Monthly Archives: July 2012

Tony Stark leaving Virgin Radio for Halifax (UPDATE: NOT)

Virgin Takeover is going to need a new host


Virgin Radio 96 is losing another personality, but at least this time it’s not another poaching from The Beat.

Tony Stark, the evening announcer who hosts Virgin Radio Takeover and Virgin Live on CJFM-FM from 7pm to midnight Monday to Thursday, as well as Sunday afternoons, is leaving to return to CJCH-FM (101.3 The Bounce) in Halifax, where he’s accepted a job as their afternoon drive host. Stark came to CJFM two years ago from CJCH, where he hosted the 10am to 2pm timeslot.

Stark’s last day at Virgin hasn’t been decided yet. He’s currently substituting for the vacationing Andrea Collins as the afternoon drive host there.

It’s “gonna be tough to leave a great city like Montreal,” Stark tells me, but an opportunity for a high-profile job in a market he’s familiar with (and has “a great vibe”) was just too good to pass up.

CJCH-FM is owned by Bell Media, which is in the process of buying Astral Media and CJFM.

Virgin has posted an opening for Stark’s position, with the same on-air times. Interested parties can apply to brand director Mark Bergman by Aug. 14.

Bergman jokes: “In search for people with the names Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker!”

UPDATE (Aug. 12): Stark isn’t leaving after all. Bergman and Stark said this weekend that he’s actually sticking around, for unforeseen and unspecified “personal reasons.”

Absolutely Quebec: A taste of regional programming on CBC TV

For those (like me) who complain that there isn’t much local programming in English in Quebec outside of news broadcasts, a regional documentary and short film series is something to look forward to. This summer, CBC television presents Absolutely Quebec, a series of five one-hour documentaries and an hour of short films that reflect the anglophone community in Quebec.

The first episode, Hockey Migrations, aired last Saturday. It tells the story of a hockey tournament in Tasiujaq, an Inuit community near Ungava Bay. But it’s actually an inightful look into the culture of the region, how native communities are struggling with changes to their traditional way of life, and how hockey is a way to give kids something to do and keep them out of trouble. Its director, Tony Girardin, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend on Saturday morning, and explains that the footage was actually shot seven years ago, but only edited into a documentary recently. (One of the elders interviewed in the documentary has since died.)

You can watch Hockey Migrations on CBC’s website.

“In Quebec, we have an incredibly rich history of storytelling and filmmaking,” Shelagh Kinch, the new Managing Director CBC Quebec, is quoted as saying in the press release. “CBC is proud to produce a series that highlights some of our province’s emerging filmmakers and also allows new audiences to enjoy these local stories.”

The rest of the series, which runs Saturdays at 7pm on CBMT (except Aug. 11, when CBC airs Rogers Cup tennis coverage), is as follows:

Sadly, Videotron’s on-screen listings list 7pm Saturday as being The Nature of Things, but tune in anyway. It’s one of the few chances you’ll have to watch that independently-produced local programming you complain never sees the light of day on local television.

Some of these episodes might end up being aired nationally as well, as part of the Absolutely Canadian series. But which of those will get national exposure (on CBC television, CBC News Network or the Documentary channel) and when that will be hasn’t been decided yet.

Campaign to save TSN 990 should focus on the CRTC

In the week since Bell’s application to switch CKGM from TSN Radio to RDS Radio became public, the station’s small group of loyal fans has mobilized. A Twitter account, a public protest set for Aug. 4, and lots of comments online. Many of those comments seem to be based on misconceptions about what’s going on. In particular, many blame the CRTC even though the commission has yet to make a single decision about Bell’s application (besides deciding to consider it).

As of Monday night, 456 interventions had been filed with the CRTC about this application alone. I haven’t been able to read all of them yet, but a handful selected at random are all from individual people, all opposed to the application.

People have been asking me if this number of interventions is high. It is. Very high. I don’t know what the record is, and it’s hard to compare this to other “average” applications in front of the CRTC, because not all applications are the same, and most are non-controversial. But even controversial ones don’t usually generate quite this much attention. As an example, RNC Media’s application to turn CKLX-FM (Planète Jazz) into a talk station modelled on Radio X – which is to be heard at the same hearing on Sept. 10 – has received only 76 interventions. (I compiled some highlights of those here.) The $3.38-billion acquisition of Astral Media by Bell has only generated 18 so far, and many of those are as much about TSN 990 as they are about Astral and Bell.

The biggest reason for this is probably social media. The link to file interventions has been passed around, published on this blog and others, retweeted and posted on Facebook with instructions telling people how to file. The CRTC, probably annoyed that so many people were using the complaint form instead of the intervention one, has taken the unusual step of posting a special link on its homepage telling people where to file interventions related to TSN 990. (The link, it should be noted, refers to the brand “TSN 990”, rather than the company name “Bell Media Canada Radio Partnership” or the station’s callsign CKGM, which are the more formal ways the commission usually refers to radio stations in public notices.)

The result of making this more accessible is yet more interventions. It’s something commissioners and commission staff love to see more of – individual people getting more involved in the process and making their opinions heard. But if those interventions just call on the CRTC to be dismantled or demand something not in the commission’s power, they won’t be very useful.

In an effort to give people a better idea of the regulatory hurdles in front of Bell Media’s application to change CKGM from English to French (and perhaps prompt some more insightful interventions with the CRTC, whether they’re for or against the application), I wrote a piece that appears in Tuesday’s Gazette: The five ways to save TSN 990.

Specifically, they are:

  • The Competition Bureau could reject the Astral purchase. Unlikely considering it hasn’t stood in the way of these kinds of acquisitions in the past. But still possible.
  • The CRTC could reject the Astral purchase. Also unlikely. Even if the commission finds serious issues of media ownership concentration, it would more likely order Bell Media to sell off assets that put it over a specific threshold.
  • The CRTC could issue an open call for applications. This is much more likely. CKGM was given the frequency of 690 kHz last fall (it’s moving there this fall, with 990 kHz going to Dufferin Communications for Radio Fierté) based on an application that argued, among other things, that the English sports-talk station needed a clear channel to better reach the anglophone community. If this station becomes French-language, that argument goes out the window. Additionally, the CRTC could concern itself with the fact that this switch would make all three clear-channel frequencies in Montreal (690, 730 and 940) French-language stations, disrupting a historic language balance. There’s precedent for issuing an open call: CKGM got 690 in the first place after people objected to an application by Cogeco to reactivate it and 940 kHz for (heavily subsidized) all-traffic stations. The CRTC responded by issuing an open call for applications for 690 and 940, and Cogeco was left empty-handed. (It cannibalized CKAC 730 for its French all-traffic station, and the status of the English all-traffic station is unclear.) Of course, if the CRTC does issue an open call, Bell could apply for this frequency for RDS Radio, and it would stand a good chance of succeeding. But the prospect of losing the frequency might scare Bell off. It said in its application that if the CRTC issued such an open call, it might reconsider.
  • The CRTC could deny the language switch. It’s the simplest thing. Bell has applied for a language switch, because it needs an amendment to its license (or a new license) to do so. The CRTC could simply deny this request, and say if Bell wants RDS Radio it needs a new application for a new radio station.
  • The CRTC could issue an exemption. This is the one everyone’s calling for, and it’s possible, though rumour has it Bell unofficially asked the commission if an exemption could be granted and were told it was highly unlikely. Bell would have to make a serious case that one of the four stations is so vital to the broadcasting system that an exemption is warranted, and make the case that the station simply couldn’t survive if it was sold to someone else. I don’t think most of the station’s listeners really care who owns the station, only that it stays on the air.

You can read more about these five options and the regulatory process in the Gazette story.

Interventions are still being accepted at the CRTC until 8 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 9. The hearing is Sept. 10 at the Palais des congrès, and those who indicate a wish to appear in their interventions will be allowed to present their arguments in front of the commission in person.

UPDATE (July 17): Pat Hickey argues that the CRTC has a responsibility to keep CKGM running as an English station. Mike Boone adds that TSN 990 is such a small piece of the Bell empire that they couldn’t care less what happens to it and its employees. For more commentary about the application and the station, see the bottom of my previous post.

Bell’s purchase of Astral: The issues in front of the CRTC

While everyone’s attention here was naturally focused on what Bell’s plans are for CKGM, the bigger issue up in front of the CRTC on Sept. 10 is the overall $3.38-billion purchase of Astral Media by Bell Media.

The deal would be a straight purchase, gobbling up everything owned by Astral including non-broadcast assets like its outdoor billboard advertising business. Bell would sell off only those things it is required to.

It’s a deal that has prompted a lot of worries about media concentration (though you could say it’s far too late to worry about that). Quebec’s Option consommateurs has already come out against it, generating some media buzz, but otherwise there hasn’t been much organized opposition.

10 radio stations to be sold

As I noted in the post when the deal was announced, a look at the combined assets of both companies shows they would be over the limits (two AM, two FM, and no more than three total in markets with fewer than eight commercial stations) in six markets, and would need to divest itself of 11 stations to meet the limit. In its application, Bell says it plans to sell 10 stations, and convert CKGM to French.

Bell’s application indicates it has provided the CRTC with a list of the 10 stations it plans to sell, but it wants that kept confidential so that those stations don’t become lame ducks, losing staff and morale. Knowing what markets it needs to sell stations in (two FM in Ottawa, one FM in Calgary, two FM in Toronto, two FM in Winnipeg, and two FM and one AM in Vancouver) and what the ratings are for those markets, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to find the likely castaways.

Because most of those markets have many English FM stations and multiple independent players, the concern about market concentration isn’t as high there as it is for Montreal’s English market.

Two calculations for TV viewing share

On the TV side, the CRTC’s concern isn’t so much the number of TV services (cable channels are a dime a dozen these days), but viewing share. Specifically, it says it will not allow any one player to control more than 45% of the overall viewing share in either language, and will closely scrutinize any purchase that gives a player between 35% and 45% of the viewing share.

Where Bell fits in depends on how you calculate that share. If you include Canadian viewing of American and overseas TV channels (like PBS, CNN and Spike TV), it falls just under that 35% threshold (33.5%). If you include only Canadian services, it’s just above (38.7%). Naturally, Bell believes U.S. services should be included in the calculation (they represent about 10% of Canadian viewing hours), which makes sense, but also means that one player could own 100% of Canadian television channels so long as 65% of Canadian television viewing is of foreign services. In addition, Bell argues that part of that share is its CTV Two network, which it has agreed to keep operating even though it loses money as part of a commitment made in the purchase of CTV by Bell.

There are also qualitative arguments that Bell uses. For one, Astral has no news or public affairs departments at its TV properties, so there would not be a reduction in diversity of voices here. (Bell conveniently ignores the fact that Astral has many radio newsrooms, and in a market like Montreal it means controlling the biggest TV newsroom and the biggest radio newsroom.) And Astral’s English-language television is limited mainly to its pay TV services like The Movie Network and Family Channel. It doesn’t own many specialty channels in English.

On the French side, because of the dominance of Quebecor and Bell’s virtually nonexistent presence (aside from RDS), combined they would represent only 24.4% of the overall TV viewing share.

Two B.C. stations

It’s a footnote in any discussion of Astral, but it does own two conventional television stations in tiny markets in northern B.C. – CJDC in Dawson Creek and CFTK in Terrace. Both are CBC affiliates with local newscasts. Bell’s application says they would remain that way “for the immediate term” but that this could change. “Following closing, we will determine if, when and how these stations will be integrated into the broader Bell Media conventional television group.”

Disaffiliating from CBC requires a separate CRTC application. But it’s hard not to see them eventually being converted into CTV network stations. Neither is anywhere close to an existing CTV station.

Tangible benefits

Aside from CKGM and other concerns about concentration of ownership, the biggest debate over this acquisition is probably going to be over what’s called the “tangible benefits” package. When ownership of a television service or radio station changes hands through a purchase, the CRTC requires that what can best be described as a sales tax be spent to improve the broadcasting and cultural system in some way. Usually (and particularly for radio stations), this means giving money to an organization that develops Canadian music talent. Or it could be some increase to Canadian programming beyond the minimum requirements of broadcasting licenses.

Tangible benefits packages are usually calculated as 6% of the purchase price for radio and 10% for television. In cases where the purchase price is effectively negative (such as when Channel Zero bought CJNT and CHCH for $12), tangible benefits packages don’t apply.

Bell’s proposal is for $200 million in tangible benefits, breaking down as $140 million for television (based on a $1.4-billion value), and $61 million for radio (based on a $1-billion value). The latter is to be adjusted based on the value of radio assets it will be forced to divest in the deal. Both, bell proposes, would be paid over 10 years instead of the usual seven, mainly because Bell is still paying off the tangible benefits packages from CTV’s acquisition of CHUM and Bell’s acquisition of CTV.

In case you’re doing the math in your head, the two purchase prices add up to about $2 billion. The rest of the acquisition price includes non-broadcast assets like outdoor advertising, as well as 50% stakes in Teletoon, Teletoon Retro, Historia and Séries+, which Bell feels should be exempt from this calculation because it would not mean an effective change in control of those channels. (Judging by correspondence on this matter, the CRTC might not accept this argument at face value.)

The biggest chunk of Bell’s proposed benefits package is $96 million that will go to “programming of national interest” (comedy, drama, documentary and certain awards shows), the majority of which will be spent on French-language programs because of Astral’s French-language skew. Then there’s the $61 million in radio benefits that will go to developing Canadian music talent and community radio funds.

It’s the other two chunks that are causing some consternation, though. About $40 million is being pledged to “support Canadian programming by making it more widely available in Canada’s North through the extension of next-generation broadband wireline and wireless service.”

That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? The problem, aside from how odd it is that Bell associates upgrades to 4G wireless service as somehow helping the television broadcasting system, is that this is essentially a network upgrade for Northwestel, the main telco in the territories. And as if we need to point this out, Northwestel is a subsidiary of Bell.

This has not gone unnoticed for Northwestel’s competitors, who call the blatantly self-serving investment “shameful,” particularly since Northwestel has been heavily criticized for failing to modernize its system. The fact that the CRTC has just opened up local phone service to competition only makes such an investment in one company seem even more anti-competitive.

Another chunk of the package getting noticed is $3.5 million over seven years that would go to Bell Let’s Talk Day, which is an annual campaign to raise money and awareness for treating mental illness. I’ve written before about how Bell seems fine with ordering its assets (and even local news departments) to participate in and cover this campaign.

It’s hard to come out against such a charity campaign, but what does this have to do with broadcasting? The CRTC’s goal with tangible benefits is pretty clear, and though such causes are laudable, there’s no provision for essentially donating part of this package to a favourite charity.

The CRTC asked Bell to justify this expense, and here’s their response:

The proposed benefits initiative will be used to help raise money and awareness to help battle mental health issues through the development of PSAs and educational materials, among other things, and will yield measurable improvements to the communities served by BCE and by Astral by contributing to the earlier identification and better management of mental illness in those communities. That is why so many municipalities and provincial governments devote significant funding to pursuing exactly those goals. This multi-platform media initiative will leverage the merging parties’ unique expertise in broadcasting, a different sphere of endeavour than that in which municipalities and provincial governments work.

These improvements are also significant and unequivocal benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system itself. Parliament left no doubt as to the importance of this policy goal, which it required the Commission to pursue, when it declared that the Canadian broadcasting system should strengthen the social fabric of Canada; serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of all Canadians; provide information and enlightenment; and expose the public to differing views on matters of public concern. As a result, we respectfully submit that making space in the Canadian broadcasting system to address key social issues, which include mental health, and that raise both money and awareness in support of those issues, is the very epitome of the significant and unequivocal benefits to which the tangible benefits policy was directed.

I don’t know about that.

As the Globe and Mail’s Simon Houpt explains, all this stuff might be boring financial policy stuff, but it’s important. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars being injected into Canadian broadcasting. It’s the CRTC’s job to ensure Bell is spending it properly to benefit the system more than itself.

Correspondence between the CRTC and Bell that forms part of the public record on the application makes it clear that the commission is challenging Bell on all of these matters. Expect them to get discussed in depth at the September hearing.

The CRTC hearing into Bell’s proposed purchase of Astral Media is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 at the Palais des congrèsPeople wanting to file comments with the CRTC or appear at the hearing can file an intervention here (the application number is 2012-0516-2: Astral Media inc.). The deadline is Aug. 9. Note that comments – including names and contact information – are on the public record.

UPDATE: In a somewhat unrelated press release about winning an old lawsuit against Bell related to its ExpressVu satellite service (now Bell TV satellite), Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau made it very clear he and his company are against the Bell-Astral merger, using language you don’t usually see from bosses of big companies:

Bell puts forth considerable efforts to obtain a virtual monopoly of French specialized channels through the acquisition of Astral Média, that would give it 8 of the 10 most popular French specialized and pay TV channels, as well as 67% of the audience and 80% of ad revenues in this market. In the Canadian market, in both languages, over 41% of monthly subscription fees paid by specialized channel viewers would go to Bell, as would 45% of these channels’ advertising revenues. Of the 51 specialized and pay channels that would be controlled by Bell as a result of this transaction, 28 are genre-protected and 30 are must-carry channels in their respective markets. The situation is equally problematic in radio, where Bell would own 117 radio stations across the country, while also exerting total control over all specialized music television channels.

“We call on the CRTC to refuse to approve this transaction on the basis that Bell’s business practices do not meet the ethical standards expected from a company that has the privilege to exploit broadcasting services through licences granted by the CRTC for the benefit of all Canadians. If such practices were to go unsanctioned, Canadians’ slowly eroding confidence in its regulatory authorities would only be further undermined. It is essential for anyone concerned with a healthy and competitive TV industry to take a look at these judgments and oppose Bell’s takeover of Astral. Only by staying vigilant and by denouncing Bell’s unacceptable practices by all possible means will we be able to prevent it from recreating the monopolistic model it relied on for so long,” concluded Mr. Péladeau.

Despite this rather inflammatory statement, Quebecor has not, as of July 25, filed a formal intervention with the CRTC about this case.

CTV Montreal to reduce (but continue) local news during Olympics

CFCF’s anchor desk will sit empty until 6pm during the Olympics

Television changes during the Olympic Games. It’s like the usual rules get thrown right out the window. Canadian television stations relying mainly on rebroadcasting American shows in primetime? Not during the Olympics. NBC provides Olympic coverage, but CTV is doing its own thing entirely, focusing on Canadian athletes. TSN and Rogers Sportsnet in fierce competition? Not during the Olympics. They’re coordinating their coverage to give Canadians more choice, and some events (like the opening and closing ceremonies) will be carried on both simultaneously. Spending the bare minimum on Canadian content? Not during the Olympics. CTV and the other broadcasters are spending millions creating their own live, remote, high-definition programming that will dominate the airwaves throughout the Games.

It’s this domination of the schedule that has led to one change that requires approval by the broadcast regulator.

CTV asked the CRTC to temporarily relieve it from some local programming requirements during the Olympics. Currently, CTV’s stations in large markets (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) are each required to air 14 hours of local programming during each week. Other stations are required to air seven hours of local programming a week. CTV asked the commission to, in light of how much time it needs to devote to the Olympics on its schedule, reduce that to seven hours a week for the entire network.

The CRTC agreed to this in a ruling issued June 27. That ruling lowers the minimum of local programming to seven hours for all stations, solely during the period of the Olympics (July 27 to August 12), and says it expects CTV to make up for the shortfall later in the year. (CTV said it would do so.)

CTV also asked for relief from a license condition requiring four hours a week of described video programming. Since described video is usually applied to things like dramas, sitcoms and documentaries, which won’t air much during the Olympics, the CRTC also relieved the CTV network from this obligation, again with the expectation that CTV would compensate for the reduction with an excess during the rest of the year.

No noon newscasts during Games

CTV Montreal (CFCF) normally airs 16 hours of local programming every week, including commercials (all of which is its newscasts – noon, 6pm and 11:30pm weekdays, 6pm and 11:30pm weekends).

The Olympic broadcasting schedule released Wednesday shows Games coverage throughout the day between the opening and closing ceremonies. Because the Olympics are in London, which is five hours ahead, live coverage begins as early as 4am and ends around 5-6pm Eastern time. This is the opposite of the Vancouver games, which were three hours behind and meant a lot of live broadcasting in the evening.

With the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies, the 6-7pm Eastern hour is left clear on CTV’s network, which leaves room for local news. This is followed by a four-hour Olympic Primetime recap of the day’s events from 7 to 11pm, which can then be followed by CTV National News and late local newscasts.

Mary Anne Gyba, programming manager at CTV Montreal, confirms to me that local newscasts will air daily from 6pm to 7pm and at 11:30pm throughout the Olympics, with the exception of the opening ceremony (Friday, July 27) and the closing ceremony (Sunday, August 12), which both run through the 6pm hour.

This means it will air 11 hours of local news the first full week and 10 hours the second week, far exceeding the reduced minimum requirement. (An alternative way of meeting the quota would have been to repeat local newscasts at 6am the next day, which CTV and Global both use regularly in underperforming markets, but with Olympic coverage starting at 4am, even this option doesn’t work for them.)

V stations get similar relief

In a similar decision issued the day after the CTV one, the CRTC also offered relief to two television stations – CFGS in Gatineau and CFVS in Val d’Or/Rouyn Noranda – from local programming during the Olympics. Both stations are affiliates of the V network, which is the French-language conventional television broadcaster in the consortium, and both are owned by RNC Media.

In its brief application, RNC said it was “highly likely” that V would not offer enough free time in its schedule during the Games for local programming, even though each station must broadcast only one hour and 15 minutes a week of local programming, which averages to about 10 minutes a day.

V’s Olympic schedule is much like CTV’s, with nothing scheduled during the 6-7pm hour (except during opening and closing ceremonies), and nothing after 11pm. V normally offers entertainment programming at 6-7pm instead of local news, to set itself apart from Radio-Canada and TVA. Still, it seems a bit incredible that such stations can’t find 75 minutes a week for local news.

The CRTC’s decision relieves them completely of the requirement to air local programming during the Olympics.

UPDATE (July 16): The CRTC has issued a similar decision relieving Télévision MBS Inc., which owns the V affiliate in Rivière du Loup (CFTF-TV), of its local programming obligations during the Olympics.

UPDATE (July 24): And finally, a decision relieving the owned-and-operated stations of the V network (CFJP Montreal, CFAP Quebec, CFKM Trois-Rivières, CFKS Sherbrooke and CFRS Saguenay) from their obligations. That application prompted a letter in opposition by SCFP union executive Denis Bolduc, saying that there was plenty of time in the schedule for V to air local news, that it should have asked for this exemption during its license renewal hearing last fall, and that the CRTC should maintain some minimum of local programming during the Olympics.

TTP applies for English news-talk station at 600AM

Nicolas Tétrault, Rajiv Pancholy and Paul Tietolman

It got buried under all the hoopla about Bell, Astral and CKGM, but at the same hearing where the CRTC will consider Bell’s purchase of Astral and the proposal to turn TSN Radio into RDS Radio, it will also consider an application by three independent millionnaires to start up an English-language news-talk station to compete with CJAD.

The application – by Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, together under 7954689 Canada Inc. – is very similar to one they made last year for clear channel 940AM, which I’ve summarized here. The station would be a news-talk format, with 100% local programming, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with its own team of journalists. It would act as a sister station to a French-language one that has already been approved for 940.

Because 690AM went to CKGM (the station is changing frequencies this fall, before its format change), it has to choose an alternative. At first, the group said if it was not given one of the two clear channels (690 and 940) that would allow it to broadcast at 50,000 watts day and night, its business plan would not be viable. It also said the CRTC had to approve both stations or reject both, because their business plan requires both station to share resources.

The CRTC called their bluff, and TTP backtracked, accepting the French station and now trying for an English one on a different frequency.

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Bell to convert TSN Radio to French

Well, this is a shock.

As part of its acquisition of Astral Media, including CJAD, CHOM and CJFM in Montreal’s English market, Bell Media has decided that rather than sell one of the four English stations it would own here, it is going to keep all four of them but convert one to French.

As such, Bell announced Tuesday that it has applied to the CRTC to convert CKGM (TSN Radio 990) to a French-language all-sports station named RDS Radio 990. (Actually it would be RDS Radio 690, since the station is moving to that frequency.) Bell expects the switch to happen by Jan. 1, 2013, though that’s dependent on how fast the CRTC makes a decision. It says it is prepared to make the change within 120 days of the CRTC’s decision.

The CRTC’s competition rules require that a common owner control no more than three stations in a market of fewer than eight commercial stations (English Montreal has five), and no more than two AM and two FM stations in a market of more than that (French Montreal has eight). Since neither Astral nor Bell have a French-language AM station in Montreal, converting the station to French would allow them to keep it.

TSN Radio 990, formerly The Team 990, has always struggled as a low-rated station, but there was a feeling over the past few years that it had finally found a niche that worked after various other failed attempts at different formats.

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Celebrating, win or lose

A police officer directs traffic (most of which is celebrating Spanish fans) with his Italian flag shortly after Spain defeated Italy in the Euro 2012 final on July 1.

It’s not often in this town that you see a police officer smiling and laughing on the job. Not because they’re evil or humourless, but just because they’ve been called on to do some rather serious stuff with some rather confrontational people. Many of them are overworked, tired, frustrated and otherwise not in the best of moods.

And yet, here he is, enjoying himself on a day you’d expect him not to be.

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Canadian Tire still doesn’t wave the flag in Quebec

Canadian Tire’s Quebec flyer for this week: Mentions Canada Day, but no Canadian flag on sale

I guess we should be used to it: Canadian Tire is still downplaying its Canadianness in Quebec.

I wrote about this a year ago when someone spotted that the chain was running different flyers inside and outside this province, with the ones inside the province being noticeably less patriotic. At the time, the company said it wasn’t hiding its Canadianness in Quebec, even though the bilingual flyer outside the province had “Canada Day” on it and the one inside didn’t.

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CRTC looks at ending MuchMusic/MusiquePlus monopoly

Want to sit down and watch a TV channel that just airs music videos all day? Your options are actually artificially limited, but the CRTC could soon be making it a lot easier for people to start up music-based specialty channels.

In April, the CRTC opened a call for comments about allowing more competition in channels devoted to popular music, in the same way it opened up competition for two other genres it deemed mature enough – sports and news.

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