Monthly Archives: December 2011

Want to watch me talk in front of a brick wall for half an hour?

Last month, I gave a talk to some student journalists from Ontario and Quebec who gathered in St. Henri as part of a regional conference of Canadian University Press.

I occasionally get asked to talk to students, and like most professional journalists I’m happy to do so, because it gives me a chance to help others and because it totally inflates my ego to see so many people look up to me.

As it happens someone was there with a camera and recorded the whole thing.

About half of the talk (which is in English but has questions answered in English and French) has been posted to YouTube in three parts (keep in mind I was low on sleep and didn’t have enough time to prepare a script or even a list of talking points, so you’ll hear a lot of “uhh”s and awkward pauses – the question period is better):

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Sherbrooke radio station shuts down

On Tuesday morning, Cogeco announced that CJTS-FM 104.5, the station in Sherbrooke it was forced to sell as part of its acquisition of Corus Quebec assets, has been shut down because it hasn’t found a buyer. The station, along with two in Quebec City that have found buyers, were under the management of a trustee.

The closing leaves 12 people out of work, and Cogeco is not offering them jobs elsewhere.

Coverage at the Journal de Sherbrooke, La Tribune and Cogeco Nouvelles.

CJTS-FM used to be CKOY-FM, and a sister station of Montreal’s CKOI. When the Cogeco deal closed on Feb. 1, it moved the CKOI format and branding to CHLT-FM 107.7. That station is now CKOY-FM. CJTS picked up the Souvenirs Garantis format, which it held until noon on Tuesday when it shut down.

Cogeco’s original plan for the station, which they hoped would satisfy CRTC commissioners, was to turn it into a retransmitter of CKAC Sports. That would have made things interesting when CKAC was turned into an all-Montreal-traffic station.

The other two stations Cogeco was forced to sell, CJEC-FM (Rythme FM 91.9) and CFEL-FM (CKOI 102.1) in Quebec City, were sold to businessman Jacques Leclerc.

Cogeco also announced on Tuesday that it purchased Métromédia CMR Plus Inc., a company that does advertising for public transit systems, including Montreal. (It’s not to be confused with Métromédia CMR Montréal Inc. or Métromédia CMR Broadcasting Inc., which were holding companies for Corus Quebec radio stations including CFQR, CKOI and CHMP, and have since been amalgamated as Cogeco Diffusion Acquisitions Inc. Both Métromédias were started in the early 90s by Pierre Beland and Pierre Arcand.)

UPDATE (Dec. 15): Quebecor’s Pierre Karl Péladeau confirms (after Agence QMI somehow managed to “learn” about it) that Groupe TVA submitted a bid to buy the station. Normally the CRTC doesn’t allow the same company to own a major newspaper, a TV station and a radio station in the same market. Quebecor does own a weekly, the Journal de Sherbrooke, but no daily paper there, which I suppose Quebecor would use to argue it should be allowed to own it. Still, it would have been the media giant’s first radio station.

Cogeco wouldn’t confirm it, because such bids are confidential, but it says no bids met the criteria set by the liquidator. It would be interesting to see which one it didn’t meet.

More from CFCF’s new studio

Todd and Mutsumi play with their gadgets between live parts of the newscast.

In September, I visited CFCF to write a story for a magazine about their new studio.

That story just came out in Broadcast Dialogue, a controlled-circulation trade magazine for the radio and television industry in Canada. Fortunately for us without TV and radio stations, it’s posted online.

You can read the story, cryptically called “CTV Montreal’s new studio”, in PDF form. It’s part of the December/January issue, which is available in its complete form here as a PDF or here as a Flash-based digital version.

It marks what is technically my first foray into trade magazines (or freelancing for any magazine, for that matter). And I must say it was a pleasure to work for the Christensens, who run a mom-and-pop operation and wanted to treat freelancers well, a rarity these days. I even got a personal cheque in the mail with my fee just to make sure I got it as soon as possible.

The same image appears on background screens as the rotated plasma

The story is illustrated with photos taken by me during September before, during and after the launch. It starts with a little anecdote about different screens using the same feed of an animated CTV News logo, as illustrated above. It wasn’t a major problem, but required careful attention to camera movements to make sure the screens you see here with rotated graphics weren’t visible in the opening pan shot.

I’ve published photos of the new studio taken before the launch, as well as for my behind-the-scenes look at the first newscasts.

You can find more photos of the new studio sets below:

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Rejected AM radio stations preparing Plan B

Two weeks after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a decision that awarded licenses for two new AM radio stations and rejected two others for lack of available frequencies, the two groups who had applications rejected are studying their options.

Cogeco: No final decision

Metromedia (owned by Cogeco Diffusion), which in September launched a French-language all-traffic station on CKAC 730, had its application for an English station on 940 kHz rejected because “the Commission is not satisfied that the proposed service would represent the best use of a high-power AM frequency in Montréal,” and the group said it would not accept the other frequency that was available as part of the hearing, 990 kHz. Still, the commission suggested Cogeco reapply for another frequency.

Now Cogeco is planning what to do next. Mark Dickie, who is the general manager for CKBE The Beat and part of the committee planning the anglophone traffic station, said he’s been in regular meetings since, but no final decision has been made on whether to reapply. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

There are many factors that suggest Cogeco will reapply for another frequency despite its earlier assertion that only a clear channel would work. For one thing, the station is part of an agreement between Cogeco and the Ministry of Transport, which would pay the broadcaster $1.5 million a year to operate the station. Though the agreement requires the station to have coverage around the Montreal area, how that’s determined is not clearly defined.

A similar agreement governs the French all-traffic station, which is also worth $1.5 million a year for Cogeco. Because the agreements are the same for both languages (meaning their value is based on the cost of providing the service, not the potential audience) and because there are no guaranteed minimums in terms of audience reach, it’s clear the ministry doesn’t actually care how many people listen to the station, just that it’s there.

Guilaume Paradis, spokesperson for Transport Quebec, told me they are awaiting another submission from Cogeco, and that “we will study it,” but that they still want to see an English all-traffic station in Montreal.

When asked about specifics, Paradis said that they are not experts in radio broadcasting, which is why they hired Cogeco to do the job in the first place, and they will leave the details of how such a station would reach the Montreal area to Cogeco.

The agreement between Cogeco and the government originally called for both stations to be operational by Oct. 31. That was amended with a new deadline of Feb. 29 in light of the elongated CRTC process. Clearly that will need to be amended again if the project is to continue.

Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy will reapply

The other group, 7954689 Canada Inc., known as Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, scored a half-victory at the CRTC, getting clear-channel 940 kHz for a French-language news-talk station, but the English station was rejected for lack of available frequencies (like Cogeco, the TTP group rejected 990 as an option).

One of the group’s partners, Paul Tietolman, originally wouldn’t comment on their plans, but now says the group will make an application for another frequency. He wouldn’t say what frequency that is, but did suggest it would be a unique technical setup (perhaps not limited to one frequency or one transmitter), without going into details.

Tietolman said many people have already approached the group expressing an interest in joining them. They are currently in the process of setting up their management team, who will then hire talent.

He said the goal is still to have the station running by fall of 2012.

Asked whether the group is sticking to its stance that it would not proceed with a radio station in one language without getting approval for the other, Tietolman would say only that he expects everything will work out, and that a solution has been found that will make everyone happy.

Meanwhile, the group has applied for an FM radio station in Calgary, one of 11 applications for FM stations on a few remaining vacant frequencies in that city. The application is for a music station that would be based on current and classic hits (from Katy Perry to the Beach Boys), based on requests, and with commitments to promote emerging Canadian artists as well as comedians. It would also hire 12 journalists and have newscasts 24 hours a day.

Tietolman said other applications are coming for other cities.

Claude Rajotte on CHOM? No, but …

Claude Rajotte is a familiar name to long-time CHOM listeners. The francophone music expert worked at the rock station for two decades, often speaking in French until the CRTC told him he couldn’t do that anymore. He also worked on the other side of the language divide, spending about as much time at MusiquePlus.

Until recently he had a job at Espace Musique, Radio-Canada’s music radio network. But when RadCan wanted to kill his show and move him online, he left. He took a job back at MusiquePlus, where he hosts two shows, Rajotte (Fridays at 7pm) and Hors Circuit (Sunday mornings at 1am). They’re not exactly big-budget shows (Hors Circuit in particular looks pretty cheap), but the quality is in Rajotte’s biting commentary (like tonight where he trashed Nickelback by saying they seem to be stuck in a 90s time-warp).

Having gone back to MusiquePlus, Rajotte wondered if maybe he could get a job at CHOM as well. But, La Presse reported, CHOM said no.

It’s not because they’re not interested, explained Astral Media VP Martin Spalding, just that they don’t have any openings for him. “There wasn’t an opportunity,” Spalding said. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an opportunity in the future.”

Spalding explained that giving Rajotte a show would mean cutting the time of existing staff like Bilal Butt, who hosts evenings. “For the time being, we want to allow Bilal to grow in that timeslot,” Spalding said.

Sadly, the radio market isn’t what it was even a decade ago, and the anglophone music stations aren’t as eager as the francophone ones to grab big names to do an hour a day.

Could fate open up an opportunity for Rajotte at his other former home? As Spalding would say, never say never. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Move over, Movember

I’m not a fan of fundraising. It’s panhandling for the middle class. It’s guilt-tripping, getting people to overpay for stuff they don’t even want, or worse – “pledge” in favour of someone doing something entirely unnecessary. And they can’t complain because, well, it’s all for a good cause.

I’ve also never been a moustache man. But I thought it might be fun to try it for a month in the spirit of Movember. Dreading the thought of asking people to donate in exchange for nothing more than the honour of seeing me look like a 70s used car salesman, I decided I’d make a donation of my own at the end.

I thought I’d be a bit clever by making the donation dependent on the number of hairs my face could produce in that gap between my nose and lip. As it turns out, there’s a lot of them, and they’re very difficult to count.

My best estimate, by looking at the sink after shaving, was about 500. Multiplied by the entirely arbitrary figure of 25 cents per, that gives me $125, which I just sent to the Movember people to spend trying to cure prostate cancer. I figure that’ll be enough to put them over the top.

It certainly doesn’t hurt Canada’s position as the top Movember country.

I’m just glad to have my face back.

Todd van der Heyden leaving for CTV News Channel

Todd van der Heyden, who has been anchoring CTV Montreal’s noon and 6pm newscasts with Mutsumi Takahashi since 2008, will be leaving the station and moving to Toronto to accept a job as an anchor on CTV News Channel, CTV announced on Friday.

CTV Montreal has a story on its website, CTV News Channel has a press release, and Van der Heyden confirmed the news on Twitter. He also announced it to viewers at the end of Friday’s noon newscast (see video above).

His last newscast for CFCF will be Friday, Dec. 30. He starts anchoring CTV News Channel’s Express from 1-4pm weekdays with Amanda Blitz, starting Jan. 16.

You can read the abridged version of all this in the story I wrote for The Gazette. Or, for you TV fanatics, lots of detail and baseless speculation below.

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Transit fares for 2012

It’s that time of year again, when the STM releases its fare schedule for the next year and the entire city grumbles about it.

The STM’s press release (sent on Friday, which made Métro’s Mathias Marchal wonder if it was trying to get hidden in news coverage) talks about all the additional service it provides in exchange for this modest increase, and they’re not making it up – there have been significant increases in transit service over the past few years. But for most users, that increase isn’t enough – buses and metro trains are still packed during rush hour, and still don’t seem to come often enough outside of it.

No more six tickets or CAM Longueuil

Two fares disappear completely from the grid for 2012. One is the CAM Longueuil, a compromise set up for 2011 that allowed users of the Longueuil metro station to transition from a regular STM fare to a Zone 3 fare.

People who use the Longueuil metro station (but who don’t use the RTL network) will go from paying $82 a month ($49 reduced fare) to $117 a month ($70 reduced fare, $93.50 intermediate fare). This represents a 43% increase, or a whopping 91% increase for students 18-25.

The other item gone from the fare table is the six-trip package. Originally designed to be a single disposable magnetic card that could be used six times, the STM quickly started giving out six individual tickets when it noticed that careless users would discard their ticket after one use.

There is still the 10-ticket package available, but that requires an Opus card. This means that people who don’t want an Opus card (say, tourists) must buy tickets two at a time or use the “Carte occasionnelle” one-day or three-day tourist pass.

Fare progression chart

Here’s a chart showing the STM’s fares over the past five years:

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Change 2007-2012
Monthly CAM (regular) $65 $66.25 (+1.9%) $68.50 (+3.4%) $70 (+2.2%) $72.75 (+3.9%) $75.50 (+3.8%) +16%
Monthly CAM (reduced) $35 $36 (+2.9%) $37 (+2.8%) $38.75 (+4.7%) $41 (+5.8%) $43.75 (+6.7%) +25%
Four-month CAM (reduced fare only) N/A N/A N/A $148 ($37/month) $155 ($38.75/month) (+4.7%) $164 ($41/month) (+5.8%) +10.8% (2010-12)
Weekly CAM (regular) $19 $19.25 (+1.3%) $20 (+3.9%) $20.50 (+2.5%) $22 (+2.5%) $23.50 (+6.8%) +24%
Weekly CAM (reduced) $10.75 $11 (+2.3%) $11.25 (+2.3%) $11.50 (+2.2%) $12.75 (+10.9%) $13.75 (+7.8%) +28%
Three-day tourist pass $17 $17 (unchanged) $17 (unchanged) $14
$16 (+14.3%) $16 (unchanged) -6%
One-day tourist pass
(Also used as 747 fare)
$9 $9 (unchanged) $9 (unchanged) $7
$8 (+14.3%) $8 (unchanged) -11%
Evening pass (after 6pm) N/A N/A N/A N/A $4 $4 (unchanged) None (2011-12)
10 trips (Opus card only) (regular) N/A N/A $20 $21 ($2.10/trip) (+5%) $22.50 ($2.25/trip) (+7.1%) $24 ($2.40/trip) (+6.7%) +20% (2009-12)
10 trips (Opus card only) (reduced) N/A N/A $10.75 ($1.08/trip) $12 ($1.20/trip) (+11.6%) $13 ($1.30/trip) (+8.3%) $14 ($1.40/trip) (+7.7%) +30% (2009-12)
Six trips (regular) $11.75 ($1.96/trip) $12 ($2/trip) (+2.1%) $12.75 ($2.13/trip)(+6.3%) $13.25 ($2.21/trip) (+3.9%) $14.25 ($2.38/trip) (+7.5%) Discontinued +21% (2007-11)
Six trips (reduced) $6.25 ($1.04/trip) $6.50 ($1.08/trip) (+4%) $6.75 ($1.13/trip) (+3.8%) $7.50 ($1.25/trip) (+11.1%) $8.50 ($1.42/trip) (+13.3%) Discontinued +36% (2007-11)
Two trips (regular) N/A N/A N/A N/A $5.50 ($2.75/trip) $5.50 (unchanged) None (2011-12)
Two trips (reduced) N/A N/A N/A N/A $3.50 ($1.75/trip) $3.50 (unchanged) None (2011-12)
Single fare (regular) $2.75 $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $3 (+9.1%) $3 (unchanged) +9.1%
Single fare (reduced) $1.75 $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $2 (+14.3%) $2 (unchanged) +14.3%

I’ll leave it to you to decide if these increases are too much in the short or long term.

UPDATE: Here’s some progression tables for Montreal’s other transit agencies:


I value my sanity, so I won’t do the entire fare table. I’ll limit this table to the most popular fare, the TRAM fare, for each zone. (Zone 8 doesn’t have any train stations, but does have some bus service). The full 2012 fare table is here (PDF).

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Change
TRAM Zone 1 $74.50 $77 $79.50 $81 $82 $84.50 +13%
TRAM Zone 2 $87 $90 $93 $94.50 $96 $99 +14%
TRAM Zone 3 $103 $105 $109 $111 $113 $117 +14%
TRAM Zone 4 $113 $115 $119 $121 $123 $127 +12%
TRAM Zone 5 $131 $133 $138 $140 $142 $147 +12%
TRAM Zone 6 $156 $159 $165 $168 $171 $177 +13%
TRAM Zone 7 $182 $185 $191 $194 $197 $203 +12%
TRAM Zone 8 $207 $211 $218 $222 $225 $232 +12%

The AMT says it will also maintain the “discount” allowing people using the Hudson train station, which is in Zone 6, to use a Zone 5 pass. This policy has been in place since Hudson (and Rigaud) were moved from Zone 5 to Zone 6 on Jan. 1, 2005.


Slight hikes in all categories, including an increase in the cash fare from $2.80 to $3, which is equal to the STM cash fare and the cash fare to enter the Laval metro stations. It also brings it back up to the level it was in 2007. The fare was reduced in 2008 to encourage more people to use transit.

The full list of fares is here.

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Change
Single fare $3 $2.50 $2.60 $2.75 $2.80 $3 Unchanged
8 tickets (regular) $21 (8x$2.63) $18 (8x$2.25) $18.50 (8x$2.31) $18.75 (8x$2.34) $19 (8x$2.38) $19.50 (8x$2.44) -7%
8 tickets (reduced) $12.25 (8x$1.53) $12.50 (8x$1.56) $13 (8x$1.56) $13.25 (8x$1.66) $13.50 (8x$1.69) $13.75 (8x$1.72) +12%
Monthly pass (regular) $72.50 $74 $76.50 $78 $79 $81.50 +12%
Monthly pass (intermediate) $58 $59 $61 $62.50 $63 $65 +12%
Monthly pass (reduced) $43 $44.50 $46 $47 $47.50 $49 +14%


The full fare table for 2012 is here.

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Change
Single fare $3.25 $3.25 $3* $3 $3.10 $3.20 -1.5%*
Single fare (reduced) $1.90 $2 N/A N/A N/A N/A Fare eliminated in 2009
6 trips (regular) $15 (6x$2.50) $15.50 (6x$2.58) $16.10 (6x$2.68) $16.50 (6x$2.75) $16.75 (6x$2.79) $17 (6x$2.83) +12%
6 trips (reduced) $8.85 (6x$1.48) $9.25 (6x$1.54) $9.60 (6x$1.6) $10 (6x$1.67) $10 (6x$1.67) $10.25 (6x$1.71) +16%
Monthly pass (regular) $73 $76 $79 $81 $82.50 $84.50 +16%
Monthly pass (reduced) $42 $45 $47 $48.50 $49.50 $50.50 +20%
Four months (reduced) N/A N/A N/A $194 $194 $198 +2%

*In 2009, the RTL eliminated transfers and reduced single fares. (All other fares moved to electronic cards.) As of then, cash fares no longer allowed transfers, hence the reduction in price.

We interrupt this programming to ask you for money

Today, Dec. 1, is La grande guignolée des médias, the day during the year when various Quebec media and other groups unite for the cause of raising money and supplies for various charities.

What I like most about this campaign is that it’s entirely independent of the guerre des médias. Its list of participating media includes Quebecor (including the Journal de Montréal, 24H, Canoe, TVA and VOX), Radio-Canada, La Presse, Cogeco (including CKOI, Rythme FM, 98.5, CKAC and The Beat), Astral (including CHOM, Virgin Radio, CJAD, Rouge, NRJ, Canal D, Canal Vie, MusiquePlus, MusiMax, Télétoon, and Ztélé), V, Télé-Québec, Transcontinental (including Métro), TV5, MétéoMédia, RDS, Groupe Serdy (Zeste and Évasion) and CHOQ.FM (UQAM’s student radio station).

It would probably be easier to list the media not part of this list: Le Devoir, Voir, some community radio stations and a larger number of anglophone media (including The Gazette), many of which have their own holiday fundraising campaigns.

Volunteers will be collecting money at metro stations during the rush hours, and donations can be dropped off at Loblaws/Maxi/Provigo stores or Laurentian Bank locations.

Here’s to hoping they have a day worth reporting on.

UPDATE (Dec. 3): It looks like they raised at least $150,000 in Montreal alone.

La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé, in response to a piece by Le Devoir’s Stéphane Baillargeon asking if it’s the job of journalists to be panhandlers for charity, says there’s plenty of other things journalists waste their time on. He has more on his blog. Baillargeon’s piece is, sadly, subscriber-locked.

La Presse auctions off its journalists

As part of the Grande guignolée, La Presse is once again auctioning off activities with its columnists. These lots aren’t cheap – three or four figures, depending – but they’re for a good cause. Bidding ends at 4pm.

Just please make sure Lagacé doesn’t win.


Another event happening this week is the big annual fundraiser for the Foundation of Stars, formerly known as the Foundation for Research into Children’s Diseases. Last year, you’ll recall, the foundation decided to do away with the telethon they had done for decades, replacing it with a “webothon” that was streamed online. I panned the idea because going online would rob them of the big thing being on television gave them: visibility.

As it turns out, the foundation seems to have realized that, and they’ve abandoned the webothon idea. Without the financial means to put on another telethon, they’ve switched medium and gone to radio, organizing a “phoneothon” on CJAD, Rouge FM and Boom FM stations. It happens Sunday, Dec. 4, from 10 am to 7pm.

As the organization’s latest annual report shows (PDF), the switch from television to the Web resulted in a drop of about $500,000 in fundraising. And because fundraising costs stayed about the same, that drop came out of the bottom line. The result is that there was $700,000 less given to hospital research centres in the 2010-11 fiscal year than the year before.

Let’s hope that using radio instead of television can provide a happy medium between visibility and cost control that results in maximum benefit for the foundation and, of course, the children it’s trying to help.