Monthly Archives: June 2012
Radio ratings: Good news for 98.5, The Beat and CHOM
Quarterly radio ratings were released earlier this month. You can see the BBM compilation of top-line data here (PDF), but it doesn’t say too much.
Astral and Cogeco both provide analysis for the benefit of advertisers, Astral in the form of a slideshow (PDF) and Groupe Force Radio (which represents Cogeco stations and independent former Corus stations in Quebec City and Saguenay) also does a slide presentation (PDF). The latter tends to be more detailed, but is also more biased, highlighting their stations’ successes and their competitors’ struggles.
Here, based on those reports, is some analysis of what’s going on in commercial radio in Montreal. We’ll start with the English side.
Overall, there hasn’t been much change in the ratings. A few points up, a few points down. But breaking it down a bit you see some significant gains for CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and a few highlights for CHOM-FM 97.7 as well.
The Beat, which rebranded last fall in an effort to attract a younger female audience but hadn’t seen much movement in ratings until now, is starting to see the change (and accompanying marketing spending) pay off. It’s second behind Virgin Radio among adults 18-49 and 25-54 (in both cases passing CHOM), first among adults 35-64 (passing CJAD) and has seen a gain of more than 50% in a year for men 25-54 (which is interesting because the station is targetting women).
STM’s Michel Labrecque looks into the future
Michel Labrecque, who chairs the board of the STM (and ostensibly represents its users on that board, though try to find some way to reach him on the STM’s website), did a little live Q&A on the STM’s website on June 14. He got asked some interesting questions and gave some interesting answers.
I’ve summarized a few interesting bits he said below, mainly about stuff that’s happening down the line (2014 looks to be a pretty busy year for them):
- Replacement of the other half of the metro fleet (the MR-73 trains that run on the blue and orange lines) is set to begin at the end of the decade. The first set of new cars to replace the older MR-63s are to arrive in 2014.
- Labrecque isn’t very interested in the idea of maritime shuttles to the south shore. Too impractical, he says.
- Studies are in progress to determine the placement of stations on an eastern extension of the blue line, but it will follow Jean-Talon St. until the Galeries d’Anjou.
- On an eventual rapid transit system on Pie-IX Blvd. (starting in 2014), boarding of buses will happen on all three doors for people with passes, as is done in other cities. The STM is studying using such a system on other high-traffic routes as well.
- As automated machines handle more duties previously done by metro booth employees, they will be doing more duties of a customer service nature and be more in contact with users.
- Real-time bus data is expected to start working in 2014.
- The orange line could have as many as 40 work sites operating in the four hours a night the metro is not in service, doing repairs and maintenance.
Radio Canada Irrational
Radio Canada International is, essentially, dead.
The last broadcasts of the service on shortwave ended Sunday night. (You can listen to some of the final transmissions here and here.) Its budget has been cut by 80%, its Portuguese and Russian services are gone, two thirds of its staff has been let go, and the huge transmission site in Sackville, N.B., sits unused, to be sold or torn down eventually.
The video above is Marc Montgomery, host of the daily program The Link, at the end of its final broadcast on Friday. As you can see, he gets quite emotional at the end, explaining why cutting RCI is a mistake.
While most Canadians have probably never heard of it, RCI isn’t for them. As Montgomery explains, the shortwave service in particular is capable of reaching people who don’t have Internet access or whose Internet access is blocked or filtered. With an online-only service, third-world countries that restrict foreign media online won’t have access to it.
Does that matter? Do people in third-world countries really listen to RCI in the first place? Maybe not. Maybe RCI has outlived its usefulness, and its shortwave service was mostly just a hobby for lonely ham-radio types who like to tune up noisy distant stations broadcasting in single-sideband AM. In that case, it might as well be shut down completely.
I’ve seen enough media outlets go online-only as a result of budget cuts to know that complete shutdown of RCI is, at this point, inevitable. Few people will listen to it because it’s harder to access and has so little original programming, and that will be used as justification down the line to pull the plug completely.
Many people have been trying in vain to find some way to keep RCI going. Sympathetic stories have been written about their demise. Politicians have been conscripted into the cause. A rule mandating a shortwave service has been found and subsequently eliminated by the government. A protest has been organized with a few people showing up. Attempts are being made (unsuccessfully) to have the federal government set RCI’s funding aside from the rest of the CBC. The RCI Action Committee, started the last time the CBC tried to gut the service, is actively pushing these activities and chronicling with regret the dismantling of the service on Twitter.
But they’re all in vain. The damage is done. Any groundswell of public support will eventually fade. People will forget. The CBC isn’t going to go back on its decision and the government isn’t going to force them to. The latter will point out that it sets the parliamentary appropriation and leaves the details on how to spend it to the public broadcaster. The former will point out that its budget situation has forced it to make difficult decisions and that things like local news and current affairs programming matter more to average Canadians than an international shortwave service.
So while it’s nice to hear that RCI won’t disappear quietly, the best we can do is honour the service and regret that it’s now gone. CKUT’s International Radio Report, which aired Montgomery’s signoff in its entirety, itself got emotional talking about RCI’s shutdown on Sunday (MP3).
The CBC News Network program Connect and CBC Radio program Dispatches also aired their final episodes this week. The final episode of Connect is here, with a retrospective starting at the 36-minute mark. The final episode of Dispatches is here.
Quebecor shuts down Mirror
Well, this one’s kind of a shocker. Mere weeks after Communications Voir finally pulled the plug on the struggling Hour, Quebecor has responded not by positioning Mirror as the dominant alternative weekly for anglo Montreal, but by simply shutting it down. Thursday’s issue is its last.
Like Hour, staff were not told of the shutdown until after the fact, so there’s no goodbye message. Quebecor says the shutdown will result in seven layoffs, plus two people being moved to other parts of the company. The paper was also a source of income for many freelancers, and (along with Hour) gave many journalists their first professional bylines.
For those employees, and regular freelancers, the news hit hard, especially when coming from a corporate giant like Quebecor.
Caption The Beat’s station manager Mark Dickie
Cogeco to convert three CKOI stations to talk radio
Cogeco Diffusion announced Wednesday that it is converting three of its regional stations from music to talk starting Aug. 20.
The word isn’t mentioned in the press release, but all three stations – CKOY-FM 107.7 in Sherbrooke, CKOF-FM 104.7 in Gatineau and CKOB 106.9 in Trois-Rivières – are part of the CKOI brand.
CFEL-FM 102.1 in Quebec City also uses the CKOI brand, but isn’t owned by Cogeco. It was sold to Leclerc Communication as part of the conditions of sale of Corus Quebec stations.
CKOI-FM in Montreal, the flagship station, is not included in the list of stations undergoing a format change.
For the three regional stations, the move is kind of a step backward. All three used to be talk stations until Corus changed their vocation in 2009: CJRC/CJRC-FM in Gatineau, CHLT/CHLT-FM in Sherbrooke and CHLN/CHLN-FM in Trois Rivières. All three were AM stations that converted to FM about five years ago. In 2009, Corus converted them from music to talk to become Souvenirs Garantis stations, and then they became CKOI after Cogeco took over.
The full schedule still has yet to be set, but Cogeco assured journalists on a conference call Wednesday that there would be no reduction of local programming, that morning shows, afternoon drive shows and weekend shows would stay local. One show we know will be carried across the network is Isabelle Maréchal from 10am to noon. Jacques Fabi’s overnight show will also be carried across the network.
Sports programming will remain unchanged from what’s there now. All three stations carry Les amateurs des sports with Michel Villeneuve and Bonsoir les sportifs with Ron Fournier/Mario Langlois, as well as hockey games (Canadiens in Sherbrooke and Trois Rivières, Senators in Outaouais).
A handful of jobs will be affected by the change, but most of those will be given other duties, the stations’ managers said. There isn’t expected to be a net change in the number of jobs, though Cogeco Diffusion head Richard Lachance said he is “not closing the door” to new jobs as new programming is developed.
Branding wasn’t discussed during the conference call, but it’s expected to be something similar to what’s used in Montreal and Quebec City, namely the frequency and the letters “FM”. On May 1, Cogeco Diffusion registered the domain names fm1069.ca, fm1077.ca and fm1047.ca. It already owned 1077fm.ca, but 1069fm.ca and 1047fm.ca are owned by others.
- La Tribune (Sherbrooke)
- Le Journal de Sherbrooke
- CKOI Estrie
- CKOI Mauricie
- CKOI Outaouais
- La Revue (Outaouais)
- Projet J
- Cartt.ca (subscription required, written by yours truly)
NDG Free Press editor resigns after child porn arrest
David Goldberg is no longer the editor of the NDG Free Press. His resignation wouldn’t be such a big story, except for why it happened.
Goldberg was charged on May 30 with accessing and possessing child pornography, and released on $5,000 bail, according to The Gazette. Among his conditions, beyond staying away from places kids go, is that he can’t use the Internet, which I guess means he won’t be reading this post.
At the Free Press, things changed quickly. The biweekly paper reports in its June 12 issue (PDF) that Goldberg resigned on June 1. Publisher David Price takes over until June 18, when Marlene Eisner, a former Suburban EIC and Concordia professor, takes over.
To the credit of the paper and Price, the news wasn’t hidden or sugarcoated. In addition to announcing Goldberg’s resignation and Eisner’s appointment, the paper carries a short story with Price’s byline about Goldberg’s arrest.
Caption Radio-Canada’s animateur de foule Jocelyn Laliberté
CJFM’s Virgin Radio Takeover makes use of Listener Driven Radio
The press release says “Virgin Radio lets YOU takeover the airwaves!” – but don’t show up to Astral’s studios on Fort St. looking to get behind the microphone.
Instead, CJFM 95.9 is giving its listeners more say in what music ends up on the radio, at least for a few hours. Four nights a week starting Monday, June 11, Tony Stark hosts Virgin Radio Takeover, a show that allows listeners to suggest songs and up- or down-vote upcoming songs on its playlist to shape what makes it to air.
It’s based on a platform called Listener Driven Radio, brought to Canada’s Virgin music stations via Orbyt Media. A similar show launched in April at the Calgary and Edmonton stations.
“This is real social radio,” program director Mark Bergman tells me, and is a big step toward the so-called So-Lo-Mo strategy of social, local and mobile.
In addition to influencing the playlist by voting up and down songs added to it, the system allows people to suggest songs to add to the playlist. But the system is set up according to parameters set by the program director, which means you won’t be able to suggest Mozart or death metal or other types of music that don’t fit on the station. (My attempts to add Weird Al tracks to the playlist failed, for example.)
Bergman said he didn’t know exactly how many songs are available to suggest, but that it was in the thousands, and represents a large part of the station’s music universe (meaning all of the songs played on the station). Naturally it includes a lot of pop hits from artists like Katy Perry, Usher, Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Maroon 5. But it also includes some older hits from Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi, New Kids on the Block and NSYNC.
Changes to the playlist are shown in realtime, with animations showing songs changing position in the list.
I wondered if there was some veto power or other massaging of the playlist that could be done in case listeners’ choices start going too far toward one artist, for example. Bergman assures me it’s all out of his hands. “The only power I have is I can go on and vote for songs myself,” he says, and the choice of song is “literally left to chance” based on listeners’ votes.
What about Cancon? Is the system rigged to make sure that enough Canadian songs are played? Apparently not. But that’s okay, Bergman says. If the playlist that comes out is low on Canadian content, they can make up for that later.
Bergman says he’s anxious to see how the audience will react to this new format. Will it attract more listeners in the 18-34 demographic that they already have a strong lead in? Will it make them more engaged? We’ll see when the next ratings book comes out in the fall.
Virgin Takeover airs Mondays to Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm. Stark continues as the host in non-takeover mode until midnight.
(Some awesome pun involving the words “Red” or “Fisher”)
Updated June 20 with link to Ken Dryden’s story in the Globe and Mail.
The news hit pretty suddenly on Friday morning. In fact, I heard about it on CFCF’s noon newscast, having just woken up. Red Fisher, who has covered the Montreal Canadiens for more than half a century for the Montreal Star and The Gazette, has retired at the age of a billion and three (or, more accurately, 85).
There’s no farewell column, no big party. He’s not even giving interviews. Other media who wanted to report on the end of this long career had to settle for talking to some of Fisher’s friends and colleagues. Dave Stubbs, in particular, was busy talking to various media while preparing his own story on Fisher’s departure. It’s the only one I’m aware of that quotes Fisher directly speaking after his retirement was announced.
Fisher is a legend in more than just his hockey writing. He has a reputation as a friendly curmudgeon, who wouldn’t go after players unnecessarily but wouldn’t acknowledge anyone’s existence until they proved themselves worthy of it. The list of respected figures in Canadiens history who lauded Fisher speaks to the man’s reputation.
Even though I work at the same paper, I’ve never spoken to him in person. Sports writers in general spend little time in the office, and Fisher even less. We’ve conversed over the phone, but by “conversed” I mean he called to confirm that his postgame column had arrived by email and after a quick reply of “yeah, I got it” we hung up.
There are many stories of younger (and by that I mean under 60) colleagues at The Gazette that involve the elder sportsman uttering the words “who the f*** is …” – I don’t think I even reached that level. Though I remember the first time I saw him file a story that had my name in the address list. I imagined him typing my email in and wondering who the heck I was.
Everyone knew who Red Fisher was, though. For years, his reputation was such that there was a column devoted to him, the only column devoted to writing about another columnist. Of course, that column was Mike Boone’s Eeeee-mail, and it wasn’t so much writing about Fisher as it had some fun at the man’s expense (consistently referring to him as the Living Legend of Sports Journalism or LLSJ). But still, I can only wish for status like that someday.
Fisher’s refusal to give interviews is unusual in today’s hypermediatized world, but not so much for him. Fisher wasn’t the type to appear on radio or television regularly, chatting with the TSN hockey panel or giving his take once a week on CKGM’s morning show. Even though his reputation and wealth of knowledge about Canadiens history would make him a fantastic guest, he’s said no to such requests from those broadcasters and others who haven’t long ago given up trying to get him.
There are some who say Fisher retired 10 years too late, that his relevance had waned significantly in the past few years. There are points in favour of this argument. He wasn’t the scoop machine he used to be, and many of the big announcements come via RDS, TSN, La Presse or some of the younger front-line journalists who cover the Canadiens, if they beat the official announcement at all. Fisher stopped travelling with the Canadiens years ago – Pat Hickey does day-to-day team coverage. And the weekly Red Line page sometimes felt more like a roundup of hockey news reported elsewhere than anything original from Fisher.
But Fisher was still influential, and he could still write things that made a difference. In 2008, Fisher won a National Newspaper Award – the most prestigious Canadian award for this industry – for a column saying the Canadiens should not retire the jersey of Patrick Roy (they did anyway, of course, but Fisher’s column provoked a lot of discussion). It’s hard to argue someone has one foot in the grave when he’s winning an award many of his colleagues only dream of one day getting once in their careers.
It’s unclear if Fisher will continue to contribute occasional freelance pieces for The Gazette. He was the go-to guy for Canadiens-related obituaries, for example. But it is clear that the Saturday Red Line is history, and nobody should be expecting a regular column in its place.
- Columns and blog posts in the Gazette:
- Dave Stubbs (with a special cartoon by Aislin)
- Mike Boone
- Jack Todd
- Alan Allnutt
- Stu Cowan
- Ian McGillis
- A tribute column by former Journal de Montréal columnist Bertrand Raymond
- A tribute story by Ken Dryden in the Globe and Mail
- CJAD (includes interviews with Dave Stubbs and Michael Farber)
- CHOM (interview with Dave Stubbs)
- CTV Montreal
- OpenFile Montreal
- USA Today
- Many francophone media in Quebec simply used a short Presse Canadienne story: Huffington Post Québec, RDS, La Presse, Radio-Canada, 98.5
- RDS.ca also has a profile written by Pat Hickey for Fisher’s induction into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame.
- Comments from readers at Hockey Inside/Out and montrealgazette.com
- Red Fisher appears on CFCF’s Hockey Magazine in 1983, to talk about the new “minicomputer” he uses to write stories and file them via modem, and about the changes that were happening to sports coverage at the time (like how he thinks players’ postgame quotes are filled with meaningless clichés – and this was three decades ago)
- Red Fisher’s first column for the Gazette in November 1979, after the Montreal Star’s demise
- More Red Fisher Gazette stories in Google’s newspaper archive (Montreal Star archives aren’t online)
UPDATE: Mike Cohen says he moved this resolution at Côte St. Luc city council Monday evening:
Whereas Red Fisher is a longtime resident of Côte Saint-Luc.
Whereas Red Fisher has covered the Montreal sports scene for The Montreal Star and The Montreal Gazette, specifically the Canadiens for the past 56 years.
Whereas Red Fisher Fisher won the National Newspaper Award for sports writing in 1971 and 1991 and has been nominated for that award on two other occasions.
Whereas Red Fisher was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Sports Media Canada in 1999.
Whereas Red Fisher is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Whereas Red Fisher last week announced his retirement.
MOVED BY COUNCILLOR Mike Cohen
AND SECONDED BY COUNCILLOR Allan J. Levine
THAT Council wish Red Fisher the very best in his retirement and that a formal letter of good wishes be sent to him signed by the mayor and council.
“I will now come back to council with some recommendations as to how we can further honour Red Fisher,” he says.
Caption Terry DiMonte and a cop
Vanessa sex channel wants to be bilingual
Vanessa, the French-language pay TV channel launched by Anne-Marie Losique in 2010, is having trouble getting television distribution services to add an English-language counterpart to their systems. Cable and satellite services, it says, are reluctant to devote a second channel as more and more specialty services (particularly those in high definition) are taking up a finite space on their networks.
Its solution, as detailed in an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that was published on Thursday, is to turn its existing channel into a bilingual one, with all programming in one language subtitled in the other.
Jokes about how much translation of pornography is required would naturally go here. The channel only offers porn between 11pm and 6am, with the rest of the day devoted to programming about sexuality. (Or, you know, so I’m told.)
A bilingual license isn’t unprecedented. Pelmorex has one for The Weather Network/MétéoMédia, and Corus and Astral share one for Teletoon/Télétoon, but those involve one actual channel for each language. CPAC also has two channels to serve each language. One example of a single specialty channel that offers programming in both languages is IDNR-TV, the natural resources channel, which has low distribution.
Vanessa was approved as a French-language service in 2007 and an English-language service in 2009, so the only real issue is whether the CRTC would accept it as a bilingual channel. It has scheduled the application as a Type 1 application, meaning a hearing has not been called to consider it.
It took three years for Vanessa to launch in French, and the channel had only 6,790 subscribers in 2011, according to data submitted to the CRTC. Even though it’s among the top 10 in terms of revenue per subscriber at $45 a year or $3.75 a month (Bell and Videotron charge about $15 a month for the channel), its total subscription revenue was $305,538 in 2011, or about 1% that of the Weather Network or 0.2% that of TSN. With $700,000 in total revenue but $2.1 million in total expenses in 2011, the service lost more than twice what it made, making it one of the worst performing specialty channels in Canada.
People wanting to comment on the application have until July 9 to do so. They can read the application and write to the CRTC through its website.
TVO pulled from cable, satellite outside Ontario
TVO, Ontario’s public broadcaster, has been pulled from cable and satellite systems outside its home province, including Bell satellite TV, because of a carriage dispute.
According to TVO, it was asked by the government to reduce its reliance on public funding and has decided to try to earn revenue from distribution outside Ontario. As of Sept. 1, 2011, cable and satellite providers are required to get permission from over-the-air television stations before distributing them outside their home markets. TVO has more than 200 transmitters across Ontario (though most of them will be shut down between July 31, 2012, and October 2013).
Videotron, the main cable player in Quebec, is still carrying the channel on its digital service on channel 77. Rogers cable customers outside Ontario (it also operates in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and parts of eastern Quebec) have also lost the service.
Bell’s media relations didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a customer service representative said “it was removed due to poor viewership.”
The fact that I’m hearing about this more than a week after it happened suggests they may be right.
TVO is known mainly for its children’s, educational and current affairs programming, including The Agenda with Steve Paikin
Citytv comes to Montreal … kinda
There wasn’t much ceremony surrounding it, but at 5am on Monday, the beginning of its broadcast day, CJNT Montreal went from being a sister station to CHCH Hamilton to being an affiliate of the Rogers-owned Citytv network.
A month ago, Rogers and Channel Zero, which owns CJNT and CHCH, announced that they had come to an agreement to sell the station for an undisclosed sum. The deal made sense because Channel Zero had done just about nothing with CJNT, instead focusing its efforts for the first two years on the higher-rated Hamilton station. And Rogers needs a Montreal presence for its Citytv network and has plenty of experience with ethnic programming thanks to its OMNI stations. It comes as little surprise that Rogers was interested in buying CJNT for years.
Since buying a television station is a long process, requiring approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission before it can close, the deal between Channel Zero and Rogers also included a provision making CJNT a Citytv affiliate as of June 4.
While it’s being branded as a Citytv affiliate, with sitcom reruns in the afternoons, a look at its primetime schedule shows it’s really more of an OMNI station than anything else. Half its primetime schedule is OMNI programming, mainly national daily newscasts in various languages.
Citytv has a full weekly schedule for CJNT on its website. Here’s how it breaks down for the new CJNT on weekdays:
- Midnight to 5am: Episodes of Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men, The Office, Judge Joe Brown, Maury Povich, Cold Case
- 5am to 6am: CityLine
- 6am to 7am: Rerun of Italian newscast
- 7am to 10am: Metro Debut, extended to three hours
- 10am to 11pm: CityLine
- 11am to 1pm: Rebroadcasts of other OMNI newscasts
- 1pm to 3pm: Ethnic programming
- 3pm to 4pm: General Hospital
- 4pm to 8pm: Judge Judy, 30 Rock, The Office, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother
- 8pm to 9pm: Italian OMNI newscast (Ontario)
- 9pm to 9:30pm: Cantonese OMNI newscast
- 9:30pm to 10pm: Mandarin OMNI newscast
- 10pm to 11pm: Murdoch Mysteries (an original Citytv series)
- 11pm to 11:30pm: Punjabi OMNI newscast
- 11:30pm to midnight: Portuguese OMNI newscast (Ontario)
On weekends, the schedule is mainly ethnic programming, with documentaries, movies, weekly newsmagazines and other programs.
As part of its announcements last week of its fall schedule, Rogers released programming grids for its stations. Here’s the one for CJNT, which still has the Italian newscast at 8pm (except Mondays when it’s at 7) and filling other parts of the prime-time schedule with OMNI documentaries.
The schedule looks like this because of CJNT’s conditions of license that require half of primetime to be ethnic programming. Specifically:
- Not less than 60% of programming broadcast annually between 6am and midnight must be ethnic programs (the current schedule shows only eight hours a day on weekdays devoted to ethnic programming, so CJNT devotes 100% of its hours from 6am to midnight on Saturday and Sunday to make up the difference, and it does so with less than half an hour to spare)
- Not less than 50% of programming broadcast monthly between 6pm and midnight must be ethnic programs (the fall schedule shows 50% for 7pm to 11pm – assuming it continues with OMNI newscasts from 11pm to midnight it would meet this requirement and could still air sitcom reruns at 6pm to 7pm)
- Not less than 75% of programming broadcast monthly between 8pm and 10pm must be ethnic programs (the fall schedule shows 79% in those hours)
- Not less than 50% of programming between 6am and midnight must be Canadian (the current schedule has weekdays with 10 of 18 hours being Canadian programs)
- Not less than 40% of programming between 6pm and midnight must be Canadian (with OMNI newscasts produced in Toronto, this isn’t a difficult threshold to reach)
- Not fewer than 18 distinct ethnic groups targetted monthly
- Not fewer than 15 languages monthly (with five language versions of the OMNI daily newscast, much of this and the previous requirement is met with weekly weekend programs)
Then there’s the matter of local ethnic programming.
In the CRTC decision awarding a license to Channel Zero, it’s not listed as a “condition of license” but rather a “commitment” – the new owner had actually proposed a slight increase in the amount of local ethnic programming to 14 hours a week.
But in the three years it owned the station, Channel Zero hasn’t produced a minute of local ethnic programming. Instead, it has been airing years-old repeats of local programs that were produced under Canwest, much to the annoyance of the people who ran those programs who would like to be able to reach their audiences again. When I spoke to Channel Zero’s programming director Jennifer Chen a few months ago, she said that there were setbacks because a deal with a local producer fell through, and that the company was in talks with another producer. But she also admitted that to a large extent Channel Zero focused more on CHCH at first than CJNT.
With the CRTC holding a hearing into the sale of CJNT to Rogers, there’s not much point in complaining about how Channel Zero has failed to keep the station on its mandate. But legitimate questions can be raised over what plans Rogers has for local ethnic programming.
Looking at the fall primetime schedule above, it seems Rogers is prepared to continue with the other conditions of license.
Other OMNI stations have similar programming requirements, and produce regional editions of their newscasts. The Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi editions of OMNI News that air on CJNT are national newscasts, while the Italian and Portuguese versions are regional Toronto editions. (This is why, for example, the latter two only go from Windsor to Ottawa when giving the weather.)
No application has been published by the CRTC for Rogers to acquire CJNT. It’s at that point that we’ll have an idea of its plans, whether it will ask the regulator to reduce ethnic programming requirements (unlikely, since it rejected two requests from Canwest to do that) or reduce local ethnic programming requirements in favour of non-ethnic local programming (like Metro Debut or another morning show).
The biggest part of CJNT’s new schedule, and perhaps the most unfamiliar to Montreal audiences, is OMNI News, the foreign-language daily newscasts that make up a large part of ethnic programming requirements for OMNI stations.
The newscasts look about as identical as their title screens make them look. Low-budget with only a single anchor (except the Italian edition which has a separate sports anchor). All are in high definition. The Italian edition is an hour long, the others are half an hour long. The Italian and Portuguese editions are actually local Toronto versions that cover the Ontario region, so they qualify as local programming. Other regions (there are also OMNI stations in Alberta and British Columbia) have other regional editions in various languages.
The newscasts tend to have similar-looking stories, usually with the same top headlines (and using the same video for them). They distinguish themselves where it matters to their communities. More talk of Italian soccer in the Italian edition. More about what’s happening in China in the Cantonese and Mandarin editions. The newscasts make use of foreign news reports in their language and even add the homeland to their weather forecasts.
It might be fun to have something like this in Montreal, a daily newscast perhaps attracting a bit more attention from local ethnic viewers than the low-budget newsmagazines of the old CJNT days. But Rogers’s plans for local programming for the station are still unknown.
Not coming back
With many new programs coming to the station, there’s also a long list of programs that have been pulled off:
- Fifth-rate American programming (mainly CW network shows) whose Canadian rights are owned by Channel Zero: The Insider, Nightline, Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle and Supernatural, as well as some NBA games. They have been replaced by third-rate American programming from Citytv.
- The daily sports show Sportsline, produced for CHCH but also aired on CJNT
- Shows featuring Ed the Sock that are produced mainly for CHCH
Frank D’Angelo’s vanity programming(it’s still airing, at least for now)
- Much of Metro 14’s music video programming, with shows like The Main Line and World Beats
Independently-produced local ethnic programming of questionable technical quality, such as Bossbens Show and Amet.tv. Amet.tv disappeared for the first weekend, but returned to the schedule, taking over Saturday afternoons. Religious infomercial Il est écrit is also continuing to air.
Also gone are those three-year-old reruns of former CJNT local programming, like Soul Call, Foco Latino, Hellas Spectrum and Magazine Libanais.
Metro Debut remains
The only show that remains on the schedule is Metro Debut, the morning show hosted by Evan Arppe, who ironically looks like the whitest man on television. The show consists mainly of music videos (some of which are produced in HD, converted to standard definition then converted back into HD, meaning they take up only a tiny box on the screen), interspersed with the host giving news headlines, traffic and weather information with no help from graphics, reporters, live images or anything else. It’s about as low-budget as you can possibly get.
Another program that was on Metro 14 and will come back to it is Jimmy Kimmel Live. This is just a coincidence – Citytv has picked up the Canadian rights to the show from Channel Zero. It will start airing this fall, and CJNT fills the midnight to 1am hour with Seinfeld reruns in the meantime.
There’s still a lot that’s unknown and will be determined through the CRTC process. It’s unsurprising that OMNI content will fill much of CJNT’s schedule, and that the schedule maximizes the amount of American programming that airs during weekdays. A look at the station’s programming page shows that it looks to get a lot of its viewers, at least during the summer, from afternoon programming. And much of that will benefit from simultaneous substitution: General Hospital at 3pm (WVNY), Judge Judy at 4pm (WPTZ), 30 Rock at 5pm (WFFF), The Office at 5:30pm (WFFF) and Two and a Half Men at 6pm (WFFF).
If Rogers is planning on local ethnic programming for CJNT, expect it to take the form of new regional OMNI newscasts (Spanish, Italian and Arabic might be good choices here) and weekly newsmagazines.
Will Videotron pull CITY or OMNI Toronto?
With the arrival of Citytv in Montreal carrying much of OMNI’s programming, there’s a question about what will happen to two Toronto stations on Videotron’s illico digital cable system: CITY-DT Toronto (Channel 78 in SD and 678 in HD) and CFMT-DT Toronto (OMNI.1, Channel 80). I’ve asked Videotron about its future plans for these channels, particularly since one uses up a bandwidth-hogging HD slot. I’ll update this when I hear back.
CJNT’s schedule differs from CITY’s enough that there’s probably a good argument to keep the latter. But with ethnic programming all over CJNT’s schedule, there might be less of one for keeping OMNI.
UPDATE: Mike Cohen talks to Rogers VP Scott Moore about his plans for CJNT.