Tag Archives: CFCF

Posted in My articles, TV

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.

Posted in TV

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.’”

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Posted in TV

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.

Posted in Opinion, TV

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.

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Posted in Montreal, TV

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.

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Posted in TV

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.

Posted in TV

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.

Posted in Photos, TV

Shave to Save: Christine Long goes short for a cause

The new Christine Long.

The new Christine Long.

Well, she didn’t go all the way. They didn’t bring out the razors. And in fact, between her, her cameraman and her boss who were there, she’s still the one with the longest hair. But there’s no mistaking that Christine Long looks different today than she used to.

“Tomorrow mommy’s gonna look pretty scary,” Long told me on Halloween night, after taking her kids trick-or-treating. It was a joke, of course, there’s nothing scary here. And despite all the cracks directed at her, she didn’t feel nervous or worried at all. If anything, she was eager to get it done.

Long has been trying to shave her head for six years, she said. But being a TV reporter, her bosses had resisted allowing her to do so. She credited the fact that Virgin Radio and CTV are under common ownership with helping to push it toward happening. (Going over her boss’s head to new station manager Louis Douville might have also had an impact.)

Jed Kahane, CTV Montreal’s news director, had a slightly different history. Yes, they weren’t crazy about it in the past, but it was more the seriousness of the proposal this time that prompted them to finally agree.

Either way, CTV now has a reporter with a lot less hair.

“I was like, you know, I’d like to do more than write a cheque,” Long said of her decision to go along with it. As a CTV personality, she’s hosted plenty of events for cancer fundraisers and other charities, and she felt the need to give back in some tangible way.

And because she’s on TV, she wanted to show to women who are going through cancer treatment that there’s nothing wrong with having a bald head or a short head of hair.

Ultimately, she said, her goal is that women who have gone bald will feel less self-conscious about going out to the grocery store without a hat or a wig. She wants to normalize the look.

And so, she says she won’t be hiding her new hairstyle as it grows back, though she’ll be keeping her head warm and admits she loves hats.

The hair hasn’t been put to waste. It’s been donated to the CanDonate hair program, which creates free wigs for children under 16. Long said she hopes to follow the progress of her hair and talk to the child who receives it.

At least in the moments after it happened, Long was relieved more than anything else. She needed a haircut.

And she’s excited to see it grow back. “By Christmas, I’ll look like Justin Bieber.”

She’s promised her husband she’ll only do this once. Both of them seemed pretty sure she’d stick to that promise.

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Posted in TV

CTV holding Montreal mayor debate on Sunday; CBC to follow

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.

Where’s Joly?

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 format

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.

Posted in Radio, TV

Wayne Bews appointed Retail Sales Manager at CTV Montreal

Wayne Bews

Wayne Bews

Wayne Bews, whose job as general manager of TSN Radio 690 was made redundant when Bell Media acquired Astral Media and CJAD’s Chris Bury was made its program director, will stay with the company.

CTV Montreal’s general manager Louis Douville confirmed that he has named Bews the station’s retail sales manager. Bews begins on Monday.

After the departure of Tony Ecclissi last month, Douville said he decided to split the position of general sales manager into retail (local) and national sales. Martin Poirier, a senior account executive for more than a decade, takes over the national sales job.

“Wayne is a very well respected person in our market, he has close relationships with many of our clients,” Douville said of his new hire, noting that he has 15 years of sales management experience.

Mike Cohen, who first reported the news, quoted Bews as describing his new job as a “very exciting new challenge.”

UPDATE (Oct. 2): Cohen follows up with an interview with Bews.

Posted in TV

CTV Montreal parts with sales manager

Updated below with information from Ecclissi.

Tony Ecclissi gives a presentation about CTV Montreal's fall lineup on June 13. He won't be sticking around to see it on air.

Tony Ecclissi gives a presentation about CTV Montreal’s fall lineup on June 13. He won’t be sticking around to see it on air.

Tony Ecclissi no longer works for CTV Montreal. In what general manager Louis Douville qualified as a “simple re-structuring,” the position of General Sales Manager has been eliminated.

“Martin Poirier will take over the National Sales Manager portfolio and I plan on announcing a Retail Sales Manager in the near future,” Douville wrote to me in an email when I inquired about Ecclissi.

People emailing Ecclissi are now getting an automated reply that reads “Please note that Mr. Antonio Ecclissi is no longer with the company,” followed by contact information for Poirier and Douville, who’s handling local sales for now.

Ecclissi’s LinkedIn page, which has been updated to reflect the end of his three-year tenure at CTV Montreal, lists his profession as “Media Advertising Specialist.”

“There has been some restructuring as you know as a result of the Astral purchase,” Ecclissi told me. “Myself along with the Sales Managers at CTV Ottawa (Dan Champagne) and CTV Vancouver (Lynne Forbes) are the latest casualties who were let go last week. I was General Sales Manager and responsible for both the National Sales Team and the Local sales team.”

Tony Ecclissi

UPDATE (Sept. 4): CTV Montreal has split Ecclissi’s former job in two, naming former TSN 690 GM Wayne Bews as retail sales manager and senior account executive Martin Poirier as national sales manager.

Posted in TV

The “Lori said it would rain!” umbrella

Canada AM’s Jeff Hutcheson shoots a promo with the umbrella

Just after shooting the last Montreal special episode of Canada AM, showing off Gregory Charles at his Vintage theatre in the Old Port, Jeff Hutcheson shot a promo outside for CTV Montreal. It was kinda lame, a fake telephone conversation whose contents I don’t even remember, but had to do with the weather. But the punchline was Hutcheson opening up a CTV News umbrella and turning it around to reveal the words you see above: “Lori said it would rain!”

He shot a bunch of takes of the promo, and had trouble locking the umbrella open each time. Eventually, as they were doing extra takes to fine-tune various points of the bit, it broke:

CTV Lori umbrella broken

I guess we have it, the producer said to a laugh. They didn’t have a back-up umbrella.

I was fascinated by this umbrella. Was it a one-off? Are there piles of them in a promotion office somewhere? Can you buy one?

Louis Douville, CTV Montreal’s general manager, said they’d ordered about a dozen of them. But my query apparently made him think about “wider distribution, maybe even as contest giveaways.”

He also said I could have one. But blasted journalistic ethics mean I have to turn him down. (I don’t keep swag of non-trivial value unless it’s given away to the general population or was acquired in a non-journalistic context from someone who doesn’t know I’m a journalist.)

I like the idea of popular but local references like this. And I’m sure people would be interested in owning an umbrella like this. But I wonder how many.

My blog’s readers are obviously not a representative sample of the population, but definitely a good cross-section of hard-core fans. (Do local TV stations have those?)

So I put the question to you: Would you buy this umbrella? Or would you enjoy winning one in a contest? Or is it just a bit too cheesy for you to be seen walking around in the rain with?

UPDATE (July 6): Here’s the promo ad Hutcheson was shooting:

It’s just as cheesy as I had thought it would be.

Posted in TV

Andrea Collins joins CTV Montreal as fill-in weather presenter

Andrea Collins

You’re going to see yet another blonde on CTV Montreal. Andrea Collins, who hosts the late morning show on Virgin Radio and the weekly Dinner Rush show on CJAD, has been added as a fill-in weather presenter. Her first shift was on the late show on Tuesday, and you can see her do the online weather update.

The station has been pretty light on the position for some time now. It needs to be done seven days a week, and besides Lori Graham on weekdays and Lise McAuley on weekends, there was just Randy Renaud (and he has other responsibilities). The situation was pressed even more because Graham is taking an extended summer vacation and only returning in August.

Andrea Collins CTV weather

Funny how pretty people inevitably find their way onto television…

Posted in TV

Caroline van Vlaardingen in the big chair

Caroline van Vlaardingen

Caroline van Vlaardingen shouldn’t be nervous about being an anchor. She’s been an on-air figure at the station for … you know, I think you could actually measure it in decades, even though she doesn’t look that old.

Part of her experience at CFCF has included some hosting duties, too, including the series “On-Line Montreal” in the 1990s, a one-hour live talk show. (Ad-lib for a minute on live TV? Ha! Try doing that for a whole hour, she says with a laugh.) She’s also hosted the station’s telethon, and she’s been a reliable fill-in anchor for many years now, in addition to some part-time teaching at Concordia’s journalism program.

Still, she’s stepping a bit out of her comfort zone this weekend. Van Vlaardingen is taking over the weekend newscast from Tarah Schwartz, who’s leaving the country for seven months for personal reasons. (I won’t say why, but let’s just say there were lots of crossed fingers from her colleagues at Thursday night’s upfront presentation.)

Van Vlaardingen has the anchoring thing down pretty well, but she got some pointers from Schwartz about some things unique to the weekend newscasts. Among them is that, because the schedule runs from 3pm to midnight, the weekend anchor comes in with little time to familiarize herself with the news before the 6pm newscast. And the weekend anchor lines up her own late-night newscast, which is something that Van Vlaardingen is new to.

I asked her on Thursday whether she’d see herself permanently in the anchor chair. She said she enjoys doing reporting, getting out into the field. The weekend anchor job, which includes three reporting shifts during the work week, is a good mix of both roles, and one Van Vlaardingen is excited to do.

But Schwartz has no reason to worry. Van Vlaardingen is happy to go back to being a reporter once Tarah comes back. “I’m just happy to hold down the fort until she returns,” she says.

Posted in TV

CTV Montreal newscast goes HD on Monday

Before (click to enlarge)

Before (click to enlarge)

After (click to enlarge)

After (click to enlarge)

Some of you have been waiting for this for years, cursing, complaining, being sarcastic or otherwise criticizing as the months go by. On Monday, CTV Montreal’s newscasts finally switch to high definition.

The station has spent the past few months converting the last piece of its big puzzle, the control room, to high definition. In fact, the transition has required the creation of a second control room as the first one has continued operating. Studio cameras, field cameras and editing suites have been in HD for quite some time, requiring an awkward HD-to-SD conversion, which goes back to HD for air.

The final switches will happen over the weekend, which means the weekend newscasts will move to the newsroom, the same place they were done from in the summer of 2011 when the station rebuilt its studios.

Among the changes happening over the weekend, a wall being moved about two feet to make room for a wider (16:9) chroma key wall used for weather.

Monday’s noon newscast will be the first in HD.

CTV Montreal has been slower than its competitors to make the transition. Publicly and privately, people in charge have admitted that there’s little competitive pressure to make the very expensive switch. Even with black bars beside a squarish image, CTV Montreal far outdoes competing newscasts from CBC and Global in the ratings.

Montreal is about the middle of the pack for CTV in the transition in major markets. Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver have already switched.

New control room means five retirements

The new control room will be run by OverDrive, an automated control room system by Canadian company Ross Video. The new automation will reduce the number of people needed in the control room, though CTV Montreal is keeping a lot of control in human hands.

Five jobs will be lost when the transition to the automated system is complete. All five, says Operations Manager Dave Maynard, are voluntary retirees. They include CTV Montreal union local president Doug Kelly.

“To get that point took a helluva lot of work, but the end result is that we have a positive, even enthusiastic work environment that welcomes this automation system,” Maynard said.

The automation system will be phased in, starting with the late-night newscast. A week later, the noon newscast will be produced with OverDrive. The 6pm newscast will switch to the automation system on June 22.

Dave Maynard on CTV set

CTV Montreal Operations Manager Dave Maynard

The transition will be of personal significance for Maynard. He won’t be directing under the OverDrive system, and is giving up his director’s seat in the control room in order to focus full-time on his job as operations manager for the station. His last newscast as a director will be at 6pm on June 21.

“I will hang up my director’s hat (or socks) and never tell another joke into Mits’ earpiece ever again,” he said.

Don’t worry. He still has her email address.