Tag Archives: CFCF

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

 

Elysia Bryan-Baynes named late-night anchor at Global Montreal

This is how I imagine Elysia Bryan-Baynes celebrates everything.

This is how I imagine Elysia Bryan-Baynes celebrates everything.

Global Montreal has finally filled the seat that was vacated by Richard Dagenais when he moved to mornings in January: Reporter Elysia Bryan-Baynes is being upgraded to the anchor desk, it was announced on Wednesday morning. Her first day on air is June 3.

Bryan-Baynes, an avid comic-book reader, has been with Global Montreal since 2003, but this is her first permanent job at the station, station manager Karen Macdonald tells me.

“Elysia has literally been a freelancer here since 2003,” she said. “We’ve had lots and lots of babies and we’ve had lots and lots of mat leaves” that she’s been able to fill. Macdonald attributes the lack of openings both to the station’s tiny size since it drastically cut staff in 2007, and to its bizarrely low turnover rate. “People just don’t leave here,” she said. “So since 2007 since we had the cuts we haven’t had that many departures.”

The new morning show, which brought a handful of new jobs including two anchors, created an opportunity.

“Of all the candidates, her screen test was the best,” Macdonald said. “I think people will be intrigued and pleasantly surprised.”

Bryan-Baynes hasn’t done much anchoring, which Macdonald said was “because she’s had so much else to do” with reporting, including some filling in at the National Assembly. “She’s a really strong anchor, she has a lot of experience news-wise. It requires a lot of experience, because basically they’re by themselves a lot in the evening.”

For her part, Bryan-Baynes says she’s really excited about the new gig. “I’ve loved the work and the team since I arrived in 2003,” she tells me. “Global has always made me feel part of the family. Now its official. For now, I’m feeling excitement and great sense of responsibility. I’m sure many other emotions will hit me between now and when I start in June.”

Paola Samuel has been filling in on the late-night desk most nights since Dagenais’s move.

Global also announced to staff that Gloria Henriquez has officially been named associate producer of Morning News, a role she has been temporarily filling since the show began.

Karwatsky to take over late nights at CTV

Meanwhile at CTV, there’s also a change there to the late-night anchor desk. Catherine Sherriffs will be leaving on maternity leave this summer, and the station has decided to have Paul Karwatsky take over the late-night desk in addition to co-anchoring at 6 p.m., station manager Louis Douville told me. That means Mutsumi Takahashi will be doing the noon newscast solo.

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.

Camille Ross leaves CTV for Global Montreal

Camille Ross (CTV photo)

Camille Ross (CTV photo)

As we begin a year that will involve a lot of new high-profile jobs in broadcasting, it’s inevitable that some of those will be filled by people already on the air who decide to move up by jumping to a competitor.

We’ve seen our first such move already: CTV Montreal reporter Camille Ross has been hired by Global to join their new morning show set to launch this spring.

Global News spokesperson Nick Poirier confirmed the news on Thursday, saying she will be joining the cast of the new show, but wouldn’t get into details because they weren’t ready to announce just yet.

Ross herself wouldn’t comment on the news, instead referring to Poirier for comment.

Ross grew up in Toronto and went to Ryerson University. She worked at the CTV station in Yorkton, Sask., and Global News in Regina before coming to Montreal to fill a maternity leave at CFCF.

CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane said he understood Ross’s motivations, pointing out that she was a freelancer for CTV when she left, and the prospect of full-time employment was an opportunity too good to pass up. Kahane said CTV wishes her well, in that way every employer wishes their former employees well in their future endeavours.

Kahane said CTV still has a rich bank of freelancers that it can continue to rely on to cover the news.

Global announced last month that Jim Connell and Rob Ostiguy had also been hired to run the morning show. Other hires, including other on-air personalities, have not yet been announced, nor has a start date.

(Hat tip to Mike Cohen, who revealed the news on Twitter on Wednesday evening.)

CTV Montreal making final push toward HD newscasts

CFCF HD camera

One of the HD field cameras being used by CTV Montreal cameramen.

After what has seemed like eons since its competitors made the switch, CTV Montreal has announced that it’s making its final push toward launching a high-definition broadcast, which should begin in the spring or early summer. But it’s not all good news – technological change will mean a slight reduction in the number of technical staff at the station, management and its union have confirmed.

The station issued an update via its Facebook page last week, explaining that it had just put new HD studio cameras in place (viewers might notice a slight difference in colours or crispness in the studio shots during newscasts), and is building a new control room that will be HD-capable.

Other steps toward the conversion had already been taken earlier. New field cameras have been acquired, new editing suites installed, an upgrade to digital storage completed, and a new studio has been constructed that has the proper wiring and the level of detail necessary to work right in HD.

CBC and Global made the upgrade a long time ago. Both first moved to a 16:9 upconverted SD system, which masked the fact that they weren’t yet HD. CTV did not make a similar move due to a company policy that HD not be faked like that. CBC Montreal went through an upgrade that cost around $1 million that made it the first English CBC station in Canada to be fully in HD. Global’s conversion was a lot easier because it doesn’t have a control room – Global Montreal’s newscast is directed and controlled from Edmonton, leaving only the field cameras, studio cameras, edit suites and high-speed data connections to upgrade.

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Max Harrold to become CTV Quebec bureau chief

Max Harrold (Gazette photo)

Max Harrold, a news reporter for The Gazette since 2006, has been hired as the new Quebec City Bureau Chief for CTV News. The move was announced this morning with mixed feelings by Gazette city editor Michelle Richardson. He leaves the paper on Nov. 20.

Harrold, who tells me he’s 47 but has always seemed so much younger at heart, has been a general assignment reporter, specializing in breaking news. He’s also the guy behind the weekly Squeaky Wheels column, answering readers’ questions about issues involving transportation in Montreal. Before joining The Gazette he wrote for it as a freelancer, wrote for the Discovery Channel program How It’s Made, and worked in off-air roles at Global Television and CBC. He also worked for the short-lived Montreal Daily News, and was there when the paper shut down in 1989.

He’s a native Montrealer, but lived and worked in Los Angeles and New York for 13 years, and studied at Columbia Journalism School.

Harrold told me he had informal discussions with CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane before the latest round of buyouts at The Gazette, with the possibility of having to look for a new job at the back of his mind. In the end that would become unnecessary, since there were no layoffs of reporters, but discussions continued.

“I thought it would be for an off-camera job or a research job,” Harrold said when he called me from the office, where he’s getting congratulations from his colleagues. But Kahane needed someone with excellent reporting skills for the Quebec City job, and Harrold fit the bill.

“It’s an interesting time in Quebec City, and it’s a bureau where I want someone who overall has an understanding of quebec politics,” Kahane said. “Max is a veteran, he’s an experienced editorial guy (and) he was the kind of person I was looking for.”

Harrold doesn’t have any on-air experience in television, though he went through a screen test that was enough to convince Kahane the jump to television could work. Kahane points out that other print journalists have moved to television with great success. He mentioned people like David Akin at Sun Media. Nancy Wood, an anchor at CBC Montreal, is another former Gazette reporter and print specialist who made a very successful transition into broadcasting.

Kahane said that with strong editorial judgment, learning the technical part isn’t a big problem. The former is valued far more than the latter in a television reporter.

Nevertheless, Harrold admitted it will be a transition, and he’s already been practicing proper standups in front of a mirror.

Harrold begins at CTV in December, and will spend his first few weeks training, learning the ins and outs of TV reporting in general and CTV’s systems in particular. Kahane said he expects Harrold will do some on-air work in Montreal (he couldn’t say when we should expect to start seeing Harrold on air) and be ready to report from Quebec City by the time the National Assembly reconvenes for the new year in February.

CTV’s last Quebec City bureau chief, you might recall, had a fairly public resignation in July 2011. Kahane said he didn’t make any special requests of Harrold, though he did ask if Harrold had a television at home (Kai Nagata famously did not even though he was a TV reporter). Harrold said he has two. The embarrassment for CTV meant a lot of hesitation at choosing someone new for the position, particularly for going with someone young and inexperienced, so the position remained unfilled for more than a year.

Maya Johnson has been filling in, covering Quebec City and the National Assembly for the past few months. She’ll return to Montreal, where Kahane said she will continue her reporting, which he qualified as excellent, from here.

Harrold’s new job means moving to Quebec City (and finding a fluently bilingual anglophone willing to move to the provincial capital is also a big challenge in filling this position). Harrold will look for a place in Quebec City and expects to live there for a little while before his husband Greg joins him.

There’s no word yet on whether The Gazette will be looking to hire someone to replace Harrold, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Richardson is already getting unsolicited offers.

On a personal note, since Max is a friend, I’ll wish him well. But a warning: no mercy on the hilariously embarrassing gaffes that make live TV so much fun to watch.

UPDATE: Max’s first report aired on Dec. 12.

CTV Montreal to reduce (but continue) local news during Olympics

CFCF’s anchor desk will sit empty until 6pm during the Olympics

Television changes during the Olympic Games. It’s like the usual rules get thrown right out the window. Canadian television stations relying mainly on rebroadcasting American shows in primetime? Not during the Olympics. NBC provides Olympic coverage, but CTV is doing its own thing entirely, focusing on Canadian athletes. TSN and Rogers Sportsnet in fierce competition? Not during the Olympics. They’re coordinating their coverage to give Canadians more choice, and some events (like the opening and closing ceremonies) will be carried on both simultaneously. Spending the bare minimum on Canadian content? Not during the Olympics. CTV and the other broadcasters are spending millions creating their own live, remote, high-definition programming that will dominate the airwaves throughout the Games.

It’s this domination of the schedule that has led to one change that requires approval by the broadcast regulator.

CTV asked the CRTC to temporarily relieve it from some local programming requirements during the Olympics. Currently, CTV’s stations in large markets (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) are each required to air 14 hours of local programming during each week. Other stations are required to air seven hours of local programming a week. CTV asked the commission to, in light of how much time it needs to devote to the Olympics on its schedule, reduce that to seven hours a week for the entire network.

The CRTC agreed to this in a ruling issued June 27. That ruling lowers the minimum of local programming to seven hours for all stations, solely during the period of the Olympics (July 27 to August 12), and says it expects CTV to make up for the shortfall later in the year. (CTV said it would do so.)

CTV also asked for relief from a license condition requiring four hours a week of described video programming. Since described video is usually applied to things like dramas, sitcoms and documentaries, which won’t air much during the Olympics, the CRTC also relieved the CTV network from this obligation, again with the expectation that CTV would compensate for the reduction with an excess during the rest of the year.

No noon newscasts during Games

CTV Montreal (CFCF) normally airs 16 hours of local programming every week, including commercials (all of which is its newscasts – noon, 6pm and 11:30pm weekdays, 6pm and 11:30pm weekends).

The Olympic broadcasting schedule released Wednesday shows Games coverage throughout the day between the opening and closing ceremonies. Because the Olympics are in London, which is five hours ahead, live coverage begins as early as 4am and ends around 5-6pm Eastern time. This is the opposite of the Vancouver games, which were three hours behind and meant a lot of live broadcasting in the evening.

With the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies, the 6-7pm Eastern hour is left clear on CTV’s network, which leaves room for local news. This is followed by a four-hour Olympic Primetime recap of the day’s events from 7 to 11pm, which can then be followed by CTV National News and late local newscasts.

Mary Anne Gyba, programming manager at CTV Montreal, confirms to me that local newscasts will air daily from 6pm to 7pm and at 11:30pm throughout the Olympics, with the exception of the opening ceremony (Friday, July 27) and the closing ceremony (Sunday, August 12), which both run through the 6pm hour.

This means it will air 11 hours of local news the first full week and 10 hours the second week, far exceeding the reduced minimum requirement. (An alternative way of meeting the quota would have been to repeat local newscasts at 6am the next day, which CTV and Global both use regularly in underperforming markets, but with Olympic coverage starting at 4am, even this option doesn’t work for them.)

V stations get similar relief

In a similar decision issued the day after the CTV one, the CRTC also offered relief to two television stations – CFGS in Gatineau and CFVS in Val d’Or/Rouyn Noranda – from local programming during the Olympics. Both stations are affiliates of the V network, which is the French-language conventional television broadcaster in the consortium, and both are owned by RNC Media.

In its brief application, RNC said it was “highly likely” that V would not offer enough free time in its schedule during the Games for local programming, even though each station must broadcast only one hour and 15 minutes a week of local programming, which averages to about 10 minutes a day.

V’s Olympic schedule is much like CTV’s, with nothing scheduled during the 6-7pm hour (except during opening and closing ceremonies), and nothing after 11pm. V normally offers entertainment programming at 6-7pm instead of local news, to set itself apart from Radio-Canada and TVA. Still, it seems a bit incredible that such stations can’t find 75 minutes a week for local news.

The CRTC’s decision relieves them completely of the requirement to air local programming during the Olympics.

UPDATE (July 16): The CRTC has issued a similar decision relieving Télévision MBS Inc., which owns the V affiliate in Rivière du Loup (CFTF-TV), of its local programming obligations during the Olympics.

UPDATE (July 24): And finally, a decision relieving the owned-and-operated stations of the V network (CFJP Montreal, CFAP Quebec, CFKM Trois-Rivières, CFKS Sherbrooke and CFRS Saguenay) from their obligations. That application prompted a letter in opposition by SCFP union executive Denis Bolduc, saying that there was plenty of time in the schedule for V to air local news, that it should have asked for this exemption during its license renewal hearing last fall, and that the CRTC should maintain some minimum of local programming during the Olympics.

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.