Monthly Archives: May 2018

CRTC report has fundamental but very vague suggestions to change our broadcasting system

One day before the deadline set by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, the CRTC on Thursday released a report into the broadcasting system that proposes major, fundamental changes to how broadcasting is regulated in this country. (The condensed backgrounder is here.)

Unfortunately, that report is also quite vague, even on the parts that should be specific.

It’s not the CRTC’s fault, really, because that’s not really its purpose. The original order issued back in September by Joly is just as vague, seeking a report on “the distribution model or models of programming that are likely to exist in the future; how and through whom Canadians will access that programming; the extent to which these models will ensure a vibrant domestic market that is capable of supporting the continued creation, production and distribution of Canadian programming, in both official languages, including original entertainment and information programming.”

In terms of assessing programming distribution models, the report is pretty clear, but is also repeating a lot of stuff we already know: conventional television and radio are mature industries and have no way to go but down, online audio and video streaming services are catching on with the population, and Internet delivery of content means more Canadians are getting that content directly from foreign sources who don’t have to contribute to Canadian content or answer to the CRTC.

What’s new is what the commission proposes to do about it, but that’s where the data and charts go out the window and we’re left with vague, obvious suggestions and what often sounds like one unnamed person’s opinion.

But let’s go through them and look at the issues in a bit more detail:

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Joey Elias pulls the plug on his CJAD Comedy Show

Joey Elias, left, and Noel Butler. Elias is the professional comedian.

Late nights on CJAD will never be the same. After more than 10 years hosting the late-night Comedy Show, Joey Elias has stepped away from the microphone.

On Friday, Elias promised a big announcement. And it was big: that show would be his last. The 11pm hour weekdays has been replaced by a simulcast of CTV National News and CTV Montreal’s 11:30pm local news. It’s unclear if this is a temporary or permanent thing. CJAD Program Director Chris Bury did not respond to a request for comment.

Though rumours quickly spread that Elias was cut as a cost-saving measure, especially as it came around the same time as other Bell Media cuts. But Elias says it was his call.

“After receiving offers — plural — to stay on, it was I that chose to opt out,” Elias tells me. “It was an incredibly tough choice to make, and I want to stress this: Management treated me with the utmost respect. I made my choice because I realized that right now at this very point in my life, I have neglected my responsibilities as a son, sibling, family member and friend — so (I) felt start now before it’s too late.”

He says he’s in good health and could be back some day. “The door for a return has been kept open and I hope to do so one day.”

Meanwhile, CJAD has also lost the Chris Robinson Travel Show, which aired on Saturdays. A Facebook post by the show says it’s on “sabbatical” and will be off the air for “a while”.

Corus abandons plan to sell Séries+ and Historia to Bell after Competition Bureau says no

Updated with Corus calling off the deal.

Corus and Bell have dropped their plans for Bell to acquire Corus’s ownership of French-language specialty channels Séries+ and Historia days after Corus announced the Commissioner of Competition has decided not to approve the $200-million purchase.

Reasons weren’t given — the bureau itself has not released a statement, but a spokesperson points out to that their agreement with Bell is that it wouldn’t try to acquire them within 10 years. Five years ago, when Bell sought to purchase Astral Media (which at the time co-owned Séries+ and Historia with Shaw), the bureau came to an agreement to approve that sale, under various conditions that included the sale of those two channels. To allow Bell to re-buy those channels now would mean that the bureau does not take its own demands seriously.

The fact that Bell would have more than half the subscription revenue of French-language television in Canada might also have something to do with it.

The sale had gone through a CRTC process and was awaiting a decision. Now that process will be abandoned.

Interview: Shari Okeke explains why CBC’s Mic Drop podcast keeps adults out of the conversation

There’s a scene that plays out at the beginning of the second episode of Mic Drop, a new podcast by CBC Montreal. A young girl named Ava takes us through her skin care process to deal with acne. She uses a face cleanser, a moisturizer, and some oil product as part of a multi-step daily routine to try to cut down on the number of pimples on her face. The scene is edited together with thoughts from her about what it’s like having pimples, how people around her react to her, and how it makes her feel.

Ava is 11.

There’s nothing newsworthy about this segment, and it’s about one of the most normal of topics, but it’s surprisingly insightful. And a reminder to us olds that while we may have vague memories of what teenage life is like, we don’t really know that life, especially now.

Mic Drop, which runs for seven episodes, is filled with these kinds of stories, told directly by kids 11-17, without a host or narrator. The topics vary, from the mundane annoyances of acne to the very real issues of drug use and domestic violence, and plenty of stuff in between.

Interested by this format and the content of the podcast, I sat down with creator Shari Okeke last week to ask her about how it came together.

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Bell Media decides Daily Planet and InnerSpace aren’t worth the cost anymore

We’re getting into upfront season in Canadian television — the time of year when the networks set their fall schedules and present teasers to advertisers to try to drum up excitement for the coming season.

It’s also the time when we find out what’s not coming back. This week, Bell Media told staff that it’s pulling the plug on on daily news magazine shows on two of its most popular specialty channels: Daily Planet on Discovery Channel and InnerSpace on Space.

Daily Planet was born in 1995, and has been with Discovery since its launch. It was hosted for the longest time by Jay Ingram, and now by Dan Riskin and Ziya Tong. The hour-long daily series includes several documentary segments visiting factories, builders and scientists doing cool stuff. Its final show is June 5.

InnerSpace, hosted by Ajay Fry, Teddy Wilson and Morgan Hoffman, originally started as HypaSpace in 2002, though that was itself the natural progression of short-form videos about sci-fi news that had been on the channel in various forms through the years. Even as InnerSpace, the show was a bit of a hype machine for sci-fi shows that aired on Space or other Bell Media channels. (They were also responsible for the Orphan Black after shows.) But there were segments on comic books, interviews with authors and a lot of other segments that showed a staff that cared about what they were doing. Its final show was May 23.

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Radio diary ratings: Radio-Canada has largest market share in Quebec City

Market share (% of listening hours) in Quebec City’s central market (data by Numeris)

It shouldn’t come as big a surprise as some are making it, but ICI Radio-Canada Première is the top-rated station in Quebec City, both in terms of listening market share (above) and total listeners in the central market, according to data released by Numeris on Thursday.

Three talk radio stations — RadCan, Cogeco’s FM93 and RNC Media’s CHOI Radio X — have been battling for top spot for the past few years, and FM93 has come out on top recently. But in this ratings period (measured Feb. 26 to April 22), it suddenly drops to third. RadCan, meanwhile, climbs to first while CHOI remains mostly stable.

Among the music stations, another sudden shift means Leclerc Communications’ WKND jumps to top spot ahead of Bell’s Rouge FM, which seems to be in a long, slow decline. The remaining stations’ shares are mostly the same as they have been. (Note that, as in Montreal, Radio Classique stopped reporting Numeris ratings after last spring.)

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Media News Digest: English Quebec leaders’ debate, new Gazette columnists, Cogeco CEO retiring

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CPAM, CJMS given one more (last?) lifeline with two-year CRTC licence renewal

Montreal’s Haitian radio station, and the AM country station it bought after its previous owner had extensive licence compliance issues, are trying the patience of the CRTC. But the commission is giving each of them another chance to get their administration in order.

On Friday, the commission renewed each of their licences for two years, with requirements that they broadcast messages on air acknowledging their non-compliance, and with three mandatory court orders each requiring them to be in compliance with their licence conditions.

“The Commission is concerned with the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner,” it wrote in each of the decisions.

CJWI 1410 (CPAM Radio Union) was found in non-compliance with licence conditions related to:

  • Timely filing of annual financial reports
  • Timely response to CRTC requests for audio recordings and information
  • Keeping and producing proper records of music played on air (one request for information was never answered)
  • Timely filing of proof of financial contributions to Canadian content development
  • On-air announcements about previous non-compliance (the broadcasts did not use the exact wording laid out by the CRTC)

This is the third consecutive licence term in which CJWI has been in non-compliance. In other words, the station has never fully complied with its licence conditions since it launched in 2002. In 2008, the commission found the 2007 annual return was filed late and gave a four-year licence renewal. In 2015, the commission found once again annual returns were filed late (four years’ worth were filed simultaneously, and the fifth three months later), as well as proof of Canadian content contributions. It imposed a $2,500 de facto fine and broadcast of shame messages noting their non-compliance.

The excuses given by CPAM for the failure to comply are also getting repetitive, usually blaming some nameless employee or accountant for not knowing the rules. (Though the excuse that records were destroyed in a firebombing is a pretty good one.) Its promise that someone will take charge of ensuring paperwork is filed rings hollow in light of its repeated failures.

CJMS 1040 was found in non-compliance with conditions of licence related to:

  • Timely filing of annual reports (one year’s was never filed)
  • Responses to requests for information (a request was never answered despite several reminders)
  • Production of audio recordings on demand (a request was not fulfilled)

The latter to contradict mandatory orders issued by the CRTC in 2014. Failure to comply with such an order could result in a contempt of court proceeding. But here the commission seems content to simply issue new mandatory orders that may or may not be followed.

This is the fifth consecutive licence term that CJMS has been found in non-compliance, but the first under this owner. Like CJWI, CJMS has never fully complied with its licence. CJMS’s licence had already seen short-term renewals since its launch in 1999:

Both licence renewal decisions make clear that the commission is losing patience, and that a further failure to meet licence conditions could result in the stations losing their licences entirely.

In the meantime, mandatory orders have been issued requiring each station provide:

  • Program logs and audio recordings on request of the CRTC
  • Reponses to requests for information from the CRTC
  • Full annual returns by the deadline

I’m pessimistic that either station will be fully in compliance two years from now. But hopefully they’ll be close enough that the commission decides to give them yet another chance.

Media News Digest: NNA & CAJ awards, Star bringing back paywall, NBC saves Brooklyn Nine-Nine

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Evanov Radio is trying again with its plan to reconfigure its two Toronto-area radio stations to turn at least one into a bona fide Toronto station. Like its last attempt, this new one involves converting CIDC-FM (Z103.5) into a station serving Orangeville (as it was licensed to do) and clearing the way for CIRR-FM (Proud FM 103.9) to increase power to cover all of downtown Toronto. But after the last attempt was deemed technically unacceptable by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (which regulates radio spectrum) because of interference it would cause to other stations, this one tries another option: move CIDC to 103.7, with a signal pointed entirely northwest away from Toronto, and move CIRR to 103.5, allowing it to increase power 100-fold. Evanov also proposed to add an HD transmitter for CIRR, with up to four channels. The first will simulcast the analog signal, but it hasn’t decided what the other three will carry yet.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada will be hearing an appeal by Bell over the CRTC’s Super Bowl ad substitution policy. The court’s focus isn’t on the CRTC’s rules per se, but on the issue of how the courts can overrule decisions by administrative bodies like the CRTC. It’s unclear if we’d get a decision on this by the next Super Bowl in February, but the court has declined a request to expedite the process.
  • Kanesatake’s community radio station CKHQ-FM 101.7 is fighting against a proposed new Christian radio station in Lachute on the same frequency. Under Canadian broadcasting regulations, CKHQ is a low-power station and is unprotected, so if another station gets a licence to operate that would cause interference, CKHQ would have to move to another frequency. The problem is that Kanesatake is close enough to Montreal that there aren’t many frequencies available, even for a tiny 11-watt station. Legally it doesn’t have much to go on, but it’s hoping political pressure will push the CRTC to act in its favour. The station, which can’t be heard outside the immediate area of Kanesatake, has been off the air since last July.

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Quebecor finally rids itself of the Caisse

It’s being eclipsed by some other Quebec media ownership news, but Quebecor announced today at its annual shareholders meeting that it is completing its buyback of shares in subsidiary Quebecor Media owned by Quebec’s pension fund manager, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Once that sale is complete, Quebecor Media, a company started in 2000 with the Caisse’s help to purchase Videotron (and keep it out of the hands of Rogers) will be completely owned by Quebecor Inc.

The transaction won’t completely eliminate the Caisse’s investment in Quebecor. Some of the $1.69 billion the Caisse is getting is in the form of Quebecor Inc. stock, and the Caisse already has some Quebecor stock from previous deals and investments (its 2017 annual report put the value at between $300 million and $500 million). But getting the Caisse out of Quebecor Media simplifies the situation and means Quebecor can decide what to do with Quebecor Media’s profits and the Caisse becomes just another shareholder.

Through his family’s voting shares, Quebecor is de facto controlled by Pierre Karl Péladeau, who controls 73% of voting power in Quebecor Inc.

Whether the Caisse’s $3.2-billion investment in Quebecor Media was the right one is the subject of some debate. In pure dollar amounts, the Caisse is getting back more money than it invested, but barely keeping pace with inflation if it even did. Had the money been invested otherwise, it may have brought back more. On the other hand, Videotron and TVA might be owned by Rogers now, and it’s hard to predict what the Canadian media industry would have looked like as a result.


  • 2000: The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec buys a 45.3% stake in Quebecor Media for $3.2 billion to finance the purchase of Videotron (which also owned TVA). Quebecor Media is valued at $7.06 billion.
  • 2012: Quebecor reduces Caisse’s stake from 45.3% to 24.6% in $1.5-billion deal ($1 billion in cash from Quebecor Media and $500 million in shares of Quebecor). The full 45.3% stake is valued at $2.75 billion, and so Quebecor Media as a whole is valued at $6.07 billion. The Caisse’s remaining share is valued at $1.5 billion, and the Caisse notes it has received $324 million in dividends since 2003.
  • 2015: Quebecor reduces the Caisse’s stake from 24.6% to 18.93% for $500 million in cash. This would value Quebecor Media at $8.8 billion and the Caisse’s remaining stake at $1.67 billion. Quebecor promises to buy back the rest of the Caisse’s interest by 2019.
  • 2017: Quebecor further reduces the Caisse’s stake from 18.93% to 18.47%, buying $38 million worth of shares in cash. This would value Quebecor Media at $8.3 billion and the Caisse’s remaining stake at $1.53 billion.
  • 2018: Quebecor completes the repurchase of the Caisse stake, buying the remaining 18.47% of shares for $1.69 billion (91.1% cash, 8.9% Quebecor stock). This values Quebecor Media at $9.15 billion.

In total, just in terms of share value and not counting for inflation or dividends, the Caisse invested $3.2 billion in 2000 and over the various buybacks got $3.7 billion. (According to the Globe and Mail, the total payback is estimated around $4.1 billion.)

In terms of inflation, that $3.2 billion should have been worth $4.1 billion in 2012 and $4.5 billion today. $3.2 billion in the S&P/TSX composite would have been worth $4.8 billion.

I’m not a stock market expert and I’m not going to do a full analysis here. Maybe someone else has the time and patience to consider all the variables (and someone from Quebecor will spend time refuting those conclusions), but the debate is mostly moot now, because the Caisse’s (direct) investment in Quebecor Media has been liquidated.

La Presse being spun off as a non-profit

La Presse publisher Guy Crevier, left, and president Pierre-Elliott Levasseur announce the news about La Presse to journalists on Tuesday.

Well, TVA was right about La Presse being sold. But its guess about who was buying turned out to be very wrong.

The news giant gathered its many employees at the Palais des Congrès Tuesday morning to announce that the daily is being turned into a non-profit organization, separate from Power Corporation of Canada.

Some details are still to be determined, but here’s what we know so far:

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Canada’s emergency alerting system needs some improvement

UPDATED with results of the test below (spoiler alert: a massive failure).

On Monday at 9:55am, people in Quebec will get their first taste of wireless public alerting as their phones blurt out the most annoying sound bureaucrats could conceive and display a test message. (Ontario’s test is at 1:55pm and the rest of the country will get the alert on May 9 at 1:55pm local time.)

At the same time, television and radio stations will interrupt their regular programming to send out similar alerts, and TV set-top boxes will display them or automatically tune to a special channel.

It’s a good step toward building a system that can save lives in the event of an emergency. And though people might complain that it’s taken too long to get to this point, that the CRTC or the government or broadcasters are dragging their feet, the truth is that this is the kind of thing you really want to make sure to get right. The last thing you want is people trying to figure out how they can disable these alarms because there are too many false ones.

Unfortunately, even before the alert goes out, I’ve noticed some problems with the system that authorities should really look into fixing.

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Media News Digest: Stingray buys Newcap, TC sells Métro, National Magazine Awards noms

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TVA to buy Évasion and Zeste, eliminating another independent TV broadcaster

The number of independent commercial television broadcasters in French Canada can be counted on one hand, and soon that number will decline even further as Bell and Quebecor gobble up whatever they don’t already own.

As Bell’s proposed purchase of Corus’s Historia and Séries+ awaits CRTC approval, TVA announced Tuesday it has agreed to purchase Serdy Media’s specialty channels Évasion and Zeste for $24 million.

The transaction requires CRTC approval, and we’ll learn more when that application is posted. Generally the purchase of TV assets requires a tangible benefits package of 10% of the value of the transaction, which means at least $2.4 million going to production funds or other independent initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system.

Évasion is profitable, with almost $10 million in subscription revenue, $2.6 million in ad revenue and $10 million in expenses in the year ending Aug. 31, 2016. But in 2015 and 2016 it lost bout 5% of subscribers a year. Zeste does not have full financial information published by the CRTC, but had $6.6 million in revenue and $3.8 million in Canadian programming expenses in 2016, which suggests a similar level of profitability.

This is yet another step in the consolidation of French-language television in Canada in two hands: Bell and Quebecor. Each is bulking up to compete with the other, convincing the CRTC that their purchases are necessary because the other has gotten bigger. If the Corus and Serdy sales go through, it would leave only V, children’s channels, non-profit services, some local stations and a handful of others (MétéoMédia and Frissons TV) not controlled by the two giants.

Here’s what Canada’s French-language television landscape looks like:

Quebecor (Groupe TVA):

  • TVA
  • addikTV
  • Casa
  • LCN
  • Moi & Cie
  • Prise 2
  • TVA Sports
  • Yoopa

Bell Media (*former Astral channels):

  • Canal D*
  • Canal Vie*
  • Cinépop*
  • Investigation
  • RDS
  • RDS Info
  • Super Écran*
  • Vrak*
  • Z*


  • Historia (pending sale to Bell)
  • Séries+ (pending sale to Bell)
  • Chaîne Disney
  • Télétoon

Groupe Serdy:

  • Évasion (pending sale to TVA)
  • Zeste (pending sale to TVA)

V Média:

  • V
  • MusiquePlus
  • MAX

Independent for-profits:

  • DHX Media: Télémagino
  • Frissons TV
  • Pelmorex: MétéoMédia
  • RNC Media (regional affiliates)
  • Télé Inter-Rives (regional affiliates)
  • TéléMag (Quebec City)


  • ICI Radio-Canada télé
  • ICI Explora

Other public and non-profit broadcasters:

  • AMI Télé
  • Canal Savoir
  • CPAC
  • Télé-Québec
  • TFO
  • TV5/Unis
  • Community channels