Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pierre Trudel joins

A year after refusing an “insulting” contract renewal at CKAC and a month after his last column at La Presse, Pierre Trudel has joined as a star Habs blogger. His first post is a self-introduction. You can also read this old Journal piece to get an idea of who he is.

On his blog, he talks about the Habs and recounts rumours (though at least he describes them as such). is owned by Branchez-Vous, and while not the most spectacular poaching in journalistic history (talk to me when you’ve convinced François Gagnon or Red Fisher to come on board), it is a step toward making BV a serious media outlet in the city.

Now that I’ve posted this, maybe Carl Charest will stop bothering me.

Shaw renegs on promise to save TV stations

Hey, remember a couple of months ago when Shaw said it would buy three endangered CTV-owned stations for $1 each in what seemed like the most insincere offer in the history of mankind?

Yeah, turns out it was a giant bluff. After going over the books for the three stations, Shaw determined that they are, indeed, losing quite a bit of money and it’s not worth the CRTC brownie points and good PR to sink more cash into the stations. CTV issued a brief statement Tuesday afternoon saying Shaw reneged. Media outlets have repeated the statement, but Shaw and CTV aren’t commenting further yet, and the stations can’t comment because they don’t know what’s going on.

This comes (coincidentally?) on the same day Canwest announced it will offload two stations onto Channel Zero.

So CKX-TV in Brandon, Man., CHWI-TV in Wheatley (Windsor), Ont., and CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont., go back to being endangered and unless another buyer can be lined up they won’t last past the summer.

The optimism they had when the deal was announced now flies right out the window.

UPDATE: Canadian Press is the only outlet that finally tracks Shaw down to get comment. They say they expected real television stations but saw hollowed-out shells where much of the work was done in London and Toronto. Meanwhile, CTV says it will keep CHWI running for another year after getting more money from the CRTC.

Channel Zero offers to buy CJNT Montreal, CHCH Hamilton


The press releases came out Tuesday afternoon and has been rewritten everywhere: CP, Presse Canadienne, Reuters, Financial Post, CBC, Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator,, Broadcaster Magazine.

Channel Zero (warning: website has sound you can’t turn off), which owns Silver Screen Classics and Movieola, but also AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips Channel and Maleflixxx Television (latter three are Wikipedia links), has agreed to purchase two of Canwest’s five E! stations, CJNT in Montreal and CHCH in Hamilton.

The sale, which is for an undisclosed price (but presumably better than the $1 a station that Shaw was offering in what apparently turned out to be a bluff) is contingent upon the usual CRTC rubber stamp, but also on Canwest wrestling a new deal out of unionized employees at CHCH that would switch from a defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution pension plan eliminate the employee pension plan and replace it with a defined contribution plan, throwing retirees under the bus. (CJNT staff, a grand total of six, are not unionized.) According to my ears at CHCH, the station’s staff are excited by the offer (except for the pension thing) and of the prospect for producing more local news.

Channel Zero has an FAQ posted on its website which actually does a pretty good job answering the kinds of questions this would prompt from skeptics like me. (They promise not to air adult material on either station, though … would that be such a bad thing for CJNT?)


The plan for CHCH is to turn it into an all-news station during the day (5:30 am to 8 pm) with movies in the evening. This capitalizes on CHCH’s unusually high local programming requirement of 36.5 hours per week, which Channel Zero has promised to maintain (it says it wants to keep license terms “substantially similar”, which suggests some changes).

For CJNT, the plan is to air foreign-language movies and multicultural music videos. It’s not clear if that means there will be fewer of the foreign-language talk shows that currently air, or if the celebrity gossip and second-rate U.S. imports will be cut off.

And the rest?

Even if the deal goes through, and that’s a big if, the other three stations in the E! network, CHEK Victoria, CHBC Kelowna (B.C.) and CHCA Red Deer (Alta.) are still up in the air. Canwest has made it more clear that they won’t keep the stations running after this summer, and if they can’t find a buyer for them they’ll be shut down.

But will it work?

CHCH News has an analysis of the deal and an interview with Channel Zero’s Cal Millar, which both sound very positive. People say they want local news, and this company seems prepared to inject funding to create a new all-news station. But CHCH host Mark Hebscher insightfully compares this to Toronto One, which failed as a locally-focused station two years later became bottom-feeding Sun TV.

Call me a skeptic, but Channel Zero has zero experience in running conventional television stations and zero experience with local news. Taking on CHCH is a big challenge, and I think the company is being overly optimistic about its proposed business model, even with the cut to pension expenses. Two or three years down the road, we may very well see Channel Zero come back to the CRTC and ask for reductions in local programming requirements and other commitments as it starts bleeding money.

But, like CHCH employees and their union leaders, I hope I’m wrong.

UPDATE: The Hamilton Spectator is all over the sale with articles about the sale itself, reaction to it, and an opinion praising it.

UPDATE (July 18): Channel Zero tells the CRTC the price of the sale was $12, both stations included.

Metro service extended for Stevie

The Montreal Jazz Fest kicks off Tuesday night with a giant free concert featuring Stevie Wonder at the new plaza across from Place des Arts. The concert, which starts at 9:30 p.m. with opening acts, is expected to run pretty late into the night, and the STM has decided to extend service on the green, orange and yellow metro lines by a half hour to accomodate traffic (in addition to adding more trains during the evening).

Final departures on the orange and green lines will be 1:05am instead of 12:35am, and final departures on the yellow line will be at 1:20am instead of 12:50am.

For those who haven’t taken the last metro before, the last trains of the orange and green lines wait for each other at Berri-UQAM and Lionel-Groulx to make sure people transferring don’t get stranded. The trains are scheduled so the last ones depart in all four directions from Berri-UQAM at 1:30am.

For those of you going to the concert, you’ll want to be on the platform at Place des Arts at 1:15am if you’re heading east, 1:25am if you’re heading west. If you’re taking the yellow line, try being there no later than 1am.

The STM also announced Monday a bunch of other stuff they’re doing with summer festivals, although most of it is in the form of cross-promotional discounts or free shuttles.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 42

Here’s a riddle for you.

There are two streets in Montreal that share the same name (almost, one adds the word “du”), are about 12km from each other and both lie entirely north of Gouin Blvd. (though still on the island).

Their common name evokes forestry, though isn’t the name of any individual type of tree.

What are their names?

UPDATE: Five of you got this one right: Rue Bocage in Ahuntsic and Rue Du Bocage in Pierrefonds. Though extra points for those who noticed that there are two Rues Du Pont, in Ste. Geneviève and Ahuntsic. (The first, notably, doesn’t actually lead to a bridge.)

Don’t buy the Post today (you can’t)

The online-only National Post for Monday, June 29, 2009

The online-only National Post for Monday, June 29, 2009

Today is the first day of the National Post’s no-print Mondays announced in April and reiterated last week. For nine weeks, until the end of the summer, the paper won’t be printed on Mondays and its content will only appear in virtual form.

But the paper is still being edited and laid out as if printed on broadsheet paper. It has four sections (eight-page A section, four-page business, four-page arts/life and eight-page sports) and other than its size (and the fact that there’s colour on every page), it looks no different than any other edition of the print National Post.

Needless to say, this version of the paper is also very light on advertising, though there are some full-page ads that look as if they’re separate from the sections.

Take each other’s hand as we jump into streaming classic TV

Paul (Paul Reiser) and Jamie (Helen Hunt) finish ... uhh ... making lasagna.

Paul (Paul Reiser) and Jamie (Helen Hunt) finish ... uhh ... making lasagna, in the pilot of Mad About You.

Global TV’s website, which many people still don’t know streams videos of hit TV shows that the network has rights to (like House and 24) has opened up a “classics” section where you can see some selected episodes of some ancient TV series.

The complete list so far (links to Wikipedia articles for reference):

Some of you might note that Mad About You, Just Shoot Me! and Married… With Children are staples of Canwest’s TVtropolis retro TV channel. The Facts of Life, Good Times, Maude and Who’s the Boss? are aired on Canwest’s Déjà View super-retro channel.

So far it’s just a smattering of about a dozen episodes from each of the series, but the collection will grow from there. The number of series will probably also expand as Canwest negotiates streaming rights for the shows out of the money they could be spending on bonuses for young sarcastic copy editors at their metro newspapers…

Finnerty’s gone – who will host Daybreak now?

Mike Finnerty giant ad outside Maison Radio-Canada

Mike Finnerty giant ad outside Maison Radio-Canada, slightly torn to reveal ... another giant Mike Finnerty behind him.

In case you missed it, Friday was Mike Finnerty’s last day as host of Daybreak on CBC Radio One. Finnerty announced last month that he was leaving the CBC to move to London and take a job with the Guardian.

The theme of the final show (all links in this paragraph are streaming RealAudio format, which astonishingly it still uses) was what people will miss about Montreal (including lots of suggestions from listeners), since Finnerty is leaving the city. Finnerty also took the time to interview two CBC bosses, the big boss Hubert Lacroix, on the future of the public broadcaster, and local boss Patricia Pleszczynska on who would replace him as Daybreak host. Finally, he invited all the other CBC Montreal radio hosts to talk about what they’d miss about the city.

Despite hinting otherwise, there was no announcement of a new host. Pleszczynska said to “wait until September” while they evaluate the various candidates, many of whom we would expect would test-host the show over the summer.

You can listen to Finnerty’s final podcast here (MP3), which includes some original “live… to download” host banter and repeats the morning interviews. Or you can listen to my selections from Finnerty’s last Daybreak (MP3) from the over-the-air version.

Now it’s time to decide who will replace Mike in the anchor’s chair. I suggested a few names last month, but in the past few months during Finnerty’s vacations to London we’ve had a few guest anchors who might be candidates for the job. Links below are to the podcast versions of their shows in MP3 format, which isn’t a perfect way to evaluate how they do live on-air, but gives you an idea of their interview abilities and ability to socialize with the staff.

Shawn Apel is the first temporary host to take over the Mike’s mic on Monday morning.

UPDATE (July 15): The Gazette’s Mike Boone suggests it should be a woman in the host chair. Wood, Campbell, Sonali Karnick and Anne Lagacé-Dowson are mentioned as possible candidates.

CJAD, CBC Montreal win RTNDA awards

The RTNDA (which used to stand for something but now doesn’t) has announced the winners of its annual broadcasting awards.

Two of them are from Montreal:

  • Charlie Edwards Award (Spot News) – CJAD 800 for Montreal North Riots
  • Sam Ross Award (Editorial/Commentary) – CBC News: Montreal for Daycare Fees

I also note that one winner is the A-Channel station in Windsor, which CTV decided to pull the plug on until Shaw came in to rescue it.

Fagstein’s 2009 Montreal construction map

Google Map of Montreal construction zones

Google Map of Montreal construction zones

As if underscoring how much spare time I have, I’ve tinkered over the past few weeks with some data that the city has put out about planned road construction this summer. A copy of the PDF listing the projects is on The Gazette’s site. They used it to create a searchable database of the projects, which intern Megan Martin introduced in Friday’s paper. My approach (which began before I knew my paper’s online department had a similar idea) was to just dump the data into Google Maps and see what kind of overall map emerged. It involved a lot of cutting and pasting and a lot of tweaking, but I just finished it now.

Continue reading

515 colour plan only adds confusion

As the city does work on Metcalfe St. that forces the 515 bus into a detour at its western terminus, the STM decided that they’d take another crack at solving the confusion problem that hits people (locals and tourists alike) when they want to take this bus: because it’s a circular route, there’s no East, no West, and no terminus. Both directions will bring you where you want to go eventually.

The solution? Colours!

Blue 515 stop

Yellow 515 stop

Isn’t it obvious? The blue sign is for the bus that takes the clockwide route, toward Berri and then down to Old Montreal. The yellow sign is for the counter-clockwise route that goes through Old Montreal and then up to Berri. This is consistent with the schedules which have a yellow route and a blue route on them, unless they’re copied in black and white, in which case they only have one direction visible.

So now not only has the STM invented a new colour for the 515 (recycled from a failed experiment), they’ve invented another one too! A light blue that’s just different enough from the standard dark blue to be both confusingly similar and confusingly different.

Of course, this won’t solve the confusion inherent in the route’s design, and will just create more. This is the first time the STM is using colours on stop signs to indicate direction, and it’s a break from the standard. If transit users need anything, it’s a standard framework from which to understand how things run. This idea laughs in the face of that.

The STM should do as I suggested and drop the part of the route between Berri and Peel, which is redundant to not one but two metro lines (and the 150 and 15 buses) and therefore the least-used part of a little-used line. Then they can have proper East/West designations and the confusion will be gone.

No parking on Peel

Of course, what’s really going to piss people off is that in order to fit these two stops, the city had to remove 10 parking spaces along Peel (not that the bright red bags with no parking signs on them stopped drivers from parking there anyway, as you can see).

Vision’s Boulos goes independent

The fallout from the switcheroo at Vision Montreal is continuing. Less than a week after the party’s vice-president quit because she couldn’t support a sovereignist anti-borough leader, token anglo Karim Boulos has quit the party and decided to sit as an independent, leaving Ville-Marie borough mayor Benoît Labonté in a minority position on the borough council.

The move comes a couple of days after Boulos posted an item on his blog about how destructive party politics can be, based on a column from The Gazette’s Henry Aubin he read. Though he asked for comments, the post only got one, from me, asking if this means he’ll be sitting as an independent. I didn’t actually thin he’d just make the jump right there.

As important in his decision is that Boulos represents the Peter-McGill district (PDF), which includes all of the Ville-Marie borough west of University (in other words, both anglo universities, though not the McGill ghetto). With the splitting of the borough into a third electoral district, his turf becomes even more anglo than it was (it used to extend to St. Denis). And having a sovereignist former PQ minister leading your party isn’t sitting well with those constituents on Pine and Dr. Penfield.

His move also comes just over a week after he defended Vision leader Louise Harel on his blog, saying he’s still a federalist Liberal but they can work together on municipal matters.

Bonne fête, Québec

Hey Québec, je comprends que c’est ta fête aujourd’hui.

Je voulais faire un long billet de tous les choses que j’aime de toi, mais là, c’est tellement beau dehors et le party commence bientôt. Et La Presse et The Gazette ont déjà fait des listes.

Alors, laissez-moi simplement dire que même si nous sommes pas toujours en accord, même avec les trous-de-cul jeunes patriotes qui me disent d’aller à Toronto, même avec la loi 101 et la politique du souveraineté qui termine jamais, le Québec c’est ma province, tout comme Montréal est ma ville et le Canada est mon pays.

En trois mots et demi, je t’aime, Québec.

Et pas juste parce que tes femmes sont ben hot.

Hey, si t’es libre ce soir venez chez moi et on prendra une bière. J’achètera une caisse de Molson Cana… euh, Labatt Bleue.