Monthly Archives: April 2012

Local broadcasters win regional broadcasting awards

RTNDA Canada (Radio and Television News Directors Association) is putting out awards like a drunken award-giver. The latest batch is the central region awards, of which there are 35 recipients, including “honorary mention” awards. When the medium is restricted to broadcasting, the language is restricted to English and the geography is restricted to Quebec and Ontario, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that some Montreal media are winning these awards.

Nevertheless, journalists deserve praise for their work over the past year, as marginally prestigious as it may be.

The full list of winners is here. Among Quebec (and by that I mean Montreal) media:

CTV Montreal was the big winner, picking up three awards:

  • The special report Dirty Little Secret (Part 1, Part 2) by Caroline van Vlaardingen, about how easy it is to get sexual services at massage parlours, won the Dan McArthur Award for in-depth/investigative reporting
  • The special report Caught in a Trap by Catherine Sherriffs, about the dangers to animals of traps in wooded areas, won the Dave Rogers Award (large market) for long features
  • The station also won the Hugh Haugland Award (named after a CFCF cameraman who died on the job) for creative use of video
CJAD won the Peter Gzowski Award for news information program for its reporting on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Host Ric Peterson gives his thank-yous on his blog. Clips from the report can be listened to on the show’s podcast page.

The Ron Laidlaw award for continuous coverage went to CBC Montreal for coverage of last year’s Richelieu flood. An honourable mention went to Global Montreal for its coverage of the same floods.

NADbank numbers: Newspaper crisis? What newspaper crisis?

The latest batch of numbers on newspaper readership from NADbank have been released, and in general show newspaper readership about the same as last year despite doomsayers who predict the swift decline of the print medium.

You can see some national trends on NADbank’s website in a PDF presentation. In general, it shows that print is still way ahead of online, that most people still get their news from newspapers in print form, and that rich people are more likely to be print readers. They also show, unsurprisingly, that online readership is continuing to grow, and is more than compensating any losses in print (at least in terms of eyeballs – advertising revenue is an entirely different story).

Unlike services that measure number of subscribers, NADbank gets its data through polling the general population, asking questions like “did you read this newspaper yesterday?” Its polling covers only the market and doesn’t measure out-of-market readership in print or online.

Infopresse crunches the numbers for Quebec newspapers, which for some reason doesn’t include The Gazette. Their chart (PDF) shows little change among La Presse and the Journal de Montréal (which is down slightly from 2010 – is that because the lockout is over?). Le Devoir, meanwhile, has held on to significant gains made between 2009 and 2010, though it is still the last-read paper in Montreal.

Among the free dailies, both have achieved significant gains in readership. 24 Heures is up 12%, profiting mainly from the fact that as of January 2011 it has exclusive rights to distribute in the metro system. But while one would expect competitor Metro to lose a significant amount of readership because of this, it has only continued to grow, up 3% in the last year. It’s undoubtedly more expensive for Métro to hire all those people to hand out papers in the morning, but it is clearly working to stop too many people from switching.

The slower rate of growth for Métro means that 24 Heures is catching up. While in 2009 Métro had 26% more readership on a typical weekday, that’s down to 12%.

The Gazette says its combined readership has hit a five-year high of 554,800 per week. Its print readership is 283,300 on weekdays, 318,900 on Saturdays and 498,000 at least once a week. 24 Heures’s gains have pushed it past The Gazette in terms of average weekday readership.

Nancy Wood replaces Amanda Margison as late anchor on CBC Montreal

Nancy Wood anchors her first late newscast on Monday, April 23

Nancy Wood is coming back.

Two years after being removed from her job as host of Daybreak on CBC Radio, Wood has been given the job of late anchor on CBC television. She will replace Amanda Margison, who is leaving Montreal to move to London, Ont.

An exact start date is still to be determined, but the change is expected to happen by the end of the month. UPDATE: Wood’s first shift was Monday, April 23. You can see video of it here.

Wood has spent the past two years working in a special capacity at Radio-Canada’s investigative show Enquête, doing stories for them but also repurposing Enquête’s stories for English television (you know, all those “CBC/Radio-Canada investigations”). Wood told me yesterday that it was clear when the project was renewed for a second season last year that this would be its last, so she’s been preparing to return to the English side for some time.

With the opening of the late anchor position, Wood said it was a convenient way of bringing her back without causing any disruption to other positions or bumping anyone out of a job.

CBC’s union rules allow Wood to return to her old job of national television reporter based in Montreal if the anchor job doesn’t work out. It’s what kept her at the CBC after losing the Daybreak job and what she had planned to do before news of the late anchor vacancy came up.

I asked Wood whether being on a 10-minute late newscast was better for her professionally than being a regular reporter for national news. She pointed out the advantage of being a daily presence on local television versus a letter and more intermittent one nationally. She also said being a national reporter can often mean being told on a moment’s notice to run off to some distant corner of the province to report on a breaking story. Being an anchor is more predictable in terms of work hours and location.

But there are downsides to the new job, she admitted. With a shift ending at 11:15pm, it means not being able to spend weeknights at home with her two teenage kids, and only seeing them in the mornings, when they are much less verbal, as any parent can attest.

Wood said she’d also be a bit sad about not being able to work on long features like the stories she’s doing for Enquête. She just came back to Montreal from Louisiana, where she worked on her final story, expected to come out next week. After that, she’ll move to the English side. (UPDATE: Her final investigative story has come out, about the health risks of an anti-malaria drug given to Canadian soldiers)


It was actually Wood who used the R word first in our conversation, pointing out that part of her job will be to try to boost the ratings of the late newscast, sandwiched between The National and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.

Wood’s departure from Daybreak reportedly had a lot to do with the show’s ratings with her at the helm.

When asked whether she’s worried about ratings, Wood said it would be nice to see a boost, but that will depend more on how much promotion of the show will be done using the usual means as well as during advertising breaks of The National.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but I can’t help noticing how the timing of Wood’s job change matches that of CBC Quebec boss Pia Marquard. Though it’s unclear what role Marquard played in removing Wood from Daybreak, the move happened as she took over the job, and many CBC listeners angry over Wood’s removal blamed Marquard directly. Wood’s move back to a more public role happens just as Marquard is leaving the post for health reasons.

CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr couldn’t be reached for comment last Friday and has since left on a two-week vacation. I’ll try to talk to her when she comes back. UPDATE (April 18): CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr had nothing but praise for Wood. She also noted when I talked to her that Marquard was instrumental in Wood being given the late anchor job.

As for Margison, she confirmed she’s “moving on” but didn’t offer much comment on the matter, beyond her surprise that the news came out via Twitter.

“There are no secrets any more,” she writes in an email.

Not when it comes to anchors, I’m afraid.

Thomas Daigle

Sabrina Marandola

Daigle, Marandola hired for weekend newscast

Meanwhile, the second of two jobs opened as a result of the impending expansion into weekends have been filled. Sabrina Marandola will be taking over the job of weekend weather presenter.

Marandola confirmed the news Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

The move is hardly a surprise. Marandola has often acted as a backup to Frank Cavallaro.

Marandola joins Thomas Daigle, who was named to the anchor position last week.

UPDATE (April 18): Barr heaped the praise on both Daigle and Marandola, saying how thrilled CBC is to have them in these roles. Barr said Daigle, who has no previous anchoring experience, is nevertheless “a really strong live reporter” who is “engaging on camera, a great communicator”. Marandola, who started backing up Cavallaro around Christmas, is “dynamic and engaging” and “really has a love and passion for weather,” Barr said.

I asked Barr, because of Wood’s history, whether ratings would factor in to how these anchors are evaluated. Barr said that of course ratings are important (“that’s why we’re here,” she said), but that there are no expectations on anchors when it comes to ratings numbers.

The newscasts – 6pm-6:30pm on Saturdays and 10:55pm-11:05pm on Sundays – start May 5.

CBC cuts will be felt on the airwaves

Nobody could seriously have suspected that the 10% cut to the CBC’s budget wouldn’t result in some significant service disruptions. Nevertheless, the Mother Corp has done its best to maintain things like local programming.

The CBC has a website explaining the cuts that are coming as a result of the federal budget.

Here, in point form, is what the CBC is doing:

  • Reduce its workforce by 650 full-time equivalent jobs
  • Apply to the CRTC to allow it to air advertising on Radio Two and Espace musique
  • Shut down remaining analog television transmitters by July 31
  • Radio Canada International will cease transmission on shortwave and satellite, cut Russian and Brazilian services, and shut down its news department, ending its newscasts
  • Cancel nighttime programming on Première chaîne
  • Produce fewer episodes (and air more repeats) of original television series
  • Reduce its real estate footprint, including reducing Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal by 400,000 square feet
  • Increase employee contributions to the employee pension plan
  • Abandon plans for an English-language children’s specialty channel and French-language sports channel
  • Sell Bold
  • Produce fewer in-house documentaries, relying more on independent producers

There’s a bunch of other things that are very vague, including reductions in news gathering and in radio programming, whose details will be known soon.

On the plus side, it doesn’t look like local programming will be significantly affected. CBC Montreal will continue, for example, with its plans to launch weekend TV and radio newscasts starting May 5. The network also seems to be doing as much as it can to keep journalism jobs (except at RCI).

On the minus side, some people will complain about ads and sponsorships on the music radio stations (and it seems an odd move particularly because Radio Two and Espace musique are usually at the very bottom of the ratings charts), and there can’t be the loss of so many jobs without affecting front-line services.

But what gets me most is those cuts to actual, physical broadcasting.

No-wave radio

The CBC’s CKCX shortwave transmission site near Sackville, New Brunswick, is a sight to behold with its giant transmission towers and seemingly chaotic spider web of long antenna wires. It’s the only station of its kind in Canada, and transmits at different times and on different frequencies toward the rest of the world on shortwave, as well as some CBC North programming toward the territories and some transmissions of foreign services as part of transmitter sharing/swap agreements.

The shortwave transmissions will be coming to an end, as will transmissions using satellite. This leaves Internet streaming as the only way for people to listen to RCI.

It’s hardly the first time RCI has felt under the knife. There’s a blog set up by those who want to protect this service from being slashed into oblivion. It points to cuts under the Mulroney government in 1990 in which RCI was almost shut down but instead lost just half its staff and half its language services.

I don’t have any numbers on how many people listen to RCI via shortwave. Maybe it’s not many. But I can’t help thinking this loss will be a blow to Canada’s reputation, and wonder why they’d bother keeping it if they’re going to make it online-only. This interview with RCI’s boss, Hélène Parent, makes it clear in its tone if not its content that this is as close to a fatal blow to RCI as one can make without killing it completely. More than 80% of its budget is being cut, going from $12.3 million to $2.3 million.

And as some have pointed out, part of the benefit of shortwave radio is to provide a western perspective to people inside third-world countries or dictatorships where their only other options are state-run television and radio stations. Many of these places restrict or block the Internet, and might do the same to RCI online. Though it is possible to jam shortwave radio transmissions, it’s a lot harder.

The analog era is over

Another big cost savings will come from shutting down more than 600 analog television transmitters across the country. In an effort to serve Canadians in even the most remote of communities, the CBC has retransmitters for its English and French television services all over the country. Many of them are low-power, transmitting just a few watts of power to cover a community of a few hundred people.

For example, here’s a list of the 40+ retransmitters just of CBC Montreal television, from Îles de la Madeleine to Blanc Sablon to
Salluit at the northern end of Quebec. All of them will be shut down, leaving only the digital transmitter on Mount Royal.

After July 31, only existing digital transmitters will remain in operation. There are 27 of them for the two networks, along with those run by privately-owned affiliates.

It’s not just tiny villages that will lose over-the-air television. Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières and other cities in Quebec will no longer have retransmitters of CBC Montreal, which will mean, for example, that audiences without cable or satellite television in those areas will no longer get to watch Canadiens games on Saturday nights. The CRTC gave a one-year extension on the mandatory digital transition for a bunch of transmitters in mandatory markets. Affected were transmitters for stations that did not produce any original local programming but were in markets large enough to require the transition.

When I spoke to the CBC, it said it would probably just ask for another extension once that one ran out, and that it didn’t see ever converting all or even most of its analog transmitters into digital.

With budget cuts, the hand is forced and these transmitters are going to be shut down. That will mean, for example, that APTN will be the only over-the-air television transmitters in northern Canada. It will mean that Quebec will have no over-the-air English television outside of Montreal, Gatineau and the two Global Montreal retransmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke. It will mean no Radio-Canada transmitter in Calgary and many other markets where you’d think they should have one.

One can hope that the CBC will mitigate the damage somewhat by providing second-language service as a subchannel in some markets where it has digital transmitters for one language but not the other. That would mean it could at least provide a standard-definition feed of CBC television in Quebec City to people with digital receivers.

Otherwise, this is really the beginning of the end of over-the-air television.

UPDATE (April 11): The Gazette has a story about the cuts to Radio Canada International.

Meanwhile, CBC has more details about the cuts to English services. They include shutting down South American and African news bureaus, eliminating drama programming from radio, and accelerating “integration” of newsrooms and other vague plans.

CISM to broadcast Montreal Impact games

The Montreal Impact, frustrated that it hasn’t been able to reach a broadcasting agreement in French-language radio, has taken the unusual step of turning to a university radio station.

The Impact had been in talks with Cogeco for games to air on CHMP 98.5FM in Montreal, which also airs Canadiens games and Alouettes games now that CKAC Sports no longer exists. But with news and sports sharing the same station, there wasn’t enough room on the schedule for all the games.

The Impact has deals for English radio (CJAD), English television (TSN/TSN2) and French television (shared by RDS and TVA Sports), but nothing for French radio so far, opening the door for CISM.

“It was actually their idea to come to us,” said Impact president Joey Saputo. “I guess they thought it was a joke or something, but we took it seriously and once we expressed interest, they took it seriously too.”

Université de Montréal’s CISM 89.3 FM will broadcast home games only (they don’t have the budget to do away games) for the season, with a broadcast team made up mostly of student volunteers. Gilles Nohnsépavré, who was named head of a new sports department at CISM, said the students would be teamed up with some broadcast veterans. There’s no word on who would form the on-air broadcast team yet, but Nohnsépavré said the plan is to team a professional play-by-play man with one or more student analysts.

CISM’s first Impact game will be next weekend, when the Toronto FC visit Olympic Stadium. The game begins at noon.

Postmedia to buy The Suburban

In a deal to be announced just before the markets open tomorrow, Postmedia Network Inc., the owner of The Gazette, the National Post and other papers is buying Montreal’s Suburban newspaper for an undisclosed sum.

The Suburban is a weekly newspaper (with an online-only weekly magazine) with three editions for the three parts of the island, published by Michael Sochaczevski. No change to this is expected in the short term after the acquisition.

“We’re impressed with the quality of the Suburban newspaper and feel it’s a great fit for our company,” said one Postmedia executive who didn’t want to be named because the deal had not been announced yet. “Its angryphone, pro-Israel, anti-commie-leftist editorial line also creates great synergy with our other newspapers, particularly the National Post. And we’re looking to make (editor-in-chief) Beryl Wajsman a national columnist.”

The deal is expected to open the door to some synergies between the Suburban and The Gazette, including shared stories. The Suburban is also expected to add a business section with content from the Financial Post.

Canadiens fan gets hired for front-office job after proposing brilliant Scott Gomez-Steven Stamkos trade

In an unusual move, the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to a player trade for next season even as the current one isn’t over yet. The team announced moments ago on Twitter that it has agreed to trade Scott Gomez for Steven Stamkos after the end of the season next week.

With both teams already eliminated from playoff contention, they’re quickly looking for the future. Montreal has just fired its general manager, and is looking for fresh new talent to fill its front office.

Enter Jonathan Yarite, who posted on his Canadiens fan blog that the team should look into trading the underperforming Gomez for a big high-scoring forward like Stamkos. Canadiens president Geoff Molson saw the post, and immediately ordered that the trade be negotiated.

“I wasn’t sure if they would go for it, to be honest,” Molson said. “But they jumped at the chance to get rid of Stamkos and the potential financial crisis he could represent a few years down the line.”

As a reward for suggesting the idea, Molson offered Yarite an assistant general manager job. Yarite immediately accepted, and is expected to start looking for other trade opportunities starting Monday.

Molson said he didn’t want to reveal the trade right away, to respect the NHL’s trade deadline. But he didn’t want to put Yarite into his job without explaining to everyone why.

The Stamkos-Gomez deal is technically unofficial until after the end of the season, “but both teams have agreed it’s a mutually-beneficial agreement,” Molson said with Yarite’s head nodding in agreement.

Quebec celebrity TV guest drought reaching crisis levels

As Quebec television viewers are mourning the end of another season – and the beginning of summer programming – producers of dozens of TV shows here are beginning to panic about a problem that could put grind their productions to a halt: A lack of celebrities to invite as guests of the week.

The problem first began to surface last fall, as new TV shows and new specialty channels put a strain on the number of big-time stars who could find the time to appear on a show where they cook up some recipe or talk about their favourite websites. But it’s reaching a crisis point now because shooting for shows that air this fall – like Les Enfants de la télé – is about to start up again, while summer shows with quicker turnaround times are also looking for celebrity guests.

Among the shows that rely on celebrity invites are Les Enfants de la télé, En direct de l’univers, Le verdict, c’est votre opinion, La Liste, La Petite séduction, Prière de ne pas envoyer des fleurs, Kampaï, Pour le plaisir, Privé de sens, L’union fait la force, Fidèles au poste, Dieu merci!, Le Tricheur, Testé sur des humains, Ça finit bien la semaine, Duo, Bar Ouvert, Belle et bum, La une qui tue, Génial, Ça sent drôle, Fan club, Les Touilleurs, Voulez-vous danser?, Cuisinez comme Louis, Design V.I.P., Guide restos Voir, À table!, Cliquez and Recettes de chefs. And that doesn’t include interview/talk shows like Tout le monde en parle, On prend toujours un train, Les Grandes entrevues,, Deux filles le matin, Le Confident, Benezra reçoit and Un gars le soir, not to mention magazines like Châtelaine, Lou Lou, Elle Québec, 7 jours, La Semaine, Échos vedettes, Clin d’oeil, TV hebdo, Le lundi, and anyone else who might want to interview a celebrity.

“I’m really, really worried,” said a producer for a specialty network who didn’t want to be identified. “We’re having to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the Bottin des artistes. We’ve had Joël Legendre on three times in the past month. We’re at the point where we’re having a guest whose claim to fame is having appeared in a minor role in a couple of episodes of Les Parent.”

Big stars are booked solid for months. Véronique Cloutier (for whom 75% of her salary now comes from making guest appearances on other people’s shows) has every hour of free time accounted for over the next three and a half years. Even politician Denis Coderre is having to turn down requests, saying he thinks the Quebec television-viewing public has seen enough of his face.

Game shows that normally end their seasons with a “spécial artistes” like La Guerre des clans and Paquet voleur are considering dropping them because of a shortage of available personalities.

Some shows are trying to find creative solutions to the problem. Some are having their hosts appear as guests on each other’s shows. Some are having special concept episodes in which the host is his or her own guest. Some are synchronizing their shooting schedules so what few celebrities are available can do a bunch at a time like going through an assembly line. And some are even experimenting with non-celebrity invites, going instead with visual artists, second-rate newspaper columnists and TV producers and writers not named Fabienne Larouche.

One producer, who swore me to secrecy as he tearfully admitted this, said one person in his production meeting last week almost seriously suggested having an anglo as a guest.

Here’s hoping they can find a way to resolve this problem before all our precious celebrities are burned out for good.

Pete Marier hired as weekend anchor, cooking show host on CFCF

Pete Marier

Less than a month after his contract with CHOM ended, Pete Marier has a new job. He’ll be Tarah Schwartz’s co-anchor weekends at 6 and 11:30pm on CFCF.

The formal announcement is going out tomorrow, but sources confirmed the decision on Saturday. Marier is expected to start some time over the coming weeks.

In addition to his anchor duties, Marier will be starting a cooking show, tentatively titled “Cooking with Petey-Pie”, in which the former radio DJ explains to the audience how to make his signature award-winning dishes. It will air at 1pm weekdays after the noon newscast.

Marier is said to be thrilled with the opportunity to shed his tough-guy radio personality and embrace his true identity as a serious but sympathetic journalist and gourmet cook.

West Island drivers elated by plan for new 76-lane expressway

An ingenious solution to the West Island traffic problem has been proposed by a member of François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec: Just build a highway big enough that they can’t complain about it anymore.

The proposed 76-lane expressway (40 lanes eastbound, 36 lanes westbound) would require destroying most of Westmount below Sherbrooke Street, as well as parts of LaSalle and a big chunk of Lachine, but Moe Vessidé says it would eliminate traffic congestion along Highways 20 and 720, including the busiest part of Quebec’s busiest highway interchange, the Turcot.

A cost hasn’t been confirmed, though Vessidé said it would probably be about the same as the cost of the Turcot refit. “And with the current plan, the problem isn’t going away. Why not eliminate it for good?”

Environmental and city heritage groups are expected to oppose the plan.

Student union president offers use of private solid-gold A380 to bring students to Quebec City protest

Concordia’s student union president is offering to shuttle students from Montreal to Quebec City for next week’s anti-tuition-hike protest using her own personal solid-gold Airbus A380 jumbo jet, the first time she has used the aircraft in the performance of her duties.

“I’d heard that a lot of students didn’t want to take an uncomfortable three-hour bus ride,” CSU president Lex Gill said over coffee at Starbucks. “So I arranged for Solidarity, my private A380, to be made available to bring as many of them as possible to this massive protest. It’s really important as many people as possible show up.”

Though the A380 can carry more than 800 passengers, Gill’s plane was configured in its most luxurious option, with only about 300 seats. She said her airplane maintenance team (not Aveos, thankfully) will be working round-the-clock to reconfigure the aircraft to carry more passengers.

Gill said she wasn’t sure yet how other students would make their way to Quebec City. Some may still have to travel by bus, while she said the CSU is considering chartering other aircraft for the trip there and back, or having her plane make two trips.

“No expense will be spared to make this happen,” she said. “I don’t care if I have to pay a million dollars out of my own pocket. I will make education accessible to rich and poor alike. I will make the government see that they can find the money elsewhere, and not take it out of our iPhone-filled hands.”


The Beat to sponsor First Annual Beat-Off For The Cure

As part of its continuing marketing campaign to get its new station to the number one spot, The Beat 92.5 is planning a giant music-themed charity event this summer. Called Beat-Off For The Cure, the event is expected to gather thousands of Montrealers at the Olympic Stadium at some point in June (the exact date hasn’t been set yet) for a giant music party.

“We’ll want everyone to Beat off with us,” said new promotions director Ann Ewento. “It’s going to be the hottest party of the summer.”

What will make the party exceptionally fun will be that participants can choose the songs that are played through a special iPhone app called Beat Off, in which participants do head-to-head battles to get popular support for their proposed song collections. “We’re figuring that people’s right hands will be sore after playing Beat Off so much,” Ewento said. “I’ve tried it, and let me tell you that winning a Beat Off requires quick hands and a lot of endurance.”

Ewento predicts Beating Off will be particularly popular among teenagers.

The Beat seems pretty confident about this event (calling it the “first annual” suggests they know it’ll succeed and warrant a sequel next year). Ewento said she’s very certain everyone is going to go home satisfied after Beating off, win or lose.

990th caller to TSN Radio 990 to get free audition for Canadiens GM

TSN Radio 990 has managed the kind of marketing coup we haven’t seen around these parts in a while. It has convinced Canadiens owner Geoff Molson to offer an audition for general manager of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club to the 990th caller to the radio station as of Monday morning.

Extra staff have been called in to handle the deluge of phone calls, though station management admit they’re not quite sure how long it will take to reach 990 callers.

The winner of the contest will get 15 minutes in a room with Molson to try to convince him that he or she would make the best general manager, conclude the most brilliant trades, pick out the most underrated draft pick and form a squad of players easily capable of winning a Stanley Cup next season.

It’s unclear at this point what the team is getting in return for Molson’s time. A hefty donation to charity is likely involved.

New language cops to be armed: report

In addition to making an exception to a hiring freeze to allow 69 more jobs to be added at the Office québécois de la langue française to improve enforcement of Quebec’s language law, the Quebec government is making changes to its regulations to allow some front-line enforcement officers to be armed, according to a story in Le Devoir.

“The violence against our language police has to stop,” justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier said yesterday after the seventh death of a language police officer on the job. “Hopefully giving them access to firearms will make language criminals think twice before attacking one of our officers.”

Language-related violence has spiked since the Office said it would push to have stores with English brand names to add French descriptions to their signs.

“Our inspectors are afraid to go out because they fear for their safety,” said culture minister Christine St-Pierre. “We can’t allow this to continue.”

Under new legislation set to be introduced next month, OQLF inspectors would have a status similar to border guards and private security agents. They would be armed at all times when on patrol, but would not have police powers. They would not be able to arrest people, for example.

The opposition Parti Québécois told Le Devoir it supports the move, and that it should have happened years ago. Its justice critic also said the government should give the OQLF enough resources that it can send two officers on every inspection. “Nobody should be enforcing Quebec’s language laws alone,” he said.

If approved by the National Assembly, armed language cops could be on the streets by this fall.

CJAD considers abolishing CJAD News Time

CJAD News Time could soon be a thing of the past as the station, looking to cut costs ahead of its parent company’s acquisition by Bell Media, considers dumping the time zone and adopting Eastern Standard Time and Eastern Daylight Time, in line with its audience.

CJAD News Time was invented in 1985 by the station’s management. Nobody I spoke to was entirely sure who came up with the idea exactly, but it was originally a crazy marketing idea: CJAD News Time would ensure it was always ahead of the competition by being exactly 0.800 seconds ahead of everyone else. When the clock struck midnight, CJAD News Time would already be at 12:00:00.800. The idea gained traction because the difference in time was about the same as the lag time between when something was said in the studio and when it reached listeners’ radios at home. “So in a sense, CJAD News Time was more accurate than any other time,” said Guillaume “Gully” Bulle, a long-time technician who worked on CJAD’s transmission system for 20 years before his retirement last fall.

A few years after coming into effect, CJAD News Time was added to the official list of world time zones. (“We’re not sure who managed to do that,” Bulle said.) It was officially defined as CJADST/UTC -4:59:59.2 and CJADDT/UTC -3:59:59.2, until 1995 when a bureaucrat at the International Telecommunication Union pulled the item from its listing. No explanation was given.

Nevertheless, CJAD News Time has continued, being used in on-air newscasts, mostly for branding purposes. Most news readers at the station, I’m told, don’t know the difference and even use clocks set to Eastern Time thinking they’re the same.

And really, they are mostly the same. A 0.800-second difference might be annoying when timing something accurately, but otherwise it doesn’t really mean much. Technical changes in the way the CJAD studio operates has reduced the lag time between when something is said and when it airs, while the lag time is much longer when the station is listened to online.

The cost of keeping CJAD News Time isn’t extremely high, but it is very annoying to maintain, Bulle said. The beeps that air on the hour and half-hour marks are on CJAD time, which requires a computer with an altered clock to keep that 0.800-second advance in place. “Considering on-air hosts can’t even finish their segments before those beeps go off at the top of the hour, it seems kind of silly to spend so much effort on 0.8 seconds,” Bulle said.

A final decision is expected in the next month. It’s unclear if the “CJAD News Time” branding would continue to be used or if on-air staff would switch to referring to it as “Eastern Time” or just “the time”.