CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series apparently isn’t just a summer thing. As the documentaries that premiered this summer get a second airing on weekends while the broadcaster prepares a new local current affairs show set to begin next month, a new half-hour documentary has been added, and it’s airing tonight.
Looming Large is described by the CBC as “a look at innovations in Quebec textiles at the crossroads of business, art and technology” and a “unique documentary about the future of textile in Quebec.” You can see a 30-second promo for the show here.
It’s hosted by Jeanette Kelly, who hosts CBC Radio’s 5 à 6 on Saturdays and was also host of An Evening with Janina Fialkowska, the first of this year’s Absolutely Quebec specials. It’s directed by Carrie Haber, who produces the Absolutely Quebec series and told me this week she’s starting work on discovering next year’s batch.
The Looming Large documentary airs Thursday at 6:30pm, right after the evening news, on CBC Montreal. It repeats Sunday at 11:30pm
Just For Laughs is expanding its media empire yet again. At noon on Thursday, it launches Just For Laughs Radio, a 24/7 channel on SiriusXM, complemented by a one-hour daily highlights show on the satellite service’s Raw Dog comedy channel.
Montreal comedian DeAnne Smith is the voice of the channel, which will be mainly recorded shows presented “jukebox” style, except during the festivals when it will also include some live programming. Since this channel is launching in the middle of JFL 42 in Toronto, that means we’ll see some of that right off the bat, with Raw Dog host Mark Seman doing some shows from Toronto, interviewing the comedians appearing there. The first week will also feature some content from the 2013 Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, namely the Andy Kindler State of the Industry address and the Colin Quinn keynote speech from the ComedyPro conference.
During festivals, like this one, JFL Radio will be continuously simulcast on Raw Dog.
JFL COO Bruce Hills tells me that the plan is to start slow and build up. They’ve never really done anything like this before.
To give you an idea what the channel is like, here’s the schedule for the simulcast that will air on both channels for the remainder of the Toronto festival.
We’re seven episodes into the 30-episode first season of Only in Montreal, the weekly local lifestyle series that airs on City TV. That’s about a quarter of the way through, so it’s time for a review.
When it was first announced in April, I was surprised. This show wasn’t part of Rogers’s promise to the CRTC when it purchased CJNT from Channel Zero. Unlike its daily morning show and weekly sports show, this wasn’t part of the licence obligations, and it wasn’t necessary to meet a local programming quota.
As it turns out, the CRTC is a big part of the reason why this series was ordered, because of two recent decisions that set quotas on Rogers Media.
The departure of Catherine Verdon-Diamond, who is now doing weather at Breakfast Television on City, has resulted in a shuffling of staff at CBC Montreal. Verdon-Diamond was the weather presenter on the 11pm newscast with Nancy Wood for only a few months before getting the City gig.
Taking her place, officially as of October, is Sabrina Marandola, who was doing the weekend weather with Thomas Daigle. Her job, in turn, is being taken by Jeremy Zafran, who was doing traffic for Homerun on CBC Radio One. He will continue doing that job Mondays to Wednesday’s.
On the other days, Homerun’s traffic desk will be run by Jennifer Allen. Allen has been doing traffic at CBC for a while, mainly on Daybreak.
As the CRTC considers whether it should allow Videotron to launch a second community television channel for Montreal, this one in English, the group that has been pushing for exactly that has called a public meeting to get input from that community.
I spoke with Guy Rodgers, ELAN’s executive director. He told me that the group had “started to think about this in 2010 when the CRTC was revising its community TV policy.” The CRTC suggested they speak with Videotron, which they hadn’t. Rodgers said that, at the time, the cable provider was “totally uninterested in anything to deal with the English community.”
But in the past few years, Rodgers believes the commission has been more concerned with things like official languages equality. This makes sense considering recent decisions. The only two new services to get mandatory carriage were one that offered a French version of an existing English service, and one devoted to representing francophones outside Quebec. Other decisions made during acquisitions, such as Rogers’s acquisition of CJNT and Bell’s acquisition of Astral, also included commitments to support the English minority in Quebec. During these recent proceedings, ELAN and other groups like the Quebec English-language Production Council have been more present.
This year, with Videotron’s licence coming up for renewal, ELAN decided to give another push to the English channel idea. “We thought we had pretty compelling arguments,” he said.
At Videotron, there was a complete turnaround on the issue. A new team, under the direction of Isabelle Dessureault, was “completely receptive to the idea” of producing more for the English community when they met this spring. (Whether that has anything to do with Bell’s proposed English community programming for Montreal is a good question.)
Rodgers said they proposed a separate channel in English, rather than something like having one or two programs on MAtv be in English. After thinking about it for a bit, Videotron’s team came back and said this was a good idea and one they wanted to move on quickly.
The CRTC is still accepting comments on Videotron’s proposed channel until Oct. 7. But ELAN wants to get the community involved from the ground level. The MYtv channel would have 21 hours of original local programming a week, of which 11 hours would be “access” programming coming from the community. ELAN wants to make sure that there’s enough demand for that kind of access programming, and share that with the CRTC.
Rodgers said representatives of MAtv will be present to present the plan and answer questions, and then those present can discuss it.
“We really want community involvement in this process,” he said.
For an idea of what kind of service is being proposed, you can see this promotional video for MAtv’s fall season which was just published:
Picture an English version with many of the same themes: public affairs, local culture, humour, young up-and-coming personalities, lots of talk shows.
Concordia’s radio station is actually celebrating two anniversaries this year: It was created 15 years ago through the merger of two closed-circuit radio stations on the university’s two campuses. And it marks the fifth anniversary of its broadcasting at 1690 AM.
The station is also organizing an open house on the afternoon of Nov. 8. “If you’ve always been curious to see where your favourite shows broadcast from, this is the afternoon to do so!”
CJLO recently had its licence renewed to 2019. It’s been making waves about technical changes to improve its coverage, possibly a low-power FM transmitter downtown, but nothing has been published yet.
A month after Chris Bury was named program director at TSN 690, in addition to the same role at CJAD, some veteran broadcasters are losing their jobs: Morning man Ted Bird has been fired from TSN 690, and mid-day hosts Ric Peterson and Suzanne Desautels have had their faces scrubbed from CJAD’s website.
“I wasn’t given a reason, only told that my services were being terminated. That’s all I can say for the record,” Bird writes me in an email. His Twitter account has disappeared as well, but he says he’ll be back “after the trolls finish their feeding frenzy.”
Desautels, who four years ago was let go from the Q92 morning show, sparking outrage from listeners, addressed her job change indirectly on Twitter Wednesday morning:
When life pulls the rug out from underneath you, time to get vacuuming. I hate housework.
— Suzanne Desautels (@SDesautelsinMTL) September 11, 2013
She then clarified:
Life is full of changes..that's what makes it interesting. Still part of the fabric of Montreal, every morning on CJAD.
— Suzanne Desautels (@SDesautelsinMTL) September 11, 2013
She told me she will continue doing the weather for Andrew Carter’s morning show, and is taking over the Saturday morning travel show as well. That move means Sharman Yarnell is off that show and the station. “And this couldn’t have happened at a better time for me,” she tells me. “I am pursuing my travel writing career, as well as my new PR company A.C.E. (Arts, Culture & Entertainment) with Tracey Hill. This does not mean I won’t be back on radio, though!”
After a day of radio silence, Peterson posted this to his Facebook page on Thursday morning:
After more than 30 years of broadcasting in Montreal I thought my first day off the air would be one without much talking on my part. I was mistaken. I am very touched by the many phone calls and moved by the texts, emails, comments as well as the posts to my social pages. Your kind words are very much appreciated. It pleases me to know how many lives I’ve touched, thank you for listening. Some wise soul once said, “man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward” I am looking forward to sharing my future adventures with you all.
Barry Morgan, who’s filling in for everyone these days, it seems, hosted the noon to 3pm show Wednesday on CJAD.
The cuts and changes also mean CJAD sports reporter Chantal Desjardins is out of a job. She made light of the news on Twitter and Facebook:
On the bright side, I won't have to PVR "The Young & The Restless" anymore…
— Chantal Desjardins (@Chantalonair) September 10, 2013
Being unemployed allows me to consider fun new jobs. Deciding between "movie stunt double", "lion tamer" & "spoon player outside Ogilvy's"
— Chantal Desjardins (@Chantalonair) September 11, 2013
Bell confirmed with me this afternoon that CJAD reporter Claude Beaulieu has also been terminated. Spokesperson Olivier Racette wouldn’t confirm how many jobs have been cut.
I’ve also heard from multiple sources that assistant CJAD program director Teri-Lee Walters is gone. But because she’s not on-air staff, Bell did not confirm that name. An email sent to her at work prompted an automated response saying it had been forwarded to Bury.
Bury wasn’t allowed to comment directly about the changes. All comment from the employer was filtered through Racette. Here is what he wrote to me in an email:
We are consolidating our Montréal-based radio stations in one location at 1717 René-Lévesque [E.] this week to improve operating efficiencies. We have made reductions in a number of positions that would have become redundant as a result of the move.
Additionally, the move provided the opportunity to make some programming changes, which will see the departure of TSN Radio 690’s Ted Bird and CJAD 800’s Ric Peterson, Sharman Yarnell, Chantal Desjardins and Claude Beaulieu. They are all highly-respected figures in Montreal radio and we thank them for their contribution to the success of both TSN Radio 690 and CJAD.
TSN’s move from its Greene Ave. office to the one at the corner of Papineau Ave. housing the former Astral stations took place Thursday morning at 10am. Shaun Starr and Elliott Price were the last people to broadcast from 1310 Greene.
Today woulda been 4 years.. it was a helluva run! will keep you all posted..
— Nick Murdocco (@nickyfranchise) September 12, 2013
UPDATE (Sept. 12): Word has come out that TSN has cancelled The Franchise, the weekend morning show. Host Nick Murdocco says the show will continue, broadcast 8-10am weekends on MontrealHockeyTalk.com.
His co-host, Gary Whittaker, had this to say on Facebook:
Had a great 4 year run at TSN Radio working the weekend mornings, which has now officially come to an end. I want to thank everyone for their support since we started at CJLO. Definitely not over for The Franchise…sometimes you need to be pushed out of the nest in order to fly, and this is exactly what we plan on doing…taking off to bigger and better opportunities for us to make a full time career out of it.
Racette confirmed the news, saying “the TSN Radio 690 [weekend] morning show is headed in a new direction. Details will be announced at a later date.”
UPDATE (Sept. 30): Producer Sheldon Fried is also reportedly among those let go.
On Aug. 15, one of Montreal’s oldest broadcaster and one of its newest took to the field at Côte des Neiges’s Nelson Mandela Park to play a friendly game of softball. On Tuesday, the fun continues as CBC takes on Global Montreal on the same field.
To get you in the spirit, here’s what happened last month between CBC and City.
(Note: Some captions may be made up.)
CJMS 1040, the country music AM station in Saint-Constant, is in trouble.
After repeated attempts to acquire logs and tapes from the station to evaluate it ahead of its licence renewal next year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ordered it to appear at a hearing in Gatineau on Nov. 5 to explain itself, and has threatened to impose sanctions, up to and including non-renewal or revocation of its licence.
A radio station broadcasting licence involves several requirements, among them that the station has to provide, on request, logger tapes (i.e. recordings of what was aired) and program logs (written lists of what was aired, including all musical selections) for a given date.
In a letter sent July 4, the CRTC says it has been trying since December to get the logs and tapes for a week in November. The CRTC planned to evaluate that week as a sample as it reviews the station’s licence, which expires on Aug. 31, 2014. It followed up its initial letter with a phone call two days later, then another phone call in January, then another in February and then an email in June. Even after the July 4 letter, CJMS has not handed over the tapes and logs.
This is a very serious problem. The logs and tapes are the only way the CRTC can evaluate what goes on the air. It can’t tell whether the station is meeting its Canadian content requirements, or its requirements for local programming, unless it can tell what was actually broadcast.
The CRTC judged the station in non-compliance with its licence, and has now requested the logs and tapes of the last week of May instead.
This isn’t the first time CJMS has been in trouble with the CRTC. In fact, the commission says this is the fourth consecutive licence term that CJMS has failed to comply with all aspects of its licence:
- The licence was first granted in 1998 to Michel Mathieu (who works as a broadcasting consultant) for a 5,000-watt station at 1320 kHz. After getting approval for a frequency change to 1040, the station went on air in April
20091999 under the callsign CJMS, despite having no relation to the station that operated for decades under the same callsign at 1280 kHz. The first licence was for a standard seven-year term, until 2005, though it was extended to 2006. (In 2001, Mathieu’s shares were transferred to Alexandre Azoulay, who still owns the station.)
- In 2006, the CRTC renewed the station’s licence for only two years after finding that it failed to meet obligations to file legible and complete logger tapes, it had failed to file annual reports on time, that it had failed to meet the quota of French-language music and that a Canadian talent development contribution it made was ineligible because it was self-serving.
- In 2008, it renewed the licence another for two years after CJMS had failed to file its annual financial returns on time. CJMS had said that it had an agreement with an accounting firm to avoid such problems in the future.
- In 2010, the CRTC found that the station had failed to make its Canadian talent development contributions on time, had failed to broadcast local newscasts, and had failed to submit complete lists of musical selections it had aired. It renewed the station’s licence again for a short term, this time four years.
Non-compliance with a licence is bad enough, but repeated non-compliance, particularly over the same matters, causes the CRTC to take much more drastic action. It’s calling CJMS to the hearing to give any reasons why it shouldn’t issue a mandatory court order forcing it to comply with its licence.
But it could go even farther, it says: “Given the licensee’s history of non-compliance, the Commission may also consider recourse to the suspension or revocation of the licence, pursuant to sections 9 and 24 of the Broadcasting Act.”
The CRTC has gone this far before. The most famous case was in 2011, when it revoked the licence of CKLN-FM, the Toronto-based radio station at Ryerson University, whose administration and programming went right off the rails during a long management dispute. The frequency vacancy led to 22 applications to fill it, a race that was won by what is now Indie 88.
Four straight non-compliant licence terms is very bad, and revocation is definitely a possibility here. The key will be if the logs and tapes are submitted and what they show. If the station is otherwise compliant, and demonstrates serious measures to ensure compliance in the future, it might get away with a mandatory order or just another short-term renewal.
But everything in this station’s history (including problems I wrote about this summer) points to a radio station that is at best disorganized and at worst incapable of managing the basic regulatory requirements asked of all licensed broadcasters.
The CRTC is accepting comment about CJMS’s licence issues, but requests that those comments relate only to the specific non-compliance that is being investigated here. Comments can be filed through the online form here until Sept. 27. Choose option 1 then check the box next to “2013-1228-0: 3553230 Canada Inc.”
Videotron wants to finally create an English version of MAtv.
On Thursday, the CRTC published an application from the cable company to amend its licence to allow for a second community television channel, this one in English, in greater Montreal.
Called MYtv, the English channel would, like the French one, be a linear high-definition channel with 24/7 programming and available for free to all Videotron customers in the greater Montreal area (analog and digital). As a community channel, it would not be permitted to air advertising (except for sponsorship messages), and at least half of its programming must originate from the community (as of September 2014). Videotron said the plan is to produce 21 hours of original programming a week, with a paid staff of 30 and a budget of $6 million a year.
As La Presse notes, the money being spent on MYtv will come out of the money being given to the Canada Media Fund and the Fonds Quebecor every year.
To get an idea of what this channel might broadcast, you can check out MAtv’s schedule.
Under the CRTC’s rules for cable distributors, the larger companies must spend five per cent of their gross revenues on Canadian programming. But they can devote two of those five to a community television channel, which most do. Videotron is seeking to devote an additional two to an English community channel, following a precedent set by Rogers in Ottawa and Moncton. Bell is also asking to fund its proposed English community television service in Montreal the same way.
In other words, this wouldn’t really be new spending by Videotron, nor would it take away from MAtv’s budget. It would simply re-allocate funds that went to Canadian programming to create a new channel that would be exclusive to its customers.
The application takes a bit of a shot at Bell, whose Fibe community channels are only available on demand (emphasis theirs):
Contrairement à la demande effectuée par Bell visant de la programmation communautaire disponible seulement via la vidéo sur demande, la TCLA [télévision communautaire de langue anglaise] est une chaîne linéaire avec un canal dédié en haute définition, en plus d’être disponible sur la vidéo sur demande, conformément à la PR 2010-622 [the CRTC’s community television policy] dans laquelle le Conseil encourage les EDR [entreprises de distribution de radiodiffusion, i.e. cable TV companies] à rendre la programmation de leurs canaux communautaires accessibles sur leur service de vidéo sur demande. Bien entendu, la programmation de la TCLA sera aussi disponible sur Internet via illico web. Vidéotron offrira donc une fenêtre de diffusion optimale à la communauté visée.
In June, two Quebec anglophone community groups, the English-Language Arts Network and the Quebec Community Groups Network, said they would ask the CRTC to require Videotron to launch an English-language community channel as part of its licence renewal (which was supposed to come by Aug. 31, but Videotron’s licence has been extended a year to Aug. 31, 2014, to give the CRTC more time to process it).
Isabelle Dessureault, president of MAtv, posted on Twitter that the plan is to launch the English channel next spring. She will be in charge of both channels, to reduce administrative costs, but each side would have separate creative teams including separate content directors. The English channel would run out of a separate floor in the Montreal TVA building from the French one, with separate editing facilities, but the two would share some technical resources, she said.
Dessureault said there are no plans for English community channels elsewhere in Quebec, because she’s “not sure it would be viable” for smaller communities. But the Montreal channel could be distributed to those areas for the benefit of anglophones there.
The CRTC is accepting comments on this application until Oct. 7. You can file them on CRTC’s website here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, goes on the public record.
UPDATE (Oct. 7): Three Gazette opinion pieces about MYtv by various interest groups: The Quebec Community Groups Network, the English-Language Arts Network, and the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations.
Wayne Bews, whose job as general manager of TSN Radio 690 was made redundant when Bell Media acquired Astral Media and CJAD’s Chris Bury was made its program director, will stay with the company.
CTV Montreal’s general manager Louis Douville confirmed that he has named Bews the station’s retail sales manager. Bews begins on Monday.
After the departure of Tony Ecclissi last month, Douville said he decided to split the position of general sales manager into retail (local) and national sales. Martin Poirier, a senior account executive for more than a decade, takes over the national sales job.
“Wayne is a very well respected person in our market, he has close relationships with many of our clients,” Douville said of his new hire, noting that he has 15 years of sales management experience.
Mike Cohen, who first reported the news, quoted Bews as describing his new job as a “very exciting new challenge.”
UPDATE (Oct. 2): Cohen follows up with an interview with Bews.