Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.
16 months after being hired as the first man in charge of City TV’s new station in Montreal, Bob Babinski is leaving. He announced the news on Twitter on Saturday:
I spoke with him shortly after that post, and you can read his reasons in this story, which should appear in Monday’s Gazette.
The decision was announced to staff at the station on Friday, just after the broadcast of Breakfast Television. This was by design, Babinski told me, “to have the least impact on staff.”
Babinski said it was “a difficult day yesterday.”
While he said he’d been thinking about it for a while, as one does for decisions like his, he called his bosses to make it official earlier this week, the same week those bosses were busy with Rogers’s upfront presentations, giving advertisers a taste of what is to come for the fall season.
I talked with Babinski on Tuesday at the Montreal satellite event for the upfront, and he said nothing about wanting to leave. He explained that he didn’t want word to leak out before making the announcement to his staff. That announcement, which shocked everyone, was made in the presence of Jordan Schwartz, Rogers Media’s VP of in-house production and Babinski’s boss, who is visiting to help tweak the morning show a bit. (The first minor tweaks to the format should be apparent on Monday’s show.)
Schwartz tweeted this somewhat cryptic message just before midnight on Friday night:
And this more direct one on Saturday:
Schwartz told me later that he was sad to see Babinski go, but “in my head I always expected this day. I didn’t know if he’d want to stay for the day-to-day-to-day.”
There was the thought of whether there was something Rogers could do to make Babinski happier in his position, Schwartz said, but “I heard it in his voice that it was the right call.”
Schwartz said “I thought that he was a gentleman in the timing that he picked,” because it’s at the beginning of summer and gives them time to find someone new before the fall.
Manuel Fonseca, the managing producer of local programming at City Vancouver, takes over as interim executive producer in Montreal until they find a permanent replacement. Schwartz didn’t want to put a timeline on that, but said he’ll look for someone “as soon as possible.”
“I need a change”
So why is Babinski leaving? Simply put, “I need a change,” he said, emphasizing that the decision was entirely his and to the disappointment of his superiors.
Babinski said the first year and a half was about hiring new talent, setting up a TV station from scratch, and developing a new show. As we enter the second seasons of Montreal Connected and Breakfast Television, his job is becoming more administrative, doing things like coordinating content from the network. “While that’s extremely important, that stuff is less close to my heart,” he said.
So, in the middle of summer, he’s leaving and will go back to being a freelancer.
He won’t be entirely disconnected from Rogers, he said. Without giving too many details, he said he will be working with the company to produce programming related to hockey, as Rogers begins finding ways to recoup that $5.2-billion investment in NHL rights over 12 years. It will definitely be an off-air role, though. The former CBC sportscaster says his on-air days are behind him.
Babinski also told me he plans to go back to pursuing his “basic passion” of training others to be better broadcasters. He wants to expand the stuff he’s been doing there and apply it to other industries, helping corporate executives become better public speakers, for example. Again, not too many details because he doesn’t want to tip his hand before it’s all figured out.
He remains in his job until Friday, June 13. He’ll be spending his last week doing his job as usual, and preparing files for a transition to a new boss.