Tag Archives: CJNT

Posted in TV

Wilder Weir among cuts at Rogers Media

Wilder Weir

Wilder Weir

The 200 cuts announced in January at Rogers Media finally trickled down to the local level yesterday, and the company confirmed to me that Wilder Weir is one of them.

Weir, who pulled double duty as the “Live Eye” host on Breakfast Television and the host of weekly sports show Sportsnet Central Montreal, is “no longer with the company,” as corporate PR puts it.

Elias Makos, who does social media for Breakfast Television, will continue as host of Sportsnet Central Montreal, in addition to co-hosting Breakfast Television with Derick Fage while Joanne Vrakas is on maternity leave.

“Yesterday, some changes were made at Rogers Media that will help position the business for continued success and growth” is how Rogers PR’s Andrea Goldstein explained the decision.

Weir hasn’t posted anything on social media about his departure. He declined to comment when asked about it.

Weir was one of the first faces of City Montreal, hired in 2013 along with Alyson Lozoff to host the weekly sports show. (Lozoff lasted less than a year.) Among the seven day-one personalities at City Montreal’s two in-house local shows, three have since left and two more are on maternity leave.

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Posted in TV

Derick Fage hired as Breakfast Television Montreal co-host

Derick Fage (Rogers Media photo)

Derick Fage (Rogers Media photo)

Less than three weeks after officially announcing the departure of Alexandre Despatie, Rogers Media has announced his replacement: Derick Fage, a host on the Rogers TV community channel in Ottawa who has filled in as host at BT Montreal this year.

He starts Jan. 4. Wilder Weir, who has been co-hosting with Joanne Vrakas in the interim, returns to his role as Live Eye reporter, in addition to being the host of Sportsnet Central Montreal.

“Derick’s contagious energy makes him a perfect fit for the Breakfast Television format. We believe Montreal viewers will look forward to waking up with Derick and Joanne for their daily dose of entertainment, news, and lifestyle information.”
— Jordan Schwartz, Vice President, In-House Productions, Rogers, in their press release

Posted in TV

Alex Despatie leaves Breakfast Television

Alexandre Despatie

Alexandre Despatie, the former world champion diver who was a surprise hire as one of the first hosts of Breakfast Television Montreal, has left the show.

The show has been co-hosted by Wilder Weir the past few weeks, but Despatie’s departure was only announced on air this morning, at the end of the show.

“Alex is moving on to different and exciting projects, so it’s a start to a new chapter in Alex’s life,” co-host Joanne Vrakas said before reminiscing about her screen test with him before they were hired.

The use of boilerplate, combined with the fact that Despatie wasn’t there to offer his own goodbye message certainly raises an eyebrow, but statements offered from both parties suggest an amicable departure. Here’s statements that Rogers PR emailed me afterward:

Colette Watson, VP of Broadcast & Operations, Rogers Media :

“Alex was a big part of our launch in Montreal and we are appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with him.  He is a true professional and we wish him all the best as he moves on to his next venture.”

Alexandre Despatie:

“From a young age I have been motivated by challenges, and the chance to participate in the launch of a new station in such an important role was quite a big one. I want to thank City for offering me this extraordinary opportunity and the viewers who let me into their homes every morning. I was privileged to share the show with a great team both in-front of and behind the camera and I wish them all the best. I would have loved to continue this wonderful experience, but I’m looking forward to my next exciting endeavour.”

It’s unclear what happens now as far as on-air staff. Weir would be the obvious choice to replace Depatie since he’s been doing it as a fill-in. But that opens up Wilder’s position as the “Live Eye” reporter.

To complicate matters further, Vrakas is pregnant, which means she’ll be going on maternity leave soon.

Despatie is the latest major figure to leave City Montreal after only two and a half years of local programming. He follows Montreal Connected host Alyson Lozoff, executive producer Bob Babinski (who hired Despatie), supervising producer Jeffrey Feldman, plus some behind-the-scenes people like news producer Levon Sevunts.

UPDATE (Feb. 5, 2016): Despatie will be on the Radio-Canada Olympic broadcast team in Rio.

Posted in TV

Shakeup in management at City Montreal: Jeffrey Feldman out, Renato Zane in

Updated with comments from Feldman

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

A year after its founding executive producer, Bob Babinski, decided to quit to pursue freelance production work, City Montreal has parted ways with Breakfast Television’s supervising producer, Jeffrey Feldman.

Feldman, who worked as a Montreal producer for Bell Media’s eTalk and Fashion Television before joining City in 2013, is no longer with the company, a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed.

Staff at City Montreal are tight-lipped about Feldman’s departure, referring me to corporate PR in Toronto.

UPDATE: I finally got in touch with Feldman himself. He insists his departure is amicable.

“It was just time to move on,” he said.

He’s considering moving back to his hometown of Toronto, where his family is, but is also considering an offer in Montreal. In the meantime, he’s taking his first real vacation in three years.

But Feldman says he enjoyed his time at City. “It was an amazing two years,” he said.

He said he turned off his Twitter account because he no longer needed it for work, and he didn’t think there was much there anyway.

As for why there was no on-air goodbye or social media well wishes from his colleagues, Feldman noted that he believes “producers’ jobs are supposed to be behind the camera” and he never wanted to draw attention to himself on air.

I guess that makes sense, but it’s still odd that no one has commented on his departure. Feldman mentioned that “I’ve always kept my professional relationships professional”, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t friends with the staff.

He also has only kind words for Renato Zane, the new executive producer (see below), calling him a great guy.

Renato Zane

Renato Zane

Zane, formerly director of news and current affairs at OMNI, has actually been working here for some time now. I met him (and took his photo) in April, and the decision for him to come here had been made, but Rogers wanted me not to reveal his new post until it was official. For some reason that took months.

Zane, who fills Babinski’s former job, admitted he’s new to Montreal, which is a stark contrast to most of the staff at the station, who have strong roots in this city. But he is eager to learn.

On Wednesday, Breakfast Television marked its second anniversary.

Antenna work

People watching City Montreal over the air have been noticing reception issues. Says Rogers: “We are currently in the process of returning the tower to our engineering standards, a long-term solution that will improve both the quality of our signal and its over-the-air reception by viewers; we hope to have these repairs completed very soon.”

City Montreal (CJNT-DT) broadcasts from a small tower next to the CBC Mount Royal antenna tower, which is undergoing its own maintenance this summer. Its lower height and 4kW power have made it more difficult to receive than other Montreal stations.

Posted in TV

Bob Babinski resigns as City Montreal Executive Producer

Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.

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.

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Posted in Sports, TV

Alyson Lozoff leaves City, Sportsnet

Alyson Lozoff

Alyson Lozoff

City Montreal is barely a year old (and none of its local programs have even reached that anniversary) but it has already lost its first personality.

Alyson Lozoff, who was the Montreal reporter for Rogers Sportsnet and also the co-host of City TV’s local sports magazine show Montreal Connected, “is no longer with the company,” a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed to me today.

She wouldn’t comment on why this is, and my attempts to reach Lozoff and City Montreal have failed to generate any response. Her Twitter account has been silent since March 22.

Lozoff’s departure was not addressed at all on the air. She last appeared on Montreal Connected on March 20 with co-host Wilder Weir as if everything was normal, without a hint that it would be her last show. During the week, the show’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were changed to list only Weir as the host.

Weir hosted this week’s episode solo, never explaining why his co-host from the previous week had suddenly disappeared.

This type of disappearance usually indicates a firing or unamicable resignation (say, to join a competitor). I have no idea which of these is the case.

Lozoff’s disappearance is curious because if anything Rogers should be hiring more people to be covering hockey in places like Montreal where it currently doesn’t have any broadcasting rights but will gain them starting this fall. On the other hand, it could be that in the process of re-evaluating its staffing across the country, the company has decided that Lozoff shouldn’t be part of the team.

Or maybe we’ll find out soon that she got hired by TSN or something. I really have no idea.

All I know is that the teeth on City Montreal just got a little less white.

Posted in Montreal, TV

City won’t renew Only in Montreal (and won’t say why)

On Saturday at 7pm, City TV’s local lifestyle show will present three capsules, one each from its hosts Matt Silver, Tamy Emma Pepin and Dimitrios Koussioulas, as it airs its 30th episode. Which will also be its last.

Last month, Rogers Media confirmed to me that Only in Montreal is not being renewed past its first 30-episode run.

The news is disappointing because Only in Montreal, produced by Whalley-Abbey Media, was actually a really good show. It was well edited, well produced, fun and interesting, and introduced the city to three personalities they had known little of before. And it showcased the city in a way that has been missing on local television for far too long.

But what’s more disappointing is that the decision to cancel the show was made before the latest local TV ratings numbers came out. Since this was the first report since Only in Montreal came on the air last July, we can only conclude that the decision had nothing to do with ratings. And it’s tempting to further conclude that it therefore had nothing to do with the quality of the show.

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Posted in TV

Comparative review: Global Montreal’s Morning News vs. City Montreal’s Breakfast Television

Breakfast Television cast, from left: Joanne Vrakas, Alexandre Despatie, Catherine Verdon-Diamond, Elias Makos, Wilder Weir and Laura Casella

Breakfast Television cast, from left: Joanne Vrakas, Alexandre Despatie, Catherine Verdon-Diamond, Elias Makos, Wilder Weir and Laura Casella

Tuesday, Jan. 28, marks the first anniversary of Global Montreal’s Morning News, the first of two local English-language TV morning shows that launched in Montreal in 2013. The second, City Montreal’s Breakfast Television, launched on Aug. 26. And though we could just be happy that there are two morning shows serving this community now instead of zero, it’s hard not to think of a battle between the two, even if they both have a long hill to climb to reach the level of Canada AM.

Comparing Morning News and BT comes with two main caveats: Morning News launched seven months before BT, and benefits from being on an established station in this market, while Breakfast Television has a much larger staff and far more resources. Neither of these factors are beyond the control of those stations’ owners (Shaw Media and Rogers Media), so neither I nor viewers should mitigate our reviews based on those facts, but they should be kept in mind if you’re evaluating anyone’s individual performance.

That said, here’s how the shows stack up on key elements:

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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 Montreal, TV

Review: Only in Montreal is an entertaining window into the city’s life (but it needs a better timeslot)

Only in Montreal's cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

Only in Montreal’s cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

We’re seven episodes into the 30-episode first season of Only in Montreal, the weekly local lifestyle series that airs on City TV. That’s about a quarter of the way through, so it’s time for a review.

When it was first announced in April, I was surprised. This show wasn’t part of Rogers’s promise to the CRTC when it purchased CJNT from Channel Zero. Unlike its daily morning show and weekly sports show, this wasn’t part of the licence obligations, and it wasn’t necessary to meet a local programming quota.

As it turns out, the CRTC is a big part of the reason why this series was ordered, because of two recent decisions that set quotas on Rogers Media.

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Posted in Fun, Media, Photos

Photos: CBC vs. City softball game

CBC vs. City

On Aug. 15, one of Montreal’s oldest broadcaster and one of its newest took to the field at Côte des Neiges’s Nelson Mandela Park to play a friendly game of softball. On Tuesday, the fun continues as CBC takes on Global Montreal on the same field.

To get you in the spirit, here’s what happened last month between CBC and City.

(Note: Some captions may be made up.)

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Posted in Montreal, TV

Breakfast Television will crack some eggs – but whose?

Executive Producer Bob Babinski speaks to staff, Rogers employees and journalists gathered at a pre-launch event this week.

Executive Producer Bob Babinski speaks to staff, Rogers employees and journalists gathered at a pre-launch event this week. Behind him are, from left: weather presenter Catherine Verdon-Diamond, new media commentator Elias Makos, Live Eye host Wilder Weir, host Alexandre Despatie (sitting), Rogers VP Jordan Schwartz, reporter Laura Casella and supervising producer Jeffrey Feldman. (Joanne Vrakas is also there, but carefully hidden)

In case you haven’t been following the hype machine being run by Elias Makos and the Rogers Media PR team, you should know that Montreal is getting its newest television show on Monday. Breakfast Television will be the flagship show of City Montreal. And with its staff of about 30, it plans to make a big splash.

The obvious thing to do would be to compare it to the only other local morning show: Global’s Morning News. And while Global has had a seven-month head start, and it has managed to work out most of the technical problems that plagued it during its first few weeks, its severely limited resources means that it’s pretty well already lost this war.

As I explain in this feature story that appears in Saturday’s Gazette, City will have twice as much staff in just about every position, on and off air, technical and editorial. It has a much better set, and Rogers seems more willing to put marketing dollars behind this than Shaw was with Morning News.

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Posted in Photos, TV

Photos: Inside the Breakfast Television studio

The Breakfast Television studio is 2800 square feet, and very versatile

The Breakfast Television studio is 2800 square feet, and very versatile

City Montreal finally launches its flagship show Breakfast Television on Monday. This week, I was among those invited to the new studio in the Rogers building on McGill College Ave. to take a peek.

(I also spoke to Executive Producer Bob Babinski for a feature story that appears in Saturday’s Gazette about the state of morning TV in Montreal.)

I was quite surprised by its size of 2800 square feet. It certainly doesn’t look like the kind of thing you’d find on the 8th floor of an office building, and its impressiveness even gives CTV Montreal’s new studio a run for its money.

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Posted in Media

CBC vs. City in softball game Thursday

Steve Rukavina isn't afraid of City.

Steve Rukavina isn’t afraid of City.

Thursday evening will see an epic media battle for the ages.

Or not.

Staff of City Montreal have accepted a challenge to play a softball game against the CBC Montreal all-stars, who are still recovering from a 10-0 humiliation at the hands of the Jewish General memory clinic last month.

The game begins at 7pm at Nelson Mandela Park in Côte des Neiges, corner of Westbury and Barclay Aves., near the Plamondon metro station.

There’s no money on the line, just pride. They’ll be passing the hat to support the NDG Food Depot.

But the trash talking has already begun

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Posted in TV

Breakfast Television Montreal fills out its staff

We’re now less than three weeks until the launch of Breakfast Television Montreal, the flagship program on City Montreal, and most of the staff is in place. Bob Babinski, the station’s executive producer, tells me he still has one position to fill and another person has been hired but hasn’t started yet, but here’s the staff in place that I know about for the show:

Name Position Previous job
Bob Babinski Executive Producer Concordia University/freelance
Jeffrey Feldman Supervising Producer eTalk/Fashion Television producer
Alexandre Despatie Host Olympic diver/commentator/reality show judge
Joanne Vrakas Host CBC Montreal reporter
Wilder Weir Live Eye host Cosmo TV host
Catherine Verdon-Diamond Weather/traffic CBC Montreal weather presenter
Laura Casella Reporter CJAD reporter (also freelanced at CTV Montreal)
Elias Makos New Media Producer Freelance/CTV Montreal columnist
Melanie Porco Segment Producer CTV Montreal researcher
Kelly Albert Segment Producer CTV Montreal researcher
Genevieve Skelton Segment Producer Breakfast Television Edmonton producer
Levon Sevunts News writer/reporter Radio Canada International producer/researcher
Elysha del Giusto-Enos Production Assistant The Link (Concordia University)/freelance
Chelsea Nicole ENG editor City Toronto
Cosmo Santamaria Cameraman/editor CTV Montreal cameraman
Martin Daigle Cameraman/editor

Add on to this list the people who are working for Montreal Connected (Alyson Lozoff, George Athans, Kelly Greig, Ian Graham, etc.) and there’s a decent starting crew at this station, though it’s nowhere near the staff you’ll find at market leader CTV Montreal.

Biographies of the five on-air personalities are posted on City’s website, and Elias Makos has created a Twitter list of BT Montreal’s Twitter-enabled staff. (I have a larger list of the people connected with all three local shows on the station.)

Looking at the list, and particularly where they come from, you can see that some talent has been taken from the competition. But there haven’t been any high-profile steals. None of the three competitors have lost any of their anchors or senior managers. Joanne Vrakas (CBC) and Laura Casella (CJAD) are the only reporters that have been snatched up. And other than Alexandre Despatie, most of the names on this list are probably as little known to anglo Montreal as they are to francophones.

But that’s not to say there isn’t talent here. People I’ve talked to say that City has taken some of their best (and in some cases most underrated) people. Jeffrey Feldman, Vrakas and Casella had a lot of praise from their former colleagues. Grabbing two of CTV Montreal’s four researchers was also cited as a big coup for the startup station, along with luring away talented cameraman Cosmo Santamaria, who couldn’t get a permanent full-time job at CTV.

I should also note that the word “Global” doesn’t appear on this list. It’s a phenomenon I’ve looked at in the past, but despite its poor ratings, Global Montreal doesn’t tend to lose talent to the competition. The last two high-profile departures, assistant news director Alexandra Henderson and reporter Mike Le Couteur, were both for jobs within Global (in Toronto and Ottawa, respectively). There is no shortage of people doing remarkable things with very limited resources at that station, but they’re not being lured away.

Note that this is a list of employees. Columnists and regular contributors are still to come, though we know of at least one already.

Breakfast Television begins Aug. 26 at 6am on City Montreal.