Monthly Archives: November 2011

Scavenge: Impossible

I like scavenger hunts. I’ve participated in one or two, and provided the items on the list don’t involve doing anything illegal, too embarrassing or too impossible (University of Chicago, I’m looking at you), I look forward to participating in future ones.

I missed one last weekend, the Impossible Montreal scavenger hunt, which was actually far from it.

Three teams participated, making videos and taking pictures to complete their tasks. As an example, here are each of the three groups performing their own haka:

There were other fun things, like doing a Rick Mercer-style rant about Rick Mercer or eating as many steamies as possible. Another one was Peter Mansbridge/Wendy Mesley slash fiction, that’s just too good an idea not to link to, so here they are: The Sub-Librarians, The Flying Feltchions, #swag (bonus pointless references to Mutsumi Takahashi, Debra Arbec and Lori Graham in the latter).

The full list is here (PDF, after some humourously-crafted rules). Each of the participating teams used Tumblr accounts to upload pictures, video and text of their exploits, which you can find here:

  1. First place: The Sub-Librarians
  2. Second place: The Flying Feltchions
  3. Third place: #swag (pronounced “hashtag-swag”)

Clear Channel Cagematch: Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy

Over the past week, I have been taking a closer look at the applications for Montreal’s AM clear-channel frequencies 690 and 940 kHz that were presented at CRTC hearings in October. In today’s final installment, I look at the application from Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy for a French news-talk station on 690 and an English news-talk station on 940. Though these are technically two separate applications, they are virtually identical in format and are being treated as one application here.

The would-be station owners at the CRTC hearing (from left): Nicolas Tétrault, Rajiv Pancholy and Paul Tietolman

Do you believe in radio? Do you believe that corporate greed and ineptitude has more to do with the decline of media than the Internet or changing habits? Do you think the thing the media sphere needs right now more than anything else is an owner with the heart of a mom-and-pop operation and the bank account of a Fortune 500 executive?

If so, the three men pictured above are here to be your saviours.

If you don’t believe, if you think investing in talent has already been proven not to work, and that rigorous cost-cutting is the only thing that keeps radio profitable these days, then these three men will seem like morons willing to flush tens of millions of dollars right down the toilet.

Despite how closely I’ve followed radio, I can’t honestly say which of these is true. I want to hope for the former, but the latter just seems more realistic.

And the success of these applications will depend, more than anything else, on which side of that fence three CRTC commissioners sit.

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Clear Channel Cagematch: Radio Fierté

This week, I’m taking a closer look at the applications for Montreal’s AM clear-channel frequencies 690 and 940 kHz that were presented at CRTC hearings in October. Today, I’m looking at the application from Dufferin Communications for a music-talk station for the gay community on 690.

Representatives of Dufferin Communications (Evanov Communications) and Proud FM in Toronto. Carmela Laurignano is in the foreground.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to representatives of Dufferin Communications (a subsidiary of Evanov Communications – the two names were used interchangeably) during the CRTC hearing. I feel a bit guilty about that, but it’s hard to see their proposal for a music/talk station geared toward the gay community as anything more than an also-ran in this battle between the heavyweights.

Evanov is an established but small player in the radio market. It owns 13 radio stations (including two whose purchase was approved a week after the hearing), mostly in small-market Ontario, but also two in Halifax and three in Winnipeg. It does not own any French-language stations.

Its proposal for 690 AM in Montreal is based on Proud FM in Toronto, a station of only 128 watts (up from 50) that airs programming of interest to the gay community (well, LGBT and whatever other letters you want to add to that). The programming would be mainly talk and music, with a bit of news of special interest to the community.

Characterizing Toronto’s Proud FM as “very successful,” Evanov VP Carmela Laurignano pointed out it’s the only commercial radio station of its kind in Canada during a phone interview before the hearing.

Considering Montreal’s vibrant gay community, it made sense for them to want to try that format here.

“We had been looking at it and studying it a little bit,” she said. “We had been planning to do it anyway, but there was a call for applications.”

Seeing a CRTC notice for applications for 690 and 940, Evanov put in its application for Radio Fierté.

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Enquête sur Quebecor: Good, but I expected more (UPDATED)

UPDATE (Nov. 10): More excerpts from documents cited by Enquête, and reaction in Quebecor media outlets added below, including one in English from Éric Duhaime.

“Il est aussi clair dans notre esprit qu’un groupe de presse rival peut poser un regard critique sur un autre,” Enquête host Alain Gravel writes in a blog post published hours before his show’s report on the Quebecor media empire (also viewable on “Ça se fait partout dans le monde. Sinon, qui pourrait le faire?”

It’s a good question. There are few journalistic enterprises here with the resources to pull it off. Maybe La Presse, but it suffers from the same problem as Radio-Canada of being a perceived enemy of Quebecor. An anglophone media outlet like the Globe and Mail or Toronto Star or Maclean’s might, but this story needed to be told in French.

Aside from La Presse and Radio-Canada, the only big media left in this province are all owned by Quebecor. And that’s kind of the point. A study by Influence Communication done for Enquête shows that these three media companies produce 83% of the journalism that Quebecers consume. Though Quebecor is the largest of these three groups, the problem of media concentration concerns all three.

Gravel pointed out right off the bat how delicate the report would be, because Quebecor owns TVA, which competes directly with Radio-Canada. It’s an important point to keep in mind, and certainly No. 1 on the list of issues Quebecor would bring up in response.

Fortunately for us, Enquête has pretty solid journalistic credentials, and isn’t about to say something unless it’s been verified.

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Clear Channel Cagematch: CKGM frequency change

This week, I’m taking a closer look at the applications for Montreal’s AM clear-channel frequencies 690 and 940 kHz that were presented at CRTC hearings in October. Today, I’m looking at CKGM’s application to change the frequency of TSN Radio Montreal (formerly The Team 990) from 990 to 690.

What used to be called Team 990 hopes that number will change

Unlike the other applicants for stations on 690 and 940, the one from CKGM is to move an already existing station. It’s a perfectly legitimate request, but it makes writing articles about this hearing difficult. You can’t refer to “five new radio stations”, because one already exists. Oh well, that’s my problem.

The biggest strength of this application is that it’s an established station with an existing audience. It’s been on the air forever, but more significantly it has had just over a decade of experience as an all-sports station.

So why change frequencies? Coverage:

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Clear Channel Cagematch: Cogeco’s all-traffic station

Over the coming days, I’m taking a closer look at the applications for Montreal’s AM clear-channel frequencies 690 and 940 kHz that were presented at CRTC hearings in October. We’ll start with the first one: Metromedia (Cogeco), which applied for an English-language all-traffic station on 940.

Mark Dickie, General Manager of The Beat 92.5 and part of the organizing committee for Cogeco's English all-traffic station

“We didn’t expect this,” Mark Dickie said. “Where was everybody in February or March of 2010? Nobody was really interested in those frequencies then.”

It’s a perfectly reasonable argument from the group that first applied to reactivate 690 and 940 AM. The frequencies have been unused since January 2010, when CINW 940 and CINF 690 were shut down. The licenses for those two stations were officially revoked on June 8, 2010. For almost a year, anyone could have applied for those frequencies, but nobody did.

So when Cogeco, which acquired Metromedia from Corus on Feb. 1, struck a deal with the Quebec government to setup two all-traffic stations on those unused (and seemingly unwanted) frequencies, there was no reason to think the regulatory step was anything more than a formality. The CRTC originally scheduled the applications to be heard along with a bunch of others in a rubber-stamp hearing (it ended up lasting 15 minutes, with no presentations or questions).

But then everyone decided they wanted in, too. Interventions were filed by competitors Astral Media and Bell Media, and would-be competitor Tietolman-Tétrault Media. They demanded that there be an open call for applications, questioned giving clear channels to local all-traffic stations, and in the latter two cases said they would apply for one or both of those frequencies instead. They also pointed out how Cogeco asked for – and received – an exception to the CRTC’s ownership concentration rules by having a third French-language FM station in Montreal, and that another French-language radio station would give them a total of five in this market.

The CRTC responded by pulling the two applications from that hearing and issuing an open call for applications for those two frequencies with an Oct. 17 hearing date in Montreal. The call prompted four other applications.

Cogeco, whose deal with the Quebec government initially had an Oct. 31 deadline for the stations to go on the air, decided it couldn’t wait for the full process to complete itself, and transformed CKAC Sports 730 into a French all-traffic station on Sept. 6.

It subsequently withdrew its application for a French all-traffic station on 690.

I asked Dickie why, if Cogeco considered the CKAC shutdown regrettable, Cogeco didn’t maintain its application and either switch the all-traffic station to 690 or put sports on it. He said they felt, in light of the interventions and the concern about how many stations Cogeco owns, that it was unlikely such an application would be successful.

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Metro screws up, but it’s just the wrong name

Metro reports Alan DeSousa quits Union Montreal. Except he didn't.

Congratulations to Metro, which had the scoop this morning (UPDATE: link now dead) that Saint Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa has quit Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montreal party to join the opposition Projet Montréal.

This news is a bombshell, coming halfway into the mayor’s third term. De Sousa is a high-profile figure in Tremblay’s party. And yet only Metro is reporting the news so far.

That’s because it never happened. DeSousa didn’t quit Tremblay’s party, and says he has no plans to.

Turns out it was another borough mayor, from another party, that defected today. Rosemont’s François Croteau left Vision Montreal, saying Louise Harel’s party has no political vision (I’m not sure if that was intended as a pun). You can read his full statement here.

Correction fail

Metro’s story reporting about Croteau adds a “précision” that the story about DeSousa was incorrect. I’m no expert on the French language, but the definition of “précision” doesn’t seem to fit “we got the story all wrong and made it all up”.

More importantly, though, the original story reporting DeSousa defecting was still online, with no correction, four 12 hours (and perhaps as many as 26) after the truth was known and the “précision” appended to the Croteau story. The writer says (see below) that this was a technical problem.

What’s interesting about that story, by reporter Mathias Marchal, is that it doesn’t cite a single source for its information, not even anonymous ones. No “Metro has learned” or any of the other euphemisms that journalists use to say they have a scoop. It’s written as if it’s already public knowledge and its status as a fact is unquestioned.

Except, of course, that it’s all made up.

Was it just a guess?

I’m curious how this story came to be written (see update below). It wasn’t in this morning’s print edition, and the timestamp shows it was first posted at 9:43am, with the press conference set for 11.

The press conference part was known. A press release announcing it was sent at 7:54am. It said a borough mayor would defect to Projet Montréal, but didn’t say which one (or from which party). My instinct (and hey, it could be wrong) is that this was a guess. There are 18 boroughs in Montreal whose mayor isn’t Gérald Tremblay. It obviously wasn’t Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez, who’s already part of Projet Montréal. And it probably wouldn’t have been Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor Pierre Gagnier, who quit Projet Montréal. But that still leaves 16 people. A rumour might have been enough to sway an inexperienced journalist into running with the story.

What’s ridiculous is how little gain there is from something like this. At best, other media will cite you for the hour between the time your report is published and the time the press conference confirms it. At worst, you look like a laughingstock because you got it all wrong, and the subject of your article has to issue a press release pointing out how you disappointed him.

This kind of thing always annoys me. I’ve seen so many times where a newspaper will get the details of an announcement leaked to them the day before and come out with an “exclusive” detailing them mere hours before the press conference. At least Metro didn’t label it as an exclusive, though the damage is the same.

Let this be a lesson to other journalists: An official statement that partially confirms a rumour doesn’t mean that rumour is correct.

And always, especially when you think you’re leaking information the public doesn’t already know (or when you’re taking information from another journalist who appears to be leaking it), cite your sources.

UPDATE (Nov. 2): From Marchal, on Twitter:

À l’origine du problème: un quiproquo au départ lors d’une discussion avec Projet Montréal. (A)ussi bête qu’un mélange entre bld St-Laurent et arrondissement St-Laurent.

Mon erreur, et je me suis excusé à Alan DeSousa, qui n’aurait pas dû être mêlé à ça. La nouvelle fut supprimée après 10 min, mais un problème tech. a fait qu’elle est restée accessible par certains URL.

And to answer the question in your blog, no it wasn’t a guess to gain anything! ;)