Monthly Archives: November 2011

Concordia broadcasters want a bigger audience

CJLO's AM antenna in Ville St. Pierre

Concordia University’s student-run television and radio stations are always looking up, looking for ways to grow. It’s been more than a decade now that both have gotten their funding directly from students instead of through the Concordia Student Union. They’ve since split their funding sources and have asked students for increases in their per-credit student fees.

CJLO, the radio station, has been transmitting at 1690 kHz since 2008, out of an antenna in Ville St. Pierre, just down the hill from its Loyola studio. It produces a full schedule of programming, most of it music-based but with some talk and information programs as well. But the 1 kilowatt transmitter on AM doesn’t reach out very far, and many students don’t have AM radios.

CUTV, the television station, has never had a broadcasting license. It can be seen on televisions on campus and on its website. Though it does produce a significant amount of programming, it’s nowhere near enough to fill a full schedule without repeating every program dozens of times.

Both stations are looking to increase their reach through new ways of broadcasting, and to do that they each need more money, so both are in the process of asking students for yet another increase in their per-credit fees.

In a referendum of Concordia Student Union members Tuesday to Thursday this week, CJLO is asking for an increase from 25 to 34 cents per credit. This works out to $10.20 a year for a full-time student taking five classes a semester. CUTV is asking for an increase from 18 cents to 34 cents per credit, which would almost double its funding.

UPDATE (Dec. 3): Both questions passed, The Link reports. Following a rubber-stamp from the university’s board, the fees will be applied to students’ tuition bills.

Broadcasting equipment at CJLO's offices, sending its signal online and to its AM transmitter

The plans

Here’s what they want to do to make themselves more accessible.

CJLO wants to setup a low-power FM retransmitter downtown, which would cover the downtown campus. “The frequency we are looking at is around 10 city blocks and no commercial station seems to want it,” station manager Stephanie Saretsky tells me. “We have been told by our AM consultant that the response from the CRTC should be favorable because of this fact. Obviously nothing is guarenteed, but CJLO cannot start the application process without the fee levy.”

The CRTC has said there isn’t more space on the FM dial in Montreal (106.7 is an exception, now that it has been vacated by Aboriginal Voices Radio and the pirate station KKIC, but an application is pending to use that frequency). But the city is saturated only in terms of high-powered stations. There are options available for low-power transmitters covering a small area, and this seems to be what CJLO is looking for – something just to cover the downtown campus, so students can tune in between classes.

CUTV, meanwhile, doesn’t want to setup a broadcast transmitter, but it does want to get on cable television, where most viewers are anyway. CUTV’s plan is to apply to the CRTC for a community channel license, which would require cable systems to carry the channel. In the short term, the station is looking to get time on VOX, the community channel run by Videotron.

Both plans are admirable, though the campaigns by both groups are tying the increased funding to the new broadcast licenses. Neither group has actually applied for one yet, and the likelihood of success is far from absolute. Getting a new FM transmitter in Montreal – even a low-power one – isn’t easy, particularly if it’s just retransmitting another station. The CRTC process is hardly a formality or a rubber-stamp. For CUTV, the group would have to convince the CRTC to give it a channel on the cable dial even though there already exists a television station in Montreal devoted to programming from its four universities – Canal Savoir.

And it goes without saying that if these applications fail, neither of these groups is going to voluntarily reduce its student fee.

Still, I wish them luck. CJLO deserves to be heard, and a low-power retransmitter covering just the downtown campus makes a lot of sense. CUTV, meanwhile, has a lot of promise, but without a continuous outlet there isn’t much incentive to produce sufficient quality of quantity of television programming.

Quebecor doesn’t inform when it doesn’t feel like it

Last week I told you about Quebecor’s new webpage where the media and telecom giant responds to criticism and perceived misinformation via open letter (instead of, say, responding to journalists’ queries).

Though I have issues with Quebecor’s way of dealing with news about itself (particularly its apparently systematic refusal to speak to journalists from Gesca and Radio-Canada, and to a lesser extent all other media as well), I thought this was a good step forward, that maybe the company would start interacting more with people and present its side of disputes more often.

Then, a few days later came the news that Quebecor was laying off 400 people across the country. This is a cull on the level of triple-digit job cuts two to three years ago by the CBC, CTV, Canwest and Rogers. And it’s about three years since an even larger cut at Sun Media decimated its workforce.

It’s hard to think of a way Quebecor could spin this positively, but they could probably talk about how this will affect their business, where the cuts will be concentrated, and what will happen to the workers.

Instead, the official response from Quebecor spokesperson Serge Sasseville was “no comment”. The “Quebecor vous informe” website is silent on the issue.

Canadian Press finally got he union to confirm the job cuts, half of which is through voluntary buyouts and another 100 through other forms of attrition, leaving only 100 people laid off. It’s still a significant cut, but at least some will be leaving on their own terms.

Had Sasseville decided he did want to comment and answer journalists’ questions, we might get an answer to why a company that just started up a 24-hour all-news network that depends heavily on the work produced by Quebecor’s existing print journalists is now making significant cuts to them. We might know why a company that seems to have no trouble making money feels the need to make such significant cuts in its workforce. We might know why the previous cut of 600 jobs only three years ago wasn’t good enough to bring efficiency to its operations.

But instead, we’ll just have to guess what those answers are, and it’s entirely possible those guesses will be wrong.

24 Heures cuts photo department

It’s unclear if these cuts are part of the 400, but news came out earlier this month that Quebecor’s free Montreal daily 24 Heures had fired its three photographers, eliminating its photo department, as well as a number of copy editors.

Quebecor wouldn’t confirm the news initially, but news came via social media, resulting in a blog post by former 24 Heures photographer Rogerio Barbosa, who quit his job there because the paper refused to pay his expenses. He then went to the Journal de Montréal, where he was locked out along with 252 others in January 2009. The newspaper he left, meanwhile, hired three people to replace them, apparently at a higher pay.

Barbosa’s blog post got picked up by Le Devoir’s Stéphane Baillargeon, who put this into context: Three photographers hired to replace one months before a lockout at the Journal de Montréal. During the lockout, many photos originally taken for 24 Heures got republished in the Journal. And then months after the lockout ends, suddenly all three photographers are fired.

It makes for a pretty strong circumstantial case that the three photographers were hired for the sole purpose of replacing locked-out Journal de Montréal photographers.

Nowadays, much of the photography appearing in Quebecor papers is done by Agence QMI, wire services, provided publicity photos or writers taking photos for their own stories.

(Baillargeon’s piece resulted in a reply from Quebecor’s Serge Sasseville, pointing out that 24 Heures still has eight journalists, two “journalistes-pupitreurs”, two editors and a designer. Sasseville said six people lost their jobs – three photographers and three editors (of whom four were permanent employees and two freelance).

My Grey Cup screwup

I have, in the past, made light of errors made in various media. In some cases they’re minor and entirely understandable. In some cases there is a fundamental problem with something that has been reported.

And in some cases, it’s technically minor but incredibly embarrassing. I always sympathize with unintentional errors, even when I expose them for all to see.

If this had been any other Montreal media, I’d be posting it here with, I admit, a little bit of childish glee. But it was my paper.

And worse than that, it was me.

Erroneous Grey Cup scoreline in Monday's Gazette

I got an email this morning from Sarah Leavitt at OpenFile asking if I was working last night “when the Grey Cup mess up on the front page happened.” Since I had no idea what she was talking about, I turned on my laptop and looked at the electronic version of the paper (I’m too lazy to walk downstairs for the print version). I read the pointer text I had written, looked at the photo of the players and of the Grey Cup, looked at the page number it pointed to. I looked at the score to make sure it went in right. Yeah, it was 34-23 for the Lions…

Oh crap.

In case it hasn’t occurred to you, the error, which appears downpage on A1 on Monday, is that the name “Hamilton Tiger-Cats” should be “Winnipeg Blue Bombers”. It’s not like I wasn’t aware the Blue Bombers were the ones playing. But for whatever reason it didn’t hit me as I was filling in the rest of the text that Hamilton wasn’t the right team.

And it didn’t strike the other editors who read the front page, who are not big sports fans and had specifically asked me to write this text because they were worried about getting something fundamental wrong.

Naturally, this error did not go unnoticed. Influence Communication saw it and told its 12,000 followers. Mike Finnerty noticed it (and was nice about it, comparing it to one of his own errors). OpenFile has a story on it, by Leavitt, which quotes me trying to explain myself.

But really, there is no excuse. Just a very embarrassing correction in Tuesday’s paper, some teasing by fellow editors on the sports desk, and some reader email questioning our competence, all of which is clearly deserved.

Correction printed in The Gazette on Page A2 on Nov. 29

UPDATE (Nov. 29): I got some good-natured ribbing from my colleagues at work, and the newsroom manager said she got about a dozen phone calls from readers, many of them dripping with sarcasm. (I didn’t see any emails about it, though. Perhaps because the mistake wasn’t repeated online.)

News of the mistake made it to the Hamilton Spectator, which posted a story about it on Monday afternoon and included an image of the error in Tuesday’s paper.

The Gazette correction appeared in Tuesday’s edition on Page A2. I’m hoping my mom doesn’t add it to the scrapbook Too late, apparently. There are also two letters to the editor on the subject.

UPDATE (Dec. 4): Craig Silverman wrote this up for his column in the Toronto Star.

Kai Nagata’s renaissance

Kai Nagata has found an audience online far larger than he did on TV - at least in the short term (Fagstein file photo)

Let’s get a few things out of the way first:

No, I don’t actually think Kai Nagata is mentally ill. My “are you insane?” question was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Kai is a friend, one I’ve gotten to know a little bit during his brief stay in Montreal. I’ve admired what was until recently an impressive career in television journalism, but also his creativity in other areas as well. He’s a very smart guy, and a great communicator. That may be part of the reason he seems so eccentric sometimes (like the fact that he made a career in television journalism without owning a television set).

Super viral

When Nagata quit his job at CTV after only nine months and change, I was taken aback. I was just as surprised by the reaction that was sparked by a blog post he wrote explaining why he left. Even though it became public on the evening of Friday, July 8, it went crazy viral over the weekend. Thousands of links on Twitter, including from such heavyweights as Roger Ebert, Margaret Atwood and Jay Rosen. It was reposted by Huffington Post Canada,, The Tyee and the Toronto Star, and linked to from websites like MetaFilter, Digital Journal, The Mark and Small Dead Animals and some blogs. Nagata said by Monday morning the post had more than 100,000 views, not counting those from other websites that reposted the text. By Tuesday, it was 170,000. By Thursday, 271,000. More than 1,000 comments, many responding to each other.

The mainstream media began to take notice after the Monday-to-Friday crowd came back to work. Nagata was interviewed on CBC Daybreak on Monday morning, later that day on CJAD, and on Wednesday, at length, on The Current. News stories were written by CBC (largely based off the Daybreak interview), the Toronto Star (which drew comments on and La Presse.

As is their way, many media found ways to relate Nagata’s story to others. Josée Legault and another CBC story packaged it with the News of the World shutdown, as if they were related in any way other than temporally. Others including the Ottawa Citizen and J-Source used Nagata’s story as part of articles about people quitting their jobs. OpenFile was one of many to relate Nagata’s story with that of Claude Adams, who was fired from his job at CBC after making a critical error while rushing on a story. Steve Proulx compared Nagata’s opinions on journalism to those of Gil Courtemanche.

A writer in the Regina Leader-Post said restrictions on Nagata’s ability to express himself also affect workers in other industries, and should be lifted.

But besides all that, the post generated a lot of discussion among his colleagues within CTV Montreal and other local media. And not all of that reaction was positive.

Continue reading

CRTC limits musical montages on French radio stations

It’s no secret that Canadian radio stations don’t like the content requirements imposed on them by the CRTC. For stations that broadcast popular music, 35% of the songs they play must be Canadian (that term being defined by meeting certain criteria). That’s why we hear a lot of Nickelback or Kim Mitchell.

For French-language radio stations playing popular music, there’s an additional and more serious limit the CRTC imposes: 65% of their songs must be in French (55% during the day, to prevent them from getting around this by playing all their French songs at 3am).

A few years ago, some genius found a way to get around this requirement: montages.

Because the CRTC counts “musical selections” by number, and not by length, a two-minute song and a 20-minute song have the same weight. And because the CRTC specifically counts music montages as one selection, you can have large (but not complete) parts of 20 songs in there and have it counted as one selection for the purpose of French-language minimums.

ADISQ, Quebec’s musical industry group, objected to the abuse of this by radio stations, and complained to the CRTC, which held hearings into the issue, specifically focusing on CKOI-FM Montreal, owned by Cogeco, CKTF-FM (NRJ) Gatineau, owned by Astral, and CFTX-FM (Capitale Rock) Gatineau, owned by RNC Media.

The statistics are pretty telling. The CKOI and NRJ stations were found to be using montages to a significant part of their broadcast week. CKOI was the worst, using 101 montages in the studied week, representing 17.9% of its total broadcasting time (this works out to an average of about 20 minutes per montage, though one case was found that was 55 minutes long). The NRJ Gatineau case was only slightly less, with 75 montages representing 14.5% of their 126 hours of broadcasting.

The study found these montages were almost all English-language American songs.

Astral and Cogeco argued they were not breaking the rules as they were written, which is true. They also presented public opinion polls showing that francophone audiences want to hear more English music, and in many cases francophones are tuning in to English stations.

There’s some irony in all this: 13 years ago, the CRTC set definitions of montages as they are to prevent the reverse from happening: radio stations using short clips from French-language songs in a montage and counting each one individually.

On Thursday, the CRTC addressed this, and imposed limits on the use of music montages. CKOI and CKTF can use montages for only 10% of their broadcast week. (CFTX was already well below this limit, so the CRTC did not impose one.) It also said it would study this matter further, and possibly impose new regulation generally.

The most obvious solution, to me, is to count musical selections based on length, not number. Under such a system, a four-minute song would count for twice as much as a two-minute song, and musical montages would be split up for the purposes of counting French-language or Canadian content requirements.

This is obviously more complicated for the station, but it would eliminate the problem.

The CRTC says it will begin looking into this issue in 2012.

Other coverage:

UPDATE: Cogeco Diffusion has issued a statement saying it will comply with the ruling, and suggesting the whole montage thing was Corus’s idea, that it’s using less of them, and its other radio stations don’t do it. Astral and RNC Media issued a joint statement also saying they would comply with the decision. Both said they would participate in hearings about French-language requirements, undoubtedly in an effort to get the CRTC to lower them.

ADISQ also issued a statement, praising the decision as a victory for francophone artists.

Quebecor starts PR counterattack

This post has also been published at

Apparently frustrated by the misinformation being spread about Quebec’s largest media company by its competitors, Quebecor Media is starting to defend itself directly to the public.

It recently started making use of its Twitter account, and has setup a new website called Quebecor vous informe, where it posts letters by the company responding to competitors and critics (all of them, somewhat annoyingly, as PDFs).

As an example, there’s this letter, dated Tuesday, that responds to the recent episode of Radio-Canada’s Enquête that reported on the Quebecor empire (well, actually, it’s a letter in response to a lawyer’s letter to the Journal de Montréal’s editor-in-chief that criticized the report, but most of it deals with the Enquête episode itself).

The letter from Quebecor VP Marc Tremblay doesn’t challenge any of the facts presented in the Enquête report, but takes exception to the way they are presented, by either accusing it of bias against Quebecor or explaining how the company’s practices are perfectly justifiable.

It doesn’t, for example, challenge the part about how the Journal de Montréal altered the results of a ranking of the most influential cultural figures in Quebec, but calls it an “isolated incident” and presents lots of documentation on why Julie Snyder is actually very influential (mostly clippings from Gesca papers that also rank her high). It also criticized Enquête for relying so much on people critical of Quebecor and bringing no one in who supports the company’s positions.

Another example is this letter to Le Devoir criticizing a column by its media columnist Stéphane Baillargeon about the recent firings at 24 Heures. Le Devoir published it with a response from Baillargeon saying the writer, Serge Sasseville, refused to respond to his questions about 24 Heures when he wrote the piece.

This is the thing that annoys me most about this way of functioning: Quebecor systematically refuses interviews with journalists, particularly from Gesca or Radio-Canada, then complains that everyone’s biased against them because news articles only present the other side.

It’s like gagging yourself and then complaining that you never get a chance to speak.

That said, and though it might cause some Quebecor critics to pull their hair out, this is a step forward. Quebecor isn’t being silent about criticisms and is taking them head-on. Or at least trying to deflect them instead of ignoring them.

Quebecor needs to go on a charm offensive to get the public back on its side. Opening the lines of communication is a start. But toning down the arrogance that seeps through every sentence of those letters would be a giant next step in making Quebecor Media sound more human.

Then maybe I might start having hope that the conflict between Quebecor and Gesca/Radio-Canada might be resolved before the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 83

Quebec once had a small village called Dixie.

Where is it now?

UPDATE: Enough of you were close that I’ll give it to you. Dixie was a small village (hamlet?) in the 19th century in what is now the lakeshore in western Lachine and eastern Dorval. It had a population of about 300 when it was made part of Lachine. You can see a map of it here from 1894, and another here from 1913 after it became part of Lachine. It only had two roads, Lakeshore Road (now St. Joseph Blvd.) and a “road to station”, which is now 55th Ave.

As Zeke points out below, the name remains in use as that of a small uninhabited island just offshore near where the old town was. And as Jean Naimard points out, there’s also a street in Lachine called Rue Dixie.

CRTC gives clear channels to TSN, Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy

The CRTC’s decision on Montreal AM radio stations came out this morning. Here’s the skinny:

The two other applications, TTP’s English-language news-talk station and Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, are denied, not because the CRTC feels they are without merit, but because the other applicants made better cases for the two clear-channel frequencies and neither would accept 990 as a backup. The CRTC hints that the two might be approved if they reapplied for other vacant AM frequencies (like 600 or 850), but that these applications would have to be reconsidered on their own merits.

Also Monday, the CRTC denied four applications for low-powered AM radio stations in Montreal, three of which would target ethnic communities and the fourth a religious station. The CRTC felt they would negatively impact the five existing ethnic stations, notably CKIN-FM 106.3 (Mike FM’s sister station), which has programming targeting the South Asian and Latin American communities, and religious station Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA-FM 91.3).

The second decision has an impact on the first, in that one of the stations had applied to use 600 kHz. The denial of that application means the frequency is available to the big commercial players. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy has hinted that it might be interested in that frequency, provided it can use a tower or get space for one to build themselves. The only one capable of doing that frequency right now is Cogeco’s towers, which will continue to go unused, but Paul Tietolman says he has no intention of asking Cogeco for them.

You can read a summary of what’s going on in this article I wrote for Tuesday’s Gazette. Below, I go into a bit more analysis.

The hierarchy

Reading the decision, it becomes clear how the CRTC judged the applications based on hierarchy:

  1. CKGM’s frequency change clearly made the strongest case, because it was an already-existing station and because moving it would offer another frequency for another applicant. (The CRTC likes to make as many people happy as possible.) Its content – sports – is also better suited to a signal that carries farther into the regions. So CKGM wins the biggest prize, 690 kHz.
  2. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy’s application was taken seriously, and the CRTC believes enough in its business plan that it is willing to give them a chance. But it wasn’t going to give the one applicant both clear-channel frequencies. So TTP gets 940. And since they said they would not accept 990, one application has to be denied. The French market is stronger in Montreal and its surrounding regions, and there isn’t as much direct competition for a French news-talk station as their is in English with CJAD, so the French station gets approved.
  3. Cogeco’s application for an English all-traffic station couldn’t convince the CRTC that it required a signal so powerful that it can reach into Gaspé. They made a valiant effort, saying that they need to be heard across the Ontario border for people who commute from that far, and that their application should be approved because otherwise the existence of the French all-traffic station would create an imbalance in services to different languages. But the CRTC remained unconvinced. And since Cogeco wouldn’t accept anything but 690 and 940, that application had to be denied.
  4. Dufferin’s Radio Fierté gets 990 more by process of elimination than anything else. Two applications were approved for clear channels, and the other two wouldn’t accept 990, so Dufferin gets it. That isn’t to say the CRTC wasn’t excited about their application and eager to increase the diversity of the radio industry in Montreal. But it seems pretty clear that if TTP would have accepted 990 for its English station, it probably would have gotten it.

Calling their bluff

One thing I like about the CRTC decision is that it calls a lot of bluffs from the applicants.

Cogeco went all in, saying it’s 690, 940 or nothing. I find it hard to believe they’re just going to walk away from $1.5 million a year, and their deal with the Quebec government was already modified once when they decided to make CKAC an all-traffic station. Because that $1.5 million is based on costs instead of audience (otherwise it would be more for the French station), there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t reach a deal for another frequency like 600 or 850. Cogeco’s Mark Dickie told me before the decision that there is no Plan B. If that’s true, they either have to come up with one or walk away from this project.

The latter option would be particularly embarrassing because both parties have been acting as if this was a done deal. The government has been advertising a coming English traffic station, and Cogeco has even asked for applications for potential traffic hosts, with only a footnote at the bottom pointing out that these jobs might not actually ever exist.

Is Cogeco willing to walk away from $1.5 million a year? Is the Transport Ministry willing to walk away from their promise of all-traffic radio in English? We’ll see.

The CRTC also called the bluff of Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy, which originally said it wanted both clear channels or nothing, then softened that stance suggesting the English station could find another alternative frequency. They continue to insist that they need both stations for the business plan to be viable, but say the English station might not need to be a clear channel if they can get adequate coverage in Montreal and the West Island. So far 600 kHz seems to be the only one able to do this, but that would require either expanding the site they were planning to use or using Cogeco’s CINW/CINF site in Kahnawake. The latter option is very distasteful to Tietolman and his partners.

When I finally reached Tietolman on Monday, he said he wouldn’t comment (other than to point out that TSN said it would be fine with 940, which I guess means TTP felt the CRTC should have given 690 to them and given 940 to TSN). Tietolman said he and his partners are going to study the decision carefully and decide where to go from there.

Though nobody’s pointing this out, the CRTC decision combined with TTP’s position should mean that the group will decline the license. I highly doubt that will happen, but if TTP doesn’t get a decent frequency for its proposed English station, or if the application takes too long, they might face the choice of going with just the French station or going home.

Six months to a year

The big question for the winning applicants is when they’re going to be on the air. Bell Media says it’ll be “within six months” for CKGM, which would mean by the end of May (maybe just before the playoffs start, or just after the Canadiens are eliminated). It’s unclear at this point whether it will operate for any length of time on both frequencies, though that has been the practice in the past.

Evanov/Dufferin hopes to have its station up within a year, but has to wait for CKGM to vacate its frequency first. The decision gives the group a second choice in terms of transmission site. It already had a letter showing it could enter into negotiations for use of the CJAD site, but as part of the hearing Bell Media committed to negotiating use of the CKGM site for another station on 990, and even said it would submit to binding arbitration concerning a transmitter sharing deal. Evanov tells me they will look at both possibilities.

Other coverage

Terry DiMonte returns to CHOM Jan. 9

Five months after the announcement that Terry DiMonte will be returning to CHOM-FM, not much has happened publicly. DiMonte is still in Calgary, co-hosting the morning show at Corus-owned Q107.

Corus is making DiMonte work all of the six-month obligation he triggered when he gave his notice in June. DiMonte has no trouble fulfilling his obligation as his contract stipulates, but it’s clear from his comments on social media that he’s eager to return to Montreal.

While those comments are pleasing his Montreal-based fans, they’re also disappointing his Calgary-based ones, some Montreal expats who share with him a connection to this city they once lived in before economic factors brought them out west, but many just classic rock fans who have been loyal to the station and woken up with him every weekday morning since 2007.

DiMonte tells me his last day at Q107 will be Dec. 9. After that he returns to Montreal and prepares to go back on the air at CHOM. His first day back in his old chair is almost certainly going to be Jan. 9. Astral VP Martin Spalding, who courted DiMonte back to CHOM, says this was considered a better date than a week earlier, when many people are still on holiday.

Spalding’s hands are tied in terms of marketing DiMonte. Not only is DiMonte still physically in Calgary, except for occasional trips here during his time off, but because DiMonte is still under contract with Corus, his brand still belongs to them. Astral can’t market DiMonte until his contract expires, which will happen on Dec. 22, six months after DiMonte gave his notice.

Terry and …

The biggest question for the past five months remains: Who will be DiMonte’s partner on the CHOM morning show?

Spalding and DiMonte said they’ve met a lot of potential candidates – some in person, some by phone, with more still to talk to – but no decision has been made yet. (The decision will be a joint one between DiMonte and the station.) They don’t even know if it’s going to be one or two people. But they will have to make a call within the next few weeks.

“As you’re probably aware, I am QUITE gunshy and very careful now after a certain time period in my old life…so I will be taking some time,” DiMonte writes. Spalding echoes those thoughts, telling me that “this is a five-year play, so we want to make it right.”

Spalding also said that there have been a lot of candidates, some they sought out, and some who offered to come on board. “It’s amazing how many people have come out of the woodwork and want to work with Terry,” Spalding said.

For those wondering, Ted Bird said he’s not one of them. There have been no discussions between him and CHOM about a possible return, and he remains the big name at the K103 morning show in Kahnawake.

Two obvious candidates for the job are the ones currently holding it now: Rob Kemp and Chantal Desjardins.

Kemp might be headed back to an early afternoon shift if he’s not on the morning show (currently Tootall does 10am to 3pm), though any reshuffling of shifts won’t be decided until after the morning team is in place, Spalding said.

The outlook for Desjardins is less certain. Spalding said she’s a “clear candidate” for the morning show co-host, but there’s no lock on it. She might end up somewhere else at the station, perhaps at another Astral station in Montreal, either CJAD or CJFM.

Desjardins clearly wants to get the job with DiMonte, though.

“I really enjoy working for Astral and I hope to continue in the morning show co-host position when Terry arrives,” she told me. “Seriously…who wouldn’t want to wake up at 4am every morning? ;)” (her emoticon, not mine).

TV viewers might have noticed that Desjardins has been doing sports stories for CTV Montreal. (UPDATE Nov. 23 – She even got a turn behind the anchor desk, as you can see from the video above.)

She said she’s “thoroughly enjoying the experience” and likes the work environment at CTV.

“But I still love the energy and immediacy of morning radio so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out!”

I feel bad for Desjardins. I know the saying that in radio it’s not if you get fired but when. Not getting the morning show gig doesn’t mean she’ll be fired, but to have your employment future be so uncertain for so long can’t be a fun thing to experience. I know, because it happens fairly often for me. (The main difference being thousands of people don’t notice what happens to me unless I tell them.)

Desjardins would make a welcome addition to the CTV sports team. That department is tiny (though still bigger than its competitors combined), and right now it’s 100% male. And she seems very comfortable in front of the camera.

But radio is what she wants to do, and it’s where people know her from. And Desjardins’s ability to match (or even surpass) wits with the boys is probably more valuable at the classic rock station than the TV station. Aside from Desjardins, Sharon Hyland is the only woman with a shift at 97.7FM, and she’s on weekends now.

It’s possible DiMonte and Spalding will come up with a name so fantastic it will have fans going “Chantal who?”, but it would have to be pretty fantastic to make me forget that these kinds of decisions have effects on the lives of real people.

Behind the scenes with Tasso and Patrick at Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Big local radio personality decides he’s had enough of how faceless corporations have micromanaged what happens on air, taking all the fun out of it. So instead, he’s moving to a low-power station few of his fans have ever heard of, becoming a big fish in a smaller pond, sacrificing a big paycheque for more creative freedom. The small station, not licensed in a way that would normally make it a competitor to the big commercial stations, decides it’s going to go after a bigger mainstream crowd to attract more advertising revenue.

It’s easy to see the parallels with Ted Bird here. Give me another example of this happening and I can write a trend story about it.

I went by Mike FM (CKDG) last week to sit in on a broadcast of the Tasso and Patrick show, which debuted on Oct. 24. It stars Paul Zakaib, who has been better known as Tasso since the 80s and has been mostly off the air since he was sacked from the CFQR morning show he shared with long-time partner Aaron Rand in 2009. With him is Patrick Henry Charles, who worked on the Aaron and Tasso show from 2001 until he got a better offer from competitor Astral to be part of CJFM’s morning team, but about a year later was moved into a position that gave him less airtime and far less exposure.

I talk about Mike FM and Tasso and Patrick in an article that appeared in The Gazette on Tuesday. It reveals, among other things, that there were talks about bringing an Aaron and Tasso show to the station, but they fell through the cracks when Rand was hired to do an afternoon show at CJAD.

So Zakaib called up his old pal Charles, who had recently left Astral because he felt his talents were being wasted there. They met with CKDG GM Marie Griffiths, and before long the Tasso and Patrick show was born.

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More journalists of tomorrow

A year ago, I introduced my readers to some Concordia University journalism students who visited The Gazette to receive awards (and a little bit of scholarship money) named in memory of some of the paper’s dearly departed.

A few weeks ago, the next crop of journalism students came by to receive awards, and I repeated the process, not wanting these new kids to feel left out. (Apparently some of them found that blog post when they researched the awards.)

These awards are an early indicator of strong candidates among the field of upcoming graduates. Two of the five winners from last year ended up as interns this year – Mel Lefebvre on the copy desk and Katherine Lalancette as a reporter. I can’t imagine that’s a coincidence.

But, of course, it’s not absolute. After all, I didn’t win any of these awards when I was a journalism student, and look how awesome I am now!


Anyway, here are this year’s honourees:

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Outsourcing returns to haunt Toronto Star employees

In January 2010, the Toronto Star and its union agreed on a plan that would allow the paper to cut jobs and save money while avoiding some more dramatic cost-cutting plans like outsourcing copy editing to an external company.

Those of us around the country who work in the copy editing field breathed a slight sigh of relief, knowing that somewhere jobs were being saved and would still be done locally. The issue appeared settled: The Toronto Star would still be produced by the Toronto Star.

Less than two years later, we seem to be back to Square One. The Star is offering another round of buyouts to cut staff even further (they won’t say by how much they want to reduce the workforce) and Reuters is reporting a rumour that the Star again wants to outsource layout and editing work.

I hope that’s just a rumour. Layout and editing is an important job in print media, and I’d hate to think that the industry is coming to a consensus that this work can be done by some kid in a third-world country with 20 minutes of training.

A time to remember – unless The View is on

People who follow me on Twitter know that one of my pet peeves is when the broadcast networks don’t air major live news events, preferring to relegate them to their all-news networks (if they have them) and/or websites.

Various arguments have been brought forth to justify this. Very few people don’t have access to all-news channels anymore. There’s less interest in live coverage of boring things. People who want it can get it online.

In the end, the biggest factor is money, with a little help from the CRTC. Simultaneous substitution rules encourage Canadian broadcast networks not only to run American programming, but to run it at the same time as the American stations do. They also, therefore, discourage Canadian networks from running Canadian programming during peak hours. As a bonus, relegating important programming to cable channels makes it more likely that people will subscribe to those channels, meaning increased subscription revenue.

In short, this is why we see regular-season NFL games Sunday afternoons on CTV, but all CFL games – even the Grey Cup – air on TSN instead. It’s not a question of ratings, because the Grey Cup gets huge ratings in Canada. It’s because the NFL games are on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, while the CFL games aren’t.

It’s win-win for the networks, while the only people who lose are Canadian viewers.

In the past few years, there has been a trend where live national and regional events don’t get carried on the broadcast stations. Elections are a prime example. Often election nights (particularly provincial elections where a local station would likely have to go it alone or in a small group) get little if any live coverage. Other major events not involving attractive British royalty getting married are also less likely to be seen on local over-the-air television stations.

During CTV Montreal’s noon newscast on Thursday, it was mentioned that there would be live coverage of Remembrance Day ceremonies at 11pm 11am Friday … on CTV News Channel.

Sure enough, looking at the schedule, I don’t see a Remembrance Day special on CTV’s main network.

As it turns out, there was a noting of the occasion on the network, and it was done in the most half-assed way I can think of. It was a video that looked like it had been created in the 90s (it wasn’t in HD, though some footage was in letterboxed 16:9) of the national anthem being played over stock footage of old veterans marching, followed by a trumped playing, and then two minutes of silence while old black and white war photos appeared on screen.

The video lasted a grand total of six minutes, from 10:56 to 11:02. Then it was back to regularly-scheduled programming already in progress.

What was so important that it couldn’t be pre-empted more than two minutes for Remembrance Day?

The View.

Yeah, that Barbara Walters female-panel talk show. And it’s not like it’s a special episode or something. No, when CTV cut to it, it was in the middle of a conversation on interracial dating.

The cut was half-assed at the beginning, too. The video cut into the Marilyn Denis show (an original CTV production) in mid-sentence, while they were discussing some fashion makeover. This bothered me a bit more because there’s no simultaneous substitution argument. Rather than simply cancel the show for a day, or make it four minutes shorter, or have four fewer minutes of advertising, they let it run as normal and just cut into it.

It’s not like this is breaking news they didn’t know was going to happen. Remembrance Day is not a surprise.

It’s a stunning lack of respect for the viewers of both programs, but that seems pale in comparison to how it treats veterans.

Every year, we get news stories about malls refusing access to veterans to sell their poppies, followed a day or two later by a follow-up story saying the mall’s management had changed its mind or that there was a misunderstanding. This year we had stories about people stealing poppy boxes. Each time the news is met with outrage.

Every year, news anchors and reporters wear the poppy religiously, knowing a failure to do so could result in the wrath of viewers.

And here we have CTV, which couldn’t be bothered to carry more than six minutes of Remembrance Day coverage because of two entirely forgettable daytime talk shows. It’s not like it would have cost them anything, since they were already producing special coverage for CTV News Channel.

Where’s the outrage?

How the networks covered Remembrance Day

  • CBC: A two-hour special on the main network and CBC News Network
  • Radio-Canada: A two-hour special on the main network and RDI
  • CTV: Six minutes on the main network, live coverage on CTV News Channel
  • Global: A one-hour live special, plus a half-hour documentary on Canada’s last WWI veteran
  • TVA: No live special on main network (outside of regular news coverage). LCN checked in with ceremonies occasionally as it would car crashes or other stories
  • V: An infomercial
  • Télé-Québec: Nothing
  • Sun News: Full live coverage
  • CPAC: Full live coverage
  • Assemblée nationale: Business as usual, minus a moment of silence at 11am
(Not being able to watch a dozen channels at once, it’s possible I missed brief acknowledgments of Remembrance Day from some of these stations. If you saw one, let me know.)

The radio stations weren’t much better. While CBC and Radio-Canada had moments of silence (which is eerie and confusing on radio), commercial music stations treated the matter briefly. CKBE 92.5 marked the passing of 11am with a call to remembrance, and CJFM 95.9 had a moment of silence (which lasted no more than 30 seconds).