Monthly Archives: December 2010

Radio ratings: 98.5FM on the rise

One of the stories I missed while I was, you know, working for a living, was the latest radio ratings numbers. As usual, the changes are for the most part minor, a point or two up or down, which changes little but the blood pressure of station managers.

One thing that is noteworthy is the rise of CHMP 98.5FM, Corus’s (soon to be Cogeco’s) French-language talk-radio station. It’s particularly apparent in the all-important morning rush, where Paul Arcand’s Puisqu’il faut se lever is rising pretty spectacularly in the ratings, as you can see from the chart above compiled by Astral.

BBM doesn’t measure why people listen to what they do, but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this is due to the strength of his interviews and regular contributors.

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a lot of the news I get coming from this station. CHMP is where the Journal de Montréal’s Michelle Coudé-Lord went to refute accusations against her by one of her locked-out employees (she appeared with Benoit Dutrizac, who does the afternoon show). It has the particular advantage of being a neutral party in the so-called guerre des médias, being owned by neither Gesca, Radio-Canada or Quebecor.

As if on cue, La Presse’s Nathalie Collard did a profile of Arcand and his show, and talked to him about people who fear his hot seat. Listening to his sometimes confrontational interview style, it’s easy to see why. But he’s getting so big that, like Tout le monde en parle, some people can’t afford not to appear there.

UPDATE (Jan. 1): An Agence QMI poll shows Arcand is by far the most notable radio personality.

Year-in-review scoreboard

Ah, year-in-review time. It’s when media – particularly newspapers, but others as well – forgo reporting the day-to-day news and take to recapping events that happened within the past 12 months. Some get introspective and discuss how the stories they covered affected them. Others compile the events of the year and try to find some deeper meaning or pattern, something to describe it that is somehow different than the calendar year that preceded it.

And then there are the rankings. Top 10 X of the year, where X can stand for just about anything. Like TIME’s person of the year, they sound like they have a lot more significance than they really do.

More than half a century ago, Canadian Press, the formerly co-operative news service used by the majority of newspapers, started awarding accolades for its Newsmaker of the Year, based on a poll of its members.

These year-ending stories solve three problems that present themselves at this time of year – particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s:

  1. In newspapers particularly, this is a peak time for advertising. The increased advertising means papers get larger to accommodate them, and that also increases the amount of editorial copy needed.
  2. Like any other worker in a regular job, journalists like to take time off during the holidays. Writing these lookback features is an easy way to bank stories for use when the newsroom is practically deserted and only a skeleton staff of reporters is on duty.
  3. Just about every industry stops doing anything newsworthy during this week. There are few major political announcements, few major reports being released, few major events on television, and little in the way of business stories. In short, there’s very little actual news that happens at this time of year.

So, for these reasons, we live with this phenomenon, though recently it’s come with a bit of a change: Two major competitors have emerged for Canadian Press: Postmedia News (the former Canwest newspapers, including my employer The Gazette) and QMI Agency (Quebecor/Sun Media, including the Journal de Montréal, 24 Heures and the Toronto Sun). As those newspaper chains pulled out of CP, they setup domestic and international bureaus where needed, and shared stories between their papers and clients.

And, of course, they have to choose their own annual newsmakers. After all, what’s the point of setting up your own wire service if you don’t get to have a bit of judgmental fun? (Though it should be pointed out that some of these are based on the votes of the general public, not just journalists and editors in newsrooms.)

With most of the announcements already made, here’s what the scoreboard looks like (winners in bold, with runners-up where given):

Category Canadian Press Postmedia News QMI Agency Others
News story Vancouver Olympics BP oil spill (poll)

Haitian earthquake (editors)

Vancouver Olympics
News maker Russell Williams

Sidney Crosby

Stephen Harper

Justin Bieber

Russell Williams (poll)

Julian Assange (editors)

Russell Williams Maclean’s: Sidney Crosby
Athlete Cyberpresse: Joannie Rochette (online vote)

Lou Marsh Award: Joey Votto Georges St-Pierre (online vote)

Male athlete Sidney Crosby

Joey Votto

Alex Bilodeau

Jonathan Toews

Joey Votto

Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews

Alex Bilodeau

Erik Guay

Joey Votto CBC: Joey Votto
Female athlete Joannie Rochette

Clara Hughes

Christine Nesbitt

Maëlle Ricker

Jennifer Heil

Christine Nesbitt

Joannie Rochette

Heather Moyse

Joannie Rochette CBC: Joannie Rochette
Sports team Olympic men’s hockey team

Montreal Alouettes (CFL)

Olympic women’s hockey team

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Université Laval football team

CBC: Olympic men’s hockey team
Business event Shale gas exploration

Canadian debt

Earl Jones sentence

“Eric and Lola”

Quebec 2010-11 budget


Business personality Jim Flaherty Pierre-Karl Péladeau


BNN: Brad Wall

It doesn’t stop there, though. Many news outlets come up with other “of the year”s:

And, of course, there are local newsmakers of the year, and plenty of lists of top picks for just about everything a beat reporter can think of.

Hang in there, folks. Real news should return within a week or so.

*QMI Agency prompted a lot of guffawing on Twitter when it broadcasted that Pierre-Karl Péladeau was its business personality of the year. The news was based on a poll (apparently only done in Quebec, though that’s not made clear in the story), and Report on Business Magazine also named him one of three CEOs of the year. But still, having your own news agency pay so much attention to you is a bit … weird, at least.

CFCF looks at itself

I didn’t catch this on Christmas Day (because, sadly, I was working), but CFCF aired a half-hour year-in-review special in place of its regular newscast. It featured some discussions with CTV staff, and little packaged bits from reporters about their favourite stories of the year.

Artist's conception of the new studio planned for CFCF's newscast

You can watch the whole thing on its website, but the highlight for local TV buffs is the final segment, which takes a look at their plans for a new studio (hinting that the newscast will be in HD in 2012), and finishes off with bloopers (the funniest ones involving Paul Karwatsky).

Fagstein’s 2010-11 guide to holiday transit

The lucky of us either have cars or have family with cars that can shuttle us around. Or we have enough money for taxis that we don’t have to worry about taking a bus or metro or train. For the rest, this guide to service changes during the holiday season.

As I have in previous years, I ask that you have some sympathy for the bus, metro or train driver, station attendant or other employee who has to work during the holidays – some on Christmas morning, some through midnight on New Year’s Eve – just so that you can get you from point A to point B in the dark, wet, snowy mess that is the last week of the year.

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Wait a second, I’m giving money to a brewery?

Now I feel slightly less guilty about not giving my spare change to panhandlers

I asked you to show your support, and once again the response was “whatever”, but I have enough of an existing audience that the Old Brewery Mission will still be slightly richer for the Christmas season.

For the record, my Feedburner subscription count went up a whoppingly massive nine, while my Twitter follower count went up by a slightly more respectable 46. So $650 for existing feed subscribers + $9 for new feed subscribers + $23 for new Twitter followers + a bonus $214.7 for existing Twitter followers ($0.10 each) = $896.70 to help society’s forgotten.

So as the charity thanks me for my donation, I thank you for your continued support, and particularly thank the Gazette, my employer for 11 of the past 12 months, whose union wage scale (combined with my lack of dependents and serious medical issues) means I have the kind of money to stupidly give away like this.

Merry Christmas, folks.

p.s. If you totally want to show me up, or even just feel a bit less bad for the fact that I’m donating my money in your name, you can make your own donation. The Old Brewery Mission accepts money online through

Dear Véro and Louis

Hi, how are you doing? You look a bit stressed. Here, have some tea and sit down.

OK… so, you probably know why I asked you here. That whole Bye-Bye thing. You know, you boycotting Quebecor and all. I don’t know if it was your intention to create such a firestorm, but you should have expected it.

Two full pages in the Journal de Montréal on Tuesday devoted to your decision to settle the scores, as they say. Two articles from the Journal’s Michelle Coudé-Lord condemning your decision and Radio-Canada for supporting you. That, of course, in turn has generated all sorts of press over at Gesca (a piece by Richard Therrien, a column by Hugo Dumas, a blog post by Patrick Lagacé) which has turned your Bye-Bye sequel into a media controversy 10 days before anyone actually sees it.

I know, I know, you’re mad. You’re both on Quebecor’s enemies list and you’re probably never going to come off. They used that giant media empire thing against you after the 2008 Bye-Bye and you felt like crap for months trying to deal with the fallout.

Here’s the thing: The backlash wasn’t some Quebecor empire fabrication. A lot of people took offence to some of the jokes in that television special. Even the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council had issues with it. Sure, Quebecor went crazy with it, mostly because it was funded with taxpayer money through Radio-Canada. But if you were going to boycott everyone who said mean things about the show, you’d be boycotting a lot of media.

Wait, hold on, can I finish? Please. Let me finish.

OK, so Quebecor doesn’t like you. It’s not like this is news. It’s been the case for so long even I don’t know why it started. I’d think you’d be used to it by now.

But this isn’t the way to handle it. You’re just playing their game, coming down to their level. It’s childish, and I expect better from you. As Lagacé points out, you’ve just created a controversy when your goal, ostensibly, is to avoid exactly that.

It would be one thing if you were taking a stand because of the Journal de Montréal lockout, or because Quebecor had done something particularly evil, or to protest Quebecor pulling out of the Quebec Press Council. But your main reason for refusing to accommodate Quebecor news outlets at your press conference is the coverage that was given to the last Bye-Bye … two years ago, before the Journal was even locked out.

Yeah, I know you haven’t talked to them since, and this boycott isn’t new, but nobody noticed before because the Journal doesn’t talk about you unless you do something bad.

And surely you understand the bad precedent that’s set when people refuse to speak to journalists whose coverage they don’t like.

Plus, now you’re bringing the people you’re working with into the fray. Joël Legendre’s relationship with the Journal is starting to look bipolar. He likes them, he hates them, he loves them, he won’t speak to them… A bit silly, don’t you think?

And come on, you’re not new at this media thing. You’ve been in show business for years now. Véro, you’re on Montreal’s most listened to radio station every day, and you host one of Quebec’s hottest new television shows. Louis … I understand you also have a career. I think I saw your face on a DVD of something at Future Shop.

Louis, don’t leave, I was just kidding. I know you work hard too. Come back.

OK, I realize Quebecor is this giant media behemoth, but you’ve shown that you don’t need their cooperation to succeed. Heck, you should consider it a compliment that they focus so much attention toward you.

Like it or not, you signed up for this. Nobody forced you into becoming stars. You can’t have your faces put up on billboards all over the place and then complain when a photographer takes a picture of you at the airport. You have the right to privacy, and you have the right to keep your children outside the spotlight, but you can’t just disappear when the news about you is unflattering and not expect people to go looking for you.

I’m gonna talk to Michelle Coudé-Lord, try to talk some sense into her. But … you’re letting them play the victim here (letting the peanut gallery take their side). And if your goal is peace in this media war, this isn’t the way you’re going to get it.

Please bury the hatchet. Swallow your pride, or you’re going to have a bad taste in your mouth for a long time.

Oh, and Véro, please, stop undressing me with your eyes. I mean, Louis is sitting right there. And he’s … wait, is he also undressing me with his eyes?

Dear Michelle Coudé-Lord,

Here, have a seat. I promise there aren’t any Cloutier cooties on it.

How are you doing? Boy, you must be ready for a vacation. Almost two years now you’ve been without a reporting staff, having to fill the Arts & Spectacles section with wire pieces, stuff from other Quebecor publications and whatever original content you and your fellow managers can come up with. I’m not exactly shedding tears for your paper, but I understand if this period has caused some stress among its middle managers.

Anyway, so those articles you had in the paper. Two of them. Was it really necessary to devote a full page (plus a full section cover page) to the fact that the Bye-Bye crew wouldn’t talk to you? And is it really surprising after what you did to them two years ago? You say that coverage after the 2008 Bye-Bye was fair and balanced, but you can’t possibly say with a straight face that it wasn’t excessive.

And really, “vengeance”? You make them sound like a dictator who destroyed an entire village because some woman in a bar wouldn’t accept his propositions. They had a hissy fit, and now you’re having a hissy fit over their hissy fit, forcing everyone else to have a hissy fit over your hissy fit over their hissy fit.

I explained to Véro and Louis that what they did wasn’t a good idea. They were letting themselves be guided by emotion rather than wisdom.

But surely you understand that it’s hypocritical for you to play the victim on behalf of Quebecor here. Your paper is no longer a member of the Quebec Press Council, arguing against regulation (even though it’s not government-run and has no power to impose penalties) and in favour of the free market. You have to accept that freedom also means the freedom not to talk to you, even if this is the government-funded Radio-Canada.

You appeal to the size of your audience as if somehow without talking to you they could never hope to reach those people. As if that alone meant that anyone on the government payroll (or even who receives money from the government) must give you an interview. I see how you think answering your questions about a show during a press conference is like a government agency answering an access-to-information request about its expenses, but it’s not. You want to interview a celebrity, and you’re whining because you’re being turned down.

And, come on Michelle. Certainly you realize the irony of complaining about how people aren’t giving you interviews, and then refusing to speak to reporters from La Presse and Le Soleil about this very same issue.

I also found it funny that the page next to the one complaining about Véro and Louis is a full page puff piece devoted to how Quebecor creation Marie-Élaine Thibert has an album that went gold.

Looking at these pages, can you really blame people for getting the impression that Quebecor rewards its celebrities and attacks those who don’t play by its rules?

Aren’t you tired of being seen as a pawn of the Quebecor media narrative machine, whether or not you think it’s true?

Think about it. Get some sleep. Maybe when you’re rested you can see this with a clear head and realize all the damage this media war has done, and maybe you’ll be the bigger person and decide to do something about it.


K103 cancels Laurie and Olga show

Laurie Macdonald and Olga Gazdovic, who were canned in a mass firing from CJAD in 2009 but got picked up by Kahnawake’s K103 CKRK in May, are once again without a home on Montreal’s airwaves.

The two announced last Saturday on the air that that show would be their last. Starting Jan. 1, country music will be returning to the weekend airwaves on the station.

According to acting station manager Kenneth Deer, the decision was strictly a matter of financing: A contract with The Bar B Barn, which sponsored Laurie and Olga, ends on Dec. 31, and the station has found sponsors for their country and western music weekend programming.

“Our community has a large country and western music following,” Deer explained in an email. “We ran C&W Weekend for about 28 years up until recently. The station was in financial trouble so a decision was made to cut loose our country DJs and go to automation on the weekend. In all the years we ran the C&W Weekend, we never were able to sell advertising or get a sponsor to cover our costs. It became a drag on our bottom line. So we dropped the country and western show and played contemporary music instead. Mostly on automation.”

Shortly after bringing in Laurie and Olga and cutting country music, K103 even “passed the torch” for country to KKIC 106.7, a Kahnawake station that unlike CKRK operates without a license from the CRTC.

So I guess this means they’re stealing that torch back.

While cutting costs, the change was a wakeup call to the Kahnawake community.

“We got very bad public reaction for cutting the C&W Weekend,” Deer said. “The feedback was we were abandoning the community for other audiences. There were other events related to the station like our financial situation that added to the negative reaction.”

The hiring of Ted Bird as a morning man, while not universally condemned in the community, also contributed to the impression that K103 was putting its quest for a Montreal audience ahead of its commitment to Kahnawake.

“Since we are a publicly owned institution, and not a private enterprise, we had to listen to our community and make some changes,” Deer said. “We found sponsors who would cover the costs if we brought back the C&W Weekend. In 28 years this has never happened before. I suppose we were just taken for granted all these years.”

Macdonald was brief and resigned when asked about the cancellation: “From what I understand, the ‘community’ missed their country music, and change is difficult for some,” she write in an email. “Olga and I had a great experience and were sorry to learn of the programming change but all good things must come to an end.”

Deer also wasn’t overjoyed at the idea that Laurie and Olga had to go.

“We understand that Laurie and Olga have a loyal following and if there was something else we could do to accommodate them, we would. Perhaps some day, our Sunday programming may change and there could be space for them if they are still interested. But right now this is the direction we are going in.

“We hope that Laurie and Olga find a place somewhere on the airways in the Montreal area. They have been very professional in their performance and have a loyal following. Somebody should pick them up.”

UPDATE (Jan. 6): The Gazette’s Cheryl Cornacchia looks at the community reaction to the disappearance and return of country music to K103.

CRTC caves in to Cogeco

The CRTC, which sets rules regarding concentration of ownership in broadcast media, decided it could simply ignore them in a ruling on Friday that gave Cogeco the right to buy almost all the assets of Corus Quebec.

Specifically, Cogeco would buy 11 stations for $80 million, including Montreal’s 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92), CFQR-FM.

In Montreal:


  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivières
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

The biggest problem with the acquisition is that it would violate a CRTC rule that says one company can’t own more than two stations in each language on each band in each market. Cogeco was willing to get around this by selling stations in Quebec City and converting one in Sherbrooke into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station.

But it wanted an exception in Montreal. CHMP 98.5 is the flagship station of the Corus talk radio network, and Rythme FM (CFGL) and CKOI are the No. 1 and No. 2 music stations, making them a whole lot of money. Cogeco said that a requirement to sell one of those stations would torpedo the whole deal (CKOI alone represents half the cost of the acquisition), and promised that in exchange for this special consideration they would hire journalists throughout Quebec and create a talk-radio news agency.

And the CRTC caved. Well, mostly.

They didn’t buy the idea of turning Sherbrooke’s CKOY FM into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station, and gave Cogeco a year to find a buyer for it. They also made a strict condition that Cogeco’s plan for a news agency continue, so they can’t pull a bait and switch.

That part is good news. The idea of Cogeco Nouvelles sounds good. At least the part about them hiring 33 full-time journalists and spending $3 million a year on news sounds good. The part about sharing content sounds a lot like the regional stations will all take the majority of their content from Montreal and insert a bare minimum of local stories just to justify their license.

But still, considering how little actual journalism comes out of private radio in Quebec, on the whole this is good.

There are also a few additional incentives to sweeten the deal, like this: Cogeco will “provide its services free-of-charge to groups operating fewer than three French-language radio stations in Quebec’s small markets as long as they agree to supply COGECO Nouvelles with news from their markets. The service’s content will also be available free-of-charge to community radio stations.”


But as nice as all that is, and I hope Cogeco Nouvelles succeeds, the problem of radio competition remains. Instead of three players in the Quebec francophone (popular) music scene in Montreal, there would be two, representing an astonishing 95% of advertising revenue in the biggest market in Quebec. And that’s true for both the French and English-language markets in Montreal. If you discount jazz, classical and CBC/Radio-Canada’s stations, the two will own all seven music stations (four francophone, three anglophone) in Montreal.

Much of the debate at the CRTC seemed to be about Astral Media, which owns the NRJ and Rock Détente networks and is seen as a major player in the regions. But rather than acknowledge that there’s a serious problem with Astral Media owning stations that should be competing with each other (this is particularly true in Montreal’s anglophone market, where Astral owns CHOM 97.7, CJFM 95.9 Virgin Radio and CJAD 800), the CRTC decided that the best response was to create an even bigger behemoth in Cogeco.

With the acquisition, Cogeco stations would have an astounding 46.6% market share in the Montreal francophone market and 22.4% in the anglophone market, or 41.3% total. Astral, meanwhile, has a 31.4% share in the francophone market and a 55.4% share in the anglophone market. Note that all these numbers don’t exclude CBC/Radio-Canada stations. When you consider just commercial stations, or as a share of ad revenues, those numbers are even higher.

The suggestion that this would somehow “restore a competitive balance” is silly.

The Montreal-less network

There’s also a problem that isn’t being considered very well here: While Cogeco argues that regional talk-radio stations need the resources and “expertise” of Montreal’s 98.5 FM, it also plans to sell stations in the regions to a third party that won’t be able to setup a Montreal station if they want to build a network.

For example, CKOI is a brand network in Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City. As part of the acquisition, Cogeco will have to sell the Sherbrooke and Quebec City stations in this network, but not the Montreal one. And there isn’t exactly a lot of extra space on the dial for someone to setup a new francophone music station in Montreal. So not only would anyone who wants to buy these stations have to change their brands (along with the Rythme FM station in Quebec City), but they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of whatever efficiencies Astral and Corus/Cogeco think they have found with multi-region brands.

Personally, I think music radio stations can do fine without needing to belong to a Montreal-network (some names are already popping up as potential buyers). But it’s funny that Cogeco puts such a strong emphasis on the need for a Montreal flagship station for its talk radio network but has no problem with other people having radio stations in the regions without a Montreal-based moneymaker to keep them afloat.

In conclusion: Good for radio, bad for radio choice

I’m happy that the CRTC handled some of the issues I brought up in my criticism of Cogeco’s plan. And I’m happy that Cogeco is planning to setup a regional radio news network and hire journalists.

But this is a step backwards for radio diversity in Montreal, at a time when the city desperately needs more competition in commercial radio.

The CRTC should review its rules for media concentration, particularly because the public seems to be abandoning the AM band and because Montreal’s numbers suggest that commercial music stations aren’t strictly segregated on the basis of language.

Montreal has seven commercial radio stations that all play popular music that sounds a lot alike. It should have more than two companies running them.

More coverage in:

UPDATE (Jan. 12): Almost a month after the CRTC’s decision, and weeks before the transaction is set to close, Astral decides to appeal to the federal court to overturn it, saying it was “arbitrary and unreasonable” to change the rules at the last minute just for Cogeco. VP Claude Laflamme makes the point in the statement that “the sudden lack of predictability in the application of the CRTC policy penalizes all broadcasters which in the past decided not to pursue business opportunities in order to abide by the policy as formulated and as consistently applied.”

La Presse quotes Cogeco as counter-arguing that Astral controls 75% of the anglophone market (they own CJAD, CHOM and CJFM, but that doesn’t violate the CRTC’s rules), and they shouldn’t be pointing fingers about media concentration.

Note that while Astral suggests that Cogeco should have been forced to sell one of the music stations, it doesn’t have its eyes on them because it already owns two francophone FM stations in Montreal (CITE Rock Détente 107.3 and CKMF NRJ 94.3)

UPDATE (Jan. 14): Corus says it will, of course, fight this appeal, and that the Cogeco deal is still set to close on Feb. 1.

Lies, damn lies and metro statistics

Line Green (1) Orange (2) Yellow (4)* Blue (5)
Criminal acts 541 395 429 90
Ridership 87.7M 91.3M 34M 22.2M
Crimes per million 6.17 4.33 12.62 4.05

The Gazette leads today’s paper with statistics on crime in the metro system gleaned via an access-to-information request. Montreal police wouldn’t break down the crime by individual station – citing security concerns – but would do so by line (kinda). The Gazette concludes that the green line has the most crime, with 541 reported acts, compared to 395 for the orange line, which has more ridership.

It’s not surprising that the green line shows more reported crime (even though the numbers in absolute terms are pretty darn small, averaging about 1.5 crimes against a person – including theft – 2 crimes against property – theft burglary, vandalism – and less than one other criminal offence per day across the 64 Montreal police-patrolled stations). The green line not only has the busiest stations, but goes through the downtown core, as well as some of the city’s poorer areas, like Pointe St. Charles and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. But, of course, this is just conjecture until more detailed statistics come out.

*The STM curiously decided to lump the four transfer stations in with the yellow line statistics, even though only one of those four transfer stations actually serves the yellow line. Considering the Longueuil station isn’t included in the statistics (because it’s in Longueuil police territory) and the traffic through the Jean-Drapeau station is negligible (about 5% of the total traffic for the five stations included in that statistic), you can basically read “yellow” above to mean the four transfer stations.

The statistics show that it’s those transfer stations that are the most likely to result in crimes when you divide the total crimes by station. But then, even those statistics lie, because ridership numbers only count passages through turnstiles, they don’t count transfers between lines.

So all we can really say here is that statistically, crimes are more likely to happen on the green line than the orange line or the blue line, not counting the transfer stations. Which is hardly going to stop people from taking the green line.

And while we wait to see if The Gazette can get the access to information commission to force the police to release more detailed data, we can just take some comfort in the fact that, on average, a metro station will see a criminal act worth reporting only 22 times a year, or once every 16 days.

Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

These Métro newspaper stands will be replaced by ones distributing 24 Heures

A 10-year deal that has given a huge competitive advantage to one of Montreal’s two (officially) free daily newspapers is about to come to an end.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced today that 24 Heures, the freesheet owned by Quebecor’s Sun Media, has won its bid for exclusive distribution access in the metro system in a five-year (extendable) deal that starts on Jan. 3. As of that point, it will replace Transcontinental’s Métro, which has had this exclusive access since it began publishing in 2001.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Even though the two competing papers were launched virtually simultaneously, have the same type of content and even share similar design styles, this distribution deal meant that Métro could fill stands inside each station and let people pick the paper up throughout the day, while 24 Heures had to settle for being able to hand their paper out to people outside metro entrances. The result was that Métro at one point had four times the readership of 24 Heures.

Since then, the numbers have evened out a bit, but Métro is still significantly ahead of 24 Heures in the quest for eyeballs.

The exclusivity deal angered Quebecor so much that it tried to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight it. That battle was lost in 2005. Deciding that if you can’t fight them, might as well join then, 24 Heures then signed an exclusivity deal with the Agence métropolitaine de transport for distribution in train stations in 2006. And now it gets the metro deal as well (and it’s very happy about that).

The deal with the STM also includes a requirement to offer a page in each issue to the STM to communicate with its users. (The STM will need to change its format a bit, since the new newspaper is smaller.) And expect that there will be a provision for recycling their own newspapers, similar to what Métro had. (Does that mean the recycling bins will be orange instead of green?)

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The Third Annual Fagstein Subscription Challenge

I got so much money, I'm giving it awaaaaaaaay!

I made so much money this year, it made me go CRAZY!

I don’t know why, but I still have a job. And because I don’t have a life a dozen kids, pets and other regular expenses, I’ve decided once again to give away some of the cash I’ve been hoarding to a different financial black hole: a local charity. And the amount will depend on you.

If you’re new to this, you can see the posts from 2008 and 2009, but the idea is the more people who subscribe to this blog via feed readers (like Google Reader), the more money I give away. According to my spies at Feedburner, the current subscriber count is 1,250, which is pathetically similar to what it was a year ago. Like last year, I’ll start with $0.50 for each of those people as a base ($650), and add $1 for every new subscriber after one week, to a maximum of $1,000 (just in case this goes viral and I end up having to pay a quadrillion dollars or something).

As a bonus, I’m also donating $0.50 for each new Twitter follower (spammers and other non-human accounts not included, along with those who have astronomical following counts). At the moment of writing this, that number is 2,147. Again, this will be up to a maximum of $1,000 (so don’t bother following me if the count hits 3,147, I guess) – yeah, I know everyone’s doing it, and for more money, but I don’t have Véro cash.

The recipient of my stupid crazy giveaway this year will be the Old Brewery Mission, who will no doubt then add me to a mailing list like Dans la Rue and the Welcome Hall Mission, where I will be reminded regularly through the mail of how my contributions are helping people.

As if I care about helping people. I’m in this to get famous, and giving money to readers directly doesn’t give me a tax receipt.

This not-contest ends exactly one week from now, at noon (ish) on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

P.S. Speaking of giveaways, I have a small collection of swag – some media-related, others of local interest – that people have handed me over the past little while that I can’t really use because it offends my ethical sensibilities. I haven’t figured out the most fun way of distributing this stuff to those who might enjoy it, so I welcome your suggestions below. A charity auction? A party? A contest? Use it to bribe people into becoming friends with me? Just throw it in the garbage? Hand it to Jean Naimard where his burning rage will cause it to immediately combust?

Two weathertudes

Left: Summer; Right: Winter

Apparently the part of the city east of the Olympic Stadium is in winter right now. But the part west of it is still summer.

The Olympic Stadium sits just on the edge of summer

Good thing I live on the west side.

Is Quebecor evil?

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that only one case of a scab working for the Journal had been proven. There are actually two that have gotten rulings from the labour board. Thanks to J.F. Codère for pointing it out in a comment.

N.B.: Une version française de ce billet a été publié dans Trente, le journal du Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec.

I’ve always liked to think of myself as open-minded. It’s a good quality for a journalist, and one that I don’t think enough of them have.

For most of this blog’s existence, there has been a major labour conflict at a Quebecor-owned newspaper – the Journal de Québec in 2007 and 2008, and the Journal de Montréal in 2009 and 2010. In between there have been all sorts of depressing news for journalists in general as the media industry seems to be in a state of slow collapse.

Like many of my journalist colleagues, my first reaction to Quebecor’s lockout of its two largest newspapers was to take the side of the workers. Whether or not I agreed with what they wrote when they were employed by Quebecor, they are mere pawns in the media game being played by the great Quebecor Empire. They are the Luke Skywalkers to Pierre Karl Péladeau’s Darth Vader.

But in my admittedly limited experience as a journalist, I’ve learned that situations aren’t nearly as black and white as they may seem to be. Society’s villains aren’t all Hitler-like caricatures of pure cartoonish evil, motivated solely by greed and hatred of puppies. And its heroes aren’t all pure good.

So while some may throw it out as a given, I sit here and ask myself a question that requires a lot of thought before I can answer:

Is Quebecor evil?

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