I was busy on election night, but I set a couple of PVRs to record election night TV broadcasts so I could review them for you. It took a while to get through all the broadcasts from all the networks (and I was busy doing other things too) but here you go, almost two weeks later. How the various broadcasters fared.
Bell Media is proposing to bring V’s local news broadcasts in-house, but otherwise isn’t putting much substantive on the table to convince the CRTC it should be allowed to acquire the V network of television stations in Quebec for $20 million.
The CRTC published the application on Tuesday, setting a hearing date of Feb. 12 in Montreal to hear the application. Bell is proposing to buy the five V stations (CFAP-DT Quebec City, CFJP-DT Montreal, CFRS-DT Saguenay, CFKS-DT Sherbrooke and CFKM-DT Trois-Rivières), plus digital assets like Noovo.ca, but leave the specialty channels Elle Fictions (formerly MusiquePlus) and MAX (formerly Musimax) to a yet-to-be-named company owned by the current owners of V.
V’s affiliate stations in Gatineau, Abitibi, Rimouski and Rivière-du-Loup, owned by RNC Media and Télé Inter-Rives, are unaffected by the transaction, and Bell says it intends to renew its affiliation agreements with them when they expire in 2020.
In the brief included in the application, Bell and V say the conventional TV network is continuing to lose money, despite the ratings gains it has generated and the synergies from owning two specialty channels (which Bell had to sell off to get its acquisition of Astral Media approved in 2013). Groupe V Média says it has lost almost $7 million in the past two years.
“For a small independent broadcaster in the Quebec market, these losses cannot be supported and have begun to have an impact on its other services,” the application says.
Four years after the CRTC found Videotron failed to comply with its obligations related to community television programming, the commission is taking a very critical look at Bell Canada’s community TV services, with questions suggesting it is concerned Bell is inappropriately redirecting funding that was supposed to go to community TV in small Atlantic Canadian communities toward large productions out of Toronto and Montreal that are essentially spinoff shows of commercial productions that air on Bell Media TV channels.
In a notice of consultation posted last month, the commission published applications for licence renewal for Bell Fibe and Bell Aliant TV services in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec. The applications, which include 42 documents, shows repeated rounds of questions over two years about Bell’s community TV operations, which operate under the Bell TV1 brand (formerly Bell Local).
With days to go before the first preseason games, the regional TV broadcasters for Canada’s seven NHL teams have released their schedules, and we now have an almost full accounting of where every game will be broadcast.
There are few changes from last year. The regional broadcasters for each team are the same (Sportsnet for the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, TSN for the Jets, Senators and Canadiens, and both for the Leafs) and the splits are about the same, with between 36 and 40 national games where Sportsnet also has the regional rights, and between 22 and 32 national games for teams where Sportsnet doesn’t.
Here’s the national/regional split by team:
- Canucks: 36/46
- Oilers: 40/42
- Flames: 39/43
- Jets: 22/60
- Leafs: 40/42
- Senators (English): 27/55
- Senators (French): 30/52
- Canadiens (English): 32/50
- Canadiens (French): 22/60
In French, TVA Sports retains national rights and RDS still has the regional rights for the Canadiens and Senators.
But that could change next season. The Flames and Oilers TV and radio contracts are up in 2020. And though it would be a surprise if Sportsnet didn’t renew its TV rights, there might be a fight for the Oilers’ radio contract, currently held by Corus’s CHED, against Bell Media’s TSN Radio.
Here’s how it all breaks down per team.
(Updated with social media posts from on-air talent)
Breakfast Television Montreal is no more. Staff were informed just after Thursday’s show that it was their last one.
Eight jobs will be lost as a result of the cancellation. It leaves 41 Rogers Media employees in Montreal — 21 at CityNews and OMNI, and 20 in sales.
“This decision was very difficult, but at the end of the day, the show was not sustainable,” an emailed statement quoted Colette Watson, SVP of Television & Broadcast Operations, Rogers Media, as saying. “We remain deeply committed to the local market in Montreal and are redirecting resources to our news presence in Montreal at CityNews and OMNI Television with Italian news and the launch of a national third-language newscast next year in support of our OMNI 9(1)(h) licence. We recognize and thank all employees who worked at BT Montreal over the years for their incredible work and commitment and making mornings brighter for our viewers.”
BT Montreal had just celebrated its sixth anniversary.
If you only follow the big North American sports and only care about your local team, you might not be familiar with DAZN. But if you watch the English Premier League, one of the top leagues of international soccer, you’ve had to become very familiar with them this month.
Though the deal was announced in April, it was only when the season started on Aug. 9 that Canadians started really noticing that their EPL games are no longer available on TV. Instead, they have to shell out $20 a month for DAZN, a two-year-old streaming service. And they have to figure out how to get that streaming service to work on their TVs.
For many people, it was complicated and expensive, so they wrote in to their local newspaper and asked it to write about the problem. And that local newspaper turned to me.
In Saturday’s Gazette, I have a story about DAZN’s new deal for the EPL, and talk to a bar owner and a stay-at-home fan about what it’s meant for them. I also talk to DAZN itself about how they’re keeping their fans satisfied after botching the rollout of NFL games in 2017.
You can read the story for all of that fun stuff. But I also asked Norm Lem, SVP of revenue at DAZN Canada, about what he sees as the future of sports broadcasting in general, as consumers have seen prices go up and the number of services they have to subscribe to increase. I also asked him if we should expect DAZN to bid for something bigger, like rights to Canadian NHL matches, Blue Jays, Raptors or CFL.
Here’s what he had to say.
After 18 months of development and testing among 3,000 of its employees, Videotron launched its Helix IPTV platform on Tuesday.
Based on Comcast’s X1 platform, Helix joins the Ignite TV platform by Rogers and the Blue Sky TV platform by Shaw, also based on the same technology. Three of Canada’s four largest cable companies (Cogeco uses a TiVo-based system) now have products that can compete with Bell’s Fibe TV, offering features like restart (watch a currently airing or recently aired program that was not recorded) or cloud-based PVR.
I went to Tuesday’s launch event to report on it for Cartt.ca, and asked the people there a bunch of really technical questions. Here, based on their answers and my own opinions, is some analysis of the features in the new Helix system:
Megacorporation BCE has filled one of the holes in its vast media empire, announcing this morning it has reached an agreement to purchase Quebec’s French-language V network of television stations, along with its video platform noovo.ca.
The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed (but will be when it gets to the CRTC), does not include V’s specialty channels, ELLE Fictions (formerly MusiquePlus) and MAX (formerly Musimax). That’s because those channels were originally sold to V by Bell as a condition of getting regulatory approval for Bell’s purchase of Astral Media in 2013.
Bell buying V has been one of those transactions that’s been rumoured for a long time. Bell doesn’t own a conventional television network in French, but it does own many French-language specialty channels. V, though it has undergone a renaissance since the Rémillard brothers bought it from Cogeco in 2008, is still a struggling network trying to find a way to make money going up against the Quebecor-powered TVA and taxpayer-funded Radio-Canada.
It’s far from certain Bell will convince the CRTC to approve the deal. Though the addition of the V network would not increase subscription revenues, which Quebecor has fiercely complained about, it would add significantly to Bell’s audience share, which is how the CRTC judges market dominance in television.
According to Numeris data, V has about a 7% share overall among Quebec francophones. TVA has a 24% share, and Bell’s CTV a 1% share. Quebecor’s specialty channels, which include TVA Sports, LCN, CASA and Yoopa, have a 13% share, and Bell’s specialty channels a 16% share.
- Quebecor: 37%
- Bell: 17%
- V (not including specialty): 7%
- Bell + V after transaction: 24%
The CRTC is normally inclined to approve transactions when the combined market share is less than 35%, but I suspect they’ll take a closer look at this anyway.
Expect some serious opposition from Quebecor to this deal, and from CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau in particular.
A net good, or a net bad?
For opponents of vertical integration, this deal seems bad, putting yet another independent broadcaster in the hands of one of the big players. After the disappearance of Astral and Serdy as independent players in the Quebec French-language marketplace, consumer choice is getting more and more restricted.
But Bell’s big pockets could also revitalize V and make it a more formidable competitor to Quebecor’s TVA. Under Bell, V would presumably no longer get special treatment from the CRTC, meaning it would probably see an increase in its requirements for local news and would no longer be eligible for its $3 million share of the $22-million Independent Local News Fund, which would be reallocated to other independent stations like CHCH, NTV, CHEK, and affiliates owned by Pattison, Thunder Bay, Télé Inter-Rives and RNC Media. (The fund will be up for re-evaluation in 2021.)
It’s not clear if V would have survived without this transaction (or will if it’s denied). In Bell’s press release, Maxime Rémillard talks about needing to “ensure the continuity of this success”:
“After 10 years of ensuring V’s success as an independent conventional channel, I am proud to have found in Bell Media a partner to ensure the continuity of this success,” said Maxime Rémillard, President and Founder, Groupe V Média. “The industry in which we are evolving is constantly, deeply and rapidly changing. This was true when we took over the reins of TQS and allowed the network to survive; it is all the more true today. As it is increasingly difficult to ensure the sustainability of a conventional channel within a non-integrated group, I have made the best decision for the future of V. Bell Media will certainly allow V to continue to evolve and reach out to the Québec public on a massive scale.”
There’s also the question of what happens to the two specialty channels if this deal goes through. On one hand, being specialty-only might be good for the bottom line, because specialty channels generally make more than conventional ones. On the other hand, V loses its biggest marketing vehicle, and its specialty channels are hovering around the break-even point, according to CRTC data.
V owns the following five stations:
- CFJP-DT Montreal
- CFAP-DT Quebec City
- CFKM-DT Trois-Rivières
- CFKS-DT Sherbrooke
- CFRS-DT Saguenay
In addition, there are three affiliates of V owned by other companies that are not part of this transaction, but would benefit from changes in network programming and from re-allocation of the Independent Local News Fund:
- CFGS-DT Gatineau
- CFVS-DT Val-d’Or
- CFTF-DT Rivière-du-Loup
The transaction requires CRTC approval, and likely that of the Competition Bureau, before it can close. Once the CRTC application is published, it will be open to public comment.
UPDATE: Try to contain your shock at the news that Quebecor doesn’t like this deal.
Last week, Bell Media was the last of the major English-language broadcasters to present their fall schedules to the public and advertisers. The big sells are the new (mostly American) series they’re adding to their primetime schedules. I haven’t seen any of them, so let’s instead focus on everything else that was announced and that I find interesting:
The CRTC has reached a decision on what will replace OMNI. And it’s OMNI.
In a decision released Thursday, accompanied by a press release, the commission found that “Rogers’ proposed service, along with its associated commitments, best meets the needs and interests of Canada’s diverse population and the criteria established by the Commission, and is the most likely to ensure an exceptional contribution to the fulfillment of the objectives of the (Broadcasting) Act.”
The commission will therefore renew OMNI’s licence, but with “no expectation of renewal” beyond that, and only for three years, until 2023, when the mandatory distribution status of OMNI and other services with that status like CPAC, APTN and AMI, will be reviewed at the same time.
In its application, Rogers proposed that the new OMNI would have half-hour daily national newscasts in six languages: Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese, and local newscasts (for Toronto, Alberta and Vancouver) in Punjabi and Mandarin. Rogers told me it also planned to replace the current national Italian newscast, produced out of Montreal, with regional ones in Montreal and Toronto. The licence doesn’t specify the languages of programming, leaving that decision up to Rogers.
OMNI, which has TV stations in Toronto (two), Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, is broken up into four regions: B.C., Prairies, East (Ontario and Atlantic Canada) and Quebec. The Quebec feed is administered by ICI (CFHD-DT), an independent ethnic TV station in Montreal that was born out of Rogers’ conversion of CJNT into City Montreal. Though Rogers doesn’t directly control ICI, the two are closely connected.
Most of the other applicants didn’t propose regional feeds, over-the-air transmitters or local programming.
The commission has set the mandatory wholesale fee for the new OMNI, which begins Sept. 1, 2020, at $0.19 per month, up from its current $0.12 per month (but still less than some other applicants had proposed.) Rogers had requested a rate that started at $0.19 but ramped up to $0.21, but the CRTC found that $0.19 was sufficient. The decision states that the choice of OMNI was in part because of the proposed wholesale rate and the “balance” of that versus the programming commitments made.
OMNI’s commitments will be higher than they currently are, and higher than originally proposed as well:
- Canadian programming expenditures: 60% of gross revenues (up from 50% originally proposed and 40% currently)
- Canadian content on the schedule: 70% of the broadcast day (6am to midnight) and 70% from 6pm to midnight (up from 55% currently)
- Programs of National Interest (scripted drama/comedy, documentary, award shows): 5% of revenues (up from 2.5% currently), all of which must go to independent production companies
- Independent productions: 12 hours a week on each of the B.C., Prairies and Eastern feeds (including 2 hours produced from each of Manitoba/Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada), and 14 hours a week of local original independent productions on ICI.
- 100% ethnic programming (up from 80% proposed and currently) on the Rogers-controlled feeds, and 90% on ICI.
- 80% third-language programming (up from 50% proposed and currently) on the Rogers feeds, and 60% on ICI.
- Programming for 20 different ethnic groups and 20 different languages a month (same as currently; 18 and 15 respectively on ICI), with a limit of 16% for any one foreign language.
- Six hours a week of original local newscasts in Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton and Toronto (an improvement off local current affairs show obligations).
- Six daily first-run national half-hour newscasts, seven days a week, in six different languages (up from four languages currently).
- At least 40% of gross revenues spent on news.
- Provide for ICI: 3 hours of original, local, ethnic programming in French each week and 1.5 hours of original, local, French-language programming and 30 minutes of local original English-language programming each week.
The licence also requires Rogers to:
- Limit U.S. programming to 10% of the schedule each month
- Maintain advisory councils for each regional feed, and require they approve the programming schedules and independent producers
- Spend $60,000 a year on “scholarship initiatives that support ethnic and third-language post-secondary students majoring in journalism,” as chosen by the advisory councils
- Maintain operation of the five over-the-air OMNI stations throughout the licence period
- Solicit local advertising only in markets where OMNI over-the-air stations operate
- Derive no profit from OMNI, and reinvest any surplus back into OMNI
Rogers will have until Sept. 1, 2020, to put those increased commitments into place. Until then, the existing licence still applies.
Shockingly, the CRTC’s decision includes absolutely zero analysis of the seven other applications to replace OMNI with a different service. It merely states that it had to choose one and OMNI was the best one. Did the commission feel the Ethnic Channels Group’s idea of multiple audio feeds in different languages was feasible? Was it impressed by the ambitious goals set by Amber Broadcasting? Did it think the application from Montreal-based non-profit ICTV was realistic? We have no idea. The other applicants are only mentioned once, in a listing of the applications at the beginning of the decision.
With the increase in the wholesale rate, here’s how much of your monthly TV bill will go to mandatory services, starting in September 2020:
- APTN: $0.35
- AMI-audio: $0.04
- AMI-tv: $0.20
- CPAC: $0.13
- OMNI Regional: $0.19
- RDI: $0.10
- TV5/Unis: $0.24
- The Weather Network/MétéoMédia: $0.22
- Vues et Voix (formerly Canal M): $0.04
- TOTAL: $1.51
- APTN: $0.35
- AMI-audio: $0.04
- AMI-télé: $0.28
- CPAC: $0.13
- CBC News Network: $0.15
- OMNI Regional: $0.19
- TV5/Unis: $0.28
- The Weather Network/MétéoMédia: $0.22
- Vues et Voix (formerly Canal M): $0.04
- TOTAL: $1.68
Meanwhile, the CRTC has administratively renewed the licence for ICI until 2020, which will simplify things as far as new conditions of licence related to its agreement with OMNI.
UPDATE: Rogers has issued a statement saying it is happy with the decision and will announce more specific plans “in the coming months.”
Updated with comment from Bell Media and Unifor.
Staff at CTV News departments across the country were called into mandatory meetings on Thursday, and told that they’ll have to tighten their belts a bit more.
I don’t have specifics or numbers (see below), but the headline is that journalists will be transformed into “videojournalists” who do not only their own reporting but also their own camerawork, editing and even writing for the web.
As a result, editors and cameramen will be offered buyout packages or laid off. Layoff notices have been issued in Montreal and Toronto, I’m told, but not everywhere. In Montreal, 15 jobs are being cut and an unspecified number of online jobs added.
CTV bills this as them “innovating” because they’re “expanding our digital news presence” and points out that they are also adding new jobs.
This is a significant project that will require enhanced training as well as job reclassifications for some members of the news team. While we will be creating a substantial number of new digital news positions, some traditional roles may be impacted by the changes. We cannot yet offer a specific number of how many, if any, departures may result.
There is some confusion about changes in our Montreal team. As part of the digital news expansion, we were required to notify Unifor that 15 existing union job classifications in Montreal would be eliminated. However, a similar number of new positions will be filled to support the enhanced digital focus of the newsroom.
CTV News already employs some videojournalists (there are four at CTV Montreal), and they’re used at other networks as well, notably Citytv, which relies almost exclusively on them. Reporters shooting their own stories is more feasible with today’s equipment (some newsrooms are experimenting with reporting using iPhones), and obviously saves on human resources. But more time spent on the technical elements of producing stories means less time on the journalism behind it.
Plus, while younger journalists who are trained on shooting and editing out of school will easily adapt to the new reality, training more veteran journalists will be more difficult, and some might choose to simply retire early or find new jobs.
Because of various union rules, these layoff notices may spark a process of bumping, where less senior workers in jobs not affected by the layoffs get replaced by those being laid off (if those workers prove they can do the job they’re bumping into). So younger workers in these newsrooms will be feeling very nervous over the coming weeks.
And while CTV’s statement suggests it will save jobs, the reality is that the people affected will have to apply for them and be accepted for them. That’s not a given.
Unifor, which represents unionized workers at CTV, issued a statement:
“Today’s announcement from CTV of its shift to ‘digital-first’ airing of local news stories on the Internet was inevitable,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Retooling local news for digital is necessary and, hopefully, a successful business plan because local TV is being starved for advertising revenues and anything that brings in a bigger audience and more ad revenue is welcome.”
The stations affected by restructuring include the CTV1 stations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Bell has told journalists and field technicians to expect a mix of retraining, layoffs, and new “digital” jobs, with a net reduction of staffing.
Dias cautioned Bell Media of its responsibility to guide news staff through the technological changes in job responsibilities, as it is expected that some journalists and field staff will need to acquire new digital skills.
“We are going to ensure no media worker is left behind,” said Dias. “Bell knows us pretty well and they know we mean it.”
Dias is also urging the federal government to accelerate its four-year long review of Canadian broadcasting in the Internet environment, scheduled to continue into 2020. “There are obvious actions the CRTC and the federal government can take to strengthen Canadian programming,” said Dias, referring to the CRTC’s own “Harnessing Change” report on Internet-broadcasting issued in June 2018.
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.
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.
Quebecor’s decision to pull TVA Sports from Bell TV sparked a war of words, with both sides making claims (TVA’s more publicly), some of them contradictory. Who’s right and who’s wrong in this battle? I’ll do my best to break down some of those arguments below, and update this as more come to light:
Updated April 12 with court ruling and TVA Sports returning to Bell TV
Ce n'était pas du bluff. Tva Sports non disponible sur Bell. pic.twitter.com/ivPJbid5R8
— Antoine Deshaies (@antoinedeshaies) April 10, 2019
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.”
Québecor refuse l’accès à sa chaîne TVA Sports aux clients Bell Télé. C’est une mesure illégale. Bell veut s’assurer que les fans de hockey puissent regarder les séries et offre temporairement les chaînes Sportsnet, Sportsnet One et Sportsnet 360 sans frais supplémentaires.
— Bell (@Bell_FR) April 10, 2019
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
UPDATE (July 30): The commission has approved the request, saying it can’t force Bell Media to keep operating the transmitters:
… licences such as those held by Bell Media are authorizations to broadcast, not obligations to do so. This mean that, while the Commission has the discretion to refuse to revoke broadcasting licences, even on application from a licensee, it cannot generally direct a licensee to continue to operate its transmitters.