Monthly Archives: August 2017

City cancels Sportsnet Central Montreal

Sportsnet Central Montreal, hosted by Elias Makos, centre.

Sportsnet Central Montreal, the weekly half-hour sports panel discussion show on City Montreal, has been cancelled by Rogers Media. Thursday’s show will be its last.

(UPDATE: It looks like there’s a project to try to revive the show on ICI.)

Host Elias Makos dropped the first hint of the cancellation during last week’s show, describing it as the “penultimate” one. Rogers confirmed to me today that it has decided to end the show. It sent me this statement:

Rogers Media is evolving its local strategy to better serve the Montreal community. In doing this we’re deepening our commitment to local news with the launch of daily newscast CityNews in Winter 2018.   As a result of this re-focused strategy, SN Central will have its last broadcast this Thursday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. We’d like to thank Elias Makos and all of our contributors for their smart and entertaining commentary on Montreal’s sports scene.

City will continue to provide coverage of Montreal sports teams and events on Breakfast Television, featuring Joanne Vrakas, Derick Fage, Catherine Verdon Diamond, Elias Makos and Domenic Fazioli as well as through our new CityNews newscast, launching Winter 2018.

Makos remains with City, as the new media producer and occasional fill-in host or weather presenter on Breakfast Television.

The last show will be broadcast mere hours before the condition of licence requiring the station to broadcast the show expires. As of Sept. 1, City Montreal (CJNT-DT) has standard conditions of licence regarding local programming.

The cancellation of the show makes sense since the new evening newscasts would take over all three of its timeslots. But that won’t happen until next winter.

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CBC’s Absolutely Quebec begins another six weeks of local documentary

I was worried that it had been cancelled or something, because normally it starts earlier in the summer, but CBC has finally opened the curtain on its yearly Absolutely Quebec series of regional specials.

As in previous years, the series of six one-hour episodes, produced by Carrie Haber, runs Saturdays at 7pm, each hour a different documentary based in Quebec.

The first, called Cities Held Hostage, stars former Montreal Gazette columnist Henry Aubin and discusses the very topical issue of real estate and housing prices in an urban environment. While Montreal hasn’t gone insane like Vancouver and Toronto, it is part of a system, and this documentary explores that system.

The remaining documentaries are as follows:

The Gardener (Sept. 2): A documentary reflecting on a spiritual and creative approach to gardening. A highly experiential program profiling one of Quebec’s prolific landscape artists, Frank Cabot.

Napagunnaqullusi — So that you can stand (Sept. 9): The story of the 11 Inuit signatories of the James Bay Agreement as they took on the Quebec government to protect their land and their children’s future in the early 1970s.

I’m Still Your child (Sept. 16): Jessy, Sarah and Von are all familiar with the “ups and downs” of living with a parent who suffers from mental illness. I’m Still Your Child immerses us in a bewildering, yet hopeful, world through the stories of three compelling subjects.

Abu (Sept. 23): As a gay man, Filmmaker Arshad Khan explores his troubled relationship with his devout, Muslim, Pakistani father Abu.

Studios, Lofts and Jam Spaces (Sept. 30): Follows musician and visual artist Little Scream (Laurel Sprengelmeyer) and fashion designer Jennifer Glasgow as they launch their works into the world.

The last episode in this series is based on a series by the same name that aired as 10 episodes on community channel MAtv earlier this year.

Details of the Absolutely Quebec season, and trailers for some of the docs, can be found on CBC’s website.

Absolutely Quebec airs Saturdays from 7 to 8 pm from Aug. 26 to Sept. 30.

The dream of Frissons TV

I first spoke with Sylvain Gagné on May 6, 2014. It was shortly after he sent out a press release about the upcoming launch of Terror TV, a specialty television channel devoted to horror movies. A French version called Frissons TV had just been approved by the CRTC.

The channels, one each in French and English, were set to launch that fall.

They didn’t.

I sat down with Gagné at the Gazette restaurant in Old Montreal (which was named after the newspaper I work for and is in the building it once occupied). We had a long chat, about how he couldn’t understand the decision by Corus to pull the plug on the Dusk channel (formerly Scream TV), how the financial information it disclosed to the CRTC showed it to be healthy, and how the data he’s seen on video-on-demand consumption of horror films makes such a channel a no-brainer.

But I never ended up writing the article, and the channel never launched. Until now.

After signing a distribution deal with Videotron, Frissons TV (in French only for now) will launch on Sept. 1, with a free preview for Videotron customers until Nov. 18.

I spoke to Gagné again, and wrote about what to expect from the channel in this story at For those without a Cartt subscription, here are the details to know:

  • The channel will be commercial-free (Gagné said it makes no financial sense to put in the effort to sell ads that people won’t want to see anyway).
  • The channel will be available in HD only on Videotron, Channel 799.
  • After the free preview, the channel will be available on Videotron’s custom packages, and will be added to the Mega package that has all the non-premium channels. It will also be available individually as of December for $5 a month.
  • Videotron will have some of Frissons TV’s content available on demand for subscribers.
  • There will be three original series launching over the next year, one of which will feature shorts.
  • Negotiations are continuing with other providers, particularly Bell. Videotron is the launch provider but the channel will be available to others in October. There hasn’t been much effort to sell the channel to non-Quebec providers like Rogers.
  • An English version of the channel is in the future plans, but only once the French version gets off the ground.

The channel has its schedule for the first week. The list of films it’s showing is here. For more details you can check out the channel’s Facebook page.

Media News Digest: The Rebel’s bad week, The Jewel moves, TC sells more papers

News about news

*UPDATE: Nora Loreto, who wrote the piece linked to above, objects to the way this was originally written and says she does not condone attacking journalists. You can judge for yourself whether she defends the Black Bloc in general in this piece.

At the CRTC

  • The government order requiring the CRTC to reconsider its TV licence renewal decisions has been posted. It asks the commission to consider, for the French-language decisions, “how it can be ensured that significant contributions are made to the creation and presentation of original French-language programming and music programming,” and for the English-language ones, “how it can be ensured that significant contributions are made to the creation and presentation of programs of national interest, music programming, short films and short-form documentaries,” and “take into consideration that creators of Canadian programming are key to the Canadian broadcasting system and that, while the industry is going through a transformation, Canadian programming and a dynamic creative sector are vital to the system’s competitiveness and contribute to Canada’s economy.” Nothing specific, but it does bring into question decisions related to quotas for programs of national interest, the elimination of special requirements for contributions to the BravoFACT and MuchFACT production funds by Bravo and Much, respectively, and to the Remstar Fund by MusiquePlus and MAX.
  • CJSO-FM 101,7 Sorel has had its licence renewed for two years. The station failed to install a public alerting system before the deadline and failed to provide proper program logs. In addition to the short-term renewal for repeated non-compliance, the station is being required to broadcast a message announcing its compliance failure to its audience.
  • Another station getting a licence renewal is CKBK-FM Thamesville, Ont. This despite failure to file annual reports and the fact that it failed to respond to the CRTC’s requests for information about that issue.
  • Shaw has gotten a temporary exception from the CRTC about how it distributes TV channels. Shaw had complained about a rule setting a quota on how many independent services to distribute related to the number of related (i.e. Shaw- or Corus-owned) channels. Because there’s a change in categories of specialty channels (which become “discretionary” channels because they no longer have to be specialized), Shaw would be technically in non-compliance as of Sept. 1 for one year. Shaw gets an exception to the rule, but can’t use it to drop independent channels it’s already carrying.
  • Bloomberg TV Canada has a broadcasting licence now after passing the threshold where it can no longer operate without a licence. The channel must broadcast at least 35% Canadian content as of Sept. 1, and spend at least 10% of revenues on CanCon. With the channel dropping all its original programming, it’s unclear how that will happen.
  • Some uber pedant demanded the CRTC review a decision by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council about a CTV News report that, in the complainant’s view, failed to properly distinguish between a service dog and a support dog. The CRTC found the CBSC was correct in finding that the CTV News story wasn’t wrong.



  • The Jewel 106.7 has a new home, in Plaza Pointe-Claire near St-Jean Blvd. and Highway 20. It stresses that it remains committed to serving off-island communities despite moving away from them, but this reinforces the fact that it sees its big market as the West Island, even though it told the CRTC that Hudson/St-Lazare sees itself as separate from Montreal.
  • CBC News looks at the coming battle between TSN 1040 in Vancouver and its new competitor, Sportsnet 650. Both TSN 1040 and Sportsnet 650 have since announced their full lineups. Unmentioned in the story is TSN 1410, its second station. With no more Canucks games to broadcast, does TSN really still need a full-time overflow station? Or should Bell consider another vocation for CFTE, like an all-news station with maybe some sports overflow at night?
  • La Presse speaks to program directors at francophone music stations about how they’re dealing with competition from streaming services. Talk has a lot to do with it, and stations are impatient for the CRTC to finally review French-language music quotas.
  • Canadaland has a guest opinion piece by Nick Fillmore about the issues he has with CBC Radio. It’s a bit harsh, but it makes the point that personal “storytelling” shows of late are taking the place of big-issue shows. I think personal storytelling has its place, but there seems to have been a surge in the number of interview shows where first-person stories are taking the place of journalism and documentary of old, mainly because it’s cheaper to produce.



  • Quebecor is bailing out the Cinéma Impérial, which otherwise likely would have been crushed by its own debt. In exchange for taking over its mortgage debt, Quebecor gets two seats on a six-seat board, with the Losique family having two and the two others to be independent. Meanwhile, the neverending trainwreck that is the Montreal World Film Festival continues with Serge Losique at the helm, and the Cinéma Impérial acting as the only theatre.

News about people

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Media News Digest: Charlottesville aftermath, CRTC reconsideration, Tina Tenneriello hired by City

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The federal government has decided to ask the CRTC to review its licence renewal decisions for major commercial TV broadcasters — Bell Media, Corus, Rogers, Quebecor and V. At issue are two elements of those decisions that have become controversial: standardizing a special quota called “programs of national interest” (defined as long-form documentary, drama, scripted comedy and specific Canadian award shows that celebrate Canadian creative talent) at the lowest minimum the English groups had, and eliminating a special requirement for Corus’s Séries+ and Historia that required expenditures on original first-run French-language content. The actual order hasn’t been posted yet, so Joly’s tweet is actually the most detailed thing we have to go on right now.
  • The CRTC is seeking comment on whether to consider a new commercial radio station in the Lloydminster (Alta./Sask.) market. It received an application from mid-size player Vista Radio, which already owns CKLM-FM (106.1 The Goat) in the market. The only other commercial station is CKSA-FM (Real Country 95.9), owned by Newcap Radio.
  • Full seven-year licence renewals for three Bell Media stations: Rouge FM in Sherbrooke and Quebec City, and Énergie in Saguenay. ADISQ, Quebec’s music industry association, had complained that Bell wasn’t running enough French music because of the number of music montages being aired.





News about people

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Sports writing website The Athletic expands to Montreal

The Athletic, a website operating in several cities staffed with writers who have either left or been laid off from jobs at newspapers and other publications, is coming to Montreal.

Arpon Basu, frequent local sports commentator and until last month managing editor of the NHL’s French website, announced today he’s been hired as the editor-in-chief of both the French and English versions of the Montreal section of the website.

His first post for the website is short on details about the future but has perspective on Basu’s career up until now. (Among his previous gigs was writing amateur athlete profiles for the Montreal Gazette on a freelance basis.)

In follow-up tweets, Basu and editor-in-chief James Mirtle say they’re “going to go big on Montreal, with several writers on the Canadiens” and covering other sports as demand warrants. No other hires have been announced, but announcements should be expected “in the coming weeks” and coverage to begin this fall.

The Athletic, which costs $10 a month or $58 a year, is an ad-free paywalled site with occasional free content. Its writers cover sports teams in Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and the San Francisco Bay area. Mirtle explained the website’s business model in a blog post in February.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated James Mirtle’s connection with The Athletic.

Cult MTL turns 5, a little healthier and focused on its mission

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cult MTL as the newspaper celebrates its fifth anniversary is how little has changed since it first launched a monthly print edition.

There has been a tightening of the editorial focus, and some experiments that didn’t work out (including a short-lived biweekly publishing schedule), but mostly the publication has stayed true to its purpose: An alternative source for information about local arts and culture for a young audience.

Born out of the ashes of the Montreal Mirror, unceremoniously shut down by owner Quebecor Media in June 2012, Cult MTL began as an online outlet, then a monthly print newspaper very similar to its spiritual (but in no way legal) predecessor. Several of its contributors, including editor-in-chief Lorraine Carpenter, were Mirror employees. Regular Mirror features such as the Best of Montreal readers’ poll and the Rant Line resurfaced.

“I feel that we’re somewhat established as a brand, but it happens fairly frequently that we come across people who have never heard of us,” Carpenter told me in an interview on Friday, noting that the Mirror had 27 years to build its brand (and most of that in an age before the Internet vastly increased the number of news sources). “We still feel pretty fresh in a sense, but a lot of people do know us. One of our continuing challenges is getting the next generation to come to us online and in print as well. That’s why every year we put out the student survival guide and appeal to students.”

Five years in, the paper’s financial situation has stabilized, and its revenues are slowly growing. “We’ve had, especially this year, quite an increase in business,” Carpenter said. “It’s pretty much all local companies with a few exceptions that have been showing us a lot of support.”

She said local cultural institutions, who were hesitant during the first years, are now on board with ad support. “You can see that in the size of our issues this year compared to just last year or two years ago.”

They’re not exactly rolling in the cash, though. Freelance rates are still very low, at $25 to $50 a story, which Carpenter acknowledges isn’t enough. “We’re hoping to raise our rates soon,” she said.

The paid staff is small, with five or six people, working a mix of full-time and part-time hours. There are about a dozen regular freelancers, and many more who contribute rarely or only once.

Pitch me

Carpenter said she’d like to see more. “We don’t get nearly enough pitches from people,” she said. And it’s not because they’re not interested. They get plenty of CVs and proposals to write for them, but “they don’t actually pitch, they just want to be hired and given assignments.”

So if you got an idea for some artistic event you’d like to preview, some artist you’d like to interview, or some aspect of culture you’d like to write about, they’re all ears.

I asked Carpenter what kind of stories she likes to see pitched to her. “We like to preview events that are coming up in the city,” she said. “We like to include interviews. We don’t generally do these rehashed press-release-type articles or a flimsy photo with a few words. Something a little more substantial.”

Once a month is enough

In 2013, as Cult celebrated its first anniversary, it tried going biweekly during the summer, hoping to double ad revenue. But advertisers, most of whom had fixed budgets, couldn’t just double their buys because the newspaper was printing more often.

“In the beginning, for the first six months of Cult MTL, no one was getting paid,” Carpenter explained. “So just through the advertising money that was coming in, we technically had enough money to print twice a month, but then when we started paying people we were just getting into the red.”

So they went back to a monthly schedule. Now they print 11 issues a year, at the beginning of every month except January.

Which is fine by them. “We’ve never had the goal of going weekly, doing what the Mirror used to do,” Carpenter said.

Unlike the Mirror, Cult’s website is very active, with a lot of content that never makes it into the print edition. Stuff that’s more newsy generally ends up there, rather than waiting up to a month for the next print edition.


I asked Carpenter if the motivation has worn off after five years of hard work. She said no.

“I was at the Mirror for a really long time, 12 years or so,” she said, noting that it was only at the very end that she was an editor with some decision-making power. “Being able to be at the helm of something, I definitely don’t have any trouble staying motivated. My motivation now is the same as when we just started. It’s to give something to support the local cultural scene.”

Fortunately for Carpenter, she no longer has to personally distribute the paper, as she did in its first few months, loading a van every month and bringing copies to dozens of locations. They’ve hired a team of people to distribute the paper for them, despite offers from professionals (notably Diffumag, which distributes Voir) to take them on as clients.

I asked Carpenter about what she’s learned after five years, what advice she could give a 2012 version of herself.

“In the early days we were definitely overextending ourselves trying to do too much stuff, trying to appeal to too many groups at the same time,” she said. “There was a phase where I found some of the stuff we were putting online was too clickbaity.”

So, she said, she’d tell herself: “Chill our a little bit and try to focus on what our real purpose is.”


Like The Mirror and others, Cult’s main selling point is the audience it can reach: young, hip urbanites. Though Carpenter said they have a mix of readers, and the responses to the Best of Montreal polls made that clear.

“You can tell it’s the same people in their 40s and 50s who have been filling out the same form for the Mirror for years,” she said, but there were also answers, particularly in the nightlife section, that showed a different crop of younger people.

Changes in media technology have meant doing things that the Mirror never had to worry about. Like maintain a Facebook page and use it to engage readers.

“We’ve had to learn how to write headlines and excerpts for Facebook,” Carpenter said, to make people want to read stories without resorting to the clickbait gimmicks. Instead, they want to “get our message across: This is what this is.”

Five years into its adventure, Cult MTL Has just over 20,000 likes on Facebook, 70,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 followers on Instagram.

The future

So what’s in store for the next five years? Probably more of the same, but better. A website redesign is coming “soon”, Carpenter said. As revenue increases, they want to start paying freelancers better, and eventually add to their staff. “It’s always been my goal to expand our editorial team,” she said. “It would be nice to have an extra person.”

But as far as the content is concerned, it’s still going to fulfill its mandate: to inform readers about what’s going on in the soul of this city.

Cult MTL celebrated its fifth birthday with a party at SAT on Saturday, Aug. 12. For information about Cult MTL, go to To pick up a free copy of their print edition, visit one of the places listed on this page.

Media News Digest: Rouge FM gets a new logo, Cult MTL turns 5, Sue Montgomery runs for office again

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Besides formalizing previously approved changes to regulations about discretionary channels and television and television distribution (the latter including allowing vertically integrated companies to divert money from community channels to local TV stations), and asking for comments about adding dispute resolution measures to video-on-demand services, the commission has been pretty quiet this week.
  • The other group that was left empty-handed in the urban Indigenous radio station proceeding is also appealing the result. VMS Media argues that CRTC commissioner Linda Vennard, who sat on the panel for the proceeding, was in a conflict of interest because she accepted gifts from an ethnic broadcaster that the commission argued would be negatively affected by VMS’s proposal for a hybrid ethnic-Indigenous format. Vennard had already been found in a conflict for those gifts in an unrelated proceeding.

TV and video


Rouge FM’s new logo


  • Cult MTL is celebrating its fifth birthday this week. And it’s holding a party on Saturday for people interested in celebrating.
  • Employees at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, who have been on strike for 18 months, look like they could be heading back to work finally, with news of a deal in principle with the union. The deal must be ratified by employees before the strike ends.



News about people

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Amanda Stein leaves TSN 690 for New Jersey Devils

Amanda Stein

Amanda Stein, sports reporter at TSN Radio 690, used her famously impeccable handwriting to deliver news she’s been teasing for a bit: She’s leaving the station next month, moving to New Jersey and going to work for the Devils.

Her last day on air in Montreal will be Friday, Aug. 18.

Stein writes she was honoured to have the job at TSN. “It is now time, however, to move on, challenge myself in different ways…”

Stein is one of several young women to get their broadcasting start reporting for Montreal’s all-sports station, a list that includes Andie Bennett (now at CBC), Jessica Rusnak (now filling in for Bennett’s mat leave) and Robyn Flynn. If TSN is going to hire someone to replace Stein, Rusnak would be an obvious choice.

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Media News Digest: Four anchors for The National, Bell tries again for Super Bowl ads, Brooksy moves to Toronto

After a week off that we’ll pretend was planned all along, here’s what the media has been up to since the last time.

News about news

At the CRTC



  • Some Bell Media Radio stations have been made available again on the TuneIn app, including CJAD, TSN 690 and CHOM. My random selection of various Bell Media stations suggests that the only ones that are still unavailable are the Virgin Radio stations. It’s still unclear what the issue it. Bell had earlier said that it didn’t ask TuneIn to pull the stations from its app.
  • Sportsnet 650 Vancouver has announced more hirings: Scott Rintoul and Andrew Walker host the drive show. The station, which has acquired Vancouver Canucks broadcast rights, launches Sept. 4.




News about people

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