Category Archives: Media

Rogers kneecaps Corus, stealing Canadian rights to HGTV and Food Network

If you’re a fan of lifestyle channels like HGTV and Food Network in Canada, things are going to change dramatically as of January 2025, when Rogers acquires the Canadian rights to those brands, along with the Cooking Channel, Investigation Discovery and more.

Rogers announced this morning as part of its fall preview announcements that it has signed a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal to become the Canadian home to Warner’s factual and lifestyle brands as of January, and NBC’s Bravo as of September.

These deals include both the Canadian rights to those brands as well as to U.S. programming of those networks.

A complete list of brands isn’t included in the announcement, but Corus confirms these brands are affected:

  • HGTV
  • Food Network
  • Cooking Channel
  • Magnolia Network
  • OWN

Children’s brands like Adult Swim and Cartoon Network are not affected by this announcement.

Warner also owns the following Discovery brands with Canadian versions managed by Bell Media:

  • Discovery Channel
  • Animal Planet
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Science Channel (Discovery Science)
  • Motor Trend (Discovery Velocity)

So what does this mean for those channels? Well, it’s unclear, actually. When I asked about this, a Bell Media spokesperson at first said “it’s business as usual,” but followed up Monday evening with this statement:

Bell Media is Canada’s foremost media company, with industry-leading assets across every content genre. Our long-standing partnership, content, and brand arrangements for the Discovery Canada channels includes protections against the launch of competing services. We fully intend to assert our rights with a view to protecting our business.

Cartt.ca noticed that in its upfront announcement last week, Bell Media avoided using Discovery brands and referred to some series as being only on “Bell Media Specialty Channel”.

Bravo used to also be a Canadian channel until Bell rebranded it CTV Drama in 2019. Rogers says it will launch a new Canadian Bravo channel, though I’m waiting to hear if their plan is to create a new TV channel or rebrand an existing one like OLN.

For HGTV, Food and Cooking, it gets a bit more complicated. Not only does Corus have channels by those names, but it has a lot of the U.S. programming on those Canadian channels. On top of that, the Canadian channels of HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Magnolia are about 16-19% owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

Corus quietly issued a vaguely-worded statement on Friday saying some “programming and trademark output arrangements” wouldn’t be renewed. But it says Corus intends to “continue operating the country’s largest and most widely distributed lifestyle channels based on the strength of top-rated Canadian programs and alternate foreign content supply.”

This will likely mean the channels we know as HGTV, Food Network and Cooking Channel will rebrand as of January, and while some Canadian content will remain the same, the U.S. shows associated with them will move to Rogers-owned channels.

Rogers doesn’t have enough specialty channel licences to rebrand into all these, so assuming they go ahead with linear channels, it would require new licences. Thankfully, the CRTC allows new channels to launch without prior approval. They just have to apply for a licence once they hit 200,000 subscribers (which probably won’t take long).

Broadcast Dialogue reports Rogers saying “distribution details are still being finalized with an eye to a mix of linear and streaming options.”

Corus blames the change on “inequitable structural relationships in the Canadian media and telecom industries, particularly affecting independent broadcasters like Corus.”

In other words, since Rogers bought Shaw (whose family still owns Corus), Rogers has deeper pockets and more power to acquire these kinds of rights. Meanwhile Corus, which no longer has the deep pockets of a cable giant, has to get by as an independent now.

This kind of change could be potentially life-threatening for Corus. If it loses its audience to the same brands it and its predecessors have spent decades building, the loss of subscription and ad revenue could not only devastate Corus’s lifestyle brands, but the Global network as well. (Corus is still waiting for the CRTC to authorize Global to access the Independent Local News Fund, since Rogers took away its cross-subsidy funding from Shaw to redirect it to Citytv stations.)

The markets would seem to agree. Corus’s stock fell 29% on Monday, to an all-time low of 34 cents per share. As recently as 2022 it was worth 10 times that.

Back when Corus did this

There is some precedent for this kind of change, and ironically it was Corus doing the stealing that time. In 2015, after DHX Media (now WildBrain) acquired Family Channel, Disney Jr. and Disney XD out of the Bell Media/Astral deal, Corus announced it had signed a deal with Disney for Canadian rights to its children’s channel brands. DHX rebranded the channels to Family Jr. and Télémagino, while Corus launched new channels under the Disney Channel, Disney Jr. and Disney XD brands. DHX had to find non-Disney children’s content to fill their schedule.

Now Corus will get a taste of that medicine, only on a larger and more expensive scale.

UPDATE (June 17): Corus’s CEO has left the company in the wake of this news (and its dramatic impact on Corus’s stock price), effective immediately. Troy Reeb and John Gossling will act as co-CEOs.

CRTC approves new country music station in Joliette on 107.9 FM

Arsenal Media is still growing. On Monday, the CRTC approved its application for a new French-language country music station in Joliette, which will act as a sister station to its O103.5 there.

The new station will be branded Hit Country, using a format Arsenal has used in stations in Lac-Mégantic, Beauce, Saguenay and Plessisville.

The transmitter will be at 107.9 MHz, and 25kW. According to one document in its application, Arsenal is looking at using the callsign CJOL-FM for the station.

Theoretical listening area of Arsenal Media’s new FM station in Joliette. Areas in purple would expect interference from WVPS in Vermont.

The frequency chosen, effectively the only one remaining suitable for the station, might be frustrating for some listeners of Vermont Public’s radio station WVPS, broadcasting from the top of Mount Mansfield and getting a decent signal into the Montreal area.

For listeners in and around Joliette, the new country station will effectively replace Vermont Public on that frequency. For those further south, including in Montreal, it might depend on which direction you or your antenna is facing, and you could find yourself listening to both.

Because WVPS is an American station, it does not have any protection north of the border. A Canadian station can stomp all over its signal, provided it does not interfere with reception in the U.S.

Also on Monday, the CRTC approved an application by Radio Nord-Joli, owner of French-language community station CFNJ-FM in nearby St-Gabriel-de-Brandon. They proposed to replace the St-Gabriel station with one in Joliette, on the same 99.1 FM frequency, while keeping a retransmitter in St-Zénon. This follows the denial of an application to extend the St-Gabriel transmitter’s coverage area to include Joliette, which the commission found to be a back door to setting up a Joliette station.

Rogers sells off Monday Night Hockey to Amazon

Rogers announced Thursday it has sold off the exclusive rights to Monday Night Hockey to Amazon, meaning for the next two seasons, national Monday night games during the regular season will be exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Rogers talks about how “thrilled” it is with the announcement, but this deal doesn’t help Sportsnet with audiences, it’s about whatever money Amazon is paying Rogers for these rights.

Rogers famously spent $5.2 billion for the national rights to NHL games for 12 years (2014-2026), and has since learned it overpaid for those rights. It gets some money back from sublicensing French rights to TVA Sports, and now it’s getting more back from Amazon with this deal.

With Mondays exclusive to Amazon, Rogers retains exclusive national windows on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights, as well as all NHL playoff games. Regional rights are unaffected.

There aren’t many details on what Amazon NHL games will look like, except that they won’t be Sportsnet productions and will have new broadcast teams.

This is the first time a streaming service has acquired exclusive broadcast rights to NHL games in Canada, and in that sense Rogers is right in calling it a “milestone” rights deal. Amazon hopes to use Monday night games involving Canadian teams to push hockey fans to become Amazon Prime Video subscribers.

The deal could be a bit of a boost for TVA Sports, whose rights aren’t covered in the agreement. If the network airs Canadian NHL games on Monday nights, it could see some tuning from anglophone NHL fans who don’t want to subscribe to Amazon.

For reference, last season Sportsnet had a total of 27 national Monday night hockey games. Here were the number for each Canadian team during the 2023-24 season:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 7 games
  • Montreal Canadiens: 5 games
  • Winnipeg Jets: 5 games
  • Ottawa Senators: 4 games
  • Vancouver Canucks: 3 games
  • Calgary Flames: 2 games
  • Edmonton Oilers: 2 games

The Globe and Mail reports Amazon will get 26 games per season as part of the deal.

The rumour of Rogers selling rights to Amazon was first reported by YYZ Sports Media on April 1.

The Supreme Court, “person with a vagina” and knee-jerk outrage culture

Did the Supreme Court of Canada ban the use of the word “woman” because it’s gotten too woke?

Reading the coverage of a recent decision, you might be justified in thinking that’s the case. It’s not, of course. A simple reading of the decision would confirm that by any reasonable analysis. But even when presented with the facts, the people who cranked the outrage machine insist they’re right.

Which is a bit concerning because they’re all people who work or have worked as journalists for mainstream media.

The decision in question is called R. v. Kruk, and dated March 8 (coincidentally, International Women’s Day). But the outrage circus started March 13 when the National Post published its daily opinion newsletter from Tristin Hopper, titled “Supreme Court decision opts for ‘person with a vagina’ over ‘woman'”. It starts as follows:

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a recent sexual assault case that it was “problematic” for a lower court judge to refer to the alleged victim as a “woman,” implying that the more appropriate term should have been “person with a vagina.”

In a decision published Friday, Justice Sheilah Martin wrote that a trial judge’s use of the word “a woman” may “have been unfortunate and engendered confusion.”

Martin does not specify why the word “woman” is confusing, but the next passage in her decision refers to the complainant as a “person with a vagina.” Notably, not one person in the entire case is identified as transgender, and the complainant is referred to throughout as a “she.”

Right-wing and clickbait social media accounts and websites and even news media pounced on Hopper’s interpretation of the decision, as did Journal de Montréal columnist Richard Martineau, who wrote in a column published the next day that “Il n’y a plus de femmes au Canada!” (There’s no more women in Canada!)

Martineau repeats the two key points of Hopper’s analysis, that the Supreme Court ruled a lower court’s use of the word “woman” was problematic, and that the Supreme Court says judgments should instead say “person with a vagina.”

Martineau’s column, in turn, prompted Martine Biron, Quebec’s minister responsible for the status of women, to present an emergency motion in the National Assembly condemning the Supreme Court’s words. Co-signed by Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Liberal MNA André Morin and independent (formerly Liberal) MNA Marie-Claude Nichols, it passed unanimously.

There’s just one problem. That stuff about the Supreme Court finding a problem with the word “woman”, and saying courts should use “person with a vagina” instead? It’s not true.

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Lite 106.7 drops Ted Bird

People who tuned in to 106.7 in Hudson/St-Lazare this morning to listen to the Terry and Ted show were disappointed and possibly confused that the show wasn’t on today.

Ted Bird confirmed to me today he is no longer employed by the station, and said it was the decision of owner Evanov Communications. The weekday morning show is listed on the station’s website without a host, and the Saturday morning Terry and Ted show has also been removed from the schedule. DiMonte also confirmed on social media that show is not returning.

The news of Bird’s departure is a bit surprising as it was only in January that Evanov began carrying Bird’s show on its Ottawa station at 98.5.

Bird joined CHSV-FM, then Jewel 106.7 when it launched in 2015 as the first English-language radio station serving the western off-island region. That ended five years of bouncing around local radio stations after Bird left CHOM-FM in a dispute with management. He worked at K103 in Kahnawake, TSN 690 and KIC 89.9 before landing at the Hudson station.

The Terry and Ted podcast Standing By is a separate venture and will go on. Bird says they’re recording Season 7 in April.

As for a new job, there are always options out there, but “I think I’m done with radio,” he says.

Bell’s MTV2 becomes latest casualty of specialty channel decline

If you’re a subscriber of Bell Media’s MTV2 channel, you may have already received a notice that the channel is being shut down at the end of March.

The shutdown is not too surprising. It was on my list of endangered channels along with ESPN Classic and Yoopa, which have seen dramatic declines in subscribers and advertising in recent years.

According to the latest CRTC data for the 2021-22 broadcast year, MTV2 had about 750,000 subscribers (including zero satellite TV subscribers), about $215,000 in total advertising revenue, and had cut expenses by 84% in four years to try to shrink itself back into profitability.

Billed as “the ultimate destination for Canada’s 12-24s”, the channel currently runs marathons of reality shows like The Real World, Teen Mom, Catfish, Geordie Shore and Canadian filler shows Cash Cab and Comedy Now!

The channel began service in 2001 during the digital specialty channel explosion, originally as Craig Media-owned MTV Canada, then rebranded to Razer and finally to MTV2. MTV still exists as a separate Bell Media channel under a separate licence, though Bell hasn’t done much more to promote that channel than it did MTV2, and it was also bleeding money according to CRTC data.

UPDATE (May 6): The CRTC has revoked the channel’s licence at Bell’s request.

Natasha Hall, Mose Persico, Lise McAuley among Bell Media cuts in Montreal

Updated March 24 with more details.

Two weeks after BCE announced it was abolishing 4,800 jobs, we’re starting to learn how those losses are trickling down to the local level.

In Montreal, CTV News was hit hard. The station’s website confirms weather presenter Lise McAuley, assignment editor Derek Conlon and production assistant and movie reviewer Mosé Persico no longer work for the company. That’s decades of experience with CFCF gone.

Director Yves Marion and producer Helen Michailidis have also left the organization.

This doesn’t mean they were all let go. In fact, a source within CTV Montreal tells me most of them took voluntary retirement packages instead. (Persico confirms this was the case for him.)

CTV News also lost Montreal-based national reporter Vanessa Lee. There’s no official list nationally, but correspondent Judy Trinh notes some names gone at CTV National News. It includes Kevin Gallagher, who was formerly a local reporter with CTV Montreal.

On the radio side, CJAD cut afternoon co-host Natasha Hall and Trivia Show co-host Dan Laxer is also gone. The loss of Hall isn’t entirely unexpected — a schedule shuffle in 2021 to incorporate more unoriginal programming on the schedule meant merging her show with Aaron Rand’s and making them co-hosts. This made one of them an easier cut in the next round of layoffs.

Rand, no stranger to having to carry on after his co-hosts get fired, paid tribute to Hall in a Facebook post, calling her “a smart, talented, and a consummate radio professional who didn’t deserve this outcome.”

With Laxer’s departure, Ken Connors is listed as the sole host of the Sunday morning Trivia Show.

I haven’t seen any cuts at CHOM, Virgin Radio or TSN Radio in Montreal. Despite the sword of Damocles seeming to dangle above TSN 690’s head, the station itself seems to have survived the latest round of cuts.

As announced with the news of the layoffs, CTV has cancelled noon newscasts at local stations outside Toronto, as well as news on holidays. CTV Montreal’s weekend newscasts survived the cut, along with Ottawa and Toronto, but other CTV stations have seen those newscasts cut as well.

UPDATE: Persico has already announced a new gig to keep him busy: Host of the afternoon drive show on ethnic station Mike FM 105.1 starting April 1. The announcement confirms his Mose at the Movies segments will move to Mike FM’s platforms.

Jon Stewart is coming back to The Daily Show, but it’s not coming back to CTV

For those of you who miss the good ol’ days of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is the old host is coming back. Stewart will host the show Mondays during this presidential election cycle, starting Feb. 12, and be an executive producer.

The bad news is the show isn’t coming back to CTV or CTV Comedy. Paramount confirms the show’s Canadian rights will remain with the Paramount+ streaming service, where it had moved since the end of the writers strike.

The show will be available on Paramount+ the day after it airs on Comedy Central.

Many Canadians (including myself) were confused when they heard the show had resumed production in October but CTV continued airing The Big Bang Theory reruns at 12:05am weekdays. Bell Media would only say it no longer had the rights to the show.

Then Paramount+, a service few Canadians have heard of much less subscribe to, announced it was adding The Daily Show last month. But within weeks, the show disappeared from there too. Paramount told me it’s because they weren’t producing new episodes at the time. (Why they couldn’t have archived episodes available is unclear.)

Today’s news confirms that even with Stewart’s return, the show won’t be widely available in Canada. Paramount+, which also includes Yellowstone, Yellowstone spinoffs, a bunch of series you’ve never heard of and that Sylvester Stallone project you may have seen ads for, costs $10/month directly, or through Apple TV+ or Amazon Prime Video.

Bell Media has complained recently to the CRTC and others that big U.S. streaming services are unfairly competing for Canadian rights to shows, making it harder for Bell to make money. It used the example of Star Trek, which is also owned by Paramount. Though CTV and Space/CTV Sci-Fi has been Star Trek’s home since the days of The Next Generation, expect future Trek series to be exclusive to Paramount+ in Canada. (The service already has all the Star Trek series, but for now at least those rights are mostly non-exclusive.)

PWHL’s TV deals are a win for fans

As I’m writing this, the Professional Women’s Hockey League is playing its first regular-season game, featuring Toronto and New York (they don’t have names yet) at Mattamy Athletic Centre (aka the old Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto.

There were a lot of unanswered questions in the months leading up to this launch. Some, like names and logos, remain unanswered, but the league understandably wanted to get the players actually playing as soon as possible.

One thing that worried me was television coverage. You’re not going to build a fanbase if the fans can’t watch you play. And as the weeks went on without news, I started to get worried. Surely they can’t start the season without a broadcaster, can they?

On Dec. 20, I noticed that TSN had added “Hockey TBA” to its schedule coinciding with the first three PWHL games of the season, and RDS had added a “TBA” for Montreal’s first game. Then I saw Sportsnet added a game to Sportsnet One, and CBC put the inaugural game on its schedule.

The press releases only came out Dec. 29, three days before puck drop and in the middle of that news dead zone between Christmas and New Year’s. It confirmed that rights to the league would be shared between the networks:

  • 34 games on TSN, of which seven will be only on the TSN+ premium streaming service
  • 17 games on Sportsnet
  • 18 games on CBC, though most of those will be streaming-only. CBC will also air some games at 1:30am after Hockey Night in Canada.
  • 16 Montreal games on RDS
  • 8 Montreal games on Radio-Canada’s Ici Tou.tv
  • 24 New York games on MSG Networks
  • 24 Boston games on NESN (or NESN+)

No deal was announced for Minnesota games, so hopefully someone steps up soon to bring games to those fans. The deals allow for out-of-market broadcasts (MSG and NESN are regional networks) so hopefully other U.S. regional networks pick up rights to bring women’s hockey to their fans.

I compiled a full PWHL season schedule for Montreal for the Gazette. All 24 games will be available in at least one language, though three of them will be online-only in both.

This could have ended several other ways. The PWHL could have tried to launch its own paid streaming service, or signed an exclusive deal with one broadcaster. Instead, the first game is on three competing networks and all games are available on YouTube (the PWHL promises no geoblocking so people in other countries can watch the league through the world’s most accessible video streaming platform).

They’re probably not getting a lot of money out of these deals, if any, but right now what’s important is getting fans invested, and this is a good step toward that goal.

Montreal Gazette returns to being The Gazette after 9 years as a blue square

Two newspapers, one with a blue square "Montreal Gazette" logo on the front and the other with an Old English-style "The Gazette" logo

The Montreal Gazette’s front page, before (left) and after (right)

The Gazette is The Gazette again.

On Thursday, my employer brought back the familiar Old English-style logo that had graced its cover for decades (until Postmedia’s 2014 design changes that unified layout styles in broadsheets across the country). Friday’s paper was the first with the old logo, combined with a large Aislin cartoon to mark the occasion.

An editor’s note that appears in a wrap around Friday’s edition and was also posted online says the change “is more than symbolic, and serves as a powerful reminder that although the journalism of today is different than in generations past — and even though we tell stories using digital tools that would never have been imaginable in the 18th century — our high standards and promise to seek the truth remain the same.”

Postmedia also issued a press release on the matter. The rebrand (unrebrand?) comes with a new tagline: “There with you then. Here with you now” — which gets added to a long list of Gazette marketing slogans including “The English Language, daily.” “The Gazette IS Montreal” and “Words matter.”

Besides the logo, and a reconfiguration of the skyboxes to fit its new shape, the paper is the same as it was on Thursday. But there’s a bit of a morale boost among its staff.

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The Daily Show disappears from Canada after CTV drops it (UPDATED)

If you’re like me, you missed late-night shows during the U.S. writers and actors strikes. And though you moved on to other things during the summer, you were looking forward to seeing topical comedy again when they came back.

You might have tuned to CTV at 12:05am and seen another Big Bang Theory rerun and wondered how long it would be until The Daily Show resumed production. And then you might have been confused when you learned they had been producing new episodes for weeks.

Unfortunately, you won’t be seeing The Daily Show again on CTV, or CTV Comedy, any time soon. Bell Media has dropped the show.

When I asked about it, this is the entirety of the response I received from Bell:

I can confirm that Bell Media is no longer carrying THE DAILY SHOW.

I didn’t get a reply to follow-up questions, including the obvious “why?”

A convenient hole-filler

The existence of The Daily Show on CTV, and its popularity among Canadians, probably has as much to do with a scheduling quirk as anything else.

For decades, CTV’s schedule in most markets consists of prime-time programming mainly imported from the U.S. between 8 and 11pm, followed by CTV National News until 11:30 and then late local news until 12:05am. Because the CRTC set Canadian content rules defining prime time as 6pm-12am, the schedule made sense from a regulatory perspective. The more Canadian content (including news) you put in 6-8pm and 11pm-12am, the more U.S. imports you can put in 8-11pm.

After midnight, the rules are different and U.S. imports can come back in. But the two big late-night shows, NBC’s The Tonight Show and CBS’s The Late Show, both start at 11:35pm. ABCs Jimmy Kimmel Live started at midnight but now it too has moved to 11:35.

As a half-hour show, The Daily Show could fill a gap between the 12:05am end of the local news and the 12:35am start of the late-late shows. And during the post-9/11 Jon Stewart era, it gained popularity in both countries.

Now, for whatever reason, Bell has decided it no longer makes sense. Not because schedules have changed, but probably because of money.

The Daily Show isn’t what it was under Stewart. Besides Stewart himself, top talent have moved on to other shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Since Trevor Noah’s departure a year ago, it has had a parade of fill-in hosts.

Meanwhile, The Big Bang Theory is cheap and reruns are very popular in Canada. So for now, at least, CTV is going in that direction.

The Daily Show wasn’t part of CTV’s fall schedule announcement in the summer, which means the decision not to keep it probably dates to at least then.

Where can I watch it?

So if CTV no longer has the rights to the Daily Show, where can Canadians watch it?

The short answer is you can’t. At least not yet. It’s not on a competing network, it’s not on Netflix or Amazon. Your only option to watch it legally is to buy individual episodes on Apple TV.

UPDATE: Thanks to Chris for pointing this out — Paramount+ Canada is adding The Daily Show starting Dec. 5. Comedy Central is owned by Paramount.

There wasn’t another obvious home for The Daily Show on regular Canadian TV. Global has The Late Show, Citytv has Jimmy Kimmel, and there isn’t really another non-Bell-owned comedy channel it would be a good fit for.

UPDATE (Jan. 23, 2024): Some people have noticed The Daily Show disappearing from Paramount+. I asked Paramount about it, and they said “The Daily Show does not currently have new episodes which is why none are currently appearing on Paramount+, stay tuned for more information.”

The day after, Jon Stewart announced he was returning as host one day a week, and Paramount confirmed his shows will be exclusive to Paramount+ in Canada, the day after they’re broadcast.

YouTube blackout

Fans of Seth Meyers may have noticed there aren’t as many clips of his late night show on YouTube as there used to be. Unfortunately the clips are there, they just are being blocked in Canada, along with those of the Tonight Show. Both are Bell-licensed NBC shows. It’s unclear if this is at Bell’s request, to protect its rights, or if it’s NBC’s doing, cutting off non-U.S. countries. The Daily Show has the same problem, with just a handful of YouTube clips not being restricted here.

My questions to Bell on this subject did not elicit a response.

Fortunately, Seth Meyers clips are being posted to Facebook and those are still accessible here, and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is posting clips (mostly vertical, cuz the youths) to social media as well.

Rogers blames CRTC bureaucracy for decision to shut down CityNews Ottawa

This week, the CRTC published a decision officially confirming that Rogers Media Inc. has surrendered the broadcasting licence of CIWW 1310 AM in Ottawa, the city’s oldest radio station.

The letter from Rogers requesting the revocation of its licence is dated Oct. 26, the same day the company announced the shutdown of CityNews Ottawa, which at the time was being simulcast on both CIWW 1310 and CJET-FM 101.1 in nearby Smiths Falls.

While normally these letters are short and to the point, Rogers took the opportunity to lay out the reasonings for its decision, and complaining that the CRTC’s processes played a major role in it.

Saying the radio broadcasting industry is “subject to stringent and outdated regulations that offer little to no flexibility for allowing broadcasters to pivot and adjust accordingly to their new competitive reality,” Rogers explained that the issue was with its decision in 2020 to simulcast programming on both AM and FM stations without prior CRTC approval.

While the CRTC doesn’t regulate content or formats on radio stations generally, the regulations require approval before an FM station can switch to or from a specialty format, and spoken word programming, when it represents more than 50% of programming on a station, is considered a specialty format. (This rule does not apply to AM stations like CIWW.)

Before it became a CityNews station, 101.1 was a country music station (as CKBY-FM), so it would have needed approval to switch to a talk format.

What’s more, the CRTC also requires approval before a transmitter can be converted from a station to a retransmitter of another station.

“Rogers received a request for information from the Commission in February 2023 regarding the simulcast of the news/talk programming originating from CIWW on CJET-FM (101.1). In subsequent correspondence between the Commission and Rogers, Commission staff shared its view that both stations were in apparent non- compliance with the Radio Regulations, 1986 (Regulations),” Rogers writes in its letter.

Rogers says it “did not believe that its stations were in non-compliance” (it doesn’t explain why it felt this way), but it filed an application to change the licence of CJET-FM 101.1 to allow the simulcast, at least until the current licence expires in 2026.

Unfortunately for Rogers, the CRTC announced on Aug. 22 a two-year moratorium on new applications related to radio, “unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated that would justify, with supporting evidence when filing the request, the need to process them.”

“After several rounds of correspondence and performance evaluation analyses of both CJET-FM and CIWW,” Rogers writes, it chose to withdraw the application the next day. “The risk of non-compliance and the operational burden of the Commission’s review of the stations’ performance and financial situation coupled with the continued decline in revenues since the launch of the simulcast led us to make this decision much earlier than we were planning and were contemplating in our Application.”

“Unfortunately, the regulatory framework did not provide us with the tools to experiment and innovate without facing an untenable level of scrutiny and evaluation that we can ill afford given the competitive environment in which we are operating,” the letter continues. “For these reasons, we urge the Commission to prioritize the review of the Regulations impacting AM radio including the provisions related to simulcasting and the operation of a specialty format. These rules must be relaxed to ensure a viable path forward for AM news content on the FM band, which represents the only way to maintain audiences to local terrestrial radio and support our ability to deliver local news.”

In urging the CRTC to review its rules on AM radio, Rogers said “we remain concerned that, without a modernized and flexible approach, the future of other AM stations is at risk.”

Rogers owns eight other AM radio stations in Canada:

  • CFTR CityNews 680 in Toronto
  • CKGL CityNews 570 in Kitchener, Ont.
  • CFFR CityNews 660 in Calgary
  • CKWX CityNews 1130 in Vancouver
  • CJCL Sportsnet 590 in Toronto
  • CFAC Sportsnet 960 in Calgary
  • CISL Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver
  • CKAT 600 Country in North Bay, Ont.

I understand Rogers’ frustration with the CRTC’s rules, and in particular the commission’s baffling decision to just not do its job in terms of radio for a couple of years, but Rogers also must have been aware of the rules. And the implication that this is a simple bureaucratic matter holding up progress is not how I would describe it. Rogers took a radio station off the air for this to happen, and decided it should have the same content on two frequencies in a market that doesn’t have a lot of spare radio spectrum. Maybe that’s what’s best for the market, but it should at least have required approval.

Unfortunately, with everything going on, the result is the shutdown of another news radio station in Canada, and one more AM signal in the country going dark.

If you have a good idea for a radio station, a 50kW signal on 1310 AM in Ottawa is now available. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait two years before you can apply for it.

More call letter switching fun

Rogers also confirmed in its letter it is once again switching call letters for its FM stations in Smiths Falls. CKBY-FM, which belonged to Country 101 and was then switched to the Country 92.3 station, will go back to Country 101, while CJET-FM, which was Jack FM on 92.3 and then CityNews 101.1, is going back to 92.3. Rogers told the CRTC it would adopt a country music format separate from 101.1, but on Nov. 1 it switched to “Santa Radio Canada“, which has a very Jack-like branding to it, suggesting a move back to Jack FM might be in the cards in the new year.

TVA to replace Yoopa with TV version of QUB Radio

The fallout of the Bell-Quebecor war has another victim: Yoopa, which Bell pulled from its television service in retaliation for Quebecor’s Videotron pulling Bell channels Vrak and Z, is being shut down in January, replaced by a video version of Quebecor’s QUB Radio online radio service as of Jan. 11.

According to its annual filing with the CRTC, Yoopa had $2.6 million in revenue, all but $30,000 of which came from subscriptions, in 2021-22, and spent about $2 million on programming, a bit less than half of which was Canadian. It had 340,000 subscribers and a staff of three.

The loss leaves a hole for television targeting young children, though public broadcasters Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec devote much of their morning programming to programs for kids.

Meanwhile, Quebecor seems to be doubling down on its QUB Radio digital talk radio project, and will now be putting even more resources into it, even though it already has a 24/7 news channel in LCN. Quebecor doesn’t release ratings or financials for this online-only service so we have no idea if it’s successful. But it’s cheap, at least compared to the news programming we see on LCN.

Whether QUB Radio or its still-to-be-named TV version lasts is an open question. Honestly I’m a bit surprised it survived the latest round of media cuts at Quebecor.

In theory, QUB TV could apply to be a national news service, requiring other providers to carry it, but that would require having news bureaus and regular news updates, and the CRTC might have some questions if it tries to just piggyback on LCN’s resources to achieve that status.

Videotron will obviously embrace QUB Radio on TV. Bell is probably not interested. Whether others who carry Yoopa, like Cogeco, make the switch is an open question.

Could the end of Publisac kill community newspapers throughout Quebec?

As if things aren’t bad enough for small media outlets, TC Transcontinental announced on Friday it is rolling out its Publisac replacement throughout the province and into areas of Ontario and British Columbia that other flyer distributors have pulled out of.

This is leaving many Quebec publications worrying that what happened to Métro Média could happen to them.

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Desperate TVA cuts a third of its staff

In what the union representing TVA employees called “La journée la plus noire de notre histoire” (the darkest day of our history), the company announced on Thursday afternoon (after a leak from La Presse forced an order to halt trading on its stock) that it is eliminating 547 jobs, representing 31% of TVA Group’s current workforce.

Most of those jobs — 300 — will be in in-house productions through its TVA Productions subsidiary. Though most drama, variety and bid-budget primetime shows are already produced by independent companies, there are a few still done in-house, and three of them — game shows Le Tricheur and La Poule aux oeufs d’or plus trending-video magazine show VLOG — are being outsourced.

This leaves news and news-adjacent programming as the only stuff still done in-house. Newscasts, LCN, morning news/talk show Salut Bonjour, and some programs at TVA Sports.

The expectation is that many of the people working on producing these shows will be hired by the independent companies they will be outsourced to, and TVA “will begin discussions with its partners to encourage them to hire employees affected by the announced measures, according to their needs.”

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get the salary or benefits they did at TVA, and it probably means no longer being unionized.

What’s changing

So here’s a quick list of what has been announced:

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