Monthly Archives: January 2013

Camille Ross leaves CTV for Global Montreal

Camille Ross (CTV photo)

Camille Ross (CTV photo)

As we begin a year that will involve a lot of new high-profile jobs in broadcasting, it’s inevitable that some of those will be filled by people already on the air who decide to move up by jumping to a competitor.

We’ve seen our first such move already: CTV Montreal reporter Camille Ross has been hired by Global to join their new morning show set to launch this spring.

Global News spokesperson Nick Poirier confirmed the news on Thursday, saying she will be joining the cast of the new show, but wouldn’t get into details because they weren’t ready to announce just yet.

Ross herself wouldn’t comment on the news, instead referring to Poirier for comment.

Ross grew up in Toronto and went to Ryerson University. She worked at the CTV station in Yorkton, Sask., and Global News in Regina before coming to Montreal to fill a maternity leave at CFCF.

CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane said he understood Ross’s motivations, pointing out that she was a freelancer for CTV when she left, and the prospect of full-time employment was an opportunity too good to pass up. Kahane said CTV wishes her well, in that way every employer wishes their former employees well in their future endeavours.

Kahane said CTV still has a rich bank of freelancers that it can continue to rely on to cover the news.

Global announced last month that Jim Connell and Rob Ostiguy had also been hired to run the morning show. Other hires, including other on-air personalities, have not yet been announced, nor has a start date.

(Hat tip to Mike Cohen, who revealed the news on Twitter on Wednesday evening.)

Global’s national morning show: Not worth waking up for

Global's new national Morning Show

Global’s new national Morning Show: Four people at a desk talking

On Monday, Global television debuted its new national morning show. It was kind of a surprise announcement before Christmas (unlike the local morning shows in Montreal and Halifax, which we’ve been waiting for since 2010), and didn’t get a lot of hype.

Having watched the first episode, it’s easy to see why. Though the idea of something to compete with Canada AM sounds pretty exciting, Global’s national morning show feels like exactly what it is: A half-hour extension to the Global Toronto morning show that doesn’t offer much that would take people away from their laptop screens, recordings of the previous night’s shows, or reruns on cable.

Now, I’ll admit that a lot of what I don’t like about this show is the kind of stuff I don’t like about most morning shows: a lack of actual information and depth, and this idea that we care about the most boring aspects of the hosts’ personal lives or their impromptu, uninformed thoughts about the news. It’s one thing when banter fills the 20 seconds at the end of an hour-long newscast, but to base an entire show off of this sounds like a waste of everyone’s time.

But I’m obviously not the target audience for this show. I might feel differently if I was a stay-at-home mom who apparently wants to watch this stuff.

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Inside Astral radio’s new Montreal studios

This fall, Astral Media’s three English stations in Montreal — CHOM, CJAD and CJFM (Virgin Radio) — moved from Fort St. to Papineau Ave. The goal was to consolidate Astral’s five radio stations, allowing them to share resources, including a newsroom.

I got a couple of chances to visit the new offices, once for interviews with a couple of personalities and again when they held an event for clients. Here are some photos to give you a sense of what it’s like inside.

Astral’s building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd.

I just realized when producing this post that I don’t have a recent picture of the exterior of the Astral Media building at Papineau and René-Lévesque. The one above was taken in August 2009. On the front are logos of the two French stations, both of which have rebranded. Rock Détente (CITE-FM) is now Rouge FM, and Énergie (CKMF-FM) is now NRJ (with the same pronunciation).

Anyway, the outside hasn’t changed much, except for the logos. It’s inside where everything’s different. The offices have been renovated. There’s glass everywhere. Even the office of Astral vice-president Martin Spalding is surrounded by glass, so anyone in the nearby CHOM studio can see what’s going on in there.

The studios of all five stations are on the second floor. Using the Montreal bastardization of cardinal directions, the southwestern corner is CHOM, the southeastern corner (at Papineau and René-Lévesque) is Virgin (facing René-Lévesque) and NRJ (facing Papineau). Rouge FM is on the eastern side, and CJAD’s studios are on the northeastern corner. CJAD’s newsroom covers the north side.

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The young faces of Montreal’s drive-time radio


Gazette Culture section, Jan. 5

On the list of jobs everyone wants but nobody can get, radio DJ ranks pretty high. Right there with TV anchor and newspaper staff columnist. Those privileged enough to get these coveted positions seem like the luckiest people in the world, especially because the job sounds like it’s so simple.

In Montreal, the three big music stations all have announcers or hosts (what they call the DJs now) in the afternoon drive periods under the age of 35. Why is that? Shouldn’t such a prestigious position (second only to the morning drive slot) go to people who worked in the medium for decades, toiling at some obscure community station in a tiny town working as the overnight traffic announcer? What do these people have that’s so special?

For profiles that appear in Saturday’s Gazette, I met with these three announcers, all of whom got their current jobs in 2012, and asked them about their career paths. As you’ll learn, it’s a combination of good timing, talent, a lot of determination, and a bit of luck.

(These stories took a surprisingly long time to do. Astral was a bit nervous in light of the whole Bell thing, and even after I managed to do all the interviews, the story stayed in the bank for a month so it could work as a feature story in the first week of January when the local arts scene is pretty uneventful. To give you an idea, the photos of Bilal Butt and Andrea Collins, which I took during their interviews, were taken while CHOM and Virgin were still at their old studios on Fort St.)

The Beat’s Vinny Barrucco

“Cousin” Vinny Barrucco, 28, started at The Beat in May, after being poached from the same job at Virgin Radio. The Beat’s management apparently found him good enough to fire their existing drive guy and convince Vinny to stay off the radio for three months to comply with a non-compete clause in his Virgin contract.

A guy this young getting poached like this (Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon were also lured to The Beat from Virgin, though they have much more experience) has got to get to a guy’s ego.

Vinny might seem like a goofball, and to a certain extent he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard. He started by doing those right-of-passage jobs, interning for Mitch Melnick on Team 990 and then working at Kahnawake’s K103. He had his eyes set on Virgin, and as he tells it pestered management there for months to get noticed. Finally he was offered an overnight shift in 2009, but quickly moved up to afternoon drive, replacing Mark Bergman who became the station’s brand director.

Vinny’s story includes other tidbits, like his rejections from Concordia’s communications studies program, or the untimely death of his father that set his career back a year but also helped to get it started.

It’s the story of a man who is living his dream because he followed his passion and never gave it up. Yeah, it sounds like a cliché, but there were a few Oprah-like moments when I interviewed him at The Beat, so it seems a propos.

CHOM’s Bilal Butt

Bilal Butt, 33, is a more familiar name among Montreal radio listeners. He’s been at CHOM since 2005, and worked at CHOM and Mix 96 before that. He was mainly doing evenings until the unceremonious departure of Pete Marier led him to be upgraded to the afternoon drive slot.

When I talked to him last summer and again in the fall, he apologized for leading such a boring life. He’s just a guy with a job on the radio and a musician in his spare time.

To Butt’s boss, André Lallier, that’s what makes him so relatable to listeners: he’s just a regular guy.

Not that his life has been entirely vanilla. His home didn’t have music in it when he was growing up, and his parents didn’t approve of his career goals at first. But he loved radio too much. After interning for Cat and Nat at Mix 96, he began working for CHOM, then took a job in Fort McMurray, Alta., before coming back to CHOM in 2005. And though maybe someday when he’s older he might make the jump to mornings, he’s more than happy where he is right now, with a schedule that lets him both sleep in and go out at night, and a job that lets him play rock music and sit behind a microphone.

Virgin’s Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, 28, is the newbie to Montreal radio. She started here in 2011, taking over Virgin’s daytime shift after Nat Lauzon left to focus more on her other projects and do weekends at what would become The Beat. In April, after Barrucco also left for The Beat, Collins was bumped up to afternoon drive.

So I guess Collins owes a lot of her career here to The Beat, even though she’s never worked there.

Collins came to Montreal after a career that led to her working at stations in Winnipeg and Victoria at stations called Kool, Curve, Bob and Q. It involved a lot of moving, but that helped her get so far in such a short time.

As I spoke to her, it had become clear that she’s embracing this city. She’s fallen in love with the Plateau (yeah, she’s become one of those people), and is working on improving her French.

One thing noteworthy about Collins is that she’s the first female solo drive-time announcer at a major commercial English station in Montreal, at least as far as anyone knows (correct me if I’m wrong here). Not that there haven’t been other women in strong positions in Montreal radio, with Sue Smith, Nancy Wood, Nat Lauzon and Donna Saker among them. But the afternoon drive post has been a pretty male-oriented slot, or with a male-female team (conversely, the workday has been mainly female-oriented for music stations like this).

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this isn’t a big deal, either for Collins or Virgin. It may be a historical footnote, but gender wasn’t really a consideration in choosing Collins for this job, and there hasn’t been some huge feminist revolution that has opened the door to this. It just happened.

There are still some aspects of radio that are sexist in nature. Morning shows, like TV newscasts, are paired male-female, even when some of the most popular teams have been of the same gender (see: Aaron and Tasso, Terry and Ted). But it’s nice to see that another glass ceiling has disappeared, even if Collins didn’t feel it smash as she passed through.

Five things you didn’t know about professional music radio announcers

1. They listen to themselves. You might think these people just show up to work, talk about random stuff they have in their head and then go home. But they actually review a lot of what they say, and so do their bosses. It’s the best way to improve how they sound, and constant improvement is necessary in a world where success is measured by ratings. So these announcers will listen back to recordings of their breaks (in music radio, a “break” is the part where the announcer talks live into the microphone, which sounds like the exact opposite of what a break should be).

2. They’re not rich or famous. Collins and Butt drive old beat-up cars. Barrucco takes the commuter train. Though they can’t claim to be poor, radio announcers in their kinds of jobs have pretty middle-class salaries. Add to that the complete lack of job security and it’s less glamorous than you might think. As for fame, these characters walk the streets undisturbed pretty often. Butt recounts the one time someone recognized him at a Subway. Being recognized in public is the exception rather than the rule.

3. They spend a lot of time at fundraisers. It’s even written into contracts now that radio personalities have to participate in certain events to help promote the station. Add to that events that they’re asked to participate in outside of work. Part of it is because they’re perceived to be locally well-known, and part of it is that radio announcers like these tend to make good emcees.

4. Many of them work alone. Morning shows still have a concept of team, with multiple hosts, a news announcer, a traffic announcer and a technician. But most other shifts at these music stations consist of a single person, who hosts and operates the boards, cueing songs and taking calls. There’s enough time to do it with all the music that plays, but it’s quite a bit of multitasking, and it takes a while to get it all down without screwing things up. Adding social media communication to the mix only adds to that workload.

5. They plan what they say. A good deal of research goes into these shifts. Music announcers have to keep up on the latest news and get everything from celebrity gossip to concert announcements to relay that information to listeners. Even finding little bits of trivial information to send out between two songs requires going out and finding it. It’s not exactly like putting together a Master’s thesis every day, but it’s still a lot of work.

2013 will be a big year for local radio and TV

I wouldn’t dare say that the crisis affecting news media is behind us, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about local media — particularly on the broadcasting side — going into 2013. The coming year will see at least four new radio stations and one additional television station, which will mean more jobs for technicians, editors, advertising salespeople, marketers, broadcasters and even some journalists. And existing media will see some big changes too that will improve the local landscape.

In August, I did a piece for The Gazette going over upcoming changes station by station. Here’s mainly an updated guide to those changes we expect to see this year:

AM radio

The biggest changes will happen on the AM dial, thanks to the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group which plans to launch news-talk stations in English and French. There’s also another additional station, and perhaps a third by TTP Media. It won’t bring things back to what they were in the 70s, but a lot of those frequencies that once had big-name radio stations and have been silent the past few years will be brought back to life:

600: TTP’s English station will occupy the old CFCF/CIQC frequency, silent since 1999. The station was approved in November by the CRTC. The group wants it to have live programming 24/7, including a journalistic team that puts CJAD’s to shame. That will mean hiring a lot of people.

690 (CKGM): TSN Radio was saved as an English station when the CRTC said no to the Bell/Astral deal, but they’re going to try again, this time asking for an exemption to allow them to keep CKGM along with the three Astral stations. While a popular idea among the station’s fans, it might not work with regulators who would face giving four of the five English-language commercial stations in Montreal to one company. The one thing that might help get this through is the new TTP station at 600 bumping the total number from five to six. But will that be enough to justify an already dominant radio group (CJAD/CHOM/CJFM) getting even bigger? In the more immediate future, an early afternoon host has to be found (or announced) for Randy Tieman’s old slot.

730 (CKAC): The government-subsidized all-traffic station still does poorly in the ratings, though it doesn’t have to worry about that too much because of the $1.5-million-a-year paycheque it gets just for existing. There’s a new government that would love to save as much money as it can, but the deal with Cogeco only comes up for renewal in 2014.

800 (CJAD): No big plans are in the works for Montreal’s News-Talk Leader that I know of. But it might have to change whether it wants to or not. If TTP makes good enough offers to lure away talent from CJAD, the latter might have to reshuffle its schedule.

850: The CRTC has confirmed that there’s an application for the use of this frequency, but it hasn’t been published yet. We do know it’s from the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group and that it’s for a French-language sports talk station. They’ve seen an opportunity now that there’s no longer an all-sports radio station in French. But with 98.5FM carrying Canadiens and Alouettes broadcast rights, and devoting their evenings to sports talk, will there be enough of a gap for TTP to capitalize? If the application is published soon, it could be approved by this fall.

940: TTP’s French-language station goes here, on the clear channel that was once home to CBC Radio and 940 News. The station was approved in the fall of 2011, which gives them until this November to launch or request an extension from the CRTC. No launch date has been set, but the plan is to launch both simultaneously some time in the spring. And just as 600 could steal talent from CJAD and elsewhere, we could see 940 taking away people from stations like 98.5 or even Radio X.

990: The former CKGM/Team/TSN 990 frequency was vacated on Dec. 1 and is ready for Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station run by Dufferin Communications. They have until November to launch or request an extension.

1410 (CJWI): Still waiting for the Haitian radio station (CPAM Radio Union) to switch to this frequency from 1610.

1570 (CJLV): The Laval-based commercial station, which had threatened to shut down if the CRTC didn’t convert it into an ethnic station, had its bluff called when the CRTC ruled that the Montreal market couldn’t take another ethnic station. Its plan B seems to be a partnership with Internet radio station CNV (which you’ll see sometimes if you go to Complexe Desjardins) which sees the latter’s programming on the former’s signal.

FM radio

The FM dial in Montreal is full. That’s really the only thing preventing someone from launching another radio station to compete with Virgin, The Beat and CHOM. Still, there’s room for at least one addition in an adjacent market.

89.9 (CKKI-FM): Kahnawake Keeps It Country has hired a new morning man: local radio critic Sheldon Harvey. The small station with a low-power transmitter in its backyard isn’t even the most popular station in Kahnawake. Can the former pirate station get enough revenue to cover its modest expenses and keep it on the air?

91.3 (CIRA-FM): The religious station has received CRTC approval to launch a subchannel which will carry programming by La Fiesta Latina. The subcarrier signal requires a special receiver to decode.

91.9 (CKLX-FM): Months after relaunching as Radio X Montreal, the former Planète Jazz is still awaiting a CRTC decision on whether it can abandon its status as a specialty jazz music station and be relicensed as a general commercial station. The application for this was first published almost a full year ago, and officially heard at the Sept. 10 hearing in Montreal. Under its current licence, CKLX-FM is required to devote 70% of its musical selections to the jazz/blues format. This doesn’t technically interfere with them being a talk station during the day, since there isn’t much music during talk shows. But it does go against the Radio X model of rock music on weekends. So until its licence changes, CKLX airs jazz/blues music evenings, overnight, on weekend mornings and weekend evenings.

92.5 (CKBE-FM): The Beat has some schedule shuffling to do. Ken Connors has essentially replaced the fired Murray Sherriffs as the morning news man, and Pete Marier has been doing weekend mornings in his absence, but on the website Connors is still listed as the weekend morning man. Will Bad Pete get a permanent gig here? On the regulatory front, the station is awaiting a decision on a request to boost its power from 44 kW to 100 kW. That request hit a bit of a snag because Dufferin Communications has applied for an FM station on that frequency in Clarence-Rockland, Ontario, just east of Ottawa. The CRTC is treating the applications as competing, even though The Beat said it would accept interference caused by the overlapping coverage areas. The hearing was in November, and a decision hasn’t been published yet.

93.5 (CBM-FM): CBC Radio Two is waiting on the CRTC to decide whether, as part of the CBC’s larger licence renewals, it will be allowed to carry commercial advertising. The request received fierce opposition from commercial competitors who believe the CBC will use its government financing to create an unfair commercial advantage for itself, as well as from CBC listeners who believe this will cause the network to make more decisions based on ratings and advertising than on the quality of programming.

95.9 (CJFM-FM): Will Montreal’s top-rated music station face a stronger competitor in The Beat in 2013? Will its schedule undergo more changes as what seems like a revolving door of talent keeps spinning? Will listeners tire of Ryan Seacrest and demand more local talent during peak hours? We’ll see. Otherwise, there aren’t any big changes I know about in the works at Virgin.

96.9 (CKOI-FM): CKOI faces an identity crisis. Its ratings are pretty bad, and the regional network of stations with its brand has been switched to talk, with the exception of the Quebec City station that Cogeco doesn’t own anymore. Cogeco already has a talk station in Montreal with 98.5, so what to do with the low-rated flagship station of a network that no longer exists? Its owners can comfort themselves with the news that it still ranks highly among younger audiences (18-34), but you have to wonder if the station will last the year the way it is without some big shakeup.

97.7 (CHOM-FM): As Montreal’s rock station marks one year since the return of Terry DiMonte (see Bill Brownstein’s story in The Gazette), the schedule is pretty stable: DiMonte and Heather Backman in the mornings, TooTall during the day, Bilal Butt in afternoon drive and Jason Rockman in evenings, with Sharon Hyland, Rob Kemp and Randy Renaud on weekends and Brandon Craddock and Ronny Mack splitting the overnights. Its ratings are decent, and it owns the male demographic (not hard since the other music stations are both targetting women).

100.7 (CBFX-FM): Like Radio Two, Espace musique is seeking permission to carry advertising.

103.7 (CKRK-FM): Kahnawake’s K103 is trying to keep going without the attention that Ted Bird brought. It has a new program director in Al Gravelle, and a new morning guy in Zack Rath to join veterans Paul Graif and Java Jacobs. Will the station find an answer to its main existential question — is it a Kahnawake community station, or a wide-audience commercial station?

105.1 (CKDG-FM): Ethnic station Mike FM quietly lost afternoon guy Patrick Charles, leaving Tasso Patsikakis to carry the show solo. Is he bringing in the kind of ratings (and advertising) needed to make the relationship work for both parties? If not, there’s a limited amount of time to make it work. Earlug ads in The Gazette are nice, but if Mike FM is going to be a general-interest radio station during the morning and afternoon drive hours, it needs some serious efforts in promotion.

106.7: Dufferin Communications, the same company behind Radio Fierté, has received CRTC approval for its radio station on this frequency in Hudson/St. Lazare. The station, which will almost certainly carry Dufferin’s Jewel branding, will air mainly easy-listening music but also carry local news and information, which will be a boon to the local community. Here’s a CTV Montreal report on the planned station. Its launch could be as early as spring but expect it to be closer to fall.


Local television in Montreal is going to see its biggest changes since 1997. The number of stations will increase by one, from 9 to 10, but the changes are more significant than that:

CBMT (CBC) has taken some significant steps to improve local programming, even in the wake of cuts to the CBC’s budget. The evening newscast expanded to an hour and a half, a late-night 10-minute newscast was added and then expanded to 30 minutes, and weekend newscasts added so the station has news seven days a week. This could improve even further depending on how the CBC’s licence renewal goes. The CBC has proposed that its local stations have seven or 14 hours a week of local programming, depending on the size of the market (Montreal’s English market would be considered large). Currently, CBMT has a bit under 11 hours a week of local news, so this would mean an expansion of some sort. The CBC also said that one of those 14 hours could be non-news programming. This could mean the return of cookie-cutter local lifestyle shows like Living or something else. But anything is better than nothing.

CFCF (CTV) is finally making the move toward high-definition newscasts, and a finish line is in sight in the spring or early summer for the 4:3 programming to be replaced by beautiful 16:9 HD. Its newscast also finally has a permanent replacement for Kai Nagata in Quebec City. Former Gazette reporter Max Harrold started there in November and is already working on his TV reporting skills filing reports in Montreal. He should be in Quebec City by the time the National Assembly resumes its work in February.

CKMI (Global) is launching a two-hour weekday morning show, long promised as part of Shaw’s purchase of Canwest in 2010. It’s supposed to be some time in the spring, but an exact date isn’t set yet. There’s also been no announcement of a host, though there have been hires on the technical side. The show will be Montreal’s first local morning show since This Morning Live was cancelled in 2008. That was five years ago, but could we see some of its personalities returning? Richard Dagenais still works there.

CJNT (Metro 14/City) is changing owners, from Channel Zero to Rogers, within the month. Starting in February, its ethnic programming will be stripped (at least from primetime) and replaced with the entire Citytv lineup, including some new original Canadian shows. By September, it will launch a three-hour local morning show, competing with Global, and a weekly half-hour local sports show, the first since SportsNight 360 was taken off CFCF to make room for expanded weekend newscasts. The move will mean 20-30 new jobs, mainly technical ones. Rogers has made clear that it plans to hire locally for its on-air jobs.

ICI is the new kid on the block, taking up the ethnic programming from CJNT. The independent station, with some generous support from both Rogers and Channel Zero, will need to install a new transmitter and setup a complete television station essentially from scratch, but hope to be on the air by late spring or early summer. With more than a dozen independent producers already signed on and many more reportedly waiting to join, the project for an ethnic station financed by its own producers starts with a lot of good will.

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of stuff, that’s being worked on in secret, or that’s being done at a station too small to have a PR person keep me abreast. (If you know of stuff, let me know.) But even with just this, we can be confident that there’s a lot happening in this city in 2013. And I’ll try to document as much of it as I can.

Happy new year.