Category Archives: Media

CRTC issues court order to force TVA Sports to keep signal on Bell TV, suspends licence if it cuts off again

Pursuant to Wednesday’s emergency hearing on Quebecor’s decision to pull TVA Sports of Bell TV, on Thursday the CRTC issued a mandatory order requiring TVA Sports to comply with regulations about dispute resolution and keep its signal on Bell TV. It also suspended TVA Sports’s licence, though that suspension only applies if it cuts Bell TV off again, and only for the period during which the signal is cut off.

The mandatory order is being registered with the federal court, which means if TVA defies it, it will be subject to contempt of court proceedings, and faces large fines.

The commission rejected TVA’s main legal argument, that the regulations imposing arbitrated settlements of carriage disputes are not allowed under the Broadcasting Act (emphasis in the original):

TVA’s position that the Commission does not have the jurisdiction to set terms and conditions of affiliation agreements is inconsistent with the broad power given to the Commission by Parliament to make regulations to resolve any dispute by way of mediation or otherwise. Given that terms and conditions, including rates, are fundamental to the resolution of carriage disputes, the interpretation urged on the Commission by TVA Group would render the regulation-making power set out in section 10(1)(h) empty of meaning, an absurd result that cannot have been Parliament’s intention.

Pierre Karl Péladeau’s arguments about how TVA isn’t getting enough carriage fees, or how Bell has been unfair, or how TVA Sports’s future is threatened, are not addressed in the CRTC decision, because they are outside the scope of the proceeding. They will be dealt with in the undue preference complaint and mediation or arbitration proceedings between the two groups.

(For more on the arguments for and against TVA, see this post.)

The commission stopped short of its more serious threats, to suspend or even revoke TVA Sports’s licence. Even a temporary suspension during the NHL playoffs would have been devastating to TVA Sports, and probably led to its shutting down.

But it did reprimand TVA for its behaviour in this case:

the Commission is gravely concerned with TVA Group’s disregard for the Commission’s authority. Given the inflexible behaviour displayed by the licensee in respect of its regulatory obligations and the lack of a firm commitment to correct the situation, the Commission cannot be assured that TVA Group will respect its regulatory obligations going forward.

Quebecor issued a statement saying it will respect the decision, but the problem remains and it will seek other legal avenues, including a legal challenge to the CRTC’s authority.

Bell issued a statement saying it was happy with the decision.

If you want to get the full content of Wednesday’s hearing, the transcript is here and CPAC’s video is archived here.

Meanwhile, a request for a class action lawsuit has been filed, seeking $100 million, or $250 for each subscriber of TVA Sports on Bell TV who was left without the service for 47 hours last week.

Media News Digest: Awards, DAZN gets Premier League, Bergman leaves Virgin 95.9

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TVA Sports defies CRTC, cuts off Bell TV customers as part of carriage dispute

Updated April 12 with court ruling and TVA Sports returning to Bell TV

Four days after it threatened Bell subscribers with on-air messages, TVA pulled TVA Sports from Bell TV on Wednesday at 7pm, as scheduled, the start time for the NHL playoffs.

Bell immediately announced that it would make Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360, which with CBC and City comprise all the channels carrying NHL playoff games, free for subscribers “temporarily.”

Quebecor, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it was disappointed it couldn’t reach a deal.

On Thursday, the CRTC announced that it was calling Groupe TVA to a hearing in Gatineau on April 17 to explain itself, and threatened to either issue a mandatory order (which would be enforceable in federal court) or even suspend TVA Sports’s broadcasting licence in light of the decision to ignore its warnings about pulling service during a dispute.

In court, as Bell tried to get a court injunction for TVA to stop what it’s doing, Quebecor lawyers offered a truce, to bring back the channel at 6pm and maintain it until April 23 as the two sides negotiate with the help of the CRTC. Bell accepted on condition that TVA Sports accept a court order requiring the re-establishing of the signal, but Quebecor refused that condition.

On Friday, the court granted Bell’s request for an injunction, ordering TVA Sports re-established on Bell TV by 6pm, but did not order Quebecor to cease its “Fair Value” campaign, which Bell says is false and defamatory. TVA complied with the request, and TVA Sports returned to Bell TV by 6pm.

In addition to ensuring Bell TV subscribers could get access to NHL playoff games, Bell Media acquired the rights to two additional Montreal Impact MLS games, another TVA Sports exclusivity, so they can be broadcast on TSN. That pushed the date of the next Impact game only broadcast on TVA Sports to April 28. Bell TV had said it would make TSN also available for free for Montreal Impact fans.

History

Bell customers got a pretty scary-looking message during the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game Saturday night on TVA Sports: The sports channel, which has the French-language rights to all NHL playoff games, will be removed from Bell TV as a way for Bell to “punish” those subscribers.

TVA also aired the graphic during La Voix, Quebec’s most popular TV show, on Sunday.

TVA airs a message attacking Bell during La Voix on Sunday, April 7, 2019.

Bell said not only is this message not true, it would be against CRTC regulations. The CRTC wrote to both parties twice to say that during their dispute, TVA is required to keep offering its channels to Bell and Bell is required to keep distributing them.

TVA said it doesn’t care, it’s pulling its signal anyway. Which means this dispute will quickly escalate in the legal and regulatory sphere.

Except it’s already escalated there, because this is a battle being fought on multiple fronts:

  • An existing CRTC process in which TVA complains of unfair treatment (currently in the reply phase)
  • A TVA lawsuit against Bell demanding compensation for its unfair packaging
  • A Bell request for injunction against TVA demanding the signal be returned
  • An emergency CRTC hearing called for next week in which TVA has been ordered to explain itself
  • Direct negotiations between Bell and TVA to reach a deal on carriage
  • TVA’s media campaign and Bell’s press releases in response, fighting in the public arena
  • Pierre Karl Péladeau’s lobbying of federal politicians to make changes to the CRTC’s dispute resolution process
  • Programming changes at Bell Media and packaging changes at Bell TV to mitigate the loss of TVA Sports for Bell customers

How long Bell customers will actually be without TVA Sports is anyone’s guess. But TVA says it’s prepared to do whatever it takes.

(You can read more about my interview with TVA chief operating officer Martin Picard in this story at Cartt.ca, but I have lots of details below about the conflict.)

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Bell Media wants to shut down 28 more CTV transmitters

Two years after requesting to shut down more than 40 over-the-air retransmitters of CTV and CTV2 stations as part of its licence renewal, Bell Media has applied to the CRTC to shut down more than 28 more of them, saying they have little viewership, provide no original programming and are expensive to maintain.

The application published on Monday includes six transmitters Bell Media said it wanted to shut down in places like Swift Current and Flin Flon during the process to reconsider its licence renewal.

If this application is approved, Bell Media will have dropped from 126 transmitters for its CTV and CTV2 stations before 2016 to under 50.

“With the increased focus on the financing, production and distribution of programming content, signal distribution through a repeater network is becoming an increasingly lower priority and an outmoded business model as Canadians have other ways to access television programming,” Bell Media says in its application.

The shutdowns are being prompted by the federal government’s new DTV transition plan, which will require stations to change channels to free up spectrum that is being auctioned to wireless providers. Consistent with that plan, Bell plans for the shutdowns to occur mostly in 2021.

These are the transmitters Bell is proposing shutting down, along with their dates, their transmitter power (maximum ERP) and the population in their coverage area, according to Bell Media’s estimates.

Nova Scotia

Rebroadcasters of CJCH-DT Halifax and CJCB-TV Sydney (CTV Atlantic):

  • CJCB-TV-3 Dingwall, 3 December 2021 (64W, 785 people)
  • CJCH-TV-3 Valley Colchester County, 3 December 2021 (150W, 32,957 people)
  • CJCH-TV-4 Bridgetown, 3 December 2021 (58W, 3,823 people)

New Brunswick

Rebroadcasters of CKCW-DT Moncton and CKLT-DT Saint John (CTV Atlantic)

  • CKAM-TV-3 Blackville, 3 December 2021 (88W, 2,884 people)
  • CKAM-TV-4 Doaktown, 3 December 2021 (22W, 1,409 people)
  • CKLT-TV-2 Boiestown, 3 December 2021 (24W, 904 people)

Ontario

Rebroadcasters of CJOH-DT Ottawa (CTV):

  • CJOH-TV-47 Pembroke, 2 May 2020 (492,000W, 75,388 people)
  • CJOH-TV-6 Deseronto, 9 October 2020 (100,000W, 436,141 people)

Rebroadcaster of CKCO-DT Kitchener (CTV):

  • CKCO-TV-3 Oil Springs, 2 May 2020 (846W, 293,703 people)

Rebroadcaster of CKNY-TV North Bay (CTV Northern Ontario):

  • CKNY-TV-11 Huntsville, 9 October 2020 (325,000W, 174,627 people)

Rebroadcaster of CITO-TV Timmins (CTV Northern Ontario):

  • CITO-TV-2 Kearns, 3 December 2021 (325,000W, 88,472 people)

Manitoba

Rebroadcasters of CKY-DT Winnipeg (CTV):

  • CKYA-TV Fisher Branch, 16 July 2021 (62,000W, 15,759 people)
  • CKYD-TV Dauphin, 16 July 2021 (140,000W, 30,897 people)
  • CKYF-TV Flin Flon, 16 July 2021 (2,060W, 7,762 people)
  • CKYP-TV The Pas, 16 July 2021 (2,130W, 9,996 people)

Saskatchewan

Rebroadcasters of CKCK-DT Regina (CTV):

  • CKMC-TV Swift Current, 26 February 2021 (100,000W, 29,035 people)
  • CKMJ-TV Marquis (Moose Jaw), 26 February 2021 (98,000W, 87,838 people)

Rebroadcasters of CFQC-DT Saskatoon (CTV):

  • CFQC-TV-1 Stranraer, 26 February 2021 (100,000W, 36,546 people)
  • CFQC-TV-2 North Battleford, 26 February 2021 (30,300W, 39,686 people)

Alberta

Rebroadcasters of CFRN-DT Edmonton (CTV):

  • CFRN-TV-3 WhiteCourt, 26 February 2021 (17,900W, 32,832 people)
  • CFRN-TV-4 Ashmont, 26 February 2021 (26,650W, 23,673 people)
  • CFRN-TV-5 Lac La Biche, 26 February 2021 (8,656W, 9,149 people)
  • CFRN-TV-7 Lougheed, 26 February 2021 (21,000W, 9,752 people)
  • CFRN-TV-12 Athabasca, 26 February 2021 (3,300W, 9,621 people)
  • CFRN-TV-9 Slave Lake, 16 July 2021 (840W, 9,683 people)

British Columbia

Rebroadcasters of CFCN-DT Calgary, Alta. (CTV):

  • CFCN-TV-15 Invermere, 26 February 2021 (10W, 4,843 people)
  • CFCN-TV-9 Cranbrook, 26 February 2021 (446W, 43,765 people)
  • CFCN-TV-10 Fernie, 26 February 2021 (23W, 6,568 people)

The application requires CRTC approval because it amends licences for stations these transmitters rebroadcast from. But the CRTC hasn’t been pushing the networks to keep retransmitters running. Instead, it’s more focused on preserving local stations with original programming.

UPDATE: The application drew six interventions from individuals during the open comment period. Bell’s reply was a single page, reiterating why it has taken the decision and adding this:

While we appreciate the concerns expressed by the intervenors, we would like to reiterate that the majority of these shutdowns will not occur before February 2021.  Further, our Application is fully compliant with existing Commission policy.

Rogers sells publishing division, including Maclean’s, to St. Joseph Communications

Rogers just announced it has sold its publishing division, including magazines, digital publications and custom content business, to St. Joseph Communications, the owner of Toronto Life and other magazines. The deal is expected to close in April but no financial information was announced. St. Joseph says it will keep all current employees.

It’s been known for a while that Rogers has been trying to offload its magazines to focus on broadcasting and telecom. The big question was who was going to buy it. A sale was reportedly in the works last fall to Graeme Roustan, owner of The Hockey News, but that deal fell apart. There was also reportedly a proposal by employees of the division to buy it, but Rogers did not seem to like that idea.

The deal includes Maclean’s, Chatelaine (English and French), Today’s Parent and HELLO! Canada, plus the “digital publications” Flare and Canadian Business. It does not include MoneySense (the Roustan deal also excluded that website, and it was sold to another buyer) nor anything Sportsnet-branded.

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Media News Digest: NNA noms, Lilly Singh gets late-night show, telecom bureaucrat in conflict of interest

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Montreal radio ratings: The Beat doubles Virgin, and a spike for Rouge

Numeris came out with its quarterly metered market radio ratings last week. Here’s the top-line data.

I’ll start by pointing out that this is the winter period, covering the Christmas holidays, when radio listening habits are a bit out of the ordinary. But even if you do a year-over-year comparison, two changes are noteworthy.

On the anglo side, The Beat is continuing to pull away from its main competitor Virgin Radio. Among anglophone audiences, The Beat had a higher average audience this winter than Virgin and CHOM combined.

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Media News Digest: Corus sells TLN, Action becomes Adult Swim, Pete Marier on air in French

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Media News Digest: Impact extends radio deal, Windsor Star stops publishing Mondays

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Some context to consider about those TVA Facebook comments

You may have seen the story: TVA Nouvelles deleted a Facebook post pointing to a story about a house fire in Halifax that killed seven children (who happened to be from a Syrian family) because it received several unacceptable comments that appeared to make light of or even celebrate their deaths. Media personality Alexandre Champagne compiled some of those comments in a widely shared screenshot.

TVA Nouvelles posted another post and apologized, saying it would try to police its social media better next time.

I posted a link to the apology on Twitter and it got retweeted a bit, prompting a lot of discussion. I was interviewed for a CityNews story about it, during which I tried to say that a few comments on a Facebook page provides a skewed impression of the views of the audience — and larger population — as a whole.

Through the various discussions, I’ve seen a lot of statements that I feel are missing key context, so I’d like to try to add some of that here.

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MusiquePlus is dead — but music on TV is far from it

There are quite a few eulogies to MusiquePlus this week in various media, after news came out that owner V will be replacing it this summer with a women’s movie channel. (Many news stories talked about it going “off the air” or being “shut down forever”, when neither is true. The only thing really changing that has any connection to its former life is the name.)

Brendan KellyRafaël Ouellet and various former MP personalities shared memories of the music channel, how it influenced a generation and how much fun it was to work there.

The eulogies tend to fall along the same lines, remembering the personalities the channel built up, the live music performances, the interviews with big stars, the excitement of debuting a new song or video. Then they go on to acknowledge that most people can get their music videos on YouTube these days and have no need for a channel that runs them on an endless loop.

There’s a few problems with this logic, though. For one thing, there is demand for such a channel. As I’m writing this my TV is on Stingray’s PalmarèsADISQ music video channel, which is an automated channel that runs nothing but francophone music videos. It doesn’t have live music or video jockeys, though.

And that’s what we really miss about MusiquePlus. It’s not the music videos, it’s everything else related to music.

But live music is expensive to produce. So while it may have worked as a weekly special occasion on a cable channel 20 years ago, it doesn’t make sense any more on Quebec television.

Which would make sense if you didn’t watch Quebec television, and conveniently ignored that the most popular francophone program on Quebec TV right now, with more than 2 million viewers a week, is a singing competition show.

I looked through the TV schedule for next week, and here are shows I found that are directly music-related:

  • La Voix (TVA, Sunday 7pm)
  • Virtuose (ARTV, Monday 10:30pm)
  • The Launch (VRAK, Wednesday 8pm)
  • En direct de l’univers (Radio-Canada, Saturday 7pm)
  • Pour l’amour du country (ARTV, Saturday 7pm)
  • La vie secrète des chansons (TV5, Saturday 8:15pm)
  • Belle et Bum (Télé-Québec, Saturday 9pm)

That doesn’t include general talent competition shows, cultural current affairs shows, dance shows, community television, talk shows featuring musicians as guests or one-off documentaries.

Music is still very present on television. What’s changed is more subtle than that, and has various factors. Music videos aren’t the money-maker they once were. TV channels have to work harder to gain audiences. Automation in TV production, and the job cuts that followed, have made it easier to just run content produced elsewhere than create original live studio programming. Corporate consolidation has led to more caution and a focus more on big-money highly-promoted “event” programming and less on the daily grind that will be mostly forgettable and not reusable, even if it can occasionally create unexpected gems.

I honestly don’t know if someone really committed to bringing back the essence of MusiquePlus (or MuchMusic on the English side, for that matter) could make it financially viable. MP didn’t make money when it was sold in the Bell-Astral merger, and V paid very little for it. If anyone felt they could step in and make it work, they had ample opportunity. And nothing it stopping anyone from creating a TV or online channel that does all of what MP used to do. They might even convince V to sell them the brand, since they won’t be using it anymore.

It’s sad that we’re losing MP’s history (they’re apparently in talks to preserve archives), but from music videos to live performances to interviews and critiques, the programming we found on it still exists.

It just no longer exists all in one place. And we don’t have Véronique Cloutier, Rebecca Makonnen and Geneviève Borne tying it all together.

Media News Digest: Canadian Screen Awards noms, no more print Voir, CBC hires Barbara Williams

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Canadian Super Bowl ads: A statistical analysis

It was the third year in a row that Bell Media was stuck in its impossible position: One of the biggest television events of the year and half its audience is watching it on a channel it doesn’t control because those people want desperately to avoid Bell Media’s advertisements.

Though the USMCA specifically requires the abolishment of the CRTC’s special rule forbidding simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl (the Trump administration added it at the request of the NFL, which would see the value of the Canadian rights to the NFL drop significantly if the rule were kept in place), the new trade deal hasn’t been ratified, and the commission isn’t going to act until it is.

If the USMCA is ratified this year (which is a big if), this could be the last time Canadians watching on cable will get to see big-budget ads from T-Mobile and other advertisers that have no interest in Canada.

I followed both the Canadian (TSN5) and U.S. (WCAX-TV Burlington) versions of the Super Bowl broadcast live to compare the two. Bell had no plans for a watch-to-win contest or other gimmick to get Canadians to tune in to its broadcast, and there weren’t many big announcements about big-budget Canadian ads (Bell pointed to one featuring Michael Bublé, but that ad also aired in the U.S.), so I was curious about the quality of the ads that would be broadcast.

Here is a playlist of all the ads I could find on YouTube that aired on CFCF-DT Montreal during the Super Bowl game (between kickoff and the end of the game, when the simsub exception applies).

Some of the ads were Super Bowl ads that appeared on both sides of the border, including one for Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, an Olay commercial featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar, a Colgate ad with Luke Wilson, an ad for Persil ProClean, a teaser for the Amazon Prime series Hanna (which aired simultaneously in both countries) and a 30-second version of a Budweiser ad touting renewable energy.

For just the Super Bowl-style new ads that appeared only on the Canadian broadcast, you can follow this playlist.

Among the Canadian-only ads that tried something new for the Super Bowl:

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