The industry pushed for some big changes in the policy, which has been a long time coming (the review of French music quotas started back in 2015 but was delayed in part because for a time the commission didn’t have enough francophone commissioners).
What they got was a lot of the same. Canadian and French-language content quotas are basically unchanged, local programming is still expected but not required, and stations still need to ask permission if they change between a mainly talk format and a mainly music format on FM. But there were a few changes that could make a big difference, in particular for stations in Montreal. Let’s get into them:
Jeremy White, the kid from Kahnawake who has been the evening host at The Beat 92.5 just about since its launch, is no longer at the station.
White tells me he left of his own accord and decided in November he didn’t want to work a shift that started at 7pm anymore, and the company wasn’t interested in letting him voice-track his show earlier in the day.
The Beat has already scrubbed all reference to him on its website and has the generic “MTL’s Perfect Mix” listed in his time slot.
Several people (including one of White’s former program directors at The Beat) have noted that White would seem to be a good fit for CHOM when you consider his more hard-rock musical tastes. But nothing has ever materialized on that front and there’s no indication anything ever will.
“The Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”
With that standard phrasing, the CRTC is once again threatening Montreal radio station CJWI 1410 AM (CPAM Radio Union) with revoking its licence over repeated failure to meet licence conditions.
The owners of the station, and two others in a similar situation (CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S., and CKVM-FM Ville-Marie, Que.) have been called to appear at a hearing on April 5 to explain why their licences should be renewed despite their repeated failures, including in their current licence terms.
The latest apparent failures (CJWI is still being given the chance to explain how they are still in compliance) relate to a regulation requiring they provide a “complete and accurate” list of all musical pieces played on the air, and a requirement that at least 35% of non-pop music played be Canadian.
In correspondence with the commission, CJWI blamed the former on software it was using that did not count musical selections played for less than 12 seconds, and blamed the latter on the difficulty of finding Canadian specialty music of interest to the Haitian community.
If CJWI is found to be in non-compliance again, it would be the fifth consecutive licence term in which the station is not complying with its licence conditions. And it would be the second consecutive licence term in which it has failed to comply with a mandatory order requiring it to respect the regulation about having a complete and accurate music list. These are very serious matters and the CRTC can’t just let them go and maintain credibility as a regulator.
But revoking CJWI’s licence, or refusing to renew it, might not be the best thing for the broadcasting system. There isn’t much demand for AM frequencies these days (1040 AM remains vacant) and this is the only station specifically serving the Haitian community.
In a separate but related application also being heard in this proceeding, CJWI is asking the CRTC for amendments to its conditions of licence regarding music quotas. Since the CRTC is saying it failed to meet those quotas, it is unlikely to grant such changes.
Other stations are also in front of the commission to have their licences renewed, but with less ominous stakes. They include Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA-FM 91.3) in Montreal, which the CRTC says failed to meet Canadian and French-language music quotas.
The CRTC is accepting comments on these files until Feb. 9. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.
After La Presse, the Montreal Gazette and countless other newspapers across Canada and around the world, the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec are becoming the latest to announce they’re reducing their print schedules.
They were among only four mainstream (English or French-language) newspapers in the country still publishing print edition seven days a week. The only ones still publishing after this will be the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun. Most others are either six days a week (Monday-Saturday), five days (Tuesday-Saturday) or something less often than that.
The Journals (their notes had virtually identical wording) promise additional content in their Saturday papers to carry them through the weekend. Other papers that dropped Sunday editions, like La Presse in 2009 and the Gazette in 2010, made similar moves. But having a slightly bigger Saturday edition doesn’t compensate for not having a Sunday one.
The move is kind of inevitable, and I’m surprised it took this long, frankly. Not only does laying out, printing and distributing a paper cost a lot these days, but with no other newspapers publishing on Sundays, the Journal de Montréal couldn’t share delivery costs with their competitors. (Many of the independent contractors delivering newspapers in Montreal deliver multiple papers simultaneously.)
The Journal made it a point of touting how it wasn’t abandoning print readers like its competitors were. Only three years ago, it had a slogan about how it was a “real newspaper.” But, as the editor’s note says, times have changed. Publisher Lyne Robitaille took swipes at the big tech giants, as many newspapers like to do these days, as well as CBC/Radio-Canada, which Quebecor has long considered an unfair competitor because of its government subsidies.
The truth is that this is a reflection of both changes in readership habits and changes in business models. A new federal government bill to somehow force Facebook and Google to pay newspapers may bring some money back into the industry, but don’t expect the Sunday newspaper to return. The economic fundamentals simply aren’t there anymore.
It’s the end of an era. And if something spectacular happens on a Saturday, you’ll need to wait until Monday morning to get a sheet of paper that announces it in a way that makes it feel real.
Seven years after the Sun News Network shut down, Canada once again has a fifth national news network in the eyes of the CRTC.
On Tuesday, the commission determined that The News Forum, a conservative low-budget news discussion channel that tries to be a bit more serious than Sun News was, can be classified as a national mainstream news network, and get the same class of licence as CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, RDI and LCN. The big perk of that licence class is that all licensed Canadian TV providers must now add The News Forum to their systems, offer it to their subscribers, and package it with other news services.
Subscribers are not forced to add the channel to their packages, but this will undoubtedly increase the total subscriber base, especially since not all Canadian providers have added TNF to their systems so far. (Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel have, but Cogeco and Videotron haven’t yet.) And more subscribers will mean more revenues, especially as this status gives TNF more power in negotiating wholesale rates with providers.
While the schedule has been adjusted, not much has changed with the channel. Looking at its YouTube channel, it’s still mainly talking heads having long conversations on various public affairs topics. There are no actual journalists or news stories per se, and the bent is still right-wing with former Conservative politicians like Tony Clement and Tanya Granic Allen hosting shows. And it relies very heavily on repeats to fill the schedule, with just a couple of hours of original programming a day, though they have added new shows recently.
There’s a chance that with some new revenue The News Forum could invest in its programming, hire journalists and start looking more like an all-news channel that provides an alternative to CTVNC and CBCNN. But with video views on YouTube in the single and double digits, it has a long way to go before attracting people’s attention.
If you’re a print subscriber to the Montreal Gazette, you didn’t get a copy delivered this morning.
It’s not an error, it was a choice by my employer Postmedia, which has also ended print distribution of Monday editions of the Sun and Province in Vancouver, Herald and Sun in Calgary, Journal and Sun in Edmonton, and Citizen and Sun in Ottawa.
“The decision reflects the rapidly changing news consumption habits of our readers, the needs of our advertisers and the escalating costs of printing and delivering a printed product,” wrote Gerry Nott, Senior Vice President, Editorial, in a note published in those newspapers.
It’s the end of an era: After years of Numeris (formerly BBM Canada) publishing a bare minimum of statistics on radio ratings in Canada’s five largest markets, it will now publish no data at all.
A statement on its website reads “Effective the start of the 2022-23 broadcast year (August 29, 2022), the Radio Topline Reports will no longer be produced. The final report will encompass the period ending on August 28, 2022.”
That report came out last week. It showed about the same as previous reports did, with CJAD 800 leading the pack on the anglophone side and 98.5 FM leading in French, as they always do.
Numeris (which is owned by the broadcasters) hasn’t explained why it made this decision. The result is that the only people who have access to even the most basic data will be those who are Numeris members — the broadcasters themselves as well as ad agencies and others who can afford the budget.
So we’re left to whatever (self-serving) statements they make about the ratings every three months. Fantastic.
Anyway, here’s what it looks like, one last time, for Montreal’s English market:
The 51-watt FM transmitter will be at 90.7 MHz, and very limited in its service area, including parts of Dorval, Beaconsfield, Kirkland and Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
Theoretical coverage area of a proposed retransmitter of CHRI-FM in Pointe-Claire
People in the rest of Montreal won’t be able to hear it, because of interference from CKUT 90.3 but more importantly another transmitter also on 90.7 FM in the Saint-Laurent borough.
In its decision, the commission noted that there isn’t an English-language religious radio station with Pointe-Claire in its primary service area. It also noted that there are other frequencies available that could serve Pointe-Claire, so this application would not exhaust available channels. (Montreal as a whole is saturated on FM, but there are still ways to cover parts of it on certain frequencies, though each new transmitter makes the task a bit harder.)
CHRI, which mainly broadcasts Christian music, has two years to implement the new transmitter, unless they request an extension. They have similar rebroadcasting transmitters already in Pembroke (100.7) and Cornwall (88.1), both of which are low-power. As rebroadcasting transmitters, they do not produce any original content and simply repeat the programming of the Ottawa main station, as the Pointe-Claire transmitter will.
In case you’ve been in a coma since Monday, you know that CTV News has ended its contract with Lisa LaFlamme, the chief anchor and senior editor of CTV National News.
Since then, every day has brought new revelations, questions and rumours about what happened and why. I have no original reporting on this, nor any insider knowledge or insight, but I do have a good sense of what reporting can be trusted as fact and what sizes of salt grains should be taken with the rest. So here’s my compilation of what’s been reported so far:
A few years after failing to sell the station, RNC Media is doubling — nay, tripling — down on its sports-talk station 91.9 Sports and expanding its content to two other stations: CFTX-FM 96.5/107.5 in Ottawa-Gatineau, and CHXX-FM 100.9 in Donnacona (Quebec City). Both are currently pop music stations branded as “Vibe” and will switch on Aug. 29, when all three stations become “BPM Sports”.
I spoke with Yves Bombardier, BPM’s program director, about the change, for this story at Cartt.ca. In short, he wants to expand the audience to those who wouldn’t normally listen to sports-talk radio. Bringing in people like former mayor Denis Coderre and former TSN 690 host Tony Marinaro as regular contributors will help with that.
The change has some challenges, beyond the usual ones involving staffing, scheduling and branding.
For one, CFTX and CHXX are both licensed as music stations, which means they must ensure at least 50% of their content is music. Bombardier tells me they will only run the morning, noon, afternoon drive and weekend morning shows from the network and be music the rest of the time, at least for now. An application to the CRTC will be forthcoming, either to allow an exception for game broadcasts to not count toward that 50%, or to switch the stations to a primarily talk format.
The other challenge is the lack of local content for either Gatineau or Quebec City. On evenings when there is no live event broadcast like a CF Montréal or Laval Rocket game, Jordan Boivin will host “La Tribune Capitale” from Quebec City on the network. Otherwise, all programming is coming from Montreal. There are no distinct local shows for Quebec City or Gatineau, and no journalists yet to cover their sports news (Bombardier wants to hire some, but there’s no date for when that would happen).
Until then, Boivin will cover Quebec City and contribute to other shows, while Gatineau will be covered by the teams at RNC-owned TVA affiliate CHOT and WOW Gatineau.
RNC’s announcement is here, and lists some of the new hires, including Paul Houde, fresh off losing his show at 98.5 FM (he said Wednesday he’s looking into getting his brother Pierre Houde to collaborate as well). He will host the weekend morning show.
As for Vibe, the two stations shared programming and had only four hosts. Patrice Nadeau announced he is moving to Quebec City sister station CHOI Radio X. I haven’t seen any public statements by the others, Camille Felton, Me?ghan Labrecque and Catherine (Peach) Paquin.
Six years after Radio Shalom, Montreal’s Jewish radio station, announced it was shutting down, and then kind of came back a bit, the company is planning to wind up operations and officially transfer the licence to Gospel Media Communications, which has effectively been running the station since.
On Tuesday, the CRTC posted an application by Communications Média Évangélique / Gospel Media Communications to acquire CKZW 1650 AM (formerly CJRS) from Radio Shalom for $0. The company is owned by André Joly, who also sits on Radio Shalom’s board.
According to the application, Radio Shalom’s board voted to approve the deal after CME had already acquired most of its assets and was subsidizing the station’s financial losses in addition to providing gospel programming.
The fact that Joly has been effectively running things for months if not years would normally trigger some questions from the commission about whether an effective transfer of control happened without approval, but the application states that the station was in contact with the commission about its activities.
One thing the CRTC will need to settle is tangible benefits, the tax new owners have to pay when they acquire radio stations. Both groups are non-profit, and the agreed upon purchase price for the licence is zero, but the commission suggested in a letter it may set a value of $309,125 for the purchase, which includes payments from CME to Radio Shalom as well as the value of leases that would be transferred.
According to an unaudited 2021 financial statement, Radio Shalom had $136,834 in net assets.
If the commission finds the sale has an actual value, Joly has agreed to pay tangible benefits of up to $18,548, representing the standard 6% of the value. But the company argues (as many other acquirers have in other purchase deals) that the CRTC should not consider the value of leases when calculating tangible benefits.
Once the sale is approved and closed, Radio Shalom as a corporate entity would be wound up.
The application does not include any statements about changes to the station’s programming after the sale.
The CRTC will hold a pro forma hearing (without any presentations) on the application Oct. 13 in Gatineau. Those who wish to comment on the proposed sale have until Sept. 1 to do so.
The News Forum, a low-budget conservative news-talk TV channel that last year got enough subscribers to require a broadcasting licence from the CRTC, is trying again to get the commission to force Canadian television distributors to offer the channel to their subscribers, less than two months after the commission denied their first attempt at this status.
In its decision in May approving the licence, the CRTC denied that status, saying “the Commission is not satisfied that The News Forum provides updated news reports every 120 minutes,” which is one of the criteria it set in its policy.
It left the door open to applying again for that status, once it shows it meets the criteria.
So now The News Forum is trying again, after providing an “updated schedule” showing “daily updates” every two hours from 6am to 8pm. (The schedule suggests they will start at five minutes and 30 seconds past every two hours, until 30 minutes past the hour, but I think they meant to say the updates would be five minutes long until 5:30 past the hour.)
A glance at its website and YouTube channel suggest little else has changed about The News Forum. It still doesn’t seem to employ any journalists besides the anchors, who read out news briefs to still images and then conduct interviews via video link.
But that wouldn’t necessarily preclude it from getting that status. The CRTC’s criteria related to programming are the following:
Providing news updates every 120 minutes
At least 90% Canadian programming
At least 16 hours a day original programming (first-run or repeated)
At least 95% of all programming from the following categories: News, analysis and interpretation, long-form documentary and reporting and actualities
No more than 12 minutes of advertising per hour
Operate a live broadcast facility and maintain news bureaus in at least three regions other than that of the live broadcast facility
“have the ability to report on international events from a Canadian perspective”
Like Sun News Network before it, TNF is fully original, though it relies heavily on repeat programming and much of that is opinion, which can be classified as “analysis and interpretation.”
The part about news bureaus and broadcast facilities might be a challenge for The News Forum. But it will be up to the commission to decide if it meets the criteria.
And even if it does get the status, no one has to subscribe to it (unless it’s in a package you want).
The CRTC is accepting comments on The News Forum’s application until Aug. 8. You can submit comments here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.
TSN 690 is shuffling its lineup after two high-profile and somewhat mysterious departures of midday hosts.
In February, the station was forced to let go of Chris Nilan after the former Canadiens player refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, in violation of a Bell Media policy. Then on May 27, Tony Marinaro resigned from his job as host of The Montreal Forum, later saying it was to focus his attention on a new sports podcast.
To fill both those holes, TSN has taken two hard-working veteran supporting characters — Sean Campbell and Mitch Gallo — and put them in the spotlight as a duo. The show, called Campbell vs. Gallo, debuts Monday, June 20. It will run from 10am to 2pm, with Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show shifted an hour earlier to run 2-6.
It was 12 years ago that the group that would become TTP Media first came on the scene.
It was a little less than 10 years ago that the group was given its second licence by the CRTC, for an English-language station at 600 AM that it promised would be a news-talk station to rival CJAD.
It was five years ago this month that CFQR 600 went on the air from its restored transmission site in Kahnawake (formerly used by Cogeco for 940 News and Info 690).
But finally, on June 13, 2022, the station CJAD’s critics have been waiting for is on the air. Sort of.
Late last week, Mike Cohen at the Suburban broke the news that the station would be launching its first program, a weekday morning show hosted by Jim Connell, on Monday. The station also promised a website at the same time, and one is now active at cfqr600.com. The station also has a Facebook page.
From what’s published so far, here’s what we know about CFQR 600 (no relation to the former CFQR-FM, which is now The Beat 92.5):
The morning show, called “Mornings Matter”, will run 6-9am weekdays.
The station’s programming will feature “regular news updates” and music from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
… That’s about it. Though an on-air teaser promises “much more in the weeks ahead.”
Connell’s involvement is not surprising. A former on-air star of 940 News (and the various ways it was rebranded until it was shut down in 2010), he was part of TTP Media’s presentation to the CRTC a decade ago about their plans for a station. When they took forever to get it off the ground, he took a job at Global Montreal helping it launch its morning show. He stayed for three years, and it’s been seven years since then, just to give you an idea how long this has taken.
CFQR’s website, while active, is pretty bare-bones, with a listen link and a contact form. The station has a phone number, 514-470-0600, and promises apps to listen on iOS and Android devices. An address listed on the website is the address of co-owner Nicholas Tétreault’s real estate office on Highway 520 in St-Laurent.
Partner Rajiv Pancholy tells me there aren’t elaborate plans for Day 1.
The first show
“This is Day 1 of a grand experiment,” Connell said as he began Monday’s show. He didn’t do much else in terms of introducing himself or the station, instead talking about what’s going on in the news.
About 15 minutes later, the first talk break, which focused mainly on sports headlines:
The newscasts are running every half hour, with a shorter break between them. Otherwise it’s music, mainly from the 1980s, with artists like Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Estefan.
It’s Day 1, so this is far from the final product. But if this is what people were hoping for as an alternative to CJAD, it’s not there yet, unless what they really wanted was a low-budget throwback hits music station.
Besides Connell’s show, there isn’t much content on the station yet. I haven’t heard a single ad, and newscasts during the rest of the day come from The Canadian Press.
On the English side, CJAD remains the #1 station, but for the first time since the meter rating system came into place, it has dropped below 10,000 average minute listeners. This seems to be continuing a downward trend for CJAD over the past five years.
Is this because fewer people are interested in news-talk radio? Maybe not, because CBC’s audience has grown slightly on average over that time, and French station 98.5 FM is once again boasting that it’s not only the most popular station in Montreal but in Canada as well.
Among the other stations, not that much has changed. The Beat remains number 2, followed by CBC Radio One (though it has come down a bit from that spike in fall 2021), CHOM and then Virgin Radio. It’s been almost three years since Virgin blew up its morning show and installed Vinny and Shannon as the new hosts, and despite Bell-owned billboards all over the city with their faces on them, the station’s overall ratings remain below what they were before they were brought on board.
TSN 690, meanwhile, continues to hold its own despite the poor showing of the Canadiens this season and lukewarm interest in the city’s other sports teams. Notably, it still has an overall audience above French-language sports station 91.9 Sports, which makes some recent decisions even more of a head-scratcher.
Among other French stations, not much to note, except at Énergie, which must be happy with its best audience in years. Its 8.7% share among francophones was the highest since 2013.
In Quebec City, Radio-Canada takes top spot over the populist talk stations with a 22.9% share at ICI Première. It’s followed by CHOI Radio X (17%), FM93 (15.9%), Rythme 102,9 (7.6%), WKND 91,9 (7.5%) and Rouge 107,5 (6.4%). CBC Radio One trails the pack with a 0.3% share.
In Sherbrooke, Radio-Canada again leads the pack with a 21.4% share, followed by Rouge (15.9%), Énergie (14.2%), 107,7 (13.3%) and Rythme (7.8%).
In Trois-Rivières, again Radio-Canada leads with a 14.4% share, with Bell’s Rouge and Énergie neck and neck for second place and Rythme in third.
In Ottawa-Gatineau, among francophones, Radio-Canada is well ahead with a 21% share, followed by Rouge, Wow, talk station 104,7, Énergie and ICI Musique.