Media News Digest: GCM coop goes ahead, CBC licence renewal, a bunch of people retire

It’s been a month and a half since the last one of these, and frankly it’s quite the load on my time. I’m going to have to explore ways of lowering the workload if I’m going to keep doing this. In the meantime, I’ve dropped the jobs section and may drop others that are less popular and/or have better sources elsewhere.

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The commission has called a hearing for May 25 to discuss the renewal of broadcasting licenses of CBC/Radio-Canada, with public comment being accepted until Feb. 13. I compiled some observations in this Twitter thread. Among the proposed changes to licence conditions, the CBC is asking for:
    • lower quotas (more flexibility) for so-called “programs of national interest” (long-form documentary, scripted dramas and comedies, award shows), original children’s programming, and local programming on TV stations (the CBC argues it doesn’t plan to reduce production, but rather put more of it online only, where these quotas don’t apply)
    • the elimination of the requirement for large market TV stations to produce an hour a week of non-news local programming
    • an increase to the mandatory per-month per-subscriber fees for CBC News Network ($0.15 to $0.20 in French-language markets) and RDI ($0.10 to $0.13 in English-language markets)
    • the elimination of the requirement for ARTV to spend 20% of its Canadian production budget to productions outside Quebec (in exchange, ARTV would no longer have to be offered by cable companies outside Quebec)
    • A new requirement for biannual consultations with Indigenous Canadians, similar to the consultation it currently does with minority language communities.
  • The commission has received more than 1,000 interventions related to CBC’s licence renewal, the vast majority appear to be from individuals arguing that the CBC should be shut down because it’s too left-wing. That may be because Conservative MPs are encouraging people to comment, and that encouragement is amplified by right-wing media and activist groups.
  • Bell’s proposed purchase of the V television network (which will be the subject of a public hearing on Feb. 12) has prompted a lot of comments:
    • For it are just about every TV production company in Quebec, including Productions J (Julie Snyder), AETIOS (Fabienne Larouche), KOTV (Louis Morissette), Zone 3, Attraction Images, Urbania, Fair-Play and DATSIT Sphère. They argue, with words clearly provided by Bell, that it will result in more investment in programming. Snyder adds that it will prevent an unnamed private conventional French-language TV network from becoming a monopoly (that network happens to be owned by her ex-husband).
    • Against it are, unsurprisingly, Quebecor, which argues that a French conventional TV network is the “only missing piece” of the Bell omnicorp, and would give it too much market power on a national scale. (Bell argues Quebecor is the dominant player in Quebec, which is what matters.) The Public Interest Advocacy Centre also argues against the deal, saying it will “negatively impact competition, ownership concentration, and vertical integration, and raises serious concerns about Bell’s exercise of market power.”
    • Neither for nor against are a lot of remaining groups, who suggest the deal could be approved under conditions:
      • Quebec’s ministry of culture and communications wants Bell’s programming promises to be conditions of licence, and that all benefits go only to French-language programming.
      • The Association québécoise de la production médiatique wants higher quotas for Canadian content and scripted programming, which Bell argues against because of V’s precarious financial situation and because it relies a lot on non-scripted programming to compete against TVA and Radio-Canada.
      • The FNC-CSN union is worried about job cuts, particularly among positions that would be redundant after a takeover.
      • The SCFP union wants more local programming and protections against merging of CTV and V newsrooms. It also wants V’s agreements with its independent affiliates renewed.
      • A group of independent TV stations argues a review of regulatory policy is needed to better protect independent stations.
      • Telus argues Bell and Quebecor combined would have too much power, and wants “a condition of licence requiring the provision of commercially reasonable access to advertising availabilities to unrelated operators of broadcasting undertakings and telecommunications service providers.”
    • Bell’s reply stated that Quebecor’s accusations are baseless, and other worries were either unfounded or already dealt with through existing conditions of licence.
  • The Competition Bureau has proposed policy to encourage more competition in wireless services. The bureau notes that the Big Three (Bell, Rogers, Telus) still have too much power in the marketplace, but it believes providers that establish their own networks would be the best option to compete with them. So rather than advocate for low-price mobile virtual network operators, that would use the existing networks but not encourage the building of new networks, it proposes a temporary mandated MVNO setup that would give new entrants access to the big three networks on condition that they build out their own networks. It’s also advocating for other measures like “mandated seamless handoff, more effective tower sharing and site access rules, and updated roaming rates.”
  • The commission has released the TV, mobile and internet chapters of its annual Communications Monitoring Report. Among the findings: More than 90% of revenue market share for mobile is still with top 3 (Bell, Rogers, Telus).
  • The CRTC has renewed the broadcasting distribution licences of Bell and Shaw’s satellite TV services, to 2026. The licences are mostly the same. The commission declined to require the two to carry all local TV stations in HD, because of insufficient bandwidth to do so, and retroactively approved Bell’s use of simultaneous program deletion, a variant of simultaneous substitution where Bell blacks out a U.S. TV channel when it’s broadcasting a program carried by a Canadian TV station, instead of replacing it with the Canadian channel. The CRTC also said Shaw no longer needs to offer free satellite TV service for people affected by TV transmitter shutdowns, having determined that it met its promise made as part of the 2010 acquisition of Canwest.
  • SiriusXM Canada satellite radio’s licence has been renewed until 2024. The commission denied requested changes to licence conditions related to Canadian content after finding severe issues with licence compliance. The main issue was more than $650,000 of Canadian content development contributions that the commission found were either self-serving, not directly related to development of Canadian content, or had insufficient proof of eligibility. They include $199,869 for a Studio SiriusXM Canada Interview Series interview with P.K. Subban, who the CRTC notes “is not a Canadian musical artist,” and $285,000 to Just For Laughs, which paid for 35 half-hour standup segments that aired on SiriusXM’s Canada Laughs channel. (SiriusXM argued that programming had no value because “it does not pay for Canadian programming that airs on its Canadian channels.”) The commission requires the company to pay that shortfall to FACTOR, Musicaction and the Community Radio Fund of Canada.
  • The CRTC has approved the sale of Radio Dégelis and its station CFVD-FM (Horizon 95.5) in Dégelis (near the New Brunswick border) to Arsenal Media for $400,000. The station and its two retransmitters become the 15th in the Arsenal Media network in Quebec. Arsenal tells the CRTC that previous owners Gilles Caron and Guylain Jean will remain station employees.
  • The commission has sided with Videotron and required Bell subsidiary Cablevision du Nord to give Videotron access to its network to set up a third party internet access service in the Abitibi region. Quebecor is serious about the expansion, and has acquired a cable company in the region to accelerate its efforts.
  • Bell (CTV), Corus (Global) and Rogers (Citytv) have gotten a minor adjustment to their obligations related to described video: Foreign primetime programming received without described video less than 24 hours before airtime will no longer need to have DV added, but will need to have DV for future airings. The broadcasters will need to report regularly to the CRTC on the status of their DV offerings.
  • The CRTC has approved a plan from Rogers to swap the proposed new channels of CItytv (CITY-DT) and OMNI.1 (CFMT-DT) in Toronto, which have to move as part of the 600 MHz channel repack. The new arrangement will give Citytv more power while not negatively affecting OMNI.
  • Licence renewal applications for 115 radio stations have been posted. They include stations owned by Rogers, Corus, Pattison, Golden West, Maritime and Harvard broadcasting companies, as well as CHOU 1450 AM (Radio Moyen Orient) in Montreal, CHOI-FM 98,1 (Radio X) in Quebec City and CHAI-FM 101,9 in Châteauguay. The deadline for comments is Jan. 20.
  • CJSO-FM 101.7 in Sorel had its licence renewed for less than two years, with the CRTC finding serious compliance issues related to music lists and public alerting, and failure to prove it had broadcast a notice the last time its licence was renewed that it had failed to meet licence conditions in an earlier licence. The renewal comes with two mandatory orders, and the threat that future non-compliance could result in revocation or non-renewal.
  • The commission has approved a new low-power community radio station for Sheet Harbour, N.S.
  • The Gulf Islands Community Radio Society applying to bring CFSI-FM in Salt Spring Island, B.C. back after 4 years. Because it’s between Vancouver and Victoria, spectrum is tight, so the commission needs to go through a longer public comment process and issue a call for comments on whether it can issue a call for applications.
  • CJMC-FM (Bleu FM) in Ste-Anne-des-Monts on the Gaspé peninsula has received approval for an eighth retransmitter, just west of that town. The new transmitter is at 103.1 MHz, 50 watts.
  • After a request from Bell, the CRTC has reconsidered how it regulates access to fibre-optic cable inside large residential buildings, and will consider regulating them differently from cable or telephone wires. It has published a notice of consultation toward creating a new policy.
  • Following implementation of universal call blocking for calls with “blatantly illegitimate” caller IDs (i.e. numbers that cannot be dialled), which finally came into effect in December, the CRTC has set a deadline of Sept. 20, 2020, to implement a form of caller ID authentication called STIR/SHAKEN for IP-based calls. It has issued a call for comments on formally implementing such a mandate for telephone service providers.
  • Chinese-language channel Fairchild no longer requires a licence to operate, as it has fewer than 200,000 subscribers nationwide.
  • Community TV station CHCO-TV in St. Andrews, N.B., has filed a complaint against Rogers over its signal being temporarily unavailable to some subscribers in the region. Rogers told the station it had two unrelated technical problems, one of which replaced CHCO with a Rogers community channel.
  • The commission has posted job openings for commissioners for Alberta/NWT and Atlantic/Nunavut. They replace Linda Vennard and Christopher MacDonald, whose terms end in May and June, respectively.

Ethical reviews






News about companies

News about people


There are so many this deserves its own section


Good reads

15 thoughts on “Media News Digest: GCM coop goes ahead, CBC licence renewal, a bunch of people retire

  1. Dilbert

    My time suggestion is this: Do each section as it’s own post, rather than trying to put everything together in one big long post. Rather than thinking weekly, you could think monthly for each section, and still keep your blog active and filled with interesting information. It might also provoke a little more discussion on the various sections.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you once again for your excellent work.

    If you’re going to cut back on stuff, I can live without the “News about People”, and “Obituaries”.

    Favorites “At the CRTC”, “TV”, “Radio”. “Print”

  3. Zeke


    Thanks once again for doing this. I really like the digest.

    For what it is worth, I’d suggest dropping the “At the CRTC” section. I kind of liked reading the jobs section (if there is a better source elsewhere, can you let us know where it is?).

    And at the risk of trying to tell you how to do your job (which is never a good thing). I do not know where, or how you keep your notes to compile this. But have you tried just leaving a draft copy open in a tab, and when you come across something just copy/paste it, and then when the post seems long enough hit publish?

  4. Jasmine

    I sincerely appreciate these posts. They help me understand exactly what’s happening at the CRTC, and catch anything I’ve missed when I’m writing up my own newsletter for my office-mates.

  5. Robert Schnaiberg

    honestly, i wait for your Media New Digest. I appreciate all of the work that goes into it and that you do it for free. I do hope you find a way to keep it going. Cheers, Rob

  6. M. Cayer

    Happy New Year, Steve.

    I realize that this involves lots of work for you. Please know that I always enjoying reading everything you write.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Have you considered having someone assist you?

      I’m not in a position to hire employees at this point, though that would seem to be an ideal solution.

  7. Michael Black

    The Georgia Straight sold? Bob Cummings will be rolling in his grave.

    Bob wrote for the Straight and was part of one trial against the paper. About 1999 a book came out about the nderground press in Canada, and I read he’d killed himself in 1987.

    He’s maybe better known for being on the voyage to Amchitka in the fall of 1971, really the start of Greenpeace. He went as a correspondent for the Straight,but stayed with Greenpeace for a long time. I spent a weekend with him in jail in 1979, me climbing over a fence, he parachuting in. He had great amusing stories to tell, some about the early days of the organization. He shows up in the photographs, but often seems missing from the history. The only time he wasn’t funny was when the Mounties came to question him, the parachuting being a more serious crime and they wanted to know about the pilot. I never heard why he killed himself, and while I thought about asking Bob Hunter and Don Francks, I met them both around the same time, they died before I got around to it. Actually, I did email Don, but the email address was bad

  8. Michael Black

    The “Bell Let’s Talk” flag will fly at Westmount City Hall on Wednesday Jan 29th. I don’t remember special flags flying there in the past. This one seems a bit too commercial.

    But it makes for leverage to get the Metis flag flying there somerime this year to mark 150 years since the Red River Resistance and 150 years since Manitoba came into Confederation.


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