Monthly Archives: November 2007

Cable news is too fast-paced

The director of Al-Jazeera slammed 24-hour news channels for their obsession with breaking news (via J-source). He argues that there should be more investigative journalism and analysis than constantly pestering with minute updates as they happen.

Of course, this isn’t just a problem for Arabic news channels, it’s a problem all around the world.

But I’d like to take his thesis and modify it slightly: What bugs me isn’t so much that cable news channels are obsessed with “this just in” news, it’s that the networks are too obsessed with their schedule.

Tune to CNN during the day and watch an interview. It usually follows a predictable path: A news story introduces an issue, and then the anchor speaks to someone by satellite (or two people to get a “debate” going). The guests are asked a few questions, and inevitably end up being cut off by the anchor because they’re “out of time”.

Setting aside for a moment the inherent rudeness of inviting someone on your show and then interrupting them to cut them off, what do you mean you’re out of time? It’s a 24-hour news network. The show doesn’t end.

The problem is that these networks have such rigid schedules. They can be thrown out the window when breaking news happens (a plane crashes, a celebrity gets arrested, a white girl disappears), but they can’t be delayed even by a couple of minutes to let an expert explain a point.

But, of course, actually explaining things isn’t the goal of these news networks, is it?

Internet CanCon is already here

When news broke this month about the idea of the CRTC considering regulation of the Internet to enforce CanCon-style rules, I was going to blog about it but quickly realized plenty of people would be doing that. Sure, enough, there was a blogger revolt at the idea and even a Facebook group for people to join.

The arguments against the idea are fairly straightforward:

  1. The entire issue was brought up by mainstream content producers and artists, but not new media artists who profit mainly off the Internet
  2. It’s impractical to try to control what people access on the Internet. The only countries that actually try to do that are backward, undemocratic regimes
  3. CanCon sucks

I agree, and this issue won’t go very far in the regulatory department because of it.

Unfortunately, those people who believe the Internet doesn’t have borders are going to find themselves disappointed by the fact that the Internet already commercially regulates what Canadians can see online, thanks to geographic IP mapping, which can tell a server what country you’re in based on your IP address.

This geographically-based content comes in three major forms:

  • Helpful localization. Google has been doing this for quite a while, redirecting to There is localized content but all the features are intact. You can even switch to the U.S. version if you want.
  • Unavoidable licensing restrictions. The reason I can’t listen to Pandora is because they don’t have a license to broadcast the music outside the U.S. They’re forced to prevent people from outside the country from connecting (leading hard-core international users to use proxies).
  • Commercial exclusivity agreements. U.S.-based Comedy Central recently signed an agreement with Canada-based Comedy Network that, among other things, forces visitors to only use the Canadian site. Canadians who go to get a message explaining they’ve been screwed over and are told everything is available at the Comedy Network site. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help if someone has linked directly to a Comedy Central video. You have to go to the Comedy Network website and search for that video from scratch. (The Comedy Network, by the way, was born out of CanCon and is basically a Comedy Central clone mixed in with reruns of CBC shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just for Laughs). The fact that you can’t watch videos of U.S. network series on their websites is also because of this. You can’t watch Heroes on, you have to go to Global’s website and watch it there.

This situation is only going to get worse from here. Now that servers can determine the origin of their visitors, it’s a short step to regulating what content goes where. And while media companies feel their way through the darkness trying to figure everything out, we’re going to find an increasing disconnect between what Canadians and Americans have access to online.

CanCon is bad for Canadian content

This debate over Internet CanCon has caused a debate over the old media version of the rules to resurface. Casey McKinnon, who was really peeved over this and hates CanCon, gave an interview with (via) talking about how horrible it is that we lower our standards just for more flag-waving.

I have another argument to make in the anti-CanCon debate: It’s counterproductive, and actually hurts Canadian broadcasting (at least in TV).

The reason, for me, is two words: simultaneous substitution.

That’s the rule that requires Canadian cable providers to substitute U.S. networks’ signals with Canadian ones when both are showing the same show at the same time. That way, Canadian viewers are exposed to Canadian advertising and all the money stays up here.

It sounds great, but it has a side-effect: It makes it more profitable for Canadian networks to simulcast American programming. They don’t even have to rebroadcast at the same quality (Global, for example, is notoriously bad for rebroadcasting HD content in standard definition on its HD channel).

Without simultaneous substitution, Canadians would turn to American networks for American programming, and Canadian networks would either have to compete directly or begin to look elsewhere for content. That could mean licensing TV shows from Britain or Australia, or investing in their own, original programming.

Of course, I’m being far too optimistic here. Canadian TV networks have to be dragged kicking and screaming toward their production budgets to greenlight Canadian-made shows. And that lack of original quality programming is why people are turning to the Internet in droves.

But at least we can make it less profitable for Canadian networks to re-run American programming. Use the power of economic competition for good.

UPDATE (Nov. 25): The Star coincidentally mentions some of these issues in an article about what technology and web services Canadians can’t get.

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Concordia’s governing bodies now communicating via ambassadors

In a sign that Concordia University’s internal politics is getting more tense by the hour, its senate has sent ambassadors to its board of governors to ask the university’s highest governing body to establish a committee to look into the governing structure of the university.

The senate (which bills itself as the university’s highest academic body) is peeved that the board (the body so powerful it appoints its own members) is asserting too much power.

The board chair, meanwhile, hasn’t agreed to setup a task force to take away his own power.

People hunger for local journalism

This week in Quebec City, unions for various media outlets met to denounce the “Montrealization” of French-language media in Quebec. Much like the Torontoization of English media in Canada, it’s all about big media companies reducing “redundancy” and centralizing similar services in one location.

The problem, of course, is that eventually the disconnect between this remotely-produced journalism and the local environment becomes apparent. We start seeing “regional” newscasts instead of local ones, to save money. A story about a province-wide issue is covered by a single journalist out of a big city and then copied to regional news outlets with no local spin added.

Newspapers are being split into two categories:

  1. Major dailies, which rely mostly on wire service stories, syndicated features like comics and crosswords, and a few columnists and police report rewriters.
  2. Community papers, which produce mostly fluff from its grossly underpaid journalists

The problems of local journalism are having a backlash effect though: Former Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer-Press employees are producing a local news website called MinnPost, which is filling the gap created when the big papers failed in their commitment to local news (via).

The site has just launched, so it’s hard to say if it’s financial model is going to work (it probably won’t), but it’s still good to see things like this. One thing I’ve learned writing this blog and covering local issues is that people are very interested in what’s going on around them.

The problem is that local journalism will never make you rich. And big media is obsessed with making itself rich. But fortunately some journalists have a higher calling.

Gas company critics are hypocrites

Think the Quebec government isn’t doing enough with its time to pass meaningless laws that don’t change anything?

Well, I give you Bill 41: “An Act to foster transparency in the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel.” This bill will do two things:

  1. Force gas companies to justify increases to gas prices at the pump
  2. Force gas companies to display the minimum gas price calculated by the Quebec Energy Board at the pump.

This will accomplish two things:

  1. Waste a lot of time
  2. Waste a lot of money

It’s a stupid solution to a stupid problem. You see, Quebecers (and most North Americans) hate the sky-high gas prices they see at the pump every day when they fill up their car to go to work. They reject the idea of supply and demand and want the government to do something about it. Change the laws of economics I guess.

But they also care about the environment and want the government to step in to do something about that too.

News flash folks: the No. 1 deterrent to carbon-emitting wasteful motor vehicle use is high gas prices. It’s fair, it’s self-regulating and it’s transparent.

Yes, it’s a bummer for suburban soccer moms who use their gas-guzzling minivans to bring kids to school. And it sucks for the transportation industry, which will increase the price on goods (and especially fruits and vegetables). But it’s still the best method available.

The ADQ has quickly panned on the idea (not because they don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, but because they can easily criticize a plan without offering any better solutions). If they can convince the PQ, that’ll put an end to the bill.

Greener doesn’t mean green

Meanwhile, a think tank has argued that a federal “freebate” program, which offers economic incentive for people to buy less-polluting cars, needs to be extended to pickup trucks.

This program isn’t as obviously stupid as the Quebec gas plan, but it’s based on a faulty assumption: That the economic incentive will cause people to buy vehicle X who would otherwise buy gas-guzzling vehicle Y. That may be true for some people, but others will probably choose to buy a cheap hybrid car they can afford instead of not buying a car at all. That will have a net negative impact on the environment.

The problem is that while many of these cars are better for the environment than their non-hybrid, fully-gasoline powered cousins, they are not good for the environment compared to public transit, biking, walking and other methods of getting around.

If you’re interested in a zero-emissions car, you can look at Zenn Motor Company, which builds zero-emission, no-noise cars in Quebec. But their cars weren’t even legal in Canada until this month.

These are the kinds of vehicles that have to be promoted, not Toyota’s slightly-less-emissions hybrid car or a bus that runs on 3% biodiesel.

Networks need investment, so invest

An industry-funded study has “shown” that the Internet faces “brownouts” or bandwidth saturation as early as 2010, if Internet service providers don’t improve the “last mile” of their networks, spending billions of dollars installing fibre-optic cable to replace coaxial cable and twin-wire phone lines.

So, uhh, why don’t they just do that then?

I’m not going to be all Huffington Post about this and suggest it’s a big conspiracy to control what we see on the Internet, but you have to admit the timing of an industry-funded survey that pulls figures out of its ass is kind of suspicious.

We’ll see in the coming weeks if industry leaders propose “innovative solutions” to this problem.

Ile Sans Fil might get a big boost from City Hall

Ile Sans FilMy first dealing with Île Sans Fil came a few years ago when I was at Concordia. I was talking with this guy who had a crazy idea of setting up wireless hotspots all over the place and letting people connect to them for free.

Though I thought the cause noble, I had my doubts, chiefly because Internet service providers were against the idea of people sharing their access. It put more strain on bandwidth and removed a layer of accountability. Concordia, which had strict rules about sharing Internet access because it had a fat pipe and didn’t regulate bandwidth, didn’t let them set up.

So they went elsewhere. Coffee shops in the plateau were helpful, because it would give the young early adopters of this Wi-Fi thing a reason to come to their shops and order coffee. The network expanded and now it has hotspots all over the city.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with Evan Prodromou at Caffè Art Java (an ISF hotspot), interviewing him for an article that will hopefully come out before I have grandchildren. He briefly said hi to a friend of his from ISF and mentioned that they’re finally, after all this time, talking to the City of Montreal about municipally-backed hotspots.

Today, it looks like those talks were fruitful. La Presse’s Tristan Peloquin has the scoop through a document ISF handed to him that was obtained by him yesterday. The city will be offering the group $200,000 a year for five years to setup and run 400 wireless hotspots in public areas of the city, including Place des Arts and all 17 nature parks in Montreal, (parks like Mount Royal Park, Jean-Drapeau, Angrignon Park, Cap St. Jacques, Ile Bizard, Lafontaine Park, Maisonneuve Park and Jarry Park).

The proposal still has to be presented to the executive committee, who will have the last word.

UPDATE: The slide presentation about the project is online (PDF)

Terry DiMonte leaving CHOM for better offer in Calgary

Terry DiMonte Rumours that longtime Montreal radio personality and CHOM-FM morningman Terry DiMonte was considering an offer to move to another radio station were verified today when CHOM announced he was leaving in an email to listeners.

Strangely, the announcement doesn’t mention where he’s going, calling it only “a new opportunity in Western Canada.” But he has accepted a five-year contract at Calgary’s Q107 classic rock station, where he will begin a show in January.

DiMonte’s last day is this Friday.

Through two stints at CHOM (separated by five years at Mix 96 and four years at CJAD), DiMonte has spent 14 years at the classic rock station, becoming one of its most recognizable names. He’s been a perennial favourite among anglo Montrealers, and won the Mirror’s No. 1 choice for best radio host in its 2005 Best of Montreal poll.

Metroblogging Montreal has already declared war. Adrian’s a bit more sombre about it.

Rob Kemp DiMonte’s replacement on the Terry Ted and Kim morning show is Rob Kemp, who currently hosts the Rob Kemp show on weekday afternoons on Mix 96. He starts Monday, when the show will become the Ted, Kim and Kemp show (a name which sounds cooler than “Ted Kim and Rob” but makes no sense logically).

As for Kemp’s old slot, Mix 96 is currently hiring to fill it. So if you have a sunny disposition and at least three years of on-air experience in the format, feel free to apply.

UPDATE: The Gazette (after talking with DiMonte) confirms what’s been pretty obvious to everyone, that DiMonte’s move was about contract negotiations. Talks to re-sign him weren’t going well, giving him the distinct impression that CHOM didn’t really want him back. (Classy man that he is though, he doesn’t blame management for the deal going sour, lamenting only that he and Bird don’t have the star power they used to.)

Q107 gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. So Montreal loses another star to free agency.

UPDATE (Nov. 23): On the morning of his last day, a tribute cartoon from Aislin, and a column from Mike Boone. And, of course, the obligatory Facebook group that misspells his name.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): In this morning’s Gazette, a recounting of DiMonte’s final day on the air.

There’s also an article in the Calgary Herald about how DiMonte’s arrival will affect the radio landscape there. It notes how DiMonte’s departure is “front-page news” here, though with the exception of The Gazette and CTV News I find this story vastly under-covered in the Montreal media. A brief Presse Canadienne piece, a couple of sentences at CJAD (where he spent a few years). Not a peep from CBC, Global, or any of the French media.

The news item is already off CHOM’s front page, replaced by a Led Zeppelin promo. Hell, even Ted Bird’s blog is absent any mention of his best bud’s departure (what the hell is the point of these blogs if you’re not going to use them for things like this?). Kim Rossi mentions it briefly, though it sounds more like a press release than a heartfelt goodbye to a friend.

So I’ll leave you with this video from CTV News on YouTube (I would have linked to the one on CTV’s website, but all the links I found to it say the video is “no longer available”):

UPDATE (Dec. 12): The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein follows Terry around for his last week in Montreal, going to some of the places he’ll miss most.

UPDATE (Jan. 4): DiMonte has already begun his morning show at Q107, where he’s being partnered with former Montrealer “Peppermint” Patti MacNeil. The show can be heard online weekdays 7:30am-noon (5:30-10am in Calgary).

Frothing at the mouth

I’m not a coffee drinker, so when someone tells me that Starbucks coffee is disgusting, or that Tim Horton’s is addictive, I have to take their word for it. I have never tasted these things, and don’t particularly plan to.

But I can appreciate good art. Like the art you get with a carefully poured cup of latté. Apparently latté art is very popular, with all sorts of guides on how to do it.

If you just want to see the art in practice, you can head over to Caffè Art Java (837 Mount Royal Ave. E.), where through a combination of pouring and etching the baristas can create a dragon, a woman’s face, a skull, a cat, a tulip, and all sorts of other intricate patterns.

Or, like me, you can waste your day watching the YouTube videos I just linked to.

(French) Montreal holds its own at broadcasting awards

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters presented their gold-ribbon awards this month to radio and television productions that … uhh… achieve. About a third of the awards went to Montreal-based productions, and of those only two (both in radio) are English. Both radio and television breaking news awards went to coverage of the Dawson College shooting, for CJAD and TVA respectively.

The awards were pretty well spread out, though TVA picked up three awards for television and Astral Media dominated the radio and specialty channel awards (8 total). CTVglobemedia was second-best overall, with 6 awards from four cities.

Of a particular note is a well-deserved win for François Pérusse‘s Les deux minutes du peuple in the radio humour category. The series of short, fast-talking skits was nominated last year but this is its first win.


Network television

  • ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMMING: CFTM-TV (Gala Artis 2006) Groupe TVA inc.
  • MAGAZINE PROGRAMMING: CFJP-TV (Qu’est-ce qui mijote) TQS inc.
  • NEWS: BREAKING NEWS: CFTM-TV (Fusillade au Collège Dawson) Groupe TVA inc.

Specialty/pay television

  • ENTERTAINMENT SPECIAL/SERIES: Séries+ (François en série – saison 1) Astral Media Inc. & Alliance Atlantis
  • PROMOTION: BRAND IMAGE: Ztélé (Identifications « La Route Ztélé ») Astral Media Inc.
  • PUBLIC SERVICE: Canal Vie (Campagne « Don d’organes ») Astral Media Inc.

We can’t trust citizen journalists

Via J-Source, Paul Berton of the London Free Press asks “Can we trust citizen journalists?

His question is based on the amateur video of Robert Dziekanski being Tasered in the Vancouver airport. He would later die from the hit, raising questions about the safety of Taser use.

The video is certainly a great example of the kinds of things citizen journalism can accomplish, and how the ubiquity of video-capturing devices is changing what it means to be an eyewitness.

But my answer to the question of “can we trust citizen journalists” is still “No.”

My reasoning is simple: The trust you can place in journalism is no more than the trust you can place in the journalist behind it. With big media, journalists stand behind their stories, the media outlets stand behind their journalists, and the big media corporations stand behind their local outlets. It’s not perfect, but there’s a chain of accountability.

With citizen journalists, unless you know them, you have no clue about their motives, their ethics, their biases or anything else. They’re unknowns. The only basis for your trust is on the content itself and the plausibility of it. If it looks like it’s real, then it probably is. And with video, it’s almost always real.

But not always. Take this video of comedian Pauly Shore being punched out by a heckler at a comedy club. A fantastic example of citizen journalism, which got a lot of play online. The only problem is it was faked (see the making of). These “citizen journalists” were in on it, and went along with the gag. They can do that because they have no journalistic reputations to uphold, no employers enforcing ethics codes, and no one to answer to but themselves.

Citizen journalism can be useful if it’s corroborated. In this case, the RCMP confirmed the tape was athentic. Same deal with the SQ and their agents provocateurs.

That doesn’t mean so-called “citizen journalists” can’t build their own media and develop trust over time. Media gain trust through their reputations, and they’re motivated to follow ethical guidelines, be honest and not burn their readers. The trust can never be 100%, but it’s much higher than what some random person uploads to YouTube or writes unsourced on Wikipedia.

Citizen journalists are a wonderful source of original ideas and evidence. But they can’t be inherently trusted. Trust is earned, not given away. Nobody gets a free ride.

Kanuk not above outright spam

In my ongoing fight against spam, I tend to give local businesses a bit of slack when it comes to netiquette. They’re small and inexperienced, so you might forgive them for minor glitches.

But spam is still spam. Last week I received this email message from Montreal-based Kanuk, maker of those winter coats you’ll all be buying in the coming weeks. Since they have a privacy policy which implies they only send email messages to people who opt in, I have to call them on a violation.

Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2007 05:37:55 -0500
From: Kanuk <>
Subject: Rappel : Solde Kanuk directement à la manufacture, jusqu’à lundi

Le grand solde Kanuk bat son plein jusqu’à lundi 12 novembre.
C’est le meilleur moment pour choisir votre manteau chaud Kanuk.
Chez Kanuk, au 485, rue Rachel Est à Montréal.

Deux étages de soldes vous attendent à l’atelier-magasin Kanuk au
485, rue Rachel Est à Montréal, dès 8h00 tous les jours
pendant le Solde d’entrepôt Kanuk.

Au plaisir,

Daniel Poirier,
au nom de l’équipe Kanuk

As usual, I’ve sent them an email and will update if and when they respond.

The email was sent through Canadian B2B Internet service provider Radiant, which should also have better measures to prevent such things.

Kicking a reporter out: Good for journalism?

Québec solidaire kicked out a Canoe reporter from a Quebec City meeting on Sunday. The reason was simple: the reporter was replacing locked-out Journal de Québec workers, and because QS is all crazy-leftist and such, they’re not about to accept a scab.

But is that an acceptable reason for kicking a journalist out of an open political meeting? Where do you draw the line between legitimate interference and scary Stephen Harper-style cherrypicking of reporters?

CanWest continues to spread

Despite cuts at their newspapers, CanWest has plenty of money to buy up media properties. Today it added six new community publications in the Windsor area, bringing its total up to 30.

CanWest, the largest newspaper publisher in Canada, called the acquisition “yet another example of CanWest’s commitment to developing strong community voices across this country.”

Also today, CRTC hearings into CanWest’s bid to take over Alliance Atlantis are being held.

Pay me, dammit

There’s an interview on YouTube with Harlan Ellison that really struck a chord with me. In it, he rants about how Warner Bros. wanted to use an interview with him on a DVD but didn’t want to pay him for it. He talks about how outrageous it is that this is now accepted practice, and how amateurs seeking a big break are willing to whore themselves out for nothing.

I’ll admit to being somewhat of a hypocrite on this issue. On one hand, I want to be paid for my work (because I need to eat). On the other, most of that work is based on interviews I do with people, and I don’t pay any of them for their time or thoughts.