Monthly Archives: July 2009

Thanks Saku

I’ll never understand the concept of free agency in sports. Or drafting, for that matter. Sure, it makes the odds even, so that a hockey team from southern California can compete against another from Montreal even though one city has ice and the other doesn’t. But it just makes the whole system seem so fake. Much as I hate to agree with some of the xenophobic francophones who want to cleanse their country of impure races, I feel for them in the thought that a team based in Montreal should have Montrealers on it. Otherwise, what’s the difference between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs other than the city in which they play their home games. Why should fans here blindly follow the Canadiens, as if location alone gives their team an advantage?

Maybe it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe sports rivalries are supposed to be meaningless to preserve their fun. But it’s hard to think of the idea of a team when people can just come and go as contracts dictate, even sometimes when they don’t want to.

And so, just like that, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The writing was on the wall for at least a week now (though most thought he’d be going to Minnesota to join his brother Mikko), but those crazy logic-defying fans held out hope that he’d still be here next season (at least the ones that don’t irrationally blame him for everything. We’ve now lost our C and both As (Alex Kovalev to the Ottawa Senators and Mike Komisarek to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both pouring salt into the wounds). Next year will see the biggest turnover we’ve seen in a while.

So, like Red Fisher, I will miss our captain, and thank him for his service. He spent his entire NHL career in Montreal, went through a lot (with us living it vicariously through him) and did a lot for our team and our city. He doesn’t speak French, isn’t from here (neither are Kovalev, Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Carey Price, the Kostitsyns, Tomas Plekanec, etc.), but he was an integral part of Montreal and loved by its citizens. He certainly won’t be booed by me next time he comes to town.

We’ll get a new captain, as parents explain to their young children what “salary cap” and “unrestricted free agent” mean, and why those things led to them losing their hero. But our fans will soon go back to irrationally predicting that the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup next year (with lots of Quebec-born francophone players), because … well, just because.

Life will go on. Because hey, it’s only a game, right?

Turcot: Keep the eyesore?

In the past month, it seems there’s been a rather large shift in public perception of the Turcot Interchange reconstruction project. All three major Montreal political parties have come out against it for not being green enough. The STM has come out against it. Over 100 individuals and groups have had something to say on the subject. You half expect Jean Charest is going to appear at a hearing and declare his government is outraged.

What gets me is that the Turcot project isn’t particularly evil. Yes, it involves a small number of expropriations and the public consultation process should have been done in the planning stage instead of after. But the core idea of the project – replacing a spaghetti network of aerial highways with a simpler, cheaper and easier-to-maintain ground-based interchange – was actually supposed to improve the city’s image, getting rid of what had almost universally been called an eyesore and a tired relic of 50s-era design, while improving the views of people who live in St. Henri.

The ministry of transport eventually acquiesced and agreed that there should be reserved bus lanes and other measures to encourage public transit, which should have been in the design regardless. But now they’re being asked by the green lefties to keep that eyesore in the sky. They argue that there would be more noise and dust if the cars were at ground level, and that it would cut off St. Henri from NDG (even though St. Henri is already cut off from NDG by a giant cliff).

I originally liked the idea of the Turcot being brought down to ground level when I first heard about it. There’s very little worth protecting directly under the interchange, and the savings on maintenance and improved views seemed to make it a no-brainer. Now I’m conflicted. Neither side has convinced me that their version is better for the environment, the neighbourhood and the city.

A special blog has been set up to keep people informed (separate from the anti-Turcot mobilization blog), and links to a feed of 62 articles about the Turcot project, sorted by language, subject and publication.

CRTC Roundup: They saved local TV!

Well, not quite.

The CRTC on Monday decided to hike the fee (temporarily, at least) for its Local Programming Improvement Fund from 1% to 1.5% of cable and satellite provider revenues (revenues, not profits), which would give broadcasters an additional $32 million a year ($100 million total in the new fund) to devote to local programming.

You can see all its arguments in the official decision. It’s less than the 2.5% that a parliamentary committee suggested in June.

It’s a victory for broadcasters and a defeat for cable and satellite companies (and probably consumers). CBC is happy. Canwest is happy. CTV is happy. Bell is sad. Cogeco is sad (PDF). Rogers is sad. Videotron is sad. Bill Brioux is annoyed.

Especially when you consider how much the television industry is already subsidized through mandatory fees from cable and satellite companies (now 6.5% of their revenues) and funding from the government, all without us having a say in programming, you have to wonder whether it’s all worth it.

Best of all, the broadcasters say they need more.

The CRTC also released its conditions of license for one-year renewals for the major networks:

Many of the decisions below come from these renewals.

Finally, the CRTC has kicked the fee-for-carriage can (which was in turn kicked to them by a parliamentary committee) and other issues down the road to a hearing in September, where it will discuss that and other issues affecting broadcast television. The indication, however, is that the CRTC supports a fee-for-carriage idea, provided the fees are negotiated with broadcasters and cable/satellilte companies.

Harmonized local programming minimums

And how much more local programming will we be getting for all this extra money? We won’t! In fact, we’re getting less! Thanks to new “harmonized” minimum requirements, most stations in the country will now have to produce less local programming.

For English-language stations, the minimums will be 14 hours a week for large markets (Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver), and seven hours a week for smaller markets (including Halifax, Hamilton and Victoria), with some exceptions. This will mean reductions for CKMI (18 hours a week) and CFCF (15.5 hours a week). Stations with really high requirements might see massive cuts and layoffs. CHCH Hamilton, for example, has dropped from 36.5 hours to only seven, though they’re going to make a go at more local programming, at least in the short term.

For French-language stations (effectively just TVA since TQS has a special exception), it’s on a case-by-case basis:

  • CFCM (Quebec City): 18 hours a week, down from 21
  • CFER (Rimouski): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10
  • CJPM (Chicoutimi): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10
  • CHLT (Sherbrooke): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10

Independent stations owned by Radio-Nord (TVA Gatineau) and Télé Inter-Rives (SRC/TVA/TQS in Rivière du Loup, TVA in Carleton) maintain their current requirements.

Note that for French markets, only Montreal is larger than a million and is ineligible for LPIF funding.

In the same decision, the CRTC also rejected requests from broadcasters to eliminate requirements for priority programming (expensive dramas) and independent production (as opposed to in-house).

Global Quebec is now Global Montreal

After again rejecting union complaints that Global’s produced-out-of-Vancouver plan violates local programming requirements for Global Quebec (not saying it wasn’t in violation, only that there is “insufficient evidence” and it will “continue to monitor the situation”), the CRTC has approved a request to change CKMI from a Quebec City-based regional station to a local Montreal-based station.

CKMI-TV was once based in our provincial capital, but since it was purchased by Canwest and turned into a Global station it has effectively been headquartered in Montreal, with retransmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke (technically, the transmitter was in Quebec with a retransmitter, CKMI-TV-1, in Montreal). Global Quebec was licensed as a regional station, which meant it couldn’t take any local Montreal advertising. The license change makes it a local station which opens up that door (as small as it is) and allows the station to compete directly with CFCF and CBMT for local advertising.

A similar move was made for CIII, which is de facto Global’s Toronto station but was technically licensed to Paris, Ontario, which is west of Hamilton.

CJNT keeps ethnic minimum

A request from Canwest to relieve money-losing ethnic station CJNT Montreal of its ethnic programming requirement was denied. Canwest wanted 5 hours a week, but will be stuck at the original 13.5. Since the station is being sold, it won’t sadden Canwest too much to lose this battle.

Mandatory digital transition (or not?)

The CRTC recognized that some broadcasters are lagging behind in transitioning to digital. U.S. broadcasters were forced to make the switch last month (in a deadline that was delayed from February), but Canadians have until August 2011. The CRTC’s decision doesn’t suggest that this deadline will change for smaller markets (though it suggests perhaps a “hybrid model” may emerge), but it does say it “expects” that major markets will make the transition. It released a list of markets larger than 300,000 it “expects” will do so without complaint, and says it will discuss the issue further in September. The list includes Montréal, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Rivière-du-Loup, Saguenay, Ottawa-Gatineau, territorial and provincial capitals and large cities across Canada. Essentially any market with more than one station.

The issue (which also includes whether there should be U.S.-style subsidies for converter boxes) will be dealt with again in September.

CTV-Shaw rejects get renewed

Even though Shaw’s offer to buy them has fallen through, the CRTC has renewed licenses for CKX-TV in Brandon, Man., CHWI-TV in Wheatley/Windsor, Ont., and CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont., for another year, despite CTV’s request that they be terminated. They’re still expected to shut down in August, although CTV says it is “reviewing” CHWI in light of the new funding. UPDATE: CTV says it will continue operating CHWI until Aug. 31, 2010. CKNX will be converted into a retransmitter, and CKX is still being shut down.

Other CTV stations which had the bare minimum of local programming have been relicensed as strictly retransmitters only:

  • CKCO-TV-3 Oil Springs (Sarnia), Ont.
  • CFRN-TV-3 Whitecourt, Alta.
  • CFRN-TV-4 Ashmont, Alta.
  • CFRN-TV-6 Red Deer, Alta.

No copy-copy

Separate requests from Canwest and Rogers to allow them to duplicate content on E!/Global and City/OMNI respectively were denied by the CRTC. The stations (CHAN-TV Vancouver/CHEK-TV Victoria, CIII-TV Toronto/CHCH-TV Hamilton, and City/OMNI pairings in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) are currently limited to 10% overlap since they are stations with the same owner in the same markets. Requests to be relieved of that restriction were denied.

City stays special

In addition to allowing more overlap between City and OMNI, Rogers asked to be allowed to redirect “priority programming” money (money for expensive Canadian dramas) into local programming, and remove an unusual requirement at City to air Canadian feature films. Both were denied. The Globe has a story.

CHOI News Talk?

RNC Media has applied to the CRTC for a license amendment for CHOI-FM in Quebec City, which would change it from an alternative rock format to 50% spoken word. CHOI has a rather rocky past with the CRTC.

Radio was doing OK last year

The CRTC has released financial statistics of Canadian radio stations (taken as a whole). Looking at all of Canada and Quebec in particular, the numbers are fairly stable on both sides of the balance sheet. Of particular note is AM radio in Quebec, which shows significant losses year after year while the rest of the country just about breaks even.

Asians Asians Asians!

Asian Television Network has gotten approval for a slew of new specialty channels:

Another two networks – ATN Multicultural Channel and Commonwealth Broadcasting Network – were denied, as their nature was judged to be too broad for a specialty service.

ATN announced on Tuesday that nine channels, including some of the ones above, will premiere on Rogers Cable in the fall. The channels are being renamed to more interesting names.


Ultimate Indie Productions has received authorization to start a specialty channel devoted to emerging Canadian Artists called CHEAR! (and CHEAR! HD)

Ashes to ashes, SCREAM to DUSK

Corus is rebranding its SCREAM! horror channel to DUSK, and expanding its niche to include “paranormal” and “supernatural” stuff that might not be so scary. I guess this means more X-Files? The change takes effect on Sept. 9 (09/09/09, as if that’s scary or paranormal or something).

In other news

  • TVA got a slap on the wrist (hell, not even that) for failing to meet expectations regarding airing of Canadian films and closed-captioning. The CRTC “expects” they’ll meet those requirements in the future, or else they’re going to get a sternly-worded letter, I guess.
  • The Globe and Mail is reporting that Al-Jazeera English may be close to approval as a specialty channel.
  • CPAC has gotten approval for a license amendment that would allow it to broadcast non-CPAC-sounding stuff like music on Canada Day every year. Now it can let loose in an explosion of patriotism on July 1.
  • Vision TV has given up and is now asking viewers to figure out its programming.
  • Cogeco has asked to move its transmitter for CFGE-FM (Rhythme FM) in Sherbrooke and increase its transmitter power to improve reception.
  • MusiquePlus has gotten authorization to hand over its 3.4% of revenues required for the production of Canadian music videos to MaxFACT instead of VideoFACT. The difference is mainly that MaxFACT is what MusiMax gives its money to and this would simplify things for them. The request got an intervention from ADISQ which was concerned that there would be less money for youth-oriented music videos as well as those from Quebec anglophones. MusiquePlus responded that it has no control over the procedures used by MaxFACT to allocate it money.
  • The CRTC is mad at CHRC in St. Catharines for violating a number of conditions of its license. There is, of course, no actual penalty associated with such violations as long as you promise not to do it again.
  • The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has dismissed a complaint against CJMF-FM in Quebec City regarding a promotion related to driving while on a cellphone. The CBSC concluded that the station was not, in fact, advocating that people drive while illegally talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device.

Taxi 0-22 $

The Quebec version of Cash Cab has started filming. Unlike its anglo Canadian counterpart, Taxi payant not trying to pass itself off as educational or science programming, instead headed for the generalist TQS network.

There’s a comment to be made here about yet another international reality show franchise being licensed for local adaptation and that qualifying as original programming, but it’s too sad to analyze, so I’ll let the CRTC do it for me:

The Commission notes that TVA broadcasts a significant amount of Canadian programming and applauds that fact. However, the Commission notes that for several years TVA has been broadcasting programs based on foreign concepts and produced in-house or by independent Canadian producers. These include the popular programs Star Académie, Le Banquier, Le Cercle and La Classe de cinquième. The Commission notes that other conventional French-language broadcasters are also taking part in this trend, including the CBC (Tout le monde en parle, Pyramide) and TQS (Wipeout, Le mur, Call TV).

The Commission is concerned by this growing trend is to the detriment of the development of creative Canadian and Quebec talent. The Commission intends to discuss the issue at the 2011 public hearing.

Rue Frontenac has a story.


CTV is planning two hours of coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial service Tuesday afternoon, cutting out regular daytime programming. That’s nothing compared to the hours upon hours of coverage planned for CTV News Channel, MuchMusic, CP24 and other CTV-owned networks.

Could you imagine such a thing being done for a Canadian celebrity? It certainly wasn’t done for Romeo Leblanc, a former governor general. Or this kind of special-event programming on any kind of local level? Except for elections, local stations haven’t cut into programming since the Dawson shootings in 2006.

Print media isn’t dead yet, SF Chronicle hopes

The San Francisco Chronicle’s 15-year deal with Montreal-based Transcontinental to print its newspaper officially began today, and the paper heralded the new (outsourced) presses that allow for more colour. That, of course, is being mocked in the usual places.

You’ll recall that Transcontinental signed an 18-year deal with the Globe and Mail to print their newspaper last year.

UPDATE: A short piece in the New York Times that questions the point.

Healing Rwanda (with Gorillas!)

If you haven’t already, you should check out Phil Carpenter’s video from Rwanda, where he travelled for the month of May as part of a program to teach locals about multimedia journalism.

Climbing a Thousand Hills from Phil Carpenter on Vimeo.

It goes with a feature in Saturday’s paper about how the country is recovering 15 years after a devastating genocide. You can read his dispatches from Rwanda, with more photos, on the Gazette’s photography blog The Lens.

Astral ditches Energie for NRJ


Astral Media, the folks who decided to bring Virgin Radio branding (and programming) to stations including Montreal’s CJFM 95.9, has decided to do something similar with their French-language Énergie network, dumping that brand in favour of France-based NRJ Radio.

The press release (also on their website) reassures listeners about keeping local hosts and promoting local talent, but also talks about new programming that would come from this international network that operates in more than a dozen countries around the world.

There are just so many hours in the broadcast day, so expect some of the non-vedettes at Énergie (CKMF and what’s left of regional stations) to lose their jobs as Astral finds more efficiencies bringing in cheap, syndicated foreign content instead of paying locals to act as DJs.

The changeover is scheduled for August 24.

UPDATE: More from Les Affaires.

“This is not journalism”

GlobalPost, the Boston-based startup of foreign correspondents that is trying to make money, is supposed to be “high-quality journalism” covering stories that are “left aside“.

So would an 1,157-word report about the Daily Show and Colbert Report that summarizes the shows, links to articles elsewhere, embeds some videos and apparently can’t count to four be too unprofessional for this high-quality organization?

Apparently not.