day, and creating a work environment where people thrive and are happy to come to work.

Now it is time to look to the future and see what new and exciting adventures await me.
No matter what they are, I will always stay true to my values and I will always enjoy every minute of every day.

Thank you to all of you who have crossed my path over the years, you have truly enriched my life and made me a better man.

I look forward to seeing you soon !
Louis

André Corbeil leaves CTV Montreal as job cuts reduce station’s workforce by 12

André Corbeil

André Corbeil

André Corbeil, a sports reporter/anchor at CTV Montreal, surprised a few people late last week announcing via Twitter that it was his last week at the station.

Corbeil’s job was eliminated as part of a series of cuts designed to reduce the station’s staff by about a dozen. We learned about those cuts over the summer, but the actual cuts are only happening now. Most of those leaving are in technical or behind-the-scenes positions, and most are leaving voluntarily.

Corbeil, who usually anchors on the weekends and reports three days a week, was offered a part-time position that would have kept him as the weekend anchor, but “he opted to leave,” general manager Louis Douville told me.

“He was an absolute gentleman, understood that it was a business decision,” he added later. “He was an important part of our family and we’re sad to see him go.”

Corbeil is originally from Timmins, Ont., and joined CTV Montreal in 2007 after four years at CTV in Sudbury.

“[I’m] not sure exactly where I will land in the coming months, but it most likely will not be on TV,” Corbeil told me. “Not suitable for a young family.” His wife works full-time and they have a two-year-old daughter. “So, nights and weekends make life pretty difficult.”

He said he’s going to try to “use this situation to my advantage and find an opportunity that will provide a better work/family balance.”

The loss of Corbeil will likely mean a drop in the amount of sports coverage on CTV Montreal, particularly of amateur sports. While Brian Wilde is the go-to guy for Canadiens coverage, and Randy Tieman covers the Alouettes, Corbeil was usually the reporter assigned to Impact games, and would often file reports about university sports. Douville said news reporters could cover events that straddle the barrier between news and sports, but it seems clear that there will be less than there used to be of stories in this category.

Net loss of 12 jobs

The positions being cut also include the late-night anchor position that was filled by Catherine Sherriffs before she left on maternity leave. But Corbeil is the only other on-air personality who’s leaving the station.

The exact fallout is still not known because it looks like a few positions may change as some laid off exercise a right to bump less senior people out of jobs in other classifications. That has some people (particularly those that would be bumped) concerned about unqualified or less qualified people occupying posts of young talented staffers.

Among the jobs that have been eliminated are the late weeknight lineup editor (the late anchor will instead line up his own show), one researcher position, the news archivist, an editor position and several other technical jobs.

In all, it’s a net loss of 12 jobs, with 12 people leaving voluntarily. Other cuts are being offset by the creation of new positions, usually with combined responsibilities. Susan Lea, the head of the union local, says a total of 15 positions have been eliminated.

“How this will impact (the station) remains to be seen,” she said. “Our product is news, that’s our one and only product. Every job is related to that. It definitely impacts the quality and our ability to cover news.”

“We don’t want to be a jack of all trades and master of none.”

The good news is that, besides Corbeil and the voluntary layoffs, Lea doesn’t expect anyone else to lose their job. “It will be more of an internal shuffling.”

Asked about concerns these cuts would affect the quality of the newscasts, Douville seemed confident viewers wouldn’t notice anything.

“We’re convinced we’re still going to be able to do exactly the same,” he said. “Our commitment to covering local sports remains unchanged. It’s just a reality that we have to do more with less. There are many people who are going to have more responsibilities. That’s a reality that all broadcasters are living with right now.”

“We have a 60 per cent share in the market and we intend to keep that.”

The unionized workforce at CTV Montreal has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2013. Negotiations began this spring, but were put on hold either because of the layoffs or because everyone became busy, depending on which side you talk to. Douville said the employer is committed to resuming talks for a new contract.

Weekend sports anchor job available

Corbeil’s decision to leave ironically means a job has opened up at the station for a two-day-a-week sports anchor. Though someone with a young family is probably not crazy about working weekends, there’s no doubt and endless supply of eager young broadcasters who would jump at the chance for a job like this.

The most obvious choice would be Paul Graif, who has filled in as sports anchor many times over the years. But Graif works weekdays at K103 in Kahnawake, and might not be crazy about working seven days a week.

Chantal Desjardins would have been next on the list if she hadn’t taken a job at Sportsnet.

TSN 690’s Eric Thomas would be a good choice in light of his excellent debut in October. And there are plenty of people at the sports station who would probably make fine TV sports anchors.

Douville said the job would probably be filled early in the new year.

Eric Thomas is the newest face on CTV Montreal sports desk

Eric Thomas's first show on-air at CTV Montreal on Friday, Oct. 10. (via CTV)

Eric Thomas’s first show on-air at CTV Montreal on Friday, Oct. 10. (via CTV)

The hiring of Chantal Desjardins as Sportsnet’s Montreal correspondent has shortened the depth chart at CTV Montreal’s sports desk, so someone at the station had the brilliant idea to just grab the guy doing sportscasts at TSN 690.

Eric Thomas brought his slick voice and a look to match across the street and made his debut as a CTV Montreal fill-in sports anchor on the late-night news Friday. You can watch the newscast on CTV’s website, with Thomas starting around 14:15.

A first live newscast is usually a nervous, error-filled affair but Thomas barely missed a beat, looking like he’d been doing this for years. And really, he has, just not in front of a television camera.

Thomas’s debut earned quick and unmitigated praise from colleague Brian Wilde:

Expect the Atlanta-born Thomas to be seen as well as heard a lot more in the years to come.

CTV Montreal moves Sunday evening newscasts online during NFL season

CTV live webcast

With CTV having the rights to 4pm Sunday NFL football games starting this season, the network is forced (or, well, is forcing itself) to pre-empt its local 6pm newscast on Sundays until mid-January for stations in the CDT, EDT and ADT time zones.

At first, it looked like CTV was going to air the local news after the football game, at 7:30pm ET, but now it looks like most stations are simply going to air SportsCentre to fill time until 8pm.

The situation varies a lot by market. In Atlantic Canada, there’s just the early game, so the Sunday newscast is unaffected. In Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., the late game ends before 6pm, so no schedule change is needed there. In Kitchener, Winnipeg and Northern Ontario, as well as for new CTV affiliate CKPR in Thunder Bay, the plan is still to air a local newscast after the football game, which will likely start late a lot of the time.

For CTV Montreal, whose Sunday evening newscast draws tens of thousands of viewers, they’ve decided to do a live webcast of the 6pm show starting tonight. (You can watch a cheesy promo of it here.) The webcast can be seen on their website, montreal.ctvnews.ca.

I haven’t seen any announcements about other CTV stations trying this.

This change also means that for Montreal, there will be only one local newscast in English at 6pm Sundays: Global. CBC airs its weekly Disney/kids movie Sunday evenings. It’ll be interesting to see if Global capitalizes on this to try to drive up viewership for that time period in Montreal, which is historically one of its weakest markets.

In Ottawa, viewers don’t even get the choice of Global. They have retransmitters of Global Toronto, City Toronto and CHCH Hamilton, and CTV Two Ottawa, which doesn’t have evening newscasts.

After the second week of the NFL playoffs in mid-January, the schedule will return to normal, and the 6pm Sunday newscasts will return.

Catherine Sherriffs isn’t coming back to CTV Montreal

Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine Sherriffs, who left her job as late-night anchor at CTV Montreal a year ago to go on maternity leave, is not coming back.

Sherriffs, who was given the anchor chair in 2011 after Debra Arbec left for CBC, was scheduled to return to work earlier in July. But her position was not waiting for her. Instead, the station felt that the system it put in place when she left, having Mutsumi Takahashi anchor the noon and 6pm newscasts and Paul Karwatsky anchor at 6pm and 11:30pm, was “working very well the way it is,” explained CTV Montreal General Manager Louis Douville.

“We offered her another project, something new that we wanted to start experimenting with, and she didn’t see that as a fit to her new life,” Douville explained. He wouldn’t go into detail about what that position entails, but I understand it was an anchor-like position with a web focus.

Apparently that idea didn’t sit well with her, either because of the hours, which meant she would be going through rush-hour traffic to and from her home in the Laurentians (she grew up in Morin Heights), or because of the apparent demotion, or both.

My attempts to contact Sherriffs for comment have not yet been met with a response (her Facebook profile is locked down and she hasn’t posted anything to Twitter). I’ll update this if I hear from her.

Though CTV Montreal management would disagree, it’s hard not to see this as a forced demotion (at the very least it’s a forced reassignment). And worse, one that seems to come as an indirect result of a maternity leave. It’s that leave that put Karwatsky in the late-night chair and led to the decision to keep him there.

Douville insists that the decision was made “in the last (few) months” and had not been planned before Sherriffs’s leave.

“We love Catherine. She’s a fantastic employee and a great journalist,” Douville said. And indeed, there’s little reason to believe that this decision was in any way related to her performance in the anchor chair. Rather, it allows the station to go from having four anchors to three and save money.

Sherriffs graduated from Concordia University’s journalism program in 2007, and got her start in radio, working at CJAD. She joined CTV Montreal in 2009 as a reporter before being promoted to late-night anchor.

Sherriffs isn’t the only person leaving CTV Montreal. The station let go of its human resources manager this week, and is looking to cut its workforce by 10 to 12 people (out of about 100 total employees) over the coming months, as I explain in this story in The Gazette.

CTV News Montreal set gets refresh with video walls

New video monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side.

New video monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side.

If you’ve been watching CTV News Montreal this week — and ratings data suggest you probably have — you may have noticed something new: monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side of the cityscape background (and, in fact, cutting it off a bit). It’s the first really noticeable refresh of the set since the new studio was inaugurated three years ago.

The purpose is mainly to have graphics to show behind anchors in close-up shots, a cooler version of the over-the-shoulder graphic.

A behind-the-shoulder graphic, with no green-screen required

A behind-the-shoulder graphic, with no green-screen required

“We added these over the weekend in the hope of making the set look a little more contemporary,” explains Dave Maynard, CTV Montreal’s Manager of Operations and Production. “When we built the set in 2011 (yes almost 3 years now), I remember looking at the twin set of nine monitors on either side of the anchors and thinking ‘damn, I should have budgeted for monitor walls.'”

Continue reading

NFL will push local CTV newscasts to 7:30pm Sundays this fall

The scheduling conflict was obvious the moment Bell Media announced last December that it was picking up Sunday afternoon NFL games at 4pm from City: If the games go from 4pm to 7pm (or 7:30pm), then the 6pm local newscast is going to have to move, at least in the eastern part of the country.

On Thursday, as Bell Media did its upfront presentation to advertisers in Toronto (you can see the fall primetime schedule here), we got some details of what’s going to happen: The Sunday evening newscast won’t be cancelled, but it will be chopped to half an hour and pushed to 7:30pm, sandwiched between the NFL game and the 8pm airing of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

That’s the case in the eastern time zone, at least. In Atlantic Canada, there’s no conflict because the NFL games will air on CTV Two, which doesn’t have Sunday evening newscasts. In the Central time zone (Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in the winter), the news will air for half an hour at 6:30pm (the Sunday evening newscast is already half an hour long in these areas). And in Mountain and Pacific time zones, since the game ends at 5:30 and 4:30pm respectively, the evening news is unaffected.

This schedule only takes effect during the NFL season. The first disrupted Sunday is Sept. 4, and the last will be at the end of January. (Early playoff rounds also conflict, but the Super Bowl airs in primetime, so it won’t bump local news.) After that, the schedule returns to normal and the news goes back to being an hour at 6pm.

The Sunday evening newscast has some special features to fill that hour of time on what is usually a slow news day. Sunday Bite and Power of One could just take a break for five months, be moved to other days or be shortened and integrated into the shorter newscast.

One of the consequences of this move in Montreal is that it leaves only Global with a 6pm local newscast on Sundays during the NFL season. (CBC doesn’t have a 6pm newscast Sunday because that’s when it airs movies.) The station might take advantage by putting its best foot forward on those Sunday evenings in a bid to attract more viewers for the rest of the week.

Please make better Canadian Super Bowl ads

Speaking of CTV and the NFL, the network is starting a contest, with the Canadian Marketing Association, to encourage Canadian advertisers to create their own must-see Super Bowl ads.

Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year where Canadians actually want to watch U.S. ads, because of the hype around them. But while some U.S. advertisers also buy ads on CTV’s simulcast, many don’t, and we get much lower quality ads as a result. CTV’s heavy rotation of promo ads for its programs have also been frustrating viewers with their repetitiveness.

So we have a contest, whose rules haven’t been defined yet, but whose prize seems to be a free ad during the Super Bowl in Canada.

It’s unlikely to reverse the tide. Even if there’s one ad that Canadians would want to watch — and there have been some in recent years — and the U.S. commercials are posted online within seconds of their airing (and often well before that), most Canadians who care still prefer to watch the U.S. commercials live.

Election night projections the networks got wrong

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

CBC Lévis

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.

Continue reading

Montreal TV ratings: Global and City morning shows tied

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

Global Montreal’s Morning News, with Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure and Camille Ross, hasn’t fallen to new competitor Breakfast Television. At least not yet.

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.

Continue reading

Tarah Schwartz opens up about her adoption journey

Tarah Schwartz in June.

Tarah Schwartz in June, chatting with Paul Karwatsky.

This not-so-great photo was taken the last time I saw Tarah Schwartz. It was June 13, at CTV Montreal’s “upfront” presentation of its fall programming to local advertisers. Most of the on-air talent was invited to attend so they could be shown off and shmooze with the people who have big bucks to spend.

It was an emotional time for Schwartz. She was going on leave, and within days was heading to South Korea to finalize the adoption of a young boy. Her colleagues all knew about what she was doing, but it was discussed in hushed tones, not because there was anything embarrassing about the adoption itself, but because nobody wanted to jinx the process by making it public. Schwartz, who had been trying to adopt for years, knew full well nothing was certain until she returned to Montreal with a baby in her arms.

As she left the theatre, everyone wished her luck. And my slow draw with the camera prevented me from getting a picture of her unable to hold back tears. (It was probably for the best.)

I spent part of the evening interviewing Caroline van Vlaardingen, who would fill in for Schwartz during her leave. Schwartz left without any fanfare, and the public started wondering where she disappeared to. (If you go on Google and type in her name, the first suggestion is “Tarah Schwartz leaving CTV”.)

CTV Montreal newscast ends on Aug. 25 with a photo of Tarah Schwartz with husband Enrico and son Sam

CTV Montreal newscast ends on Aug. 25 with a photo of Tarah Schwartz with husband Enrico and son Sam

Fortunately for everyone, the story has a very happy ending. On Aug. 25, the local newscast ended with the news that Tarah Schwartz and her husband Enrico are officially parents.

And as she enters the final month of her maternity leave, Schwartz opens up about the process in a first-person story published in Saturday’s Gazette. It hints at past heartbreak, it talks about the complicated legal process, and it explores the emotions that a would-be adoptive parent goes through, both before and after the adoption. It’s a story foremost about waiting, powerless, knowing that your child is out there, living precious moments of the beginning of his life with some other family. And about the feeling when that long agonizing wait is finally over.

It’s a story about becoming a mom. It is a story that is commonplace, but no less special.

Mazel tov, Tarah. It’s a boy! Now all you have to do is wait for a public daycare space to open up.

Schwartz will be back on the anchor desk on Feb. 8.

UPDATE (Jan. 15): A couple of letters to the editor about Schwartz’s story.

CTV adds more Sunday NFL football, which could kill Sunday evening news

As Bell Media tries to figure out how it will deal with losing NHL hockey to rival Rogers, the company has already started solidifying its deals for other sports programming. On Monday, it announced that it has extended and expanded its deal with the National Football League, and will, starting next season, be presenting football games at 4pm on Sundays on CTV and CTV Two in addition to the 1pm games it currently airs.

NFL games normally go three hours, and sometimes longer, so basic math suggests that airing games at 4pm on Sundays means those games will still be going at 6pm. But Bell Media couldn’t say right away what would happen to 6pm local newscasts on Sundays.

“The specific programming plan is evolving, but we have every intention of meeting our local news obligations in eastern Canada,” was the response from Bell Media when I asked about the Sunday newscasts.

CTV stations in large markets like Montreal and Toronto are required to air 14 hours of local programming a week. Currently, they air about 16 hours a week of local news, so they could cancel Sunday newscasts and still meet their CRTC obligations. Because the CRTC requirement doesn’t distinguish between original programs and repeats, they could also cheat by repeating an evening newscast the next day at 6am. (Global Montreal did this every weekday before the launch of Morning News. CTV also does this in some markets.)

Not having Sunday evening news wouldn’t be the end of the world. They could do like CBC and just have a late-night newscast on Sundays. City Toronto, which airs NFL football at 4pm on Sundays, cancels the evening newscast when it airs those games.

Moving the news to another time would be tricky, though. They can’t make it earlier without bringing it all the way back to noon. Pushing it an hour later might work, but ask any fan of 60 Minutes how often the 4pm football game ends before 7pm. CTV also airs primetime shows at 7pm. Right now that’s when it airs ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

Making this even more complicated is that the NFL season is only 17 weeks long, running from September to early January. So they might have one schedule for the fall and another for the rest of the year.

They have a few months to figure it out. The change takes effect with the 2014-15 season which starts in September.