Monthly Archives: November 2009

Non-Montreal Geography Trivia

Let’s expand our horizons a bit and get off the island this week.

The following is a geography quiz question unrelated to Montreal, but not too far from it either.

Trivia Nov. 23

What is this the shape of?

UPDATE: Well, I didn’t fool nobody this week. Everyone clued in, but Mathieu Leduc-Hamel was the first to say the magic number: 132. The entire highway from the U.S. border at Dundee all the way up to Gaspé and then back to form a loop that ends at Sainte-Flavie is 1,577 kilometres long (according to Google Maps), but only 678 kilometres if you don’t do that loop at the end.

Following a straighter line is Highway 138, which is 1,373km including a ferry trip at Tadoussac on the mouth of the Saguenay river. But that doesn’t include a 70km section near the Labrador border at Blanc-Sablon. Since there’s no road from Natashquan to Vieux-Fort, getting there requires doubling back, taking the ferry to Matane, travelling through northern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, taking another ferry from Sydney to Newfoundland, driving the western Newfoundland coast and taking yet another ferry to Blanc-Sablon, a trip of 2,395km that would take almost two days of continuous driving.

What if we stopped subsidizing local TV?

One of the arguments used against conventional television broadcasters in Canada – CTVglobemedia and my corporate overlord Canwest especially – in this whole fee-for-carriage debate is that they’re both giant megacorporations and own a slew of cash-cow specialty television channels.

The broadcasters counter that they can’t take profits from one part of the business and subsidize another.

As much as the knee-jerk consumer reaction might be that this is exactly what they should do, they’re right. It makes no business sense for a profit-generating enterprise to not be generating profit. If conventional television doesn’t make money, then subsidy or no subsidy, it will eventually be shut down.

CTV and Canwest purchased their specialty arsenals knowing the conventional model was going down the toilet. If it came down to it, neither would have any trouble shutting down their entire conventional network and moving completely to specialty channels. But conventional TV is still making money (only just) and they’re betting on a fee-for-carriage solution to get them more.

But as much as the broadcasters are arguing against subsidizing their own operations, they have no trouble demanding exactly that from cable and satellite broadcast distribution companies. Not only do they benefit directly from the new Local Programming Improvement Fund in small markets, but their expensive Canadian dramas and comedies get large subsidies from the Canadian Media Fund, formerly the Canadian Television Fund. Both of these funds get their income from cable and satellite companies.

And cross-subsidization is what the conventional broadcasters do for local programming. In fact, even though they constantly whine that the “model is broken”, the basic premise of using profits from reselling U.S. programming to fund Canadian and local programming remains. This isn’t done because CTV and Global have hearts of gold and see the value in homegrown television, it’s because the CRTC forces them to air this kind of programming as conditions of license.

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The cyclist’s left-turn dilemma solved?

These police officers are acting legally

These police officers are acting legally

The Gazette’s Max Harrold looks into an issue I’ve wondered about since I started urban cycling: If a cyclist is always supposed to keep to the right, how do you make a left turn on a multi-lane road?

Either go to the next intersection and cross there or, if and only if there aren’t many cars around, signal you are shifting lanes with your left arm and move into the left lane and then turn at an intersection, like a vehicle would, said Suzanne Lareau, head of the cycling advocacy group Vélo-Québec.

Vélo-Québec is an advocacy group, so its interpretation isn’t legal, but it seems to indicate that when it comes to left turns, cyclists should act like drivers and move into a left lane (except when there are lots of cars around, making multiple lane changes more difficult). Which means that the police officers on bicycles above that I spotted earlier this summer on Côte Vertu Blvd. were making a legal turn.

Of course, that doesn’t stop drivers from honking at you.

La Presse: Two weeks and counting

UPDATE (Nov. 20): At 3:30am, an agreement in principle with three of the remaining unions, including the journalists. All that remains is distribution, but that’s the bargaining unit that La Presse wants to fire half of.

The deal still needs to be approved by the members, and we don’t know which side caved on the various demands, but the union seems to think this is the best offer they could get.

In case you forgot, La Presse is shutting down on Dec. 1.

While many have dismissed this over-the-top threat (they’d also shut down as an insane bluff, Gesca has reinforced it, reportedly arranging for BlackBerrys to be returned next week. Managers and employees are clearing out their desks, and the atmosphere in the newsroom is very tense.

The union, which was in negotiations today and will meet with members on Saturday, released this video in which Richard Labbé and Isabelle Masse sing (!) about what people would lose if La Presse gets shut down:

Mind you, I think Patrick Lagacé could find employment elsewhere, and there are lots of options for crosswords.

UPDATE: Rue Frontenac watched the video.

Le Devoir website redesigns … again

A month ago, Le Devoir launched a redesign of its website. It lasted only a few hours until, crippled by technical problems, it reverted back to its old design.

Now the newspaper has tried again, with the same design, but hopefully a more robust back end.

The look is a huge change from the previous design (you can see a gallery of previous designs at the end of this article explaining the new website). It looks a lot more professional, in both the good and bad ways. It’s slick, but it’s very busy. It has a lot of unnecessary text on homepages. Those homepages are also long:

Really long Le Devoir homepage

Really long Le Devoir homepage

Despite the visual changes, the essentials are the same. Le Devoir remains one of the few dailies in the country to restrict some content to paid subscribers. Uncoincidentally, it also features ads very prominently offering subscriptions.

Nicolas Ritoux has some details about the genesis of the new design, from this article published when they tried to launch it a month ago.

One thing I notice right off is that while they now have photo galleries, there is no way to link directly to a Garnotte cartoon (unless I link directly to the JPEG file). It’s a common problem with newspaper websites big and small.

Le Devoir turns 100 on Jan. 10.

A study into Quebec media

Quebec culture minister Christine St-Pierre announced at the FPJQ conference that she has ordered a study be done on the future of media in Quebec. Dominique Payette, a professor at Université Laval and former journalist for Radio-Canada, has been put in charge of this study.

The scope seems to be pretty large, and could touch on everything from whether newspapers should be subsidized to whether the government should fund a news department at Télé-Québec. (My knee-jerk reaction to both would be “no”.)

Although the situation in Quebec media is different from the rest of the world (some would say we’re behind the times, which is a plus for newspapers and television networks), I don’t know if it’s so different that a study like this will bring any new insight into this debate that has already been over-analyzed by self-proclaimed experts all over the world.

More information at Le Devoir, Agence France-Presse (!) and Projet J, which has an interview with St-Pierre.

Murray Sherriffs joins CFQR morning show

Murray Sherriffs

Murray Sherriffs

Proving once again that when you leave Corus, you join Astral, and when you leave Astral, you join Corus*, Murray Sherriffs, the popular morning man on Mix 96, who was canned from the station when it rebranded as Virgin Radio in January, will return Monday as the morning news anchor on CFQR 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92). (via RadioInMontreal)

Sherriffs’s departure caused a lot of negative reaction from listeners, who saw it as the biggest mistake of the rebranding.

Sherriffs will join morning host Aaron Rand, who has been riding solo since fellow hosts Paul “Tasso” Zakaib and Suzanne Desautels were ditched in August. Another move that caused a lot of protest from listeners.

Also joining the team is fellow Astral castoff Sarah Bartok, whose previous job was at Astral’s CISL AM 650 in Vancouver. She’ll be the traffic reporter. She replaces Shaun McMahon, who moves from traffic to show producer.

*See DiMonte, Terry; Charles, Patrick

UPDATE: The Gazette has a story, with reader comments.

FPJQ election: 3/4 for the unionists

The last big reveal of the conference of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, the election of president and board members, happened today, and it was mostly a victory for Martin Bisaillon and his pro-union group, even though Bisaillon himself pulled out of the race after the OMGSCANDAL.

  • For president, Brian Myles (Le Devoir), who replaced Bisaillon on the unofficial ticket, won against François Cardinal (La Presse).
  • For the “region” (i.e. not-Montreal) administrator, Michel Corbeil (Le Soleil) lost to Nathalie Deraspe (Accès Laurentides)
  • For the three other administrator posts, Isabelle Richer (Radio-Canada) and André Noël (La Presse) both won (because Myles ran for president, they only ran two candidates), along with Florent Daudens (Radio-Canada). Defeated were Yann Pineau (La Presse), Lise Millette (Presse Canadienne) and Maurice Giroux (Point Sud).
  • The post for freelancer was acclaimed, Nicolas Langelier being the only candidate.

These people will join vice-president Richard Bousquet (Rue Frontenac) and secretary-treasurer Philippe Schnobb (Radio-Canada) on the board. If we look at it from a straight party perspective, the unionists have two of five seats on the board and the presidency. Hardly a majority, but will this send a bad message to managers and media bosses in Quebec that the FPJQ is moving toward taking sides (even if they say the point is not to do so)?

The Expos Five Years Later

Elias Makos, who used to work in the Expos’ marketing department before the franchise moved in 2004, moderated a panel at the recent sports journalism workshop at Concordia University looking at Montreal’s major-league baseball team.

And, fortunately for us, his work teaching Concordia students to handle video has come in handy here, and the entire hour-long discussion is available on YouTube:

It has more to do with the Expos and sports business than journalism, but it’s still a fascinating look at what went wrong with this franchise from people who know.

The panel includes:

Jack Todd, of course, also has some thoughts on the matter, which he shared in a column. His talk at the conference is recorded audio-only here, though there’s a lot of noise.

FPJQ award winners (with links)

Once again, journalists gathered together this weekend to pat each other on the back, handing out awards to honour the best of Quebec journalism over the past year.

And, as usual, La Presse and Radio-Canada were the big winners, and aren’t shy about showing it: La Presse, Radio-Canada. But Gesca’s Le Soleil and La Voix de l’Est also picked up awards, as did the Journal de St. François and H magazine. (Le Devoir also covered the awards even though it didn’t win any.)

The sole anglo winner is Sue Montgomery of The Gazette. And they’re very proud.

Since, like previous journalism awards announcements, nobody has thought to link news of the winners to the stories and photos they won for (Radio-Canada comes closest, linking only to its own reports), I’ve done so here for those I can find:

Prix Judith-Jasmin (writing)

See the FPJQ release for comments from the juries for each award

Prix Antoine-Désilets (photography)

See the FPJQ release for comments from the juries for each award

* Décarie’s photo was published before the lockout in January.

The 40 photos finalists will be on display at the Maison de la culture Ahuntsic – Cartierville from Jan. 14 to Feb. 20, 2010, as part of a tour of Quebec.

Other awards

The barrier stays

The barrier segregating Montreal West from the Ville Saint Pierre district of Lachine is here to stay. The Quebec Court of Appeal this week upheld a lower court ruling that Montreal West was within its rights to setup a barrier to car traffic between the two towns. Though Montreal (which the Lachine borough is part of now) may appeal, I’d wager their chances of getting heard at the Supreme Court level are slim. If the barrier comes down, it’ll be because of a deal among neighbours, not because a hand was forced by the courts.

Montreal West argues this isn’t about building a wall between rich and poor (there’s no restriction on pedestrian travel), but the only issue is safety. I couldn’t find any evidence of a problem when I checked it out two years ago. But it seems to be enough to convince people that it’s necessary. And that’s why it’s the same argument used by other cities who erect barriers between neighbours.

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Four Habs Fans … plus one

I have, in the past, been critical of amateur bloggers following pro sports teams. Particularly in the wake of the success of my employer’s Habs Inside/Out website, I just couldn’t fathom how people without access to the team and with daily jobs that might affect their posting schedule could ever really hope to compete for news. Even analysis, it seems, hasn’t been very convincing (though people talking out of their ass about what players the Canadiens should sign and what lines they should put them on is a problem in just about every medium).

But while many of these blogs are long gone from my RSS reader, one is proving me wrong. Four Habs Fans is reminding me that if you can’t be informative, you can at least be funny:


©FHF, or is it TFS? Or BGL or GMS or something...

It’s not perfect – they use acronyms for nicknames that makes it hard to follow if you’re new – and it’s rather sexist with the scantily-clad women (not that I … uhh … pay attention to the hotties or anything). But this Photoshop job alone has me singing its praises now.

Okay, maybe not singing. But I’ll offer them a lap dance.

Meanwhile, HIO’s Mike Boone – who also relies more on humour than original breaking news or analysis to create a following – is offering to liveblog Habs games from the home (or bar) of just about anyone with an HDTV and WiFi.

Grab the popcorn, the real local TV debate is about to begin

On Monday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will finally get down to meeting about the future of conventional broadcast television, and through a series of hearings lasting at least a week, will hear arguments from broadcasters, cable and satellite companies, unions, producers, and maybe even a few television watchers, about whether those who freely transmit television signals over the airwaves should be paid a fee by cable and satellite companies currently mandated to distribute that signal. If it does, it will then have to decide who pays for it, how much it will be (or how it’s negotiated) and where the money will go.

To prepare for it, TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin has a long panel discussion with four experts: the uncomfortably smiley Ian Morrison of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (who supports fee for carriage), the knowledgeable but detached Grant Robertson of the Globe and Mail, the nerdy Michael Geist (who, like Andrew Coyne, supports deregulation and increased consumer choice), and Norm Bolen, who represents producers (and supports fee for carriage) as president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association.

In the Globe and Mail, the story is told through the eyes of two former Canwest E! network stations: CHCH Hamilton, which was bought by Channel Zero and is trying to build a business model around being an all-news station during the day (70 hours a week of local news), and CHCA Red Deer, which it seems hasn’t been missed much since it was shut down on Aug. 31.

Meanwhile, even though the deadline for public comments has passed, both the Local TV Matters people and the Stop the TV Tax people are still running ads. The former has created a new one, which as usual vastly oversimplifies the issue.

The Gazette’s new columnists

The Gazette on Friday announced the fourth of its four new Friday Voice columnists, who will write about once a month each (rotating every week) on different issues:

In addition to these, local arboreal expert Bronwyn Chester, who had written a weekly feature called Tree Tuesday for the Spacing Montreal blog, now has a weekly column in The Gazette on Sundays called Island of Trees, and is leaving her unpaid Spacing column. She also has a blog devoted to the subject.