Category Archives: Media

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

News about news

Continue reading

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.

At the CBC

Ethical reviews

TV

Radio

Print

Online

Other

News about people

Obituaries

Good reads

Upcoming events

Jobs

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.

Timeline

  • 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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

News about news

Continue reading

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*

Corus:

  • 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)

Radio-Canada:

  • ICI Radio-Canada télé
  • ICI ARTV
  • ICI Explora
  • ICI RDI

Other public and non-profit broadcasters:

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

Media News Digest: RTDNA noms, paywalls going up, National Post union drive fails by one vote

News about news

Continue reading

Cogeco Media to acquire 10 of RNC Media’s 15 radio stations

RNC Media is vastly decreasing its role as a major radio broadcaster, and has agreed to sell 10 of its 15 radio stations to competitor Cogeco for $18.5 million.

Affected stations are:

  • Planète 104.5 in Alma
  • Planète 93.5 in Chibougamau
  • Planète 99.5 in Roberval
  • Planète 100.3 in Dolbeau-Mistassini
  • Radio X 95.7 in Saguenay (repeater at 96.3 Alma)
  • Capitale Rock 104.3 in Val-d’Or
  • Capitale Rock 102.1 in La Sarre (repeater at 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda)
  • WOW 96.5 in Rouyn-Noranda (repeaters at 103.5 Val d’Or and 103.9 La Sarre)
  • Pop 104.9 in Lachute
  • Pop 102.1 in Hawkesbury

The sale leaves RNC Media with five stations in its three largest markets:

  • CKLX-FM (91,9 Sports) in Montreal
  • CHOI-FM (Radio X) in Quebec City
  • CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) in Donnacona (serving Quebec City, repeater at 105.5 Lotbinière)
  • CFTX-FM (Pop 96.5) In Gatineau (repeater at 107.5 Buckingham)
  • CHLX-FM (Wow 97.1) in Gatineau

Cogeco already has two French-language FM stations in Montreal and Quebec City, which means there was no point in Cogeco acquiring them. It has one station (CKOF-FM 104,7) in Gatineau. The acquired stations will be its first in the Saguenay and Abitibi regions.

RNC Media also owns TVA and V affiliates in Gatineau and Abitibi-Témiscamingue. It recently announced it was shutting down its Radio-Canada affiliate in Abitibi, CKRN. RNC said the Montreal, Quebec and Gatineau stations were “not on the market.”

The sale requires approval by the CRTC before it can proceed. Because of the CRTC’s 6% tangible benefits tax on radio station sales, we can expect a package of $1.11 million in contributions to Canadian content development funds, community radio funds or other independent broadcasting initiatives. We should also expect some of these stations to join Cogeco’s network brands, particularly Rythme FM.

Continue reading

Global Montreal splits evening news in two

Global Montreal this week made a small change to its weekday schedule, swapping the second half-hour of its evening newscast with Global National. So as of this week, the evening news works like this:

  • 5:30: Local news
  • 6:00: Global National
  • 6:30: Local news
  • 7:00: ET Canada

As far as I can tell, this is the only Global station to do this so far. Okay, there are some counterexamples in the comments.

I watched three of the five newscasts this week to see how the new format works. The two newscasts are virtually identical, with the same stories (sometimes repackaged differently), same weather segments (literally the same prerecorded segments played again for the second newscast), and same stories taken from other Global stations to fill the schedule.

A typical 5:30 or 6:30 newscast comes down to roughly this:

  • A minute-long intro
  • 10-12 minutes of local news (four packaged or live reports, plus 2-5 briefs)
  • A minute-long weather segment (pretaped with the weather presenter in Toronto)
  • Commercial break
  • One or two stories from another Global station or a U.S. news source
  • Commercial break
  • A three-minute weather segment
  • Closing market numbers
  • Teaser to a local story being discussed on Facebook
  • Commercial break
  • More briefs, a promo for Morning News, and either a promo for Global National (during the 5:30 newscast) or a two-minute ET Canada promo that doubles as entertainment news (during the 6:30)

On average:

  • 12m15s local news
  • 3 min non-local news
  • 4m15s weather
  • 15 sec business
  • 2m30s promos, bumpers and other filler

There’s no duplication with Global National, so this new schedule means you can sit down for an hour starting at 5:30, or an hour starting at 6. It also means that people who get home after 6pm can still catch a local newscast (though CTV’s newscast does a top stories recap at the top of the half-hour).

The Global Montreal news team has also expanded by two, hiring away Kalina Laframboise from CBC as a web producer and Cora MacDonald from City as a photojournalist. MacDonald had been hired at City Montreal for their new newscast, but that hasn’t even launched yet. No news about it has been announced.

Media News Digest: Pulitzer winners, BNN radio in Vancouver, farewell Carl Kasell

News about news

Continue reading

Eight proposals to replace OMNI

Updated April 20 with a clarification from Rogers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has released eight applications for national ethnic television services, and set a hearing for Oct. 15 to discuss which of them would be the best candidate to replace OMNI.

Last year, the commission caved to OMNI’s demand that it be given mandatory subscription fees from all television subscribers, under the threat of surrendering the licence and leaving the country without a multilingual TV service offering newscasts. But in giving in, the CRTC also set a limit of three years (until Aug. 31, 2020) and said that it would ask other broadcasters if they had better proposals for such a mandatory ethnic service, and consider them at a future hearing.

On Tuesday, the CRTC released eight applications, seven for TV services (including OMNI’s proposal for renewing its status) and one for an ethnic described video guide. Each makes proposals for multilingual programming including national newscasts and proposes a mandatory monthly fee.

I analyzed the nearly 200 documents submitted for the eight applications and below present an analysis of the applicants, proposals and programming:

Continue reading

Media News Digest: CTV Vancouver anchors fired, La Gatineau paper shuts down, Monique Lacombe leaves CBC

News about news

Continue reading

Sportsnet keeps Jets playoff games off CBC

The Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s team. Or at least the CBC’s.

That much has been made abundantly clear this season. Every Saturday night, if the Leafs are playing, they’re on CBC (except when CBC was broadcasting the Olympics). With a market that encompasses a third of Canada’s population, it makes sense that this team would get more attention, but the one-sidedness has been particularly striking.

Habs fans too cheap to pay for Sportsnet have been complaining the past couple of seasons that Canadiens games on Hockey Night in Canada have been punted to Sportsnet rather than broadcast on free TV channels CBC or City. Sportsnet has admitted this was done mainly to drive subscriptions to Sportsnet.

And as the NHL playoffs begin tonight, and CBC devoting its entire primetime schedule to hockey, it seems they’re doing it again, this time to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets and Leafs are the only two Canadian teams to make the playoffs, and even though their games both start at 7pm ET (6pm in Winnipeg, but in the playoffs you need to be either an early game or a late game), not a single one of the up to 14 games involving the two teams overlap — they’re all scheduled on different nights.

But there won’t be any Jets games on CBC, at least not until Game 5 and likely not until next round at the earliest. Instead, all Leafs games will be broadcast on CBC but all Jets games are on Sportsnet. And while the Jets are on Sportsnet, CBC viewers will get to watch the all-American Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series instead. Even those in Winnipeg.

I asked Sportsnet about the decision, and this was the response I got:

As you can imagine, there are numerous factors taken into consideration when coordinating the broadcast schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case, with two series featuring Canadian teams in the first round, the decision was made that Sportsnet and CBC would each have the opportunity to broadcast one of those two series. Winnipeg is a key priority for Sportsnet and Sportsnet is thrilled to be broadcasting the entire Jets series to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

In other words, the Jets are on Sportsnet because Sportsnet wanted a Canadian series. Which sounds reasonable (similar to how CBC and TSN split playoff series before the Sportsnet/NHL deal) until you remember that Sportsnet controls the CBC broadcast as well.

So why keep the Jets off CBC during a time when lots of casual fans might tune in, and Sportsnet is looking to maximize ratings?

Because of money. Of the 82 regular-season Jets games, 60 are on TSN3. Casual Jets fans in Manitoba don’t have much incentive to subscribe to Sportsnet if they’re not otherwise interested in sports. So Sportsnet is hoping to drive subscriptions from those potential fans, even if it means many fans just won’t watch the games and they’ll lose potential ad revenue.

But, of course, that logic doesn’t apply to the Leafs. The Leafs are so popular that ad revenue is more important than subscription revenue. So the Leafs get CBC.

On one hand, Manitoba Jets fans should just subscribe to Sportsnet (it’s available over-the-top for $25 a month). On the other hand, this definitely does feel like a middle finger to a market that has had to suffer for a long time, and hasn’t seen a playoff game win in more than 20 years.

TVA Sports, by the way, is also not giving priority to the Jets. Of the first four matches, three will be broadcast on TVA Sports 2 because of conflicts with Flyers-Penguins or Capitals-Blue Jackets.

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday with the Jets and Wild playing at 7pm on Sportsnet. The Leafs and Bruins play Game 1 on Thursday at 7pm on CBC. For channel assignments for these and other series, see sportsnet.ca/schedule.