Monthly Archives: August 2012

CKGM (TSN Radio) moves from 990 to 690 on Tuesday

Bell Media Radio announced today that CKGM (TSN Radio 990) will be officially changing frequency, from 990 kHz to 690 kHz, as of Tuesday, Sept. 4.

TSN PR guy Greg McIsaac clarifies: The switch officially happens at 6am on Tuesday, and the station will simulcast on both frequencies for about three months before it vacates 990. This is standard practice for a frequency change.

CKGM is already transmitting on 690 (though its signal appears weak), running a test loop so it can configure its transmitter. The loop contains recordings of shows (Mitch Melnick, Tony Marinaro, the morning show) and a message asking people with interference issues to contact the station at

The frequency change, which will result in an expanded coverage especially at night, was approved by the CRTC last November. It is unrelated to the application in front of the CRTC to change the station from English to French. That application will be heard at a hearing at the Palais des congrès starting Sept. 10, that will last a full week because of all the parties opposed to or commenting on the Astral acquisition and the CKGM license change.

Once 990 is vacated, which should happen in early December, it will be free for a new station, also approved by the CRTC last November. The station, owned by Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio), will be called Radio Fierté, a talk and music station aimed at Montreal’s LGBT community. No start date has been set for that station yet, though they expect to be operating before their deadline of November 2013.

My first quote in an ad

Journal de Montréal, Aug. 25, 2012, page 30

I was in the papers over the weekend. Well, some of them anyway.

As opposition grows over the planned Bell purchase of Astral Media (a new campaign was just launched today), Bell and its opponents are multiplying their use of full-page newspaper advertisements to fight the public relations war.

Continue reading

Patrick Charles leaves Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Tasso and Patrick is now just Tasso.

Patrick Charles, who started a new afternoon drive show with Paul (Tasso) Zakaib on low-rated ethnic station CKDG-FM last October, has decided to leave the station, and not come back from a three-week vacation.

“I really quit for personal reasons: the hours made it difficult, and things weren’t progressing the way I’d have liked them to,” Charles tells me. “Outside of that, we had a lot of fun. You can still tune into Tasso.”

Zakaib is remaining with the show and the station. He’ll be doing the show solo, which will mean having to play all the parts in his comedic sketches.

“I became a master at recording characters, playing it back and answering live, i.e., my mom and dad, my trainer, Jacques Ampere. It works quite well and there’s tons of stuff on the net for those short breaks. My producer chimes in and voilà, we have a show.”

“I’m sad he left but he has to do what a young dad with major responsibility has to do.”

Charles says he’s spending his time “hanging out with my son, listening to a lot of music, and looking for a new gig.”

Charles started at CFQR-FM (what was then Q92) in 2001, helping with writing for the Aaron and Tasso morning show, then left for CJFM-FM in 2009. He didn’t last long on the Virgin morning show, shuffled into an off-air position in 2010. He worked in various capacities for Astral until he finally left. Shortly thereafter he took the job at Mike FM.

I’ve asked station manager Marie Griffiths for comment. I’ll update this if I hear from her. The station, which airs English-language programs during peak hours and ethnic programs (particularly Greek) in other parts of its schedule, doesn’t subscribe to BBM Canada, so has no scientific way of measuring its audience.

How exaggerating protest numbers could backfire on students


That’s how many people, according to a firm hired by Radio-Canada, were at Place du Canada at 2:35pm on Wednesday during the monthly protest against tuition hikes and Bill 78.

As I predicted, the number prompted outrage among protesters and their supporters. Reactions from “no way” to “fraude“. Some presented evidence to back up their cases, but in all cases they involved subjective comparisons. Many judged based on a single aerial photo (whose source I couldn’t find easily). Others based their numbers on known capacities of large stadiums. But many just pulled numbers out of nowhere. CLASSE’s official estimate was 100,000. Numbers as high as 250,000 were being thrown about.

My estimate was 24,000, and I provided my methodology. I stood at the corner of Berri St. and René-Lévesque Blvd., estimated that people were crossing a line on the pavement at about 10 per second on average, and multiplied that by how long it took the whole protest to pass by – about 40 minutes. (I had to leave early to go to work, so I estimated that based on the tail end being at St. Laurent and de Maisonneuve 25 minutes after the first people crossed at Berri and René-Lévesque. I figured it would take the tail end about 15 minutes to reach where I was originally counting from.)

Comparing apples and pineapples

Measured in time, the protest was about half as large as the one I saw on May 22, whose size I also tried to estimate. That estimate was 50,000, but with the understanding that I was only counting the people who passed my location.

The closest thing to an official estimate we’ve had of one of these protests before now is QMI Agency’s call of about 150,000 for that May 22 protest. They did not reveal their methodology, but it was the only time a news agency offered its own number.

So the media have been relying on protesters’ own estimates of the protest size. And obviously, there’s clear motivation for them to inflate those numbers.

It’s not just the student protests. Remember that big march against the Iraq war in 2003, that drew 200,000 or 300,000 people? Radio-Canada did an official crowd estimate there too, and the actual number was much lower (see the video at the bottom).

In first-day stories, the media have been careful about their estimates. They refer vaguely to “thousands” or “tens of thousands”. When they use the protsters’ numbers, they’re clearly attributed. But as time passes, the care starts to slip, and without any competing numbers to refute them, those estimates of 100,000 or 200,000 people slowly become fact.

So now, as media outlets start to realize they can’t abdicate their responsibilities and really need to do their own crowd estimation, more accurate numbers show a dramatic drop. People start to make comparisons in their heads: If the May 22 protest drew 200,000 people and the Aug. 22 one drew only 12,000, the student movement is clearly dying out.

Let’s compare

The biggest problem with amateur estimates of crowd sizes is that people don’t know what a crowd of 10,000 people or 100,000 people looks like. So they try to compare with the Bell Centre (21,000), the Olympic Stadium (60,000), or the Place des festivals (which they say is 100,000 based on estimates of Jazz fest mega show sizes, but those estimates include crowds watching secondary screens on de Maisonneuve Blvd., at Place des Arts, on Ste. Catherine St. or even on Clark St.)

But these can be deceiving. The Bell Centre and Olympic Stadium look a lot smaller than they are, because of all the empty space in the middle. And crowds there are packed in very tightly, unlike a moving protest march.

Rather than subjective comparisons of size, let’s compare the crowds using another method: transit.

  • 20,000: A packed show or hockey game at the Bell Centre causes a strain on the metro system as it clears out. The STM routinely adds extra trains at the Lucien L’Allier station to handle the thousands of people who hop on at the same time. There’s a noticeably large crowd at transfer stations like Berri-UQAM, consistent with what you’d find during a busy rush hour.
  • 50,000: The biggest events at the Olympic Stadium have been in the 50,000 range. When they end, the metro system is severely strained. Extra trains are parked near the Pie-IX station, and for a good hour they fill up and depart westbound toward Berri-UQAM. Even then, extra trains are added to the other lines as well, and security officers herd crowds towards the ends of the platforms to get as many people as possible onto the trains.
  • 80,000: Remember that U2 show at the Hippodrome? Officials pleaded with people to take public transit because parking would have been a nightmare. Though the shows let out before midnight, the metro was kept running past 2am because that’s how long it took to get everyone on the trains. It was so bad that not only were people directed to walk to two metro stations, but a fleet of dozens of buses was brought into service to shuttle people to the Jean-Talon station via a special reserved lane marked with pylons for the whole route.

Which of these do you think is the best comparison to Wednesday’s protest?

When 10,000 isn’t enough

What’s most disconcerting about all this is that the bar has been set unreasonably high for large protests in this city. Tens of thousands of people taking to the streets isn’t enough anymore. It has to be hundreds of thousands before anyone starts noticing.

That’s unfortunate. Whether you agree with the student movement or not, they amassed enough people that it took them more than half an hour to walk by in a march as wide as five traffic lanes. No matter their actual number, a descriptive word that’s synonymous with “enormous” is called for here.

But so long as we continue to measure protests like we do penises, this obsessive war over numbers will only distract from any real issues we might be trying to debate.

UPDATE: OpenFile, in a story about how difficult crowd estimates are, comes up with 80,000 based on a march 3 km long and 18.5 metres wide with 0.7 square meters per person. That seems a bit too dense to me. But at least it’s a scientific effort.

Regional CKOI stations turn to talk

While everyone’s focused on CHOI Radio X coming to Montreal, it’s not the only music station in Quebec switching to a talk radio format today.

As announced in June, Cogeco converted three regional stations from the CKOI brand to news-talk brands based on the one used by CHMP 98.5FM in Montreal.

They join FM 93 in Quebec City (CJMF-FM) and FM 98 in Saguenay (CKRS-FM), the latter of which is an independently-owned station that carries some network programming.

The three new stations share much of the same programming. They include:

Each station continues to have its own local morning show, noon show and afternoon drive show on weekdays. They will also air sports programming including Canadiens and Alouettes games, except for the station in Gatineau which air Senators games.

Meanwhile, at other stations

CKOI in Montreal, which remains a music station, launched its new programming today. It adds Yan England to its morning show, Nadia Bilodeau to afternoons (starting Sept. 10) and revamps its noon show to focus more on humour.

Mitsou, who left NRJ in June and was rumoured to be heading to rival Rythme FM, confirmed she’ll be starting there Nov. 20. She’ll join the afternoon show, instead of the morning one, so she can spend mornings with her family. Marie-Soleil Michon will host the show until Mitsou starts. Also joining Rythme FM (CFGL-FM) are Lise Dion and, according to La Presse, Denis Fortin.

NRJ Montreal (CKMF-FM) adds Mike Gauthier with its fall schedule. He’ll also join Rouge FM in Quebec City, which is also owned by Astral.

La Presse has a few other tidbits of programming changes at French-language radio stations in Montreal.

In Quebec City, legendary pranksters Les Justiciers Masqués are back on the radio, joining the afternoon show at the CKOI station there, which is owned by Leclerc Communication.

CHOI Radio X launches in Montreal

CHOI Radio X has arrived in Montreal.

On Monday morning, at 5:30 a.m., CKLX-FM 91.9 officially rebranded from Planète Jazz to CHOI Radio X Montréal with sounds of jazz music getting interrupted and its heartbeat flatlined. The station has gone from smooth easy-listening music to opinionated talk during the week and rock music on the weekend.

Actually, Planète Jazz isn’t completely dead. The station’s license is still as a specialty station carrying jazz music, and 70% of its musical selections must be in the category of jazz and blues, according to its latest license renewal.

Owner RNC Media applied to the CRTC months ago for the station to change its license, saying a jazz-only station simply can’t survive in Montreal. The application received a lot of opposition from Montrealers who didn’t want the formula used by CHOI-FM in Quebec City imported to this city. (UPDATE March 14, 2013: The application has been denied by the CRTC.)

Whether deserved or not, CHOI-FM has a reputation as “radio poubelle”, a right-wing shock-jock station that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Much of that reputation is based on second-hand accounts of what airs on the station, and in many cases stuff that is years old, about former personality Jeff Fillion, for example. Though it has been investigated by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council many times since then for comments by its radio hosts.

The opposition caused the CRTC to call a public hearing into the license amendment changing the station from a specialty jazz music station into a mainly spoken word station. The license amendment application will be dealt with at a hearing in Montreal on Sept. 10, the same hearing the commission considers the proposed Bell purchase of Astral Media, the conversion of TSN 990 from English to French, and the application for a new English news-talk station at 600 AM.

Until a decision is reached, CKLX will continue to air jazz music, weeknights from 7pm to 5:30am, and on weekends, except from 11am to 4pm when it airs rock music. Provided 70% of its music continues to be jazz, the station will still be respecting the letter (if perhaps not the spirit) of its license.

Though the switch was announced for 5:30am on Monday, it actually happened on Sunday at 11am, when the afternoon rock music show took over the airwaves. Planète Jazz listeners who still hadn’t heard about the change expressed shock and outrage on the station’s Facebook page. After 4pm, the station returned to jazz music until 5:30am Monday.

The new brand’s schedule is as follows:

  • Le show du matin (5:30am to 9:30am): Carl Monette, Martin Pelletier, Gabriel Grégoire, Évelyne Audet
  • Maurais Live (9:30am to 12pm): Dominic Maurais (syndicated from CHOI-FM in Quebec City)
  • Le midi (12pm to 2pm): Éric Duhaime
  • 2 à 4 (2pm to 4pm): Sophie Bérubé, Vincent Rabault
  • Le Retour (4pm to 7pm): Jean-Charles Lajoie, Marie-Claude Savard et Vincent Dessureault
  • Légendes du Rock (weekends 11am to 4pm): Jeff Paquet

Everything not in the shows above will continue to be jazz music.

UPDATE: Some coverage:

UPDATE (Aug. 26): A petition has been started to convince the CRTC to keep Planète Jazz. It already has 1,500 signatures. Radio X has responded with its own petition.

Videotron makes HD customers a bit happier

TSN in SD (left) and HD (right)

If you’re one of those Videotron digital subscribers who had TSN and/or Rogers Sportsnet in standard definition but didn’t feel like coughing up $3 a month to get the same channels in HD, now you won’t have to.

Last week (in the middle of the Olympics), the cable provider unlocked TSN HD (660), Sportsnet HD (661) and TSN2 HD (681) for subscribers who had the equivalent channels in SD (TSN2 comes with TSN). That’s not an insignificant number of subscribers, since TSN and Sportsnet are in a lot of packages, including the very popular Anglo package.

When I asked her about it this week, Videotron vice-president Isabelle Dessureault said the company had come to new agreements with Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet) that allow the channels to fit in with Videotron’s pricing structure. Under Videotron’s system, anyone who pays the HD service fee and adds a channel to their lineup gets it in both standard and high definition. The $3/month sports package was the only exception to that system until now.

The new contract comes into effect on Sept. 1, Dessureault said, so customers will stop being billed the extra $3 fee as of that date (pro-rated depending on each customer’s billing cycle).

But why are the channels being unblocked if people are still being charged? Dessureault said the company is still bound by its previous agreement until Sept. 1, so has to keep charging the way it did. But whether the channel is unblocked or not is decided in a different way, usually at the discretion of the broadcaster. She admitted it may not make much sense logically, but it’s the way they have to operate.

People interested in saving a few cents can call up Videotron customer service and ask to cancel the package immediately.

Videotron wouldn’t say how many people subscribe to the $3/month sports HD package.

New HD channels coming

Sports channels aren’t the only new HD channels some people are going to be seeing on Videotron. The company confirmed via social media that Showcase, Food Network and HGTV will be launching in HD soon.

I’m told the date is Aug. 29, and that they will be on channels 676, 682 and 683, respectively. (The last two don’t correspond to SD channels – 102 and 103 – but 602, 603, 702 and 703 are already assigned.) As with other channels, those who have the SD channel and pay the HD service fee get the HD version without extra charge.

Also launching Aug. 29 with a free preview is Nat Geo Wild Canada, SD only, at Channel 118. The Shaw-owned channel launched earlier this year and is available on Shaw and Rogers systems.

Finally, Videotron is adding Prise 2 HD, which sounds really strange because Prise 2 airs reruns of old shows. TVA says it’s launching it in HD because it plans to introduce original nostalgia-themed programming.

The additions will help quell some complaints about Videotron’s poor selection among English HD channels (Showcase was definitely a noticeably absent one). But the company still lags far behind Bell in English HD selection. Other channels that should be on Videotron’s list include MuchMusic, Comedy and secondary Movie Network channels (currently the main channel and HBO Canada are the only ones in HD, leading MExcess, MFest and MFun in SD only).

UPDATE (Aug. 31): The HD channels and Nat Geo Wild launched as scheduled on those channels. Prise 2 has launched on channel 695.

The beginning of the end for analog cable at Videotron

Remote controls for Videotron illico boxes will be needed soon in all homes with television service.

Do you have analog cable with Videotron? According to the statistics, probably not. The cable provider has managed to move more than three-quarters of its TV subscribers to the illico digital service, and the number of residential analog cable subscribers is quite low. A lot of 80-year-old West Island grandmothers who still think they’re getting service from CF Cable TV.

Anyway, last week Videotron took the first step toward dismantling its analog service by issuing a stop-sell order on new analog cable television subscriptions. Existing customers will continue to have service, but should expect to be forced into digital cable some time over the next few years.

How long exactly isn’t clear. Videotron vice-president Isabelle Dessureault wouldn’t put an exact date on it. But a timeframe of, say, 18 months is realistic, giving the company all of 2013 to make the transition.

You can read more about Videotron’s plans in an article I wrote for Wednesday’s Gazette, and another I wrote for the website (subscription required).

This transition particularly affects the West Island, because it’s an area with a lot of analog television subscribers, and the western region of Montreal that Videotron inherited from CF Cable is the one that still has the most analog channels (55, according to a website that tracks Videotron’s network in detail, though that includes TVA’s Télé-Achats, which has just been shut down.) Some services have already been pulled off analog cable, like YTV and CMT.

Videotron has already started making this transition in Gatineau, where it killed the analog Telemax service and reduced its analog cable offering to a bare-minimum 30 channels (mostly local stations and must-carry channels). There, it offered free set-top boxes for existing analog customers (and free 36-month rentals for those who have a digital subscription with additional sets on analog cable). Dessureault wouldn’t say whether similar offers would be made in Montreal, but expect something along those lines. Dessureault explained that most set-top boxes are subsidized by Videotron – even the ones people buy – so the lower the price the higher the amount of the subsidy. It would probably be worth it to free up all that space and charge people more for more channels (not to mention prevent people from moving to Bell), but we’re talking about a serious outlay of cash to get thousands of homes set up with these boxes.

Don’t worry too much about losing your service right away. Videotron will walk people through the transition when it eventually happens.

6 MHz is a lot of space

It’s hard to understate what the disappearance of analog cable would do for Videotron’s ability to pump out more service. Each of those 55 channels is 6 MHz wide (the same bandwidth as an over-the-air television channel). In the space of each of those analog signals, Videotron could, through its QAM digital encoding, put through seven standard-definition channels or two high-definition channels, Dessureault tells me. An analysis of Videotron’s encoding system shows those numbers are actually higher, with some of those 6 MHz channels carrying three HD channels and as much as a dozen standard-definition ones. (The difference is compression – the more compressed the signal, the more channels you can fit in that block, but the lower the quality.)

Analysis of a 6 MHz Videotron QAM block at shows 12 SD channels and six audio streams in a space that would have been used for a single analog television channel

Doing the math, those 55 analog channels could become 165 new HD channels in addition to the 71 Videotron already has. In other words, tripling its current offering. Or it could become more than 600 new standard-definition channels, which I’m pretty sure is far more than the number of local TV stations and specialty channels that exist in this country.

Most likely Videotron will use the new frequencies to boost the number of SD channels and the number of HD channels, as well as the amount of bandwidth related to video-on-demand service and cable Internet (Videotron wants to particularly improve upload speeds, making the network more symmetrical in upload vs. download). All of this must share the same cable and so must be separated out on different frequencies.

The pressure is definitely being felt most in HD channels. Videotron is adding a handful every year, but space is at a premium. Videotron’s French HD selection is quite good. Well, it has to be, since no French-language commercial television service is going to be successful in Canada if it’s not on Videotron. But in English HD channels, Videotron lags behind Bell TV, which is aggressively trying to woo potential customers in the Montreal area with its fibre-optic Fibe service. Videotron only recently added such popular channels as Space and Discovery in high definition, and it’s still missing Showcase, Food Network and HGTV (though Videotron will add those three by the end of the month). MuchMusic, OLN, Comedy Network, CTV News Channel and YTV are other channels that should be high on the list of HD channels to be added to the grid.

And, of course, there’s still the continuing cry from customers to add AMC. Sorry, wish I had good news about that one. Videotron is aware of demands for it, but it seems discussions between Videotron and AMC haven’t borne fruit yet.

An unnecessary money grab?

After the Gazette piece was published, I got an email from someone who was thinking this move was more about Videotron wanting to push people off analog cable than it wanting more space for HD channels. A Cult MTL piece discussing this issue also frames it as a screw-the-poor move by Videotron.

While I don’t doubt for a second that Videotron’s main goal is profit, I have no reason to doubt its explanation. It has a bit of room left for new HD channels, but by 2014 it will be extremely limited, and the number of new channels and number of existing ones upgrading to HD will only grow.

Before saying they’re screwing customers, let’s see if they actually do it first. If Videotron offers set-top boxes for free (or as a free rental), as well as a digital channel package that gives the same channels for the same price, the net cost difference to the customer will be zero, combined with a hefty equipment subsidy on the part of Videotron.

This news was also discussed on DSL Reports and Reddit.

The new, slightly thinner, somewhat more streamlined Gazette

The transformation of The Gazette that has been made necessary by cuts from parent company Postmedia Network began this week in a way that readers will notice.

As of Tuesday, the weekday paper has been reduced from three to two sections (with the exception of Mondays, which still has a separate Driving section). The Tuesday paper has a note from Editor-in-Chief Alan Allnutt explaining the changes. In it, Allnutt talks about how the focus of the paper will transition from covering the 24-hour news cycle to being more of a daily newsmagazine. If that sounds like something you’ve heard a few times before, you’re not imagining it. But such fundamental change to how a newspaper works takes quite a few big steps before it really sinks in.

The two-section format works as follows:

The A section will contain the same as it did before, with local, national and international news, followed by a two-page opinion section with editorials, Aislin’s cartoon, letters to the editor and opinion pieces. After that will be business news, sports news and arts and entertainment stories that used to be in the other two sections.

The B section will be a theme section that’s different by the day. Mondays and Thursdays it will be sports (Hockey Inside/Out on Thursdays during the hockey season). Tuesdays will be business, comprising the features that used to be in the Monday Your Business section. Wednesdays will be food, with the same features that were on the weekly food pages. And Friday will be movie reviews. Regardless of the topic of the day, the B section will include classified, obituaries, puzzles and comics, the TV grid, the weather map and Doug Camilli’s column (on days when that column runs).

There’s a reduction in the number of pages, though it’s not as dramatic as you might think. This Tuesday’s paper had 36 pages, down from 44 the week before. Wednesday’s paper had 44 pages (not including the West Island section), down from 52. When you discount the five special Olympics pages added to the Sports section each day last week, it’s a small reduction (the Wednesday paper has the same number of pages as one the week before the Olympics). It’s hard to make it an exact science because of the variance in the amount of display advertising.

The main reduction of content is wire stories that filled the back pages of the business, sports and arts sections. More of those stories will be replaced by briefs, with focus being left on local original content.

The Saturday paper remains in its multi-section format and is not affected in any significant way by these changes.

Some original content will be disappearing too, the result of difficult decisions to save costs. Dating Girl columnist Josey Vogels (whose column is actually syndicated, but who got her start at The Gazette and the now-defunct Hour) and bird columnist David Bird wrote goodbyes this week. The weekly This Week’s Child brief and Next Chapter boomer/seniors column are also being cut. Listings of events, shows and activities are moving online.

There are also some more minor changes in the way the paper looks. Section banners have become smaller and simpler, the look of the briefs column changes (it’s been renamed from “In the News” to “In Brief”), columnist logos have become smaller, and Web pointers have disappeared from a standard position on Page A2.

Buyouts and a few layoffs, most of which take effect on Sept. 1, will reduce by about 20% the number of people in the editorial department. Most of those leaving work behind-the-scenes, many as copy editors, photo editors or administrative staff whose names don’t get in the paper. The Globe and Mail explains a bit how things are going to work after the newsroom becomes smaller.

Thankfully, there were no forced layoffs on the copy desk, which means I will remain with The Gazette after the cuts.

The changes are obviously not going to please everyone (few changes do). Allnutt invites people to make their views known by email:

Isabelle Racicot joins Virgin Radio

Isabelle Racicot (photo: Astral Media)

Virgin Radio 96, a station that has been losing some of its top talent to rival The Beat over the past year but insists its team is bigger than one individual superstar, has just added a pretty big star to its lineup.

Isabelle Racicot, host of TVA’s talk show Ça finit bien la semaine, has been added to Virgin Radio’s lineup, where she will host the Virgin Hit 20 weekend show, Saturdays at 5pm and Sundays at 10am, starting Aug. 25, Astral Media announced on Wednesday.

Racicot replaces Tony Stark, who was set to leave Virgin for a job in Halifax but has changed his mind. Stark also hosts Monday to Thursday evenings (including the Virgin Radio Takeover listener-driven show), as well as Sunday afternoons.

Putting TV personalities on the radio is common at French-language music stations in Montreal, but not so much on the English side (Todd van der Heyden is one of the exceptions). The lack of non-news local TV programming in anglo Montreal certainly has some part in this.

Comparisons will naturally be drawn (by me, at least) between Racicot and Anne-Marie Withenshaw, who hosts All Access Weekend at The Beat, Saturdays at 10am. Both are weekend shows hosted by bilingual personalities known more for French television than anything else. (The two shows will not be competing with each other directly – though it’s interesting that one airs 10am to noon on Saturdays and the other 10am to noon on Sundays.)

Isabelle Racicot (left) at Virgin Radio and Anne-Marie Withenshaw (right) at The Beat. What’s with the shiny grey T-shirts?

I couldn’t help noticing that Racicot’s Astral photo is oddly similar to the one done for Withenshaw when The Beat launched last year (plus some silly lens flares). Or are shiny grey shirts in style these days?

UPDATE (Aug. 26): Brendan Kelly profiles Racicot in Saturday’s Gazette.

Anglophones: Vote PQ (ha ha, just kidding)

It happens, it seems, during every election. Reporters stuck on campaign buses to Saint-Félix-de-who-kn0ws-where look for some unusual story to report on inevitably throw out the idea that anglophones might somehow be interested in voting for a sovereignist party.

The sovereignist party – the Parti Québécois during a provincial election or the Bloc Québécois in a federal election – are never ones to say no to any votes (they are, after all, politicians), so they indulge, pretending Quebec anglos might have a reason to vote for them.

The party leader explains that this is an election, not a referendum, and federalists can still vote for a sovereignist party that will (in the case of the Bloc) be a voice for all Quebecers in Ottawa, or (in the case of the PQ) be an alternative to the Liberals. They remind the anglos that an independent Quebec would continue to respect their rights and that they, too, are Québécois.

Then comes election night, and the big victory speech, in which the leader proclaims a huge win for sovereignty, as if every vote for that party is a vote to make Quebec into an independent country.

Jean Charest alluded to this phenomenon just before the last provincial election in 2008.

But then, maybe we think it’s more commonplace than it is. The night of the 2008 federal election, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said the vote for the Bloc was not a vote for sovereignty, according to an article in The Gazette from way back then. Though he did say the vote showed that Quebecers wanted Ottawa to recognize the supremacy of the French language in this province, and insist that Quebec’s French-language charter apply to federally-regulated institutions.

I’d compare this with other recent sovereignist party victories, but unfortunately for them there haven’t been many. The PQ hasn’t won a provincial election since 1998. The Bloc was doing well until last year, when it collapsed into near-oblivion.

Few options for anglos

All this anglos-voting-PQ silliness highlights the problem that there really isn’t an alternative to the Liberals for federalist anglophones in Quebec. Of the five parties with a chance of winning seats, three of them are openly and proudly sovereignist, and four of them want to strengthen the French-language charter in some way to counteract a perceived threat to the French language in Quebec. Even the Coalition Avenir Québec, which is being seen as an alternative hope for anglos, makes it clear in its platform (PDF) that it would strengthen the role of he Office Québécois de la langue française and put in place measures to ensure more immigrants to Quebec speak French.

The Liberals, meanwhile, aren’t exactly the Equality Party. The best that anglos can hope for with them is the status quo.

It’s no wonder, then, that there won’t be an English-language leaders’ debate, even with the offer to have Pauline Marois do her part in French. The PQ really has little to gain from such an event, and the Liberals and CAQ don’t want to be seen as too friendly to federalists or anglophones, which might scare off soft nationalists.

It’s to the point where francophones are asking about how anglophones are being treated here.

I won’t use some of the ridiculous hyperbole being used by some, comparing Quebec to some totalitarian government or its leaders to some iron-fist dictators who think nothing of murdering millions of their citizens.

But let’s just say that you can understand why there are some people here, maybe some whose families have been in Quebec for generations, or who might be perfectly bilingual but have the misfortune of having the incorrect mother tongue, who feel that on the ballot will simply be yet another list of parties for whom this umpteenth-generation Quebecer isn’t really Québécois enough.

A big autumn for Montreal broadcasting

Man, there are a lot of radio stations in and around Montreal.

That’s what came to mind as I compiled a list of them for a story that appears in Saturday’s Gazette. “Story” might be an exaggeration there. It’s more like a charticle spread over two and a half pages, detailing the things that are changing at radio and television stations in the city.

And there’s a lot of stuff going on. A CRTC hearing this fall will decide on whether to approve a new station and whether to accept major amendments to the licenses of two others. Two other stations approved by the CRTC last November are gearing up to launch in the coming months. One frequency that currently sit vacant could be home to Hudson’s first local radio station if the CRTC gives it the okay. CBC Radio 2 and Espace Musique could see ads for the first time. And then there are all the staff movements, office changes and other things that don’t require CRTC approval.

To get it all straightened out (and include a few new pieces of information), I’ve compiled a list of radio and TV stations that can be tuned in from Montreal and talk about what’s happened there recently and what’s coming soon, on a station-by-station basis.

What’s going on in AM radio is probably the most interesting, because it involves the most fundamental change – two new radio stations, with a possible third to join them, and another station whose fate is in limbo.

In FM radio, I notice a lot of the updates involve staff changes. That’s part of life in radio, and I don’t know if it’s unusually high – I suspect not – but when all compiled together there’s enough change to write home about. The departure of Planète Jazz in favour of Radio X is also a big change.

For television, I focused only on local programming, and, for the most part, on the anglophone stations. One (CJNT) has been bought out by Rogers pending CRTC approval (an application hasn’t been published yet). Global is getting ready to launch a morning show at some point in the late fall. CBC is getting ready to expand its late newscast from 10 minutes to half an hour, which will start Sept. 17 (the same day George Stroumboulopoulos moves to 7pm). And CTV is still making baby steps toward converting its local newscast into high definition.

I’m sure there’s stuff that I missed for whatever reason (it’s been pointed out that I don’t talk about adjacent-market AM stations, mostly due to lack of space). If you know of one, feel free to add it in the comments below.