Global Montreal replaces Jamie Orchard with Toronto-based anchor, cancels Focus Montreal

Tracy Tong anchors the Global Montreal flagship newscast out of Toronto on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

You can end the speculation of who will replace Jamie Orchard as lead anchor at Global Montreal: It’s Tracy Tong.

In Toronto.

Tong announced the news shortly before anchoring the 5:30pm newscast on Monday. (Andrea Howick had been filling in on most nights since Orchard announced she had been laid off.) Tong has also been anchoring the 11pm Montreal newscast out of Toronto.

The move completes the conversion of Montreal’s local newscasts into Global’s “Multi-Market Content” model, which replaces locally-anchored live newscasts with a copy-paste edited newscast produced and anchored out of Toronto with a mix of local and national stories. Being recorded and produced in advance means Tong can do separate newscasts on Global Toronto and Global Montreal, even though they air simultaneously.

The 11pm and weekend newscasts were already following this multi-market model, and the noon local newscast is actually Toronto’s local newscast with a couple of minutes of Quebec news thrown in and Montreal and Peterborough weather added at the end. This leaves only Global News Mornings as actually being hosted in Montreal, and even then a third of it is a national feed out of Toronto.

At the same time, Global Montreal employees have been told that Focus Montreal, the weekly half-hour interview show anchored by Orchard and others, will not be returning.

It’s an unfortunate development that simply underscores how little Corus cares about its Montreal audience (and, for that matter, Toronto, Halifax, New Brunswick, Peterborough, etc., too).

But the company long ago gave up on trying to attract an audience for its Montreal newscast, competing against the behemoth CTV. Global has said centralization is allowing it to redirect resources to on-the-ground newsgathering, and to a certain extent that’s true — there are several young journalists at Global Montreal, and its reporting staff is larger than it has been in the past. But really it’s about saving money. There’s a reason these changes are being done in eastern Canada, where Global’s local news programs are unpopular, and not in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, where it has higher ratings.

The copy-and-paste method of creating newscasts also opens up all sorts of wacky possibilities for on-air gaffes, and two were apparent on the first day.

During the 5:30pm newscast, Tong introduced a clip from that day’s Morning News, but the clip never ran. Instead, the newscast jump-cut back to herself introducing the next story like nothing happened.

An hour later, a story about a sign vandalized to carry a climate change message was set up as an anchor voice-over with B-roll and a short clip. Except they forgot the voice-over, so all we had was a minute and a half of mostly quiet B-roll. (The story ran fine during the 5:30 newscast.)

Technical errors are pretty common in TV news, especially when you’re doing something for the first time. But when news is done locally and live, the anchor can usually step in and apologize for the mixup. In Global’s pre-edited newscast model, that’s not possible, so viewers are just left scratching their heads wondering what they just watched. (This also apparently means no one is watching these newscasts before they air to flag problems like this.)

Then there are the things that were done intentionally to save money. Monday’s newscast included “extended coverage” that killed three minutes by running two long unedited clips from Quebec’s COVID-19 press conference that day.

The announcement of the new anchor prompted some outrage on Twitter, which led to Tong posting a follow-up tweet about the “amazing team of journalists on the ground at @Global_Montreal covering #Montreal #Quebec local news.”

But Global is hardly alone in these cuts. CityNews is also produced out of Toronto in a similar way, but without an anchor (at least officially). CBC considers its local newscasts expendable in a crisis (on Monday, because of “technical problems” just before airtime, CBC Montreal News at Six was replaced with CBC Ottawa’s local newscast, which was cut off mid-sentence at 6:30 to join Power and Politics in progress). And CTV, while still produced locally, does so without a sports department and with most journalists shooting their own footage. (It also cut the local news updates it added to Your Morning, with no word if they’ll ever return.)

The truth is that local TV newscasts have never been a profit driver, and so broadcasters are looking for ways to save money on them, especially when their ratings are poor. If it wasn’t for the CRTC obligation to run them to be able to keep their licenses, most would probably disappear entirely.

I’ve asked Corus for comment on the move and will update this if I hear back.

27 thoughts on “Global Montreal replaces Jamie Orchard with Toronto-based anchor, cancels Focus Montreal

  1. Anonymous

    The statement that: “The truth is that local TV newscasts have never been a profit driver” suffers from the defect of being untrue.

    In fact, it was the realization in the late 1960’s that local news COULD be very profitable that drove its expansion. For decades, TV stations greatly exceeded regulatory obligations.

    As recently as 2017, a reliable study published by a leading trade organization estimated the local news profit margin in the US at a staggering 65%.

    https://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_research_the_business_of_tv_news_2017

    I’ve been out of TV news for many years, so can’t speak to the present reality.

    But if there’s a commercial station producing one minute more of news than is required by its license there can only be one reason: it’s profitable.

    Reply
  2. Ian Howarth

    I assume Global will iron out their first day yips. But will you be watching? There was a time where both CBC and CTV Montreal TV news was thorough with genuine personalities in front of the camera. And it wasn’t always CTV (I’m going back to ‘60s-‘70s for this) killing CBC. Global is being realistic. As you said, they’re not trying to outrun the competition when it comes to covering news. I wonder how cheaply all those young people on the ground for Global are working.

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      1. Peter & Catherine

        If “CITY has them beat” than this is a sad state of affairs for English media in Montreal. There is no bigger slap in the face for anglophones in this province than the rookie/TV school garbage CITY puts on the airwaves. Give me a break. Global is by far a more viable news source than that rinky dink operation. CTV, Global, CBC……then a lot of white noise,..then CITY!

        Reply
  3. Christopher Lowery

    That’s too bad.

    Have not watched local newscasts in decades but sad to see the loss of opportunity for those who who are seeking employment in local broadcasting.

    Reply
  4. Dilbert

    The funny part is local newscasts should be a profit driver, for a number of reasons:

    1 – The newscasts are often the most watched local program of the day
    2 – the reported content is used anywhere from twice to four times a day
    3 – the same team can also produce other local content such as talk shows, interviews, and the like.

    Sadly, the biggest player in the Montreal local news market, CFCF died about 2001 and Pulse died 2005. Since then it’s been more and more of the corporate spew that isn’t responsive in any manner to the local market. The loss of sports as a local product is also a negative. This in turn makes it much harder to sell the local market for advertising. You can tell when most of the ads that run are more of the national campaigns getting cheap space as opposed to local businesses seeking exposure to the best of the market.

    With the control, switching, playback, and pretty much everything else done in Toronto, the ability to produce full show content has been lost. So item 3 above is all but impossible, leaving only item 1 and 2. With a loss of sales power in the local market, the bean counters from on high are much more likely to cut at staffing and related costs to try to shrink to profitability. That in turn takes away from the content produced in item 2. With a more national turn on the morning shows as well, it means that you get less replay on the items produced, so the cost per use is higher, making it even harder for local news to make money.

    Look at the US market as an example. Most major markets run local news from 4PM through to the network news at 6:30 or 7, and some even come back with one more hour of news until prime time. Then they come back at 11 and run again. They also all run morning shows and do the same thing for hours. So your typical story might get run 8 or 10 times in 24 hours, perhaps re-editing along the way. That gives value for the work done.

    This won’t work in Canada in no small part because it’s cheaper and easier for the bean counters to see a simple bottom line on a syndicated yakker. But in doing so, they take income out of the news rooms and create their own doom.

    Canadian broadcasting is failing because they major players aren’t making their money on broadcasting, they are making it on delivery services.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      News can definitely be popular. CTV’s local newscast often ranks highly on the top 30 programs of the week. But when you’re in a weak market, like Global in Montreal, you’re not making much revenue on ads. And local news is one of the most expensive things you can do as a network.

      As for running more news in daytime, we’re seeing a bit of it (Global having news at noon, CTV having news at 5), but it’s no guarantee of success. CHCH in Hamilton tried going all-news all-day when it was on its own, but had to dramatically scale that back when it couldn’t make money on the model.

      Reply
      1. Dan Shields

        CHCH is a victim, in my view, of the lack of competition in most TV markets in Canada. They are the only stick in Hamilton but because of the size of their signal and the amount of repeaters they have they constantly lose their focus. They really could make beaucoup if they focused on Hamilton or Hamilton-Niagara. Avarice is oft times destructive.

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    2. TV Guy

      Pt. 2 is out of date
      With PVRs, rerunning local items is a killer. If you’ve got access to the minute-by-minutes, you’ll see the audience disappear once an item is repeated.

      Sports is disappearing from local news for the same reason: Nobody needs a highlight reel on the news when they can watch all the games they care about on demand. Sports basically became a niche market with little appeal to outsiders.

      As for pt. 3 I’m trying hard to think of any local TV technical crew that did more than 2 shows a day. Every crew I knew did either news and a talk show, or 2 news shows (eg. morning and noon, or supper and late). They still do.

      From what I’ve been told regarding syndicated shows, it’s only worth airing them if they air across the entire network. Having them air in only certain markets is more expensive than producing local news.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Nobody needs a highlight reel on the news when they can watch all the games they care about on demand.

        I’m not sure about that. For one thing, not everyone has the money to pay for on-demand access to games, and secondly not everyone has the time to watch them. I think there’s definitely use and demand for a daily highlight reel. Whether it needs to be part of a local newscast or something more on-demand is another question.

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        1. TV Guy

          It requires a certain amount of skill and knowledge, but more importantly a lot of time to put a daily highlight reel together.

          And like I said, the demand from a general audience is not there, as indicated by ratings.

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      2. Anonymous

        Pt 2 is out of date only in regards if a person is watching the same news over and over again, without any change in the content, running order, voice overs, etc. Many US stations get around that by having live stand ups before a story so that there is interaction and the flavor of the latest update. Remember, Local news should be live and should be something you don’t PVR to watch in a few days.

        Local channel sports coverage is as much about giving the local spin on the stories as it is just running a highlight reel. It’s about getting information perhaps you didn’t get from another source. It’s one of the reasons why national or even regional reels tend not to do well, because they are generic and give nothing to the local viewer they didn’t already have. Bell I think has shot themselves in the foot with making things like sports generic across all of their platforms. I might have listened to CJAD sports news and watching Pulse News, but at this point, everything Bell owns is single sourced, and discourages grazing.

        For pt 3, the hours don’t generally permit crews doing more than two time frames. However, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have more on air time within those time frames. There is no real reason why the even news crew can’t do two hours instead of 1. CTV Montreal is testing the waters, consider it the proof that even Bell knows there is a buck to be made (they just don’t want the CRTC to know!)

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        1. TV Guy

          People may not watch the news the next day, but they definitely don’t need to watch it live: they can tune in 20 minutes late and skip over the items that don’t interest them.

          And if they’re watching multiple shows a day, they definitely do this.

          Reply
  5. MBR

    It’s a trend that’s happening around the world. Broadcasters are centralizing news production, and presenting local news away from their markets they are broadcasting to. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Even in the US, there are instances where this is happening.

    Reply
  6. Dan Shields

    That is insane. I live in Ottawa, which is a wasteland for local news, both Anglo and Francophone. But we get Detroit TV which runs up to 11 hours of local news per day in a market that is smaller than Toronto. FOX2, LOCAL4 and WXYZ don’t do it out of benevolence; they do it coz they be making money at it. Even WPTZ in little old Plattsburg, a village compared to Montreal or Ottawa, does 5 hours of local news, plus cut ins, per day.

    Reply
  7. John

    What I don’t understand is why all these stations won’t stream their newscasts online for free. I know CityNews Toronto airs their 5pm (and maybe others?) on Facebook. You can also watch CBC-TV for free using their CBC Gem app although you need to pay to watch $5/month CBC News Network on CBC Gem. CP24 was streaming for free at 1 point. Global News has a free Amazon Prime app. As for CTV, you usually have to wait a couple hours for them to put their newscasts online. I don’t want to watch the 6pm news at 8pm.

    What I’m saying is that if people are cutting cable than why not stream your newscasts and/or other programming for free in real time. Wouldn’t logic dictate that if you have more eyeballs than you can use to charge more for commercials? One could argue that you could maintain or increase your revenue that way. Am I missing something?

    Reply
    1. Dan Shields

      Because, sir, they, the Canuck stations, are greedy. And lazy. They don’t seem to grasp that you figure out different ways to make money. The more eyeballs you get the more money you make. In-bed ads, drop ads into the ‘cast, etc. If it works in Jacksonville and Minny it could work here.

      Reply
    2. MBR

      Global and CBC have been streaming all their newscasts for free on their respective news websites for some time now. In Global’s case, you have to go to Globalnews.ca/live and pick your city.

      Reply
  8. Jack Nathanson

    The problem seems to exist with most of the over-the-air broadcast television stations in Canada. At one time, most of the local television stations were locally owned and operated. Most of their revenue came from local advertising. It was therefore in the interest of the television stations to run programming that viewers in the area actually wanted to watch, since larger viewing audiences would result in greater local advertising revenue and therefore more profitability.

    But times have changed. Most of the “local” stations are now owned by “national” networks. And these networks are usually owned by conglomerates that often own cable or satellite broadcasting systems in addition to the networks.

    Since most corporations today are only concerned with making the maximum amount of profit and nothing else, the corporations can actually increase their net profits by running lousy programming on their broadcast television stations, and having the good programming only available on cable. This results in the viewers getting fed up enough to put out the big bucks to subscribe to cable, which is often owned by the same corporations that own the broadcast networks. Hence, the corporations’ profits increase while the viewers get screwed.

    The destroying of the local news programs is only the latest step in this process.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Large companies in media generally seem to see very limited hope for growth, very little hope for increased viewership or demand for advertising, so they take out a knife and start slashing. The problem is they generally slash important parts that cause great harm, which limits growth, viewership, and demand for advertising. Out comes the knife again for more self-inflicted damage, and the cycle repeats.

      This is particularly key for companies like Bell, who make most of their income and profit off of selling access to content, rather than content itself. When they are doing content, they are putting it on specialty channels with subscriber fees, which still absorb ad revenue dollars as well. Between the income those channels generate and money made by distributing them as a cable provider, it’s little wonder that local TV gets little or no attention from them.

      If the CRTC, the Canadian government, and the people of Canada want local TV to matter (Remember that happy slogan that was nothing more than a way to pump up your cable bill?) then they need to separate church and state. The three parts, local stations, networks, and distribution should not be in the hands of a single player. You should be able to play in one and one only of those areas. It would be very hard to make happen because of how little is left at the local level, but we can dream, right?

      Reply
  9. Nigel Spencer

    Dumb, dumber, dumbest and dumpster. If CTV wants to “out-cheap” the others, we don’t need them. Already, I watch mostly RDI and LCN for two distinct approaches to local news (and better journalistic standards). If anglophones in MTL are willing to take this stuff, they deserve what they get.

    Reply
  10. Bruce

    you can be sure Bell is watching very closely, CJAD and CTV sharing reporters, print reports to all media for on line platforms, national radio programming especially for dead spot slots during the day, evenings and overnight….more to come

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    The anglophone community in Quebec has been under siege since the 1970’s.
    Between the Quebec Liberal party and the Parti Quebecois, and now add the CAQ, Quebec politics has been chipping away at the anglophones community through provincial laws.

    But, I think the death blow will come from the Media companies based in Toronto. Not from Quebec City. The media companies, with the assistance of the CRTC, have gutted the english language media jobs in Quebec. And as such, have insured they this community will fade away.

    Thanks CRTC. This is the fruit of your policies of allowing too much media power in so few hands.

    Reply
  12. Brett

    Seems like the only non network owned stations are both owned by Jim Pattison Group in BC. Both happen to be CITYTV affiliates. We know that in major markets the major networks won’t let that happen. In smaller markets yes but unless the company has money none are willing to try.

    Reply

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