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Media News Digest: One last Blais blast, indigenous radio stations, CBC launches in London

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At the CRTC

  • It’s Jean-Pierre Blais’s last week as chair of the CRTC, his five-year term ending on Saturday. No announcement has been made about his replacement, even on an interim basis, and he has made clear that he did not re-apply to his position. His imminent departure not only means a lot of retrospectives are being written about him (professor Michael Geist, former commissioner Timothy Denton), but it also means he is a bit more outspoken than before, and he raised a lot of eyebrows at a speech in Banff this week. Among his statements:
    • The CRTC must act to improve wireless competition, possibly going as far as to regulate retail rates (though this would be undesirable)
    • It’s “just bad governance” for the federal government to leave so many commissioner seats vacant for so long
    • “Music quotas on the radio will no longer serve their purpose,” and “maybe the better way to support Canadian music is to require radio broadcasters to invest in showcase events”
    • Things like tax credits are “anachronisms”
    • Two thirds of the work CRTC does now is on the telecommunications side rather than the broadcasting side
    • The commission has 417 people working for it, of whom 16 are indigenous and 59 visible minorities (and this is seen as a positive thing)
    • “The French-language radio market—Quebec City’s infamous shock jocks—builds and reinforces its own echo chambers that deepen societal rifts.”
    • “Some people in the creative groups in this country are all too deeply entrenched in their own echo chambers.”
    • The CBC “should focus on news rather than commentary. It must stop chasing clicks, and it must always publish verified stories from credible sources.”
    • The commission’s critics are “conspicuously silent on matters that cast the CRTC in a more favourable light”
    • “I hope to see CRTC Commissioners appointed with greater independence—at arm’s length from government so that each is assessed solely on his or her exceptional qualifications” — a hilarious statement from the man responsible for getting Raj Shoan fired.
  • In one of Blais’s last decisions, the CRTC has approved five new indigenous radio stations serving the urban markets of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa to replace the failed Aboriginal Voices Radio. The licences are split among three groups: First Peoples Radio, which is basically APTN, gets Ottawa and Toronto; Northern Native Broadcasting, which runs CFNR-FM Terrace, gets Vancouver; and Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta, which runs a station with retransmitters throughout Alberta, gets Edmonton and Calgary. FPR/APTN had applied for all five markets and argued that its applications were not severable, but the CRTC called that bluff, arguing they should still be able to function with fewer stations. The commission was not impressed by applications by two other groups, one because they proposed a hybrid indigenous/South Asian programming, and the other because its business plan was “speculative”. Each station has two years to launch (though extensions can be given) and their licences expire in 2023. Here are their conditions of licence, beyond the standard ones:
    • Vancouver: 106.3 MHz, 9,000W, 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of indigenous spoken-word programming, 25% of music as indigenous-Canadian music, 5% of all music in indigenous languages, 120 hours a week of local programming
    • Edmonton: 89.3 MHz, 100,000W, 7 hours a week of indigenous spoken-word programming, 20% of music as indigenous-Canadian music, 5% of all music in indigenous languages, 120 hours a week of local programming
    • Calgary: 88.1 MHz, 100,000W, 7 hours a week of indigenous spoken-word programming, 20% of music as indigenous-Canadian music, 5% of all music in indigenous languages, 117.5 hours a week of local programming
    • Ottawa: 95.7 MHz, 9,100W, 9 hours a week of indigenous spoken-word programming (of which 5 must be local as of Year 3), 25% of music as indigenous-Canadian music, 60% local programming
    • Toronto: 106.5 MHz, 2,600W, 9 hours a week of indigenous spoken-word programming (of which 5 must be local as of Year 3), 25% of music as indigenous-Canadian music, 60% local programming
  • The commission has approved a new radio station in Simcoe, Ont., which is near Brantford. The station, owned by My Broadcasting Corporation, plans a classic hits format.
  • The commission found that two other southern Ontario markets — Aurora and Brampton — are not healthy enough to sustain more radio stations (especially because they’re so close to Toronto)

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  • CBC finally launched its London, Ont., station this Monday. The station has a local morning show for the first time, and is home to a regional afternoon show that covers southwestern Ontario including Windsor. The first few minutes on air were captured on video.
  • As the June 30 deadline to launch approaches, people have been asking me more frequently about TTP Media and their promised English-language talk station at 600 AM. There is movement on that front — the station has chosen a callsign: CFQR, the same call letters used by the former Q92. But there hasn’t been a peep on that frequency yet. Managing Partner Nicolas Tétrault, who remains active on Twitter (but purged its history recently for some reason and no longer references radio in his bio) has not responded to my requests for information. The French station, CFNV 940, is on the air officially but only playing automated music. So your guess is as good as mine.

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Media News Digest: Radio ratings, Dutrizac replaced, QCNA awards

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At the CRTC

  • The CRTC has told Bell TV it cannot limit customers to one custom package of 10 channels and consider that compliant with its new pick-and-pay rules. It has given them until July 1 to come into compliance.
  • Groupe Serdy has filed a request to lower its Canadian programming expenditures quota for Canal Évasion from 46% to 32% of revenues. The independent company argues that 32% is the average for its competitors, who have the benefit of group licensing. Serdy says this is a transitional measure until its licence term is up on Aug. 31, 2018. It plans to request a group licence for Évasion and Zeste.
  • The commission has approved a request from Neeti P. Ray, who bought Montreal ethnic station CKIN-FM, to redirect all its remaining tangible benefits funds from the transaction to Concordia University’s journalism program. Normally set percentages of such benefits go to music funds like Radio Starmaker and FACTOR, and a bit to the Community Radio Fund of Canada. The licensee argued that such small funds ($5,918 a year) would have a bigger impact if they went to one recipient. Unsaid in the application and decision is that Concordia will show more public gratitude for such a donation than the music funds.
  • RNC Media’s CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) is asking the CRTC to delete conditions of licence requiring a studio in and local programming for Donnacona, the community west of Quebec City that the station is formally licensed to serve. The condition is to prevent the station from becoming another de facto Quebec City station, which RNC Media seems to argue is no longer required. The station was originally licensed in 1995 to the owner of a newspaper serving the Portneuf region, and a condition of licence was imposed to prevent it from competing directly with Quebec City stations. It was acquired by RNC Media 10 years later.
  • The Quebec government is asking the CRTC to review its licence renewal decisions, in light of the removal of a requirement related to Séries+.

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Media News Digest: RTDNA and magazine awards, Blais responds to CRTC criticism, Mutsumi Takahashi profiled

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  • Bell has renamed the MTS Centre, home of the Winnipeg Jets, as Bell MTS Place.

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Media News Digest: Anger at CRTC, new series at CBC, Heather B joins The Beat

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  • Branchez-Vous, the technology news website that was shut down but resurrected, is shutting down again, for lack of sufficient revenue to remain viable.

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Well hello from @thebeat925 🎤 #throwbackmonday #fillingintime

A post shared by Heather Backman (@heatherbackman) on

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Media News Digest: CBC and Le Devoir archives digitized, Als stay on TSN 690, Journal de Chambly sold

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At the CRTC

  • The commission issued its licence renewal decisions on Monday for the big private TV broadcasters — TVA, V, Bell Media, Rogers Media and Corus. The headline is that OMNI will get what it wants: nationwide mandatory distribution at $0.12 per subscriber. But only for three years, as the CRTC offers the chance for others to offer something better. I’ll have more highlights from the decisions in another post.

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Media News Digest: National Newspaper Awards, Shoan fired again, Le Devoir archives online

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Media News Digest: Michener finalists, Shoan back at CRTC, mass resignations at K103

Happy World Press Freedom Day!

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At the CRTC

  • He’s baaack! After he won a court challenge to the government’s decision to fire him as a CRTC commissioner (which was itself partly based on a report that was also overturned by a judge), Raj Shoan is once again listed on the CRTC website as the commissioner for Ontario. To say things will be awkward between him and chairperson Jean-Pierre Blais is an understatement, but presumably both will attempt to be professional about it. The judge’s decision wasn’t a complete victory for Shoan, and some of his actions (like meeting with groups that have business before the CRTC) are “troubling”, so another review could still find cause for his dismissal. Or maybe Blais just minimizes his involvement (the chairperson decides who sits on any panels, and Blais did not choose Shoan for anything important) until his term is up next year. (Assuming Blais is re-appointed — his own term ends sooner.)
  • CBC Quebec held its biannual public consultation on Tuesday. The video is here if you want to watch it.
  • The commission has approved the privatization of Sirius XM Canada. The biggest issue for the commission was determining whether the transaction, which would see the CBC sell its shares and three groups (including Sirius XM U.S.) have minority stakes in the company, is considered a change in effective control. The CRTC determined that yes, it is, which means a 6% tax on the value of the transaction to fund Canadian content development. That works out to $29 million, to be paid out over seven years.
  • CBC/Radio-Canada has asked the CRTC for permission to move its Radio One and ICI Première transmitters in Timmins, Ont., from a tower north of the city to its old TV tower much closer. It would be able to cover the same area better by using a higher antenna at lower power.
  • The commission said no to a proposal by Vista Radio to change the licence for CJLT-FM in Medicine Hat, Alta., so it could move from its Christian music programming to more mainstream indie/alternative music. The commission found that the change would have an undue financial impact on existing stations in the market.

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  • There’s more drama at K103 in Kahnawake. Four of the five board members resigned on the same day last week, leaving only Lance Delisle in charge. The people resigning gave various reasons, which they did not elaborate on, but it’s clear that at least some of them are fed up of whatever conflicts are going on at the station. Unfortunately we don’t have details because the people involved aren’t talking.
  • An entry in the Industry Canada broadcasting database has appeared for CFGL-HD, which means that Montreal’s Rythme FM station expects to begin using HD Radio soon. Station owner Cogeco Media also owns CKAC 730 AM, so an FM HD rebroadcast of Radio Circulation seems likely. Other possible uses include a niche music channel or a spillover channel for 98.5FM’s sports coverage. Cogeco also indicated to the CRTC that a move of CKOI-FM to the Mount Royal antenna could allow it to broadcast in HD.
  • CKLW 800 AM in Windsor was knocked off the air by a fire at its transmitter site. It quickly took over the transmitter of sister station AM 580 so people could get news-talk programming.

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Media News Digest: Canada less free, no more Montreal Billboard, Rogers buys Vancouver AM station

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Media News Digest: Canadian Film Day, Junos go back to CBC, saving jobs in Vancouver

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At the CRTC

  • CHOD-FM, a French-language community radio station serving eastern Ontario, needs to improve its signal, so it has applied to the CRTC for a second transmitter. The second transmitter would use the same frequency (92.1 MHz) and would be located in Dunvegan, along the 417 about halfway between Ottawa and Vaudreuil. Having a synchronized transmitter on the same frequency is hard, especially for a low-budget community station. People between the transmitters will hear a lot of interference if it’s not done perfectly. CHAI-FM 101.9 in Châteauguay tried it with a retransmitter in Candiac, but abandoned that plan and replaced its two-transmitter system with a single transmitter. In a few years we could see CHOD-FM do the same.
  • The CRTC has released its three-year plan. Not much new here, though it finally expects to do its review of French-language music quotas on radio in 2017-18.
  • The commission’s decision on differential pricing and zero-rating, a process prompted by a complain about Videotron making access to online music services exempt from data charges and data caps, will be delivered Thursday at 4pm.

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  • The union representing staff at Postmedia’s Vancouver papers has reached a tentative agreement with the company to save 21 of the 54 jobs cut recently. The deal would see most employees work only four days every other week. Union members will vote on the deal today.
  • The Boston Globe is reorganizing its staff as newspapers have tended to do these days. They’ll be broken down into teams, some covering breaking news, others on beats and investigations, and a dedicated print team.
  • The New York Times is changing the way it does placelines because readers don’t understand what they mean. (The fact that many news organizations use fake placelines when covering a story from a distance doesn’t help.) Instead of putting, say, “BEIRUT —” at the beginning of a story, the location of the journalist will go in the byline, as “by Steve Faguy in Beirut”. Purists might scoff at this change, but remember that the NYT refers to these as “datelines” because back in the day when stories would take more than a day to travel around the world, these lines also contained the date a story was written.

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  • One of the things I really like about how the CBC approaches digital video is its embrace of YouTube, not just for posting promos and extras, but full programs to ensure they get as wide an audience as possible. Here, a short 14-minute documentary on a Mohawk school in Kahnawake and the adults working hard to keep it going.
  • Montreal-based WatchMojo.com has started a new web video series called The Lineup, which is a kind of fantasy hockey game show, hosted by Adam Reid.
  • Alex Jones’s lawyer says he’s a “performance artist”. Which I’m sure comes as great comfort to Sandy Hook parents who have been harassed by his supporters because he says the murder of dozens of children was faked by the government.

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Media News Digest: Pulitzers, lawsuit settlements, NHL playoffs, Aislin’s 50th

Now that it looks like it’s finally dying down, here’s who’s written about that Andrew Potter Maclean’s piece and McGill’s reaction to it, in alphabetical order (not including letters to the editor or social media posts):

  1. Paul Adams, iPolitics
  2. Jérémie Bédard-Wien, Ricochet
  3. Frédéric Bérard, Métro
  4. Denise Bombardier, Journal de Montréal
  5. Ann Brocklehurst
  6. Michael Byers, Globe and Mail
  7. Lucinda Chodan, Montreal Gazette
  8. Colby Cosh, National Post
  9. Andrew Coyne, National Post
  10. Dan Delmar, Montreal Gazette
  11. Raymond J. de Souza, National Post
  12. Bernard Drainville, 98.5fm
  13. Sophie Durocher, Journal de Montréal
  14. Sophie Durocher again, Journal de Montréal
  15. Joseph Facal, Journal de Montréal
  16. Michael Friscolanti, Maclean’s
  17. Lysiane Gagnon, La Presse
  18. Jamie Gilcig, Cornwall Free News
  19. Scott Gilmore, Maclean’s
  20. Matt Gurney, The Walrus
  21. Graeme Hamilton, National Post
  22. Allison Hanes, Montreal Gazette
  23. Trevor Hanna, Ricochet
  24. Michael Harris, iPolitics
  25. Joseph Heath, In Due Course
  26. Chantal Hébert, Toronto Star
  27. Barbara Kay, National Post
  28. Jonathan Kay, The Walrus
  29. Philippe Labrecque, Huffington Post Québec
  30. Patrick Lagacé, La Presse
  31. Patrick Lagacé in English, Globe and Mail
  32. Josée Legault, Journal de Montréal
  33. Josée Legault again, Journal de Montréal
  34. Peter Loewen, National Post
  35. Emmett Macfarlane, Maclean’s
  36. Don Macpherson, Montreal Gazette
  37. Candice Malcolm, Toronto Sun
  38. Mylène Moisan, La Presse
  39. Éric Montpetit, Globe and Mail
  40. Brian Myles, Le Devoir
  41. Michèle Ouimet, La Presse
  42. Natalie Pendergast, Journal Pioneer
  43. Nathalie Petrowski, La Presse
  44. Joseph Quesnel, Local XPress
  45. Lise Ravary, Journal de Montréal
  46. Sandrine Ricci, Ricochet
  47. Chris Selley, National Post
  48. Michel Seymour, Huffington Post Québec
  49. Evan Solomon, Maclean’s
  50. Michael Taube, Troy Media
  51. William Watson, National Post
  52. Daniel Weinstock, In Due Course
  53. Ira Wells, Literary Review of Canada
  54. Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail
  55. Suzanne Wexler, Huffington Post
  56. Peter Wheeland, Cult MTL
  57. Barry Wilson, CTV Montreal

Plus:

News about news

At the CRTC

  • As mandated by the CRTC once every two years, CBC Quebec is holding a public consultation with the anglophone community on May 2 in Montreal. Attendance is free and open, but you’re asked to RSVP.
  • First notice of hearing in a while. The applications:
    1. A low-power Native FM station in Potlotek First Nation in St. Peter’s, N.S.
    2. Converting a 5W developmental community FM station in Val-des-Lacs (106.5 FM, near Mont Tremblant) to a low-power community station.
    3. A new French-language community radio station in Ottawa-Gatineau at 1350 AM. This station would use the same frequency, site and signal as the former Radio Centre-Ville Ville-Marie (CIRA-5) retransmitter there (1000W daytime, 180W nighttime).
    4. Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio) acquiring Christian music station CFWC-FM Brantford, Ont., from Sound of Faith Broadcasting, for $440,000.
    5. Dufferin converting ethnic station CKJS Winnipeg (810 AM) from AM to FM (92.5 MHz, 35,000W). In its application, the company reveals sister station CFJL-FM (Hot 100.5) has lost $700,000 in four years.
    6. A corporate re-organization at Blackgold Broadcasting

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(Note that NBC staff here is for Game 1 of each series only.)

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Media News Digest: Bad week for CBC, Russell Peters, Pepsi and the Surrey Leader

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  • Ed The Sock helped announce some new network called FU Network, which is being billed as the spiritual successor to MuchMusic. It looks like it will be a streaming channel (maybe just a YouTube channel?) and Ed The Sock’s live show (see an example here) will be part of it, but other shows are also planned, depending how much money they can raise. (UPDATE: The YouTube video has been pulled, apparently because Bell Media is using its legal muscle to put a stop to this use of the MuchMusic brand.)
  • A video by Pepsi featuring Kendall Jenner was removed from YouTube and apologized for after people reacted very negatively to its message that a celebrity with a can of pepsi is all that’s needed to end police violence. This piece breaks down all the things wrong with it.

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Media News Digest: CRTC hearing, settlement at CHCH, Quebec helps out newspapers

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With any luck this should return to its usual schedule starting next Wednesday.

Media News Digest: Pottergate, more awards, Bernie St-Laurent is back, RIP Denis McGrath

(Late this week because I survived the Great Steve Faguy Man Cold of 2017)

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There was a Class A shitstorm in Quebec media this week about a piece by Andrew Potter (former Ottawa Citizen editor and current McGill professor) tying the clustertruck on Highway 13 during last week’s snowstorm to some greater social malaise in Quebec. It includes statistics suggesting Quebecers are more socially distant than the rest of Canada, but also had some head-scratching generalizations about restaurants offering two bills and bank machines dispensing $50 bills.

Reaction was swift, with columnists (almost all from francophone Quebec-based media) piling on to condemn it: Jérémie Bédard-Wien, Denise Bombardier, Dan DelmarBernard DrainvilleSophie Durocher, Sophie Durocher againJoseph Facal, Patrick Lagacé, Patrick Lagacé in EnglishJosée Legault, Mylène MoisanMichèle OuimetNathalie Petrowski and Lise Ravary.

Le Soleil even did a fact-check, as did La Presse’s science blog, and even Maclean’s, all finding that Potter’s statistics about Quebec society were accurate, though his conclusion of a “pathological” problem was exaggerated (they say nothing about the anecdotal stuff like restaurant bills).

Potter finally apologized and distanced himself from his own story (earning at least some praise for that rare move). That wasn’t enough, though. McGill, after publicly throwing him under the bus, “accepted his resignation” from his job as head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (a Maclean’s story says the resignation was not voluntary, citing anonymous sources who also say “numerous high-profile figures have contacted McGill since Monday to express their personal displeasure with the column”, which prompted figures as high as the prime minister’s office to deny involvement). McGill says academic freedom is not at stake, which convinced precisely no one.

The response prompted another wave of hot takes, this time mainly from anglo media (Paul AdamsFrédéric BérardAnn BrocklehurstMichael Byers, Lucinda ChodanColby CoshAndrew CoyneRaymond J. de SouzaMichael Friscolanti, Lysiane GagnonMatt GurneyAllison Hanes, Trevor Hanna, Michael HarrisJoseph HeathChantal Hébert, Barbara KayJonathan Kay, Philippe LabrecqueJosée Legault againPeter LoewenEmmett Macfarlane, Don Macpherson, Candice Malcolm, Éric Montpetit, Brian MylesJoseph QuesnelAaron RandChris Selley, Michel Seymour, Evan SolomonMichael Taube, William WatsonDaniel WeinstockIra WellsMargaret Wente, Suzanne WexlerPeter WheelandBarry Wilson, three professors in Maclean’sa discussion on CBC’s The Current, podcasts at Canadaland and Ricochet, and editorials from the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Maclean’s and Winnipeg Free Press, plus an untold number of letters to the editor and discussions on social media). The hot takes get even hotter, comparing this scandal to everything from a corrupt third-world government to the Rwandan genocide. And that awful episode of Canadaland was rightfully blasted by its own supporters on Facebook.

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Lori Graham on the CTV float

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Media News Digest: RTDNA Canada regional nominees, Canucks change radio station, more layoffs at Postmedia

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At the CRTC

  • Newcap has asked the CRTC to drop its 15% special-interest music requirement for CHLG-FM 104.3 in Vancouver (one of the stations Bell got rid of after it bought Astral). It says the station lost $10 million in seven years.
  • CBC has applied to replace low-power AM transmitters with low-power FM transmitters in Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Senneterre.

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Media News Digest: Another extension on CRTC jobs, Canadian Screen Awards for non-fiction, Kelly Greig hired by CTV

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The four open CRTC commissioner positions, including chairperson, were supposed to have application deadlines on Monday, but they’ve been extended, again, until March 15.
  • The commission has split the difference in resolving a carriage dispute between Bell TV and MusiquePlus/Musimax. MP/MM complained because Bell was taking the channels out of the first-tier “Good” package in Quebec and leaving them only in the highest-tier “Best” package. And for older subscribers still on theme packs, it would be removed from popular packages there too. The commission rejected Bell’s argument that a channel is considered available in a package even if to take that package a user has to switch packaging systems (and ditch their grandfathered rights). But for the three-tier system, is only requires that Musimax (now just Max) be in the middle-tier “Better” package, and Bell can go ahead and limit MusiquePlus to just the “Best” package.
  • CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais wrote a letter in which he bizarrely says there’s no proof that a 40% drop in viewership of the Super Bowl in English Canada is because Canadians watched it on Fox. I get that you can’t know exactly how much of that drop is due to the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution decision, but to say there’s no direct link between the two is ludicrous.

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