How TV covered Canadian election night

I was busy on election night, but I set a couple of PVRs to record election night TV broadcasts so I could review them for you. It took a while to get through all the broadcasts from all the networks (and I was busy doing other things too) but here you go, almost two weeks later. How the various broadcasters fared.

The calls

Since this is the big penis-measuring contest, let’s first lay out when the networks made their big calls for the night.

What’s interesting is that the networks ordered their calls differently. Global and TVA called a “minority government” before 10pm, unclear if it was going to be Liberal or Conservative. The other networks, meanwhile, called a Liberal “government” or “win” just after 10pm, unsure at first if it was going to be a majority or minority. While Global made the first call of the night, shortly after polls closed in most of the country, TVA was the first to call a Liberal minority.

CPAC used the Canadian Press to make its calls and broadcast them almost immediately. The other networks like APTN did not make these calls and so aren’t listed.

Minority government

  1. Global 9:41pm
  2. TVA 9:49pm

Liberal government

  1. TVA 10:00pm*
  2. CTV 10:06pm
  3. Radio-Canada 10:08pm
  4. CBC 10:10pm
  5. CityNews 10:14pm
  6. Global 10:21pm*
  7. CPAC (CP) 10:21pm

*By default, as they called a Liberal minority

Liberal minority government

  1. TVA 10:00pm
  2. CTV 10:16pm
  3. Global 10:21pm
  4. Radio-Canada 10:21pm
  5. CBC 10:22pm
  6. CityNews 10:30pm
  7. CPAC (CP) 11:20pm

The speeches

The biggest event of the night wasn’t the Liberal minority result, which the polls had predicted. It wasn’t Jody Wilson-Raybould winning her seat as an independent, or Maxime Bernier failing to win a seat for his party. Instead, it was that Justin Trudeau got on stage right as Andrew Scheer began speaking, forcing the networks to make a decision on which leader to go to. I’ll discuss how each handled it below.

CBC Television/CBC News Network

  • Time: 6:30pm to 2am ET (7.5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: 1.1 million
  • YouTube views: 1,817,734 (main), 143,260 (B.C. edition)
  • Facebook views: 1.3 million (main), 131,000 (Ontario edition)
  • Calls:
    • Liberal government 10:10pm ET (4th)
    • Liberal minority 10:22pm ET (5th)
  • Anchor: Rosemary Barton
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Main desk:
      • Duncan McCue
      • Megan Leslie (NDP)
      • Andrew Coyne
      • Althia Raj
      • Kory Teneycke (Con)
      • Chantal Hébert
      • Vassy Kapelos
      • Rodger Cuzner (Lib)
      • Bob Rae (Lib)
      • Peter Mansbridge
      • Andrew Chang
      • David Cochrane
      • Heather Hiscox
      • Ian Hanomansing
    • “Watch Party” (moderated by Jaime Poisson):
      • Marie Henein
      • Ryan McMahon
      • Naheed Nenshi
      • Mark Towhey

The CBC election night special was probably most memorable for its holographic images in the middle of the floor, and its Imperial Senate set with several desks of analysts in a semicircle. But it had solid election night coverage, with most of its in-studio analysts of the journalistic variety, plus the usual expert panel of Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hébert and Althia Raj. Peter Mansbridge even joined in.

There were no regional breakaways, but local stations did have on-screen graphics with regional races on them. (Here’s a feed from CBC Vancouver with B.C. races).

Speaking of graphics, CBC went simple, with mainly white text on coloured boxes. Results graphics included total votes, number of polls reporting, photos, the vote lead of the top candidate, and a checkmark when elected. They didn’t include percentage splits nor indicate incumbency.

During the Speech Debacle, CBC went with Trudeau, then rebroadcast Scheer’s speech in its entirety. It also broadcast Elizabeth May’s speech.

All in all, what you’d expect from our public broadcaster going through this exercise for the umpteenth time, though I would have enjoyed some local coverage as well.

CTV/CTV News Channel/BNN Bloomberg

  • Time: 7pm to 2am (7 hours)
  • Average minute audience: 1.6 million
  • YouTube views: 406,379
  • Calls:
    • “Liberal win”: 10:06pm (2nd)
    • Liberal minority: 10:16pm (2nd)
  • Anchor: Lisa Laflamme
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Lloyd Robertson
    • Zain Velji
    • Anne McLellan (Lib)
    • Evan Solomon
    • Rona Ambrose (Con)
    • Thomas Mulcair (NDP)
    • Antonia Maioni
    • Craig Oliver
    • Richard Madan (on the magic screen)
    • Amanda Lang

The biggest commercial player in the election night game, CTV prides itself on getting the big calls first, but it wasn’t as aggressive as TVA on this night.

Where CTV stood out was on the celebrity value of its political experts (the three of them were all leaders or deputy leaders of their parties) and making use of its large network of journalists to do live hits from across the country (at one point they showed the control room with dozens of remote feeds). This came in handy when, for example, they went live to Fredericton to get reaction from Green Party candidate Jenica Atwin when she pulled to a surprising lead and eventual victory in that riding. It was messy and parts were barely comprehensible, but they went through the effort.

CTV also carried speeches from individual candidates, including Seamus O’Regan, Lisa Raitt, Ralph Goodale, Catherine McKenna and Chrystia Freeland, and interviews with Bill Morneau, Adam Van Koeverden, Maxime Bernier, Jane Philpott and Steven Guilbeault.

Like CBC, there were no regional breakaways (they planned for them in 2015 but it didn’t really work), but local stations had regional races cycle through on-screen. I don’t think I saw a single CTV Montreal reporter the entire night.

CTV’s results graphics made much less use of colour, with only a thin bar. Riding results had names, parties and vote counts of the top four candidates, indication of incumbency and election, amount of lead and polls reporting.

During the Speech Debacle, CTV did like CBC, showing Trudeau, then Scheer from tape, then May.

Global

  • Time: 9pm to 2am (5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: 470,000
  • YouTube views: 664,072
  • Facebook views: 793,000
  • Calls:
    • Minority government: 9:41pm (1st)
    • Liberal minority: 10:21pm (3rd)
  • Anchor: Dawna Friesen
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Main desk:
      • David Akin (on the magic screen)
      • Mercedes Stephenson
      • Brad Wall (former Saskatchewan premier)
      • Amira Elghawaby (human rights advocate)
      • Nathalie Des Rosiers (former Ontario Liberal MPP)
      • Camille Labchuk (Green)
      • Nathan Cullen (NDP)
      • Barry Kay
      • Darrell Bricker
    • Radio panel (moderated by Farah Nasser):
      • Ryan Jesperson (630 CHED Edmonton)
      • Supriya Dwivedi (640 Toronto)
      • Danielle Smith (770 CHQR Calgary)
      • Charles Adler
    • Green screen:
      • Eric Sorensen

Global, which has played second-fiddle to CTV (and, for that matter, CBC) in election night coverage, tried to make up for it with some razzle-dazzle including a gigantic screen behind the main desk that didn’t serve much purpose through the night, plus David Akin on a magic screen and Eric Sorensen walking through various computer-generated 3D environments.

But that won’t make up for some lack of substance. For one thing, while CTV pre-empted its entire primetime lineup, Global went live nationally only at 9pm ET, so it could still air some primetime U.S. programs in simulcast. It also had far fewer live hits than CTV or CBC — the leaders’ headquarters, plus a live in Milton, Ont. and another from Jody Wilson-Raybould’s headquarters.

Whether because they couldn’t get the big names or because they wanted to be a bit different, Global’s political analysts didn’t consist mainly of former MPs for the various parties. Instead, they included two provincial politicians, a human rights advocate, and a former press secretary. The NDP’s Nathan Cullen was the only former MP on the panel.

(Global at least deserves credit for having a Green Party analyst, which the other main networks didn’t).

Global also made use of its radio personalities from its new Global News Radio network and created a separate desk of radio hosts, though with a regional bias reflective of that network (two from Alberta and no one from east of Toronto).

In terms of graphics, Global’s screen was busy, with a ticker, riding results and a “majority meter” on the right, plus party standings. When highlighting individual riding races, which showed percentages, total votes, incumbency and full names, you may have had to squint to get some of the text. Grey was the main colour, with party colours used sparingly.

During the Speech Debacle, Global went with Trudeau, then waited 20 minutes to replay Scheer’s speech, cutting off Elizabeth May. Earlier in the night, they also cut off Yves-François Blanchet. The network didn’t broadcast Maxime Bernier’s speech.

In the end, it looked nice, but Eric Sorensen standing in a fake House of Commons isn’t going to be enough to draw viewers from the other networks that started two hours earlier and had much more live coverage from across the country.

Radio-Canada/RDI

  • Time: 7:30pm to 1:30am (6 hours)
  • Average minute audience: 493,000
  • YouTube views: 212,787
  • Calls:
    • Liberal government: 10:08pm (3rd)
    • Liberal minority: 10:21pm (3rd)
  • Anchor: Patrice Roy
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Madeleine Blais-Morin (on the magic screen)
    • Alec Castonguay
    • Tasha Kheiriddin
    • Josée Legault
    • Michel C. Auger
    • Yolande James (Lib)
    • Michael Fortier (Con)
    • Françoise Boivin (NDP)
    • Gilles Duceppe (Bloc)

Radio-Canada’s broadcast was most famous for a moment during which panelist Gilles Duceppe sees his son declared elected and shortly thereafter speaks to him directly. It was a nice, touching moment. Former Conservative senator Michael Fortier also impressed some with his analysis.

Its results graphics were simple, like CBC’s, with a coloured background. Top four candidates, names and votes only, with the colours indicating the party. (Several candidates’ photos were also missing.) One thing Radio-Canada had that others didn’t was an on-screen graphic showing the popular vote, which showed the Conservatives ahead on that score.

During the Speech Debacle, Radio-Canada went with Trudeau and then had their reporter on the scene summarize Scheer’s speech without broadcasting it directly. It also didn’t carry Elizabeth May’s speech.

A solid broadcast, focused on Quebec as one would expect, but not nearly as comprehensive on the national level as the three English networks, and a poor decision not to broadcast Scheer’s speech.

TVA/LCN

Journalist Pierre-Olivier Zappa (top right) in a room full of election watchers.

  • Time: 7pm to 1:30am (6.5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: 647,000
  • Calls:
    • Minority government: 9:49pm (2nd)
    • Liberal minority: 10:00pm (1st)
  • Anchor: Pierre Bruneau
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Jean-Marc Léger (at the magic screen)
    • Mario Dumont
    • Emmanuelle Latraverse
    • Paul Larocque
    • Dimitri Soudas (Con)

No big desk, no big studio, and other than former Harper staffer Dimitri Soudas, no political has-beens doing analysis (okay, there’s Mario Dumont, but none on the federal level). Just a small team in a small studio going over the results.

Because TVA is based in Quebec, so was the coverage. Except for the Conservative and NDP headquarters, I didn’t count a single reporter outside the province. Coverage was heavily focused on Quebec, as you would expect.

TVA stood out a bit with a room full of regular people who gave their thoughts from time to time. But otherwise, like Radio-Canada, it was much less flashy than the anglo side.

Graphics were simple, though the layout made the bottom of the screen seem very busy when highlighting individual ridings. Name, party, vote count, and polls reporting. A small asterisk indicated incumbency.

During the Speech Debacle, TVA went with Trudeau, then ran a 90-second clip of Scheer speaking in French. It didn’t broadcast May’s speech.

APTN

  • Time: 8pm to 12:30am (4.5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: N/A
  • YouTube views: 484
  • Calls: N/A
  • Anchors: Dennis Ward and Melissa Ridgen
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Winnipeg:
      • Trevor Greyeyes
      • Sheila North
      • Shelly Glover (Con)
    • Ottawa (moderated by Todd Lamirande):
      • Pitseolak Pfeifer
      • Gabrielle Fayant
      • Robert Jago
    • Elsewhere:
      • Paul Andrew (Yellowknife)
      • Wawmeesh Hamilton (Vancouver)

This was a big production for APTN, with two studios, two remote analysts and live hits from various locations. It was much less polished than the big commercial networks. There were audio issues, some of the reporters looked very green, there were no big formal pronouncements about who won, and no live coverage of the leaders’ speeches.

But rather than try to compete directly with CTV or CBC, APTN decided to focus on what matters to its audience. It did analysis from an Indigenous perspective, and looked at ridings that have large Indigenous populations or important Indigenous candidates.

On-screen graphics were simple but elegant, with individual riding results readable even though they were shown with a camera pointed at a touch screen.

Overall, a solid niche effort from a network that could have just as easily not had an election results special or confined it to a half-hour newscast at the end of the night.

CityNews Toronto

  • Time: 9pm to 1:30am (4.5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: N/A
  • YouTube views: 187,323
  • Facebook views: 131,000
  • Calls:
    • Liberal government: 10:14pm (5th)
    • Liberal minority: 10:30pm (6th)
  • Anchor: Cynthia Mulligan
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Randi Rahamim
    • Andray Domise
    • Adrienne Batra
    • Patrick Brown

As if to underline how Toronto-centric the Citytv network still is, there were completely separate broadcasts of election night for Toronto and the rest of the country. The Toronto broadcast went 4.5 hours as of 9pm and was explicitly focused on the Greater Toronto Area. For the remaining CityNews markets, coverage began at 11pm, after U.S. primetime shows.

Graphics were simple, with party, name, vote total and polls reporting. No photos.

During the Speech Debacle, they went with Trudeau, and then played a 60-second clip of Scheer. There was no coverage of Blanchet’s speech, nor of May’s.

CityNews Montreal/Winnipeg/Calgary/Edmonton/Vancouver

  • Time: 11pm to 3am (4 hours)
  • Average minute audience: N/A
  • Facebook views: 41,058
  • Calls: N/A
  • Anchors: Tina Tenneriello in Montreal, Jaskaran Singh Sandhu and Melissa Duggan in Toronto
  • In-studio analysts: None

For the rest of the country, it was less of a national election special and more of a hybrid late-night newscast of four time zones. The first hour was exclusively for Montreal, focused on Quebec, then as Winnipeg joined in for the second hour, then Calgary and Edmonton in the third and finally Vancouver for the final hour, the focus shifted west.

Going an hour later than any other network gave them time to carry all the speeches, but they didn’t. This broadcast didn’t carry Bernier’s speech, or Blanchet’s.

During the Speech Debacle, it went with Trudeau, then later summarized Scheer’s speech, finally presenting a short clip of it almost two hours later near the end of the show. It did carry speeches from May and Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Both Citytv broadcasts put in the effort, but the lack of a true national news organization really showed on this night.

CPAC

  • Time: 7pm to 1:30am (6.5 hours)
  • Average minute audience: N/A
  • YouTube views: 18,847
  • Calls:
    • Liberal government: 10:21pm (7th)
    • Liberal minority: 11:20pm (7th)
  • Anchors: Peter Van Dusen and Esther Bégin
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Political panel:
      • Susan Smith (Lib)
      • Ashton Arsenault (Con)
      • Robin MacLachlan (NDP)
      • Andrew West (Green)
    • Reporters (moderated by Morgan Campbell and Esther Bégin):
      • Martin Stringer
      • Bill Kendrick
      • Marc-André Cossette
      • Laura Di Battista
      • Charelle Evelyn
      • Ed Watson
      • Catherine Pope
      • Winston Sih
    • By remote:
      • David Coletto

Canada’s only bilingual news network did about what you’d expect them to do: Cover the results with a minimum of flair and a maximum of information. No live hits from leader headquarters, no interviews with candidates, no touchscreens or holograms, no yelling, just results and analysis, plus speeches from the leaders.

CPAC did get them all in. During the Speech Debacle, they went to Trudeau and then replayed Scheer’s speech.

Its graphics were very muted, with white and light grey being the predominant colour, and only small “chips” showing the colours of the parties. Riding-level graphics were airy and clean but didn’t provide much information, not even candidates’ first names.

If you like your election night boring and wonky, this was definitely adequate.

OMNI News

OMNI provided election results specials in Mandarin and Cantonese on election night, though they were more recaps than live results coverage as they happened. I can’t find a version of it online.

Rogers TV

Rogers TV, the network of community television stations on Rogers cable systems, produced a series of locally-focused election night specials, two hours long. They used the same graphics, but the content was all local. You can watch them here:

V (NVL)

The newscast on election night that aired at 11:30pm did not mention the election.

Macleans

  • Time: ~7pm to ~1:45am (6 hours, 48 minutes)
  • YouTube views: 151,942
  • Calls: N/A
  • Anchors: None
  • In-studio analysts: None

“Canada’s most relaxing results” featured two people colouring in a map of Canada for almost seven hours without talking.

They stopped before they finished.

Sudbury.com

Mention to Laurentian Publishing’s Sudbury.com, which had a nearly three-hour election night livestream special, focused on local races.

Rebel News

  • Time: 9pm to ~1:30am (4 hours, 39 minutes)
  • YouTube views: 128,793
  • Calls: N/A
  • Anchor: Ezra Levant
  • In-studio analysts:
    • Keean Bexte

Unlike the other networks, Rebel News didn’t have “partisan hacks”. The fiercely independent and trustworthy news outlet had every angle covered throughout the spectrum, from the People’s Party to the Conservative Party.

Those were the only two parties they sent reporters to cover live.

Rebel did broadcast speeches by Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau, by simply rebroadcasting CPAC’s YouTube channel. Levant straight up refused to show Blanchet, and they didn’t show May either.

On-screen graphics arranged the party by apparent political stance, with the Greens and NDP on the left, followed by the Liberals, Conservatives and PPC, with the Bloc at the far right.

Ethnic streamers

There were several ethnic broadcasters besides OMNI with election results specials. From what I could tell nearly all of them were in Punjabi or otherwise representing the South Asian community. Here are three of them:

6 thoughts on “How TV covered Canadian election night

  1. Lorne

    Thank you for this summary. I worked on the election and was there until 12:00, so I missed most of the TV election coverage.

    Reply
  2. mediaman15

    Why didn’t the local stations like Channel 12 or 6 (CTV and CBC respectively) not have local breakaways for 6-7 minutes perhaps every half hour, didn’t they used to do that ?
    Maybe we Montrealers might be more interested in just hearing about the 905 or Vancouver-Grenville all the time ?

    Was it a question of local overtime costs or no local cameramen since CTV dumped almost all of them in their recent purge?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Local breakaways are tough to coordinate, and mean cutting into live national coverage. If you make a major call or a leader is speaking during one of those cutaways, what do you do?

      CTV and CBC chose instead to have local results on on-screen graphics. Global, which had fewer live local events covered, went with some local cutaways.

      Reply
  3. Director of Radio

    Thanks for this! I flipped back and forth between Rad-Can and CBC English, and apart from occasional highlights (eg Chantal Hébert) I was pretty shocked at the obvious flaws in the English coverage:

    – When I first tuned in, Rosemary Barton was talking with something in her mouth: a mint? gum? I’m not sure it matters.

    – Most of the panel spent the evening writing on laptops, many of them literally hunched over. Ian Hanomansing was playing with his phone on camera, while Andrew Coyne appears to have written an entire National Post piece while on set, although frankly he should have waited to file, since Chantal Hébert issued a knock-out objection to a point he raised both on camera and in the piece he wrote (see 5h17min on the YouTube feed).

    – More than a dozen panelists, but for many of them it’s not clear who they are, and we often get only their first names. Over a seven hour broadcast, you might consider re-introducing people, or at least putting their names up on the Chyron.

    – The camera angles were sometimes weird (side-on shots of people typing, with few clear shots of anyone). And why does one of the desks have animation on the front and the rest not? It’s weirdly asymmetric for no clear reason.

    Meanwhile on Radio-Canada, everyone present is actually paying attention to the broadcast. The coverage isn’t perfect (the “breakfast bar” set is a little awkward) but Duceppe was good, and I’m impressed they had an anglophone panelist, I’ve never before seen that on election night.

    Reply

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