Tag Archives: Corus

Posted in TV

V to buy MusiquePlus and MusiMax, the last of the Bell-Astral castoffs

The announcement Tuesday from both Bell Media and V that the latter has won the bidding to purchase music specialty channels MusiquePlus and MusiMax means that all of the assets that the CRTC forced Bell to get rid of as a condition of the Astral acquisition now have prospective new owners.

Neither company revealed the amount of the sale, but we’ll know it when the matter comes before the CRTC. La Presse reports it’s $15 million total, which is low for a well-known specialty channel (much less two), and well below the price it was evaluated at when Astral acquired CHUM’s 50% share of the channel for $34 million in 2007.

To recap, here’s what is being sold, and the status of those sales:

To Corus Entertainment:

  • 50% interest in Teletoon (includes four Teletoon channels and Cartoon Network Canada), for $249 million total (Corus already owns the other half)
  • 50% interest in Historia and Séries+, for $138.6 million total (Corus is also acquiring Shaw’s 50% interest for the same amount)
  • CKQB-FM Ottawa (106.9 The Bear) for $10 million
  • CJOT-FM Ottawa (Boom 99.7) for $3 million

All of the acquisitions listed above (with a total purchase price of $400.6 million) were dealt with at a CRTC hearing that began Nov. 5. We are now awaiting a decision. The acquisitions were approved in December and January.

To Jim Pattison Broadcast Group:

These acquisitions were announced on May 16. The purchase price is unknown. The CRTC has not yet set a hearing date for this acquisition. UPDATE (Jan. 15): The total purchase price is $25.5 million (but valued by the CRTC at $29.8 million). The transaction was approved without a public process.

To Newcap Radio:

These acquisitions, total price of $112 million, were announced on Aug. 26. The CRTC has not yet set a hearing date for this acquisition.

To DHX Media:

These acquisitions were announced on Nov. 28. The CRTC has not yet set a hearing date for this acquisition.

To V Media:

  • MusiquePlus Inc. (MusiquePlus and MusiMax). Price unknown (La Presse reports $15 million).

The CRTC has not yet set a hearing date for this acquisition.

V, turnaround artist

It’s been a bit over five years since a company effectively owned 50% each by Maxime and Julien Rémillard got CRTC approval to take over the bankrupt TQS network. Thanks in part to a successful reboot that banked on a counter-programming strategy, and in part to getting the CRTC to agree to virtual elimination of its news department, the Rémillards got the network that has never made money to finally make some money.

The road hasn’t been easy, though. As competitors like Bell Media, Quebecor Media, Radio-Canada and others can make liberal use of other sources of funding, V had only advertising revenue to go on. It had no money-making specialty channels or lucrative cable distribution networks.

Remstar does have licences for three unlaunched specialty channels:

Each of these has four years (so until 2015) to launch before their licences are taken away.

It also had a licence for a user-generated-content channel, which has since expired because it never launched.

Launching new specialty channels is difficult for various reasons, but a big one is that you need to get carriage. And unless you own a cable provider, that can be an uphill battle.

Getting control of MusiquePlus and MusiMax means V doesn’t have to go through that process. MusiquePlus already has 2.4 million subscribers. MusiMax has 1.9 million. They’ll already have the audience. It’ll just be a question of turning that into profits.

Unlike most popular specialty channels, MusiquePlus and MusiMax are not highly profitable. MusiMax has been hovering around the break-even mark, and MusiquePlus has lost more than $5 million since 2009. (This is probably why Bell decided to let them go.)

Media critics blame this unprofitability on the channels having lost their way. There’s no music on MusiquePlus, they complain, but rather a series of reality shows about pregnant teenagers, models, carswashed-up celebrities, people who are famous for being famous and whatever Criss Angel is.

Sure, there’s Rajotte, but MusiquePlus has a long way to go to make itself a music channel again. On the bright side, V has already shown that it can revitalize a television channel and keep it young at heart. If it can do the same with these channels, while also keeping them tied to their raison d’être — music — then they should be able to win a lot of fans, and hopefully make a good amount of money too.

Posted in TV

CRTC lays down the law for OWN

OWNThe Canadian version of the Oprah Winfrey Network is not one of the CRTC’s favourite things right now.

On Friday, the commission issued what’s called a mandatory order — a kind of “do this or else” note that has the backing of the federal court behind it — requiring the channel to abide by the terms of its licence that it has tried its best to work around since its days as CLT.

OWN, formerly VIVA, formerly CLT, was originally licenced as Canadian Learning Television in 1996 as a channel that would “provide formal and informal educational programs on a wide range of topics.” (Even then, there were concerns — Commissioner Claude Sylvestre objected because it stepped all over provincial jurisdiction over education.) Its licence has been slightly watered down since then, but it remains at its core a channel focused on education.

Despite this, its programming has been largely of the mainstream entertainment variety. Under CLT, it aired episodes of The West Wing preceded by some comment by professors in a half-hearted attempt to justify the educational value. When it rebranded as VIVA, a network for “boomer women”, it just about laughed in the face of its nature of service.

One needs only look at its current list of “accredited” educational programs to see how it’s twisted things, showing general interest shows and getting small colleges to have courses where they critique camera angles or other silliness.

A look at its finances shows the move to OWN has been successful. Profit has gone up significantly, and the network now has a profit margin of 40% (that’s actually down from almost 50% in 2009), making $10 million a year ($8.5 million after interest and adjustments) for Corus.

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Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Radio

CRTC caves in to Cogeco

The CRTC, which sets rules regarding concentration of ownership in broadcast media, decided it could simply ignore them in a ruling on Friday that gave Cogeco the right to buy almost all the assets of Corus Quebec.

Specifically, Cogeco would buy 11 stations for $80 million, including Montreal’s 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92), CFQR-FM.

In Montreal:

Elsewhere:

  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivières
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

The biggest problem with the acquisition is that it would violate a CRTC rule that says one company can’t own more than two stations in each language on each band in each market. Cogeco was willing to get around this by selling stations in Quebec City and converting one in Sherbrooke into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station.

But it wanted an exception in Montreal. CHMP 98.5 is the flagship station of the Corus talk radio network, and Rythme FM (CFGL) and CKOI are the No. 1 and No. 2 music stations, making them a whole lot of money. Cogeco said that a requirement to sell one of those stations would torpedo the whole deal (CKOI alone represents half the cost of the acquisition), and promised that in exchange for this special consideration they would hire journalists throughout Quebec and create a talk-radio news agency.

And the CRTC caved. Well, mostly.

They didn’t buy the idea of turning Sherbrooke’s CKOY FM into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station, and gave Cogeco a year to find a buyer for it. They also made a strict condition that Cogeco’s plan for a news agency continue, so they can’t pull a bait and switch.

That part is good news. The idea of Cogeco Nouvelles sounds good. At least the part about them hiring 33 full-time journalists and spending $3 million a year on news sounds good. The part about sharing content sounds a lot like the regional stations will all take the majority of their content from Montreal and insert a bare minimum of local stories just to justify their license.

But still, considering how little actual journalism comes out of private radio in Quebec, on the whole this is good.

There are also a few additional incentives to sweeten the deal, like this: Cogeco will “provide its services free-of-charge to groups operating fewer than three French-language radio stations in Quebec’s small markets as long as they agree to supply COGECO Nouvelles with news from their markets. The service’s content will also be available free-of-charge to community radio stations.”

Oligopoly

But as nice as all that is, and I hope Cogeco Nouvelles succeeds, the problem of radio competition remains. Instead of three players in the Quebec francophone (popular) music scene in Montreal, there would be two, representing an astonishing 95% of advertising revenue in the biggest market in Quebec. And that’s true for both the French and English-language markets in Montreal. If you discount jazz, classical and CBC/Radio-Canada’s stations, the two will own all seven music stations (four francophone, three anglophone) in Montreal.

Much of the debate at the CRTC seemed to be about Astral Media, which owns the NRJ and Rock Détente networks and is seen as a major player in the regions. But rather than acknowledge that there’s a serious problem with Astral Media owning stations that should be competing with each other (this is particularly true in Montreal’s anglophone market, where Astral owns CHOM 97.7, CJFM 95.9 Virgin Radio and CJAD 800), the CRTC decided that the best response was to create an even bigger behemoth in Cogeco.

With the acquisition, Cogeco stations would have an astounding 46.6% market share in the Montreal francophone market and 22.4% in the anglophone market, or 41.3% total. Astral, meanwhile, has a 31.4% share in the francophone market and a 55.4% share in the anglophone market. Note that all these numbers don’t exclude CBC/Radio-Canada stations. When you consider just commercial stations, or as a share of ad revenues, those numbers are even higher.

The suggestion that this would somehow “restore a competitive balance” is silly.

The Montreal-less network

There’s also a problem that isn’t being considered very well here: While Cogeco argues that regional talk-radio stations need the resources and “expertise” of Montreal’s 98.5 FM, it also plans to sell stations in the regions to a third party that won’t be able to setup a Montreal station if they want to build a network.

For example, CKOI is a brand network in Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City. As part of the acquisition, Cogeco will have to sell the Sherbrooke and Quebec City stations in this network, but not the Montreal one. And there isn’t exactly a lot of extra space on the dial for someone to setup a new francophone music station in Montreal. So not only would anyone who wants to buy these stations have to change their brands (along with the Rythme FM station in Quebec City), but they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of whatever efficiencies Astral and Corus/Cogeco think they have found with multi-region brands.

Personally, I think music radio stations can do fine without needing to belong to a Montreal-network (some names are already popping up as potential buyers). But it’s funny that Cogeco puts such a strong emphasis on the need for a Montreal flagship station for its talk radio network but has no problem with other people having radio stations in the regions without a Montreal-based moneymaker to keep them afloat.

In conclusion: Good for radio, bad for radio choice

I’m happy that the CRTC handled some of the issues I brought up in my criticism of Cogeco’s plan. And I’m happy that Cogeco is planning to setup a regional radio news network and hire journalists.

But this is a step backwards for radio diversity in Montreal, at a time when the city desperately needs more competition in commercial radio.

The CRTC should review its rules for media concentration, particularly because the public seems to be abandoning the AM band and because Montreal’s numbers suggest that commercial music stations aren’t strictly segregated on the basis of language.

Montreal has seven commercial radio stations that all play popular music that sounds a lot alike. It should have more than two companies running them.

More coverage in:

UPDATE (Jan. 12): Almost a month after the CRTC’s decision, and weeks before the transaction is set to close, Astral decides to appeal to the federal court to overturn it, saying it was “arbitrary and unreasonable” to change the rules at the last minute just for Cogeco. VP Claude Laflamme makes the point in the statement that “the sudden lack of predictability in the application of the CRTC policy penalizes all broadcasters which in the past decided not to pursue business opportunities in order to abide by the policy as formulated and as consistently applied.”

La Presse quotes Cogeco as counter-arguing that Astral controls 75% of the anglophone market (they own CJAD, CHOM and CJFM, but that doesn’t violate the CRTC’s rules), and they shouldn’t be pointing fingers about media concentration.

Note that while Astral suggests that Cogeco should have been forced to sell one of the music stations, it doesn’t have its eyes on them because it already owns two francophone FM stations in Montreal (CITE Rock Détente 107.3 and CKMF NRJ 94.3)

UPDATE (Jan. 14): Corus says it will, of course, fight this appeal, and that the Cogeco deal is still set to close on Feb. 1.

Posted in In the news, Montreal, Radio

Cogeco to buy Corus Quebec radio stations

Pierre Trudel thought it was Quebecor, but Quebecor had it right: Cogeco, a cable provider in Ontario and parts of Quebec, which also owns the Rythme FM radio network and used to own TQS before that went into bankruptcy, has announced that it will acquire Corus Quebec’s radio network, pending CRTC approval.

The transaction, valued at about $80 million, includes:

In Montreal:

Elsewhere:

  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivieres
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

It’s hard to tell from a simple press release what this all means. Cogeco has experience in radio, so I wouldn’t expect any major overhauls immediately (except, I guess, having to rename “Corus Nouvelles”). But CFQR would be Cogeco’s first anglophone radio station, for what that’s worth.

On the francophone side, this would mean a loss of competition. Instead of three major players (Astral Media is the other, owning the NRJ and Rock Détente networks), there would be two. CKOI and CFGL would come under the same owner, working together instead of competing with each other for music listeners.

In Sherbrooke, it’s worse: Three of the four five commercial music stations, CKOY, CHLT and CFGE, would all be owned by Cogeco, leaving CITE-FM-1 Rock Détente 102.7 and CIMO-FM 106.1 NRJ in nearby Magog as the only competition.

In Trois Rivières, it would be two for Cogeco, two for Astral. Same for Quebec City, though there’s more competition there from independents.

It’s also worth noting that this sale comes mere months after Corus cut local programming at Souvenirs Garantis stations CJRC, CHLT and CHLN.

What about CKRS?

CKRS 98.3FM in Saguenay, the fourth Souvenirs Garantis station that got its morning show cut to be replaced with Paul Arcand, is not part of the transaction. Corus has been looking to get rid of that station, and the deadline for bids was yesterday, and the new owner (if there is one) should be known soon.

UPDATE: Nathalie Collard also has some thoughts on the matter.

Posted in Radio

Corus Quebec cuts regional programming

Corus Québec announced Monday that it is cutting the morning program at four “Souvenirs Garantis” regional radio stations in Quebec and replacing them with a simulcast of Paul Arcand’s show from Montreal from 5:30 to 9am, starting next Monday.

Affected are (with links to local stories and lists of fired local personalities):

Once upon a time, it took a lot of people to run a radio station. Now apparently it takes about a dozen, and even then there’s some room for more cuts. Corus managers defend the cuts by saying Arcand’s show isn’t a “Montreal” show but a “provincial” one. Even if we accept that as true, it still means the local voices are cut.

And this isn’t Saturday nights they’re talking about – they’re cutting the weekday morning shows, the most important timeslot of any radio station.

Corus’s press release says Arcand and Mario Cecchini will be visiting these regions this week to meet the media. Hopefully they’ll get some tough questions about why people in those regions should continue to tune in after their local voices have been cut. (UPDATE Feb. 19: See below)

Local voices are important, and that’s evidenced most by how little coverage there is here so far. Only Radio-Canada stations and Gesca papers mention the cuts, and the change in Mauricie has no local coverage whatsoever that I can find online UPDATE: Le Nouvelliste had the story the next day, and other papers have added coverage.

The FPJQ, the association representing Quebec journalists, condemns Corus’s cuts, as does the NDPAgence QMI, meanwhile, didn’t see fit to mention that there would be any.

Pierre Jury of Le Droit rightly calls this part of the Montrealization of commercial radio.

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Le Nouvelliste has a report on what Paul Arcand is telling the regions he’s visiting this week:

  • There will still be local journalists who will produce local news reports during the morning, and if something important happens, they will have the ability to stay on air (somehow I doubt that’s going to be practical in the long term).
  • Nobody’s going to be hearing Montreal traffic reports on regional stations.
  • He finds the term “Montrealization of the airwaves” insulting for some reason. He says that’s not what happening, even though it’s regional programming being replaced with Montreal-based programming.
  • Afternoon shows are being extended, so the amount of local content is the same (only, instead of needing a morning host and an afternoon one, you just have one host on a longer shift).
  • This is good for the regions because he’ll be dealing with more regional issues and they will get a larger audience.
  • This has been done before, badly, and that’s why people don’t like this idea. But Corus has a magical ability to do a good job, and if they don’t then people will complain.
Posted in Opinion, TV

One demographic to rule them all

There’s a disturbing trend happening in cable specialty channels: they’re being rebranded to appeal to adult women:

  • TLC, the U.S. network formerly known as The Learning Channel, gave up all pretense of educating people and is now a female-centric lifestyle channel running Jon & Kate Plus Eight
  • Scream, the horror movie channel, was rebranded by Corus as Dusk. It includes more “paranormal” content to broaden its appeal and get more women watching.
  • CLT, Canadian Learning Television, was shelved by Corus in favour of VIVA, the network for “boomer women”.

The latest blow came this week as Corus (notice a pattern here?) let it be known that it is rebranding almost-porn network SexTV as “W movies”, starting Nov. 1.

I realize video pornography is easy to acquire these days, but Corus seems to think it needs to change all its specialty channels into women’s channels to appeal to the advertiser-rich demographic. Meanwhile, those of us (male or female) who don’t fit into that stereotype get left behind.

We’ve lost education, horror and sex. What’s next? Will they replace MANswers with Womanswers? Start up the Discovery Emotions channel? Have OUTtv broadcast nothing but Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?

Something must be done to halt the assault on our television.

Posted in Radio, TV

CRTC Roundup: Videotron must closed-caption porn

We made fun of this a bit when it came out, but there was a serious policy question being asked by Videotron: Should cable companies be required to spend money closed-captioning on-demand pornography and programming aimed at preschool children who can’t read?

The month, the CRTC ruled that, well, yes, they should.

While you might think it common sense that such programs should be excluded from closed-captioning requirements, the CRTC said that children should have access to captioning so they can learn to read, and parents should have access to what their children watch. There wasn’t much discussion about the porn angle, namely that nobody cares what people are saying in pornographic movies.

In any case, the CRTC said Videotron hadn’t made a case that it’s so financially strapped that it can’t afford captioning costs, so the application was denied.

Konrad’s oopsie

The CRTC chairman said sorry for saying that conventional broadcasters like CTV and Global wouldn’t commit to taking carriage fees from cable and satellite providers and putting all that money into local programming. It turns out they were ready to make just such a commitment.

That certainly makes the TV people look better. But what guarantee would we have that they wouldn’t take back their existing funding to local stations now that this new source of revenue is available to them?

Bye Bye was wrong

You hate to still be talking about this, but the judgment is in about Radio-Canada’s Bye-Bye: It really was racist. The CRTC passed on complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and asked them to judge the show. The CBSC normally rules only on private broadcasting, but the CRTC asked them for their advice (if anything, this shows that there’s no reason the CBSC shouldn’t also deal with complaints about public broadcasting).

The CBSC’s ruling dismissed most of the complaints (though some only barely), including those about jokes on anglos, the poor, immigrants, dépanneur owners, Indian call centre operators, Julie Couillard, Céline Dion, politicians, and a single complaint saying they were unfair to GM. It also said that the show did not go over the line in its treatment of Nathalie Simard, and didn’t even hint at the abuse she suffered at the hands of Guy Cloutier, father of Bye Bye hotst Véronique Cloutier.

The council did rule that three things crossed the line:

  • Jokes against blacks, particularly the sketch involving Denis Lévesque and Barack Obama as well as comments from Jean-François Mercier about Obama being easier to shoot in front of the White House.
  • The portrayal of violence against women in a sketch involving the family of Patrick Roy.
  • The rebroadcast of the show the next evening without viewer advisories.

The racist jokes, the council said, were gratuitous and abusive. Though Radio-Canada, the show’s producers, its writers and its performers did not intend to foster racism and intended for the comments to be ironic, the council ruled that the context didn’t make this sufficiently clear, and the comments could easily have been taken at face value. It brought up a number of previous cases to support its view that comedic irony isn’t a blank cheque to make racist comments.

It’s hard not to agree with the council’s well-thought-out decision. Bye Bye didn’t intend to be racist, but it did intend to shock. And when you’re spouting racist comments just to shock people, how is that different from just being racist?

This decision is worth reading if only for the words “a rather cartoonish rabbit-like act of intercourse.”

Technically, this is just a recommendation to the CRTC. It is up to the commission to decide if it agrees, and if so what kind of sanction it will impose. Normally, private broadcasters are required to air a notice of the decision to viewers. We’ll see if the CRTC orders Radio-Canada to do the same.

More power for radio

It’s going to be a bit easier to listen to some out-of-town radio stations thanks to some CRTC approvals of power increases:

  • CKOY 104.5 FM in Sherbrooke, the sister station to Montreal’s CKOI, gets a huge power boost to up to 50,000 Watts. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to hear, especially with CBC Radio One’s second 100W transmitter at 104.7 FM in the west end. But if you’re in the Eastern townships and had trouble hearing the station, you should have much less of that now.
  • CJLM 103.5 FM in Joliette gets a modest boost from 3,000 to 4,500 Watts, which will help people on the north side of the island and on the north shore.
  • For those on the south side, they’ll be hearing FM 103.3 in Longueuil, which in the same decision saw its allowed power output grow more than five-fold. It’s still a low-power community radio station, but maybe now it won’t disappear off the dial when I hit the Plateau.

Haitian station wants change of frequency

CJWI, a Haitian AM station currently on 1610 AM, wants to change its frequency to 1410, which is where CFMB used to be. The move would put CJWI in the regular, non-extended AM band, allowing people with older radios to hear it. It also wants to increase its output power from 1kW to 10kW, and relocate its transmitter.

Rogers, small cable companies get nannied

The Canadian Cable Systems Alliance asked the CRTC to intervene in stalled negotiations it was having on behalf of small cable companies across the country with Rogers over its SportsNet service. The CRTC has the power to intervene in these cases, but it prefers not to. However, since regulations require some cable companies to carry SportsNet (and will until new regulations take effect in 2011 that deregulate the cable sports channels), it decided it must step in here. Details are kept in confidence to protect both businesses, so that’s about all we know.

Slice wants less CanCon

Canwest-owned Slice channel has noticed that its Canadian content requirements are much higher than what other specialty channels require, so it wants to get the same deal. It’s asking that its CanCon minimum programming requirement be dropped from 82.5% to 60%, and that it be forced to spend only 45% instead of 71% of revenues on Canadian programming.

City wants less CanCon movies

Citytv has asked the CRTC for a change in license that would eliminate a requirement to air 100 hours of Canadian movies each year – which works out to about a movie a week. Rogers (which owns City now) argues that it is the only conventional broadcaster that has this requirement and it shouldn’t be singled out. Canadian movie-makers say Rogers has pulled a bait and switch, praising Canadian movies when it bought the network and now quietly wanting to get rid of them.

Want Al-Jazeera?

The CRTC is opening up the can of worms about allowing Al-Jazeera English into the country. The commission had previously approved the Arabic-language version of the network, with unique requirements that distributors monitor and censor its content, something that requires far too much work for the cable and satellite companies.

The commission is considering adding the English channel to eligible foreign networks that cable and satellite can add to their lineups, but it wants comments from Canadians who might be opposed to it. They specifically want evidence of abusive comments, with tapes if possible.

More specialty channels

Conventional TV may be dying, but specialty channels are exploding like nobody’s business. The CRTC is holding a hearing on July 21 where it will listen to proposals for new networks:

  • Black Entertainment Television Canada (English and French) – self-explanatory, I would imagine.
  • Reality TV – A Canwest proposal for reality shows, DIY programs and scripted reality shows. This network was originally approved by the CRTC in 2005, but expired before Canwest could launch it, forcing them to start over from scratch.
  • AMET-TV, an African and Afro-Caribbean-themed channel that carries programming in English (70%), French (20%) and African languages (10%)
  • New Tang Dynasty Television Canada HD, a generalist network mainly in Mandarin but also other Chinese languages.

CPAC wants to be patriotic

CPAC, the politics channel that carries House of Commons proceedings among other things, is asking for permission to expand its boundaries on July 1 of each year. It wants to add three programming categories which would allow it to carry musical performance, variety, entertainment and related programming from Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and elsewhere. A reasonable request if I’ve ever heard one, though I don’t think there are similarly specific exceptions to such rules on other channels.

A bold move

The CBC was in the process of getting slapped by the CRTC because it was violating its license with respect to Bold, a specialty channel. Formerly Country Canada, its license says it should air programming directed toward rural Canadians. But since then it’s basically been a dumping ground for whatever content the network wants to put there.

After the CRTC called a hearing, the CBC waved the white flag. It has proposed a license amendment, though one that would keep the rural focus.

Good news, bad news for Olympics

Following a request from the CRTC chairman, CTV and the CBC have been in talks about using CBC stations to broadcast French-language Olympics coverage for the tiny, tiny portion of Canadians who:

  • are unilingual francophones
  • don’t live in Quebec or within range of a TQS station
  • don’t have cable or satellite TV service
  • don’t have broadband Internet access
  • AND want to watch the Olympics in French on TV

You’d think this number would be so small as to be negligible (about 10,000 apparently fit the first three criteria), but in the spirit of political correctness, CTV (which owns the broadcast rights and is part of a giant consortium that’s covering the games) is looking at using some CBC stations to retransmit its TQS/RDS Olympics coverage over the air.

The problem is that the CBC isn’t crazy about donating the stations and getting nothing in return. Specifically, the debate is over ad revenue: CTV wants to keep it all (minus some compensation for what they would have had with their regular programming), and CBC thinks that’s crazy.

On the plus side, Corus has joined the giant consortium, which currently includes CTV (with TSN and RDS), TQS, Rogers and APTN. Corus will have Olympics coverage (though it doesn’t sound like much) on CKAC Sports as well as updates on CKOI, Info 690 and 98.5FM in Montreal.

In other news

And finally, not that anyone doubted it would happen, but the CRTC has allowed CBC Television and Télévision Radio-Canada to continue to operate for another year.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

12 jobs to be cut at Info 690

Corus today announced it is cutting 12 people at its Info 690 all-news Montreal radio station, representing about half of its 30 unionized employees. This comes about six months after it decided to effectively shut down anglo sister station 940 News, laying off 18 people.

Corus says it’s reorganizing the station, though it’s unclear if that reorganization will be as severe as what happened to CINW. They hope to avoid layoffs through attrition and voluntary leaves.

Still, those people amazed that a staff of 30 can run an all-news radio station will be even more impressed if a staff of half that can continue doing so.

UPDATE: La Presse has a story about the job cuts, which also affect 10 administrative employees.

Posted in TV

HBO Canada coming, but it won’t be any cheaper

Corus and Astral have put the word out that they’re creating HBO Canada, a channel that will be part of the Movie Network/Movie Central premium packages that will offer all-HBO programming (when it’s not fulfilling its CanCon requirements). This will mean simulcasting of HBO shows and, for the first time, the legal airing of Real Time with Bill Maher in Canada.

Reports from the Globe and Sun Media.

UPDATE: Digital Home has a good history of satellite TV in Canada and why HBO is illegal.

Posted in TV

Where’s Leo?

Corus Entertainment has completed its acquisition of specialty channel Canadian Learning Television (CLT) from CTVglobemedia for $73 million, and has been operating it effective Sept. 1.

I mention this only because on that same day, reruns of The West Wing disappeared from CLT’s schedule, replaced by Judging Amy. I imagine this came as a surprise since The West Wing is still being advertised on CLT’s website, which also still carries CTV branding.

Does Corus not like the idea of a Democratic president and his staff?

Sadly, because CLT was pretty useless for anything else, this will probably mean the end to our relationship. Time for that channel lineup shuffle I’ve been putting off…

Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Radio

DiMonte to do noon-hour Q92 show from Calgary

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Corus announced today that Terry DiMonte, the former CHOM morning man who left for Q107 in Calgary because CHOM wasn’t prepared to offer him a long-term contract, will return to Montreal’s airwaves starting Sept. 8 with a noon-hour talk/music show on Q92.

What’s missing from Corus’s press release, and the Presse Canadienne rewriting of it, is that DiMonte isn’t physically returning to Montreal. He’s still hosting his morning show in Calgary. Only now, after his morning shift, he’ll stay in studio and do the Montreal show remotely.

This isn’t the first time that a broadcaster has done “local” programming remotely and tried to fool people (Joe Cannon was famous for it and Global Quebec is introducing it), but the fact that Corus left it out of its press release suggests that their goal is to deliberately mislead Montreal listeners.

Fortunately, I’m relatively confident DiMonte has the moral fortitude not to outright lie to his listeners (saying “here in Montreal” or pretending his weather is the same as ours).

The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein has more.