Tag Archives: CJNT

Global Montreal picks Laura Casella, Kim Sullivan as morning news team

Laura Casella (right, with Derick Fage) is leaving Breakfast Television for Global Montreal's Morning News.

Laura Casella (right, with Derick Fage) is leaving Breakfast Television for Global Montreal’s Morning News.

Global Montreal has picked its new host and weather presenter for Morning News. The latter is no surprise — Kim Sullivan has been filling in there during the summer — but the host job is a bit of a head-turner: Laura Casella, the news reporter and temporary co-host at Breakfast Television.

Casella announced the news to her colleagues last week, which led to the news getting out to Mike Cohen at the Suburban. Global officially announced the two hires on Tuesday.

Poaching from a direct competitor isn’t that unusual. But what is unusual is that Casella hasn’t left BT yet. She still has another week there and is being allowed to continue co-hosting the show during that time.

Casella herself didn’t seem surprised by that when I talked to her, saying there’s “no animosity” between the two competitors. “I don’t think about it too much,” she said. “Everybody kind of knows everybody (in this market). I’ll still remain friends with everyone at BT.”

After she leaves the show, Casella goes into training at Global Montreal starting Sept. 26. Global tells me she’ll officially begin on Oct. 2.

Casella said it was Global Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald who approached her, asking if she’d be interested in the position. “So I said sure, and went in for a little screen test with Kim.” After that, she said, Global made her an offer and she accepted.

“It was a tough decision,” she said. “It’s hard to leave people you know. Even announcing it to the team last week…”

Finding Casella’s replacement won’t be hard: They don’t need to. Joanne Vrakas, who Casella has been replacing on the anchor desk at BT, returns from maternity leave on Sept. 26, the same day Casella starts her new job. (Casella says that’s a “complete random coincidence”.) Casella probably would have gone back to her former job as news reporter, but Domenic Fazioli (who BT picked up after he left Global Montreal) has been doing that job even though he was hired as a news producer.

Rogers Media tells me there are no plans at this time to replace Casella’s former position.

The departure means of the six personalities that started with Breakfast Television three years ago, only three are still there: Vrakas, weather presenter Catherine Verdon Diamond, and new media host Elias Makos.

Sullivan has two jobs

Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan, who was let go from The Beat earlier this year but already had another project going with a show on MAtv, has eased into the weather presenter job at Global. Probably the biggest difference between her and her predecessor Jessica Laventure is height, which has already prompted a joke that the box that Laventure would sometimes have to stand on to interview guests will now need to be used by those guests.

“I never expected to love weather,” Sullivan told me. Her dream when she was younger was to host a TV travel show, but she’s quickly started nerding out on her new role, and because she’ll be out in the field three days a week, she’s excited to talk to people from community organizations in the city and in particular the West Island.

This won’t be Sullivan’s only job on local TV, though. MAtv announced on Wednesday that she’ll be taking over as host of Montreal Billboard, a talk show featuring local community organizations, non-profits and volunteers. She replaces Richard Dagenais, who moves over to host current affairs show CityLife, replacing Tina Tenneriello, who moves into a new role producing both shows. (Tenneriello will also contribute regularly to Montreal Billboard on air.)

Sullivan told me she put an inspirational message on her phone earlier this year saying “2016 is going to be your year.” It’s certainly been a transformational one for her, but the past few weeks have come together to make that message come true.

She said she’ll have no problem juggling both jobs (reminding me that when she started her career, she was doing radio overnight and teaching during the day). But it does mean she’ll have “one crazy day a week” where she starts at Global in the morning and spends her afternoon at MAtv shooting Montreal Billboard.

On Global Montreal’s Morning News, Casella and Sullivan will be joined on air by morning reporter Kelly Greig (who was one of several fill-in anchors this summer). They replace Camille Ross, who left to move to London, Ont. (she’s started up a media consulting business) and Laventure, who moved to Punta Cana to work at Club Med. (You can follow her adventures on her blog.)

(This story is also a brief that will appear in Thursday’s Gazette.)

Global, City TV withdraw demands to reduce local programming minimums in Montreal

Corus Entertainment, which owns Global TV, and Rogers Media, which owns City TV, have each decided that in light of recent changes in local television policy, they are willing to accept the requirement that their stations in Montreal produce the standard 14 hours per week of local programming, and have withdrawn requests that their quota be reduced to 10 or seven hours a week.

The requests came as part of a proceeding to renew licences for Canada’s major television broadcasters. The large groups all have their licences expiring in 2017, and the CRTC is holding a public hearing in November to discuss what conditions should be in their renewed licences for over-the-air television and specialty channels.

Bell Media proposed no such changes for CFCF-DT, which is the market leader in the city and whose local newscasts often have a market share above 50%. But even the #1 broadcaster warned about the failing business model of local television, and said that for its network “at this time, we can only commit to the current local programming requirements and even these regulatory minima may need to be revisited once the Commission’s decision on local programming is released.”

Normally, television stations in “metropolitan” markets of more than 1 million people are required to broadcast 14 hours of local programming every week, while stations in smaller markets are required to broadcast seven.

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Renato Zane leaves City Montreal

Renato Zane

Renato Zane

The summer broadcasting staff shuffling continues.

The man brought in a year ago to take over from the departing Bob Babinski as head of City TV’s local operations in Montreal has left his post.

“Renato decided to leave us…we were sad to see him go :(” writes Rogers Media’s Michelle Lomack, emoticon and all.

Zane couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lomack said Rogers plans to replace the position and hire a new managing producer for Breakfast Television.

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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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

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.

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.

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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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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