The CRTC is currently reviewing the licence renewal applications of CBC/Radio-Canada. As part of that process, CBC included a chart of its on-the-ground reporting personnel. It’s abridged, so we don’t know the actual number of employees per location, but I thought the list itself was good to note, so I’ll reproduce that here, along with some additional ones I’m aware of (the list is from 2019, so may be out of date in some places).
Hockey is back. And this time, it’s all-Canadian.
Because of the pandemic complicating cross-border travel, the National Hockey League has put its seven Canadian teams into its own division for the 2020-… err, 2021 season. That means more Habs-Leafs games, more Habs-Jets games, more Habs-Canucks games, and no Habs-Bruins or Habs-Sabres or Habs-Capitals games at all before the playoffs.
Not only is this good news ratings-wise for Sportsnet, which likes the all-Canadian matchups and Habs-Leafs in particular, but it’s also good news production-wise, because it means there’s a maximum of three games on Saturday nights featuring Canadian teams, and (unless two of them go long into overtime) no more than two at a time.
So for Hockey Night in Canada this year, Sportsnet can show everything using just CBC and Citytv, and we won’t see any games shuffled to Sportsnet One or Sportsnet 360 when there’s too many scheduling conflicts. This also means Sportsnet has released its entire season schedule with channel assignments, rather than leaving the decision of what channel to put a particular game on up to a few weeks before when it can gauge how excited fans are about the team and what other events it has to show that night.
For Canadiens fans, I’ve put together my annual full-season broadcast schedule, which appears in Saturday’s Montreal Gazette. The story online also includes printable schedules if you want a more portable guide. And I’ve updated my out-of-region viewing guide, for those who face blackouts when trying to watch the Canadiens on TV from western Canada and most of Ontario.
Most of the information is the same (the on-air talent hasn’t changed either), but here’s what’s different this season:
- It’s a 56-game schedule instead of an 82-game schedule. The splits of national vs. regional games is pro-rated, so Sportsnet gets 22 national Habs games (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday evenings) and TSN gets 34 regional games, while TVA Sports gets 15 national Habs games (Saturday nights, plus Wednesday’s season opener) and RDS gets 41 regional ones.
- The Winnipeg Jets have a new radio broadcaster: CJOB has won the rights from TSN Radio. All other broadcasters remain the same for the other six teams.
- UPDATE: Rogers has announced that subscribers to Sportsnet NOW+, the premium tier of its streaming service, will have access to NHL Live and get out-of-market games as well. SN NOW costs $35 a month or $20.83 if you pay for the whole year. Since it also includes all Sportsnet channels, it means you’ll get all NHL games except those available locally on TSN.
Even in non-pandemic years, it’s the most popular broadcast of the year in Quebec. In 2020, with everyone confined to their homes and parties banned, it was even more so, setting new records for viewership. Bye Bye 2020 is a sketch comedy special that tries its best to poke fun at all of the stuff that happened (in Quebec, anyway) during the year.
For English Canadians, or just those who don’t consume Quebec culture, a bunch of stuff might have flown over your head. So here’s a guide, sketch by sketch, to the background that will help you better understand the jokes.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch Bye Bye 2020 for free at Tou.tv.
We don’t know what it is about AMC, exactly, but once again they’re playing hardball with a Canadian TV distributor, and it’s at the point where the distributor has announced it is cutting the channel off.
This time it’s Videotron. Again.
In 2018, five years after it finally added the channel to its lineup, Videotron announced it was cutting AMC, the American channel once famous for shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead. It said it couldn’t come to a carriage agreement with the channel that was reasonable, and so had no choice but to cut it off, even if it was still popular with some of its subscribers.
But with days to go before the cutoff, Videotron announced it had reached a deal with AMC to keep it on. Details were still not disclosed, but Videotron hinted that AMC had accepted a deal that was more reflective of Videotron’s position as a primarily French-language distributor, whose clients would be less interested in AMC than Rogers’s or Bell’s, for example.
And yet, the story went a similar way with Rogers and Bell last year. In November 2019, Rogers announced it was cutting AMC as of Jan. 1, only to save it with a last-minute deal. Bell followed each step a month later.
So you can understand the raised eyebrow at seeing that Videotron is once again telling subscribers it will drop AMC as of Feb. 11.
Like before, it says it has made the decision because of “unrealistic requests from AMC, which would have resulted in an unreasonable increase for our customers.”
We don’t know exactly what those requests are, but they could be things like minimum penetration guarantees or penetration-based rates, where Videotron’s wholesale fee is only reasonable if a large percentage of its subscribers subscribe to AMC.
Either way, we have just under two months for one of them to blink before Videotron’s customers lose access to their Breaking Bad and Walking Dead spinoff shows.
The federal government has tabled legislation to rewrite the Broadcasting Act. Bill C-10 has a long list of amendments that change wording in the act and it’s a bit confusing to get through. So here’s a list of what’s actually in the bill (based on my Twitter thread from yesterday):
- Creates a new definition of “online undertaking” meaning “an undertaking for the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet for reception by the public by means of broadcasting receiving apparatus” — in other words, an online broadcaster, using the same vague wording as for traditional broadcasters but presumably including services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Such “undertakings” would not need to be licensed to operate, nor would they pay fees to the CRTC, but the commission can regulate them, impose Canadian content or funding obligations, and demand information including confidential financial information.
- A specific exemption for content posted to a “social media service” that excludes such content from the definition of broadcaster for the purpose of the act.
- Gives the CRTC the power to impose fines on broadcasters. Currently, the commission cannot impose “administrative monetary penalties” on broadcasters like they can on things like spammers. They’ve gotten around this by imposing additional financial contributions as conditions of licence when licenses are renewed. With this change it could impose fines directly, up to $25,000 for a first offence or $50,000 for subsequent ones, for a specific set of reasons.
- Explicitly state that the broadcasting system serves all Canadians, “including Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and ages.” The CRTC already respects these values, so it probably won’t change anything, but specific reference to things like sexual orientations could be cited in discussions of setting new policies or court challenges to CRTC decisions.
- Explicitly mention news. Right now the act only mentions obligations to news for the CBC specifically. The new act would say that programming provided by the entire system should as a matter of policy “include programs produced by Canadians that cover news and current events — from the local and regional to the international — and that reflect the viewpoints of Canadians, including the viewpoints of Indigenous persons and of Canadians from racialized communities and diverse ethnocultural backgrounds.”
- Eliminate the seven-year maximum length of licenses. The CRTC has already started reducing licence terms, generally five years now for TV licenses. Under the new act, they could set unlimited terms but also wouldn’t have to wait five years to make changes to licenses.
- Codifies how the CRTC deals with confidential information, including explicitly allowing it to share said information with Statistics Canada and the Competition Bureau.
- Give the government more time to overturn CRTC decisions related to awarding, renewing or amending licences or referring them back to the commission for reconsideration. The 90-day deadline would now be 180 days.
And some minor changes:
- Change the procedure for orders from the government. Instead of being referred to a House of Commons committee with a 40-day notice, the orders would need to be published and have a 30-day notice.
- Moves article 9(1)h of the act, which gives the CRTC the power to require distributors carry certain programming, to a new section, requiring several amendments to other laws that reference it.
If that seems like it’s not that much and very unspecific, that’s true. The act only gives general policies and creates legal powers. A lot of the more interesting stuff related to policy will be done through a policy direction to the CRTC, which the minister says will be done once the amendments to the act are passed. There are also other bills to come including amendments to the Copyright Act.
Then, the job of interpreting the new policy and actually setting new regulations will be up to the CRTC.
Among the things we don’t find in this bill:
- Changes to copyright law, or anything that would change how Google and Facebook deal with content
- A better definition of broadcasting that would make it clear what is regulated and what is not
- A definition of social media that would let us answer if, for example, YouTube is a social media platform or if it’s both social media and an online broadcaster depending on content
- Anything new regulating social media
- Any policy direction to the CRTC
- Any substantial changes to how traditional television and radio is regulated
- Any change to the CBC’s structure or mandate
- Any consumer protection measures
- Any measures related to sales taxes for online broadcasters
Compared to what was recommended in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel report in January, it’s not quite as bold, but there are several elements in there, including the most important one giving the CRTC the power to regulate online media (though the commission would have argued that it already had that power).
Now we’ll see what terms the CRTC set for Netflix et al, and if they’ll agree to them.
UPDATE (Nov. 25): Finnerty finally confirmed the news, saying he plans to go back to London. On his last show, Finnerty announed Sean Henry will be his replacement. Audio of Finnerty’s goodbye is below.
Despite his professed love for Montreal and his work as host of CBC’s radio morning show Daybreak, Mike Finnerty has already left it twice to go to the U.K., first in 2009 to work for The Guardian (he was replaced by Nancy Wood, but within a year she was dropped and he came back), and again last year on a seven-month leave to be a cheesemonger.
So maybe it’s not too surprising that CBC has posted his job again. But this time it’s a 12-month renewable contract, which is what you’d expect from a permanent host. Is he leaving for good (again)?
In a brief response when I asked him if he’s taking another leave of absence, Finnerty said: “Nope, nothing to announce for now, and no other comment.”
CBC Montreal also had no comment on the matter.
UPDATE (Nov. 27): Finnerty’s on-air goodbye was short and sweet. After a show about how the city has changed in the past 10 years (since he first started as host), he interviewed Henry and gave a brief goodbye, less than a minute long, crediting his team, thanking his listeners, and paying tribute to the city.
He concluded that “my wish for Montreal and for Montrealers is that we continue to live, love and laugh together. I’ll see you soon.”
It happens. There’s a major technical at the most inconvenient time, in the middle of the local news broadcast, causing the local CTV station to cut to dead air. Master Control in Toronto cuts to a commercial, and then pumps in CTV News Channel as a backup.
It seemed that was happening again on Monday, but then something unusual happened: CTV News Channel itself went off the air. And a bunch of other channels, too.
— Pauline Chan CTV Health (@TOYourHealth9) October 5, 2020
A power outage in Bell Media’s Agincourt studios, home to CTV Toronto and TSN, was the culprit. It knocked out CTV and CTV2 stations in the eastern half of the country (from Winnipeg east), as well as CTV News Network, all five TSN channels, Discovery Channel, CTV Comedy and others. Other channels, particularly the former CHUM stations based at 299 Queen St. W. downtown, like Much, CP24, CTV Drama and CTV SciFi, remained on the air throughout, as did Bell’s French-language channels.
Some digital services were also affected by the outage, which began around 5:30pm ET, and lasted until 7:30pm, with some channels not being fully back until 9pm. CTV News Channel rebroadcast CP24 for much of the evening after coming back online.
It’s unclear what exactly caused the outage in the first place, or why backup systems failed to keep CTV on the air. I suspect there will be a lot of discussions at Bell Media management and technical meetings about what went wrong.
2020 really is the year that just keeps on giving! As @LisaLaFlammeCTV explains, our main network and the CTV News channel was hit by a major power outage tonight.
— CTV National News (@CTVNationalNews) October 6, 2020
The outage is a reminder of the dangers of centralization — when all your stations are controlled through the same building, they can all be knocked off the air. But more importantly it shows that Bell Media’s contingency protocols are inadequate. An ideal system would have allowed the master control facilities at Queen West — or even better a master control facility in another city — to quickly take control of the affected channels, even if just to broadcast filler programming.
CTV undoubtedly has backup systems, but they obviously failed, either from technical or procedural fault, which means they were probably not adequately tested.
Expect that to change, at least until Bell Media forgets about this incident and needs to make more cuts to technical staff and redundancies.
While Canadians were focused on a U.S. presidential debate, a trailer was released for a new conservative news channel called The News Forum that purports to “provide viewers with politically balanced domestic and international perspectives, inclusive of a conservative counterbalance for the current media landscape.”
The channel has a carriage deal with Bell Canada on all Bell’s TV systems. It is now operating as an exempt national news service, according to the CRTC, which allows such operations without a licence until they reach 200,000 subscribers.
Its ownership is a bit unclear, but its CEO is Tore Stautland, who is CEO of Trillennium Media Group Inc., a producer of mainly Christian programming for channels like Daystar Canada, Vision and Joytv.
Its on-air hosts include former Conservative minister Tony Clement, former Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen, author Faytene Grasseschi, lawyer K.R. Davidson, former YesTV host Sheldon Neil, and former Global Thunder Bay reporter/anchor Nima Rajan.
From its ownership, description, choice of hosts and choice of topics and guests, it seems clear that The News Forum is designed to be a social/religious conservative outlet, meant more as a source of right-wing opinion than hard news. Which will no doubt draw comparisons to the Sun News Network, Quebecor’s right-wing news-opinion channel that shut down five years ago.
Based on my brief glances at its programming available online, it seems the main differences relate to tone (no Ezra Levant or Brian Lilley gleefully throwing mud, though Lilley has already been a guest), slant (more religious) and budget (more along the lines of a YouTube channel than a major TV network).
Like Sun News, The News Forum doesn’t try for a partisan balance. Almost all of the politicians it interviews are conservative.
The channel has made it clear it won’t shy away from controversial topics (and by that it seems to mean defending unpopular conservative views), conducting a friendly interview with controversial anti-trans researcher Debra Soh, for example.
It’s not clear that The News Forum will have actual journalists beyond that on-air staff, relying instead on a Canadian Press subscription and summarizing newspaper stories to provide that raw news material.
Its schedule consists of the same half-hour shows repeated every three hours. Besides those linked to above, it also includes two shows from Israel.
By not having that daytime news block and expensive journalists covering the country, could it save enough money to make this channel viable? We’ll see.
You can end the speculation of who will replace Jamie Orchard as lead anchor at Global Montreal: It’s Tracy Tong.
— Tracy Tong (@TracyTongTV) September 21, 2020
Tong announced the news shortly before anchoring the 5:30pm newscast on Monday. (Andrea Howick had been filling in on most nights since Orchard announced she had been laid off.) Tong has also been anchoring the 11pm Montreal newscast out of Toronto.
The move completes the conversion of Montreal’s local newscasts into Global’s “Multi-Market Content” model, which replaces locally-anchored live newscasts with a copy-paste edited newscast produced and anchored out of Toronto with a mix of local and national stories. Being recorded and produced in advance means Tong can do separate newscasts on Global Toronto and Global Montreal, even though they air simultaneously.
As of Sept. 1, the OMNI television channels have entered into a new CRTC licence term, which means a higher wholesale per-subscriber fee ($0.19 per month, up from $0.12) and some new obligations, including more news.
OMNI made good on that last part last week by launching OMNI News in Arabic and Filipino (Tagalog). Like the existing Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese newscasts, which don’t look like they’re changing, the new newscasts have journalists in different cities. I was told they wouldn’t have anchors, but it’s clear they do. OMNI News Arabic was hosted its first week by Reham Al-Azem out of the Montreal studio (built for the former Breakfast Television Montreal), while OMNI News Filipino was hosted by Rhea Santos in Vancouver.
Both newscasts are also produced in part out of Toronto.
After taking a leave from his job long enough to have people wondering about his status, Paul Karwatsky has decided to leave his job as anchor at CTV Montreal to focus on autism awareness, a subject close to his family.
The news was announced to staff on Friday morning, leading to a story in the Gazette, and an announcement was posted to CTV’s website on Friday afternoon.
It included a statement from Karwatsky explaining his decision:
As many might know, I’ve been heavily involved in raising autism awareness for years. I’ve decided to dedicate myself full-time to this cause which is close to my, and my family’s, heart. It’s a key time in history for all those living with autism and so much needs to be done to ensure our children have all the opportunities they deserve as they grow. All my efforts will be focused on this moving forward. The details on what exactly I’ll be doing are to come.
Though it’s unsaid in the statement, the fact that changing his career would mean a more family-friendly work schedule had to be a consideration. He has been hosting both the 5pm and 11:30pm newscasts since the 5pm news was added in 2018, and the late-night news slot is tough for people with children. Previous anchors like
Cathrine Sherriffs*, Debra Arbec, Tarah Schwartz and Annie DeMelt who worked the late-night or weekend newscasts (or both) all left those jobs for more 9-to-5 ones, and only Arbec (the 6pm anchor at CBC) is still in the industry.
On Facebook, Karwatsky said leaving was a “massively difficult decision” and would provide more details about his future in the next few weeks:
This was a massively difficult decision. The outpouring of well-wishes I’ve been getting is overwhelming. I’m going to post a proper goodbye to everyone who sat through my bad jokes at home over the years . I really want to say that there is no better group of people than the hundreds and hundreds of Montrealers I’ve been privileged to meet who’ve supported our station over the years.. people who I truly feel are part of a huge extended family for me… a family I joined nightly all those years ago in watching CFCF when I was a kid. I’ll still be a part of that family watching from home. I can’t express how much I’ll miss being a direct part it all. But I’m excited about the future and some of the great things I’ll be getting behind. Details to come over the next few weeks! Thank you to you all.
Karwatsky’s departure was briefly noted during the 5pm and 6pm newscasts on Friday, the latter by Mutsumi Takahashi.
A brief thank you to Paul Karwatsky from Mutsumi Takahashi at the end of tonight's 6pm newscast. pic.twitter.com/GGwieK5PVb
— Steve Faguy (@fagstein) September 4, 2020
CTV says it will name a replacement for Karwatsky. As it happens, all of the potential internal candidates are women. Caroline Van Vlaardingen would be the most obvious choice. Others with some anchoring experience include reporters Amanda Kline, Kelly Greig, Cindy Sherwin, Angela MacKenzie and Maya Johnson. If they really wanted to go for a man, the pool is much thinner locally. There’s … Rob Lurie?
Externally, well, there’s one person with decades of Montreal English-language newscast anchoring experience who’s currently available.
When Karwatsky’s replacement is named, she or he will be Takahashi’s fifth co-anchor, after Bill Haugland, Brian Britt, Todd Van der Heyden and Karwatsky. Though because the two split the four daily newscasts, they don’t actually anchor together anymore.
UPDATE (Sept. 15): Karwatsky explains his new job in a video, and opens up a bit to the Gazette’s Bill Brownstein about how autism has affected his life as a parent.
*Correction: I listed Catherine Sherriffs as an example of someone who left a late shift for a 9-to-5 job, but in fact it was because she was being moved from the late shift to a day job that she decided to leave CTV.
In 1997, as the Global Television Network was preparing to launch a new station in Quebec, it tapped a 31-year-old entertainment reporter for market leader CFCF to be one of its anchors. Jamie Orchard told the Montreal Gazette at the time that “it was one of those offers I couldn’t resist. Being part of a new station getting off the ground is rare opportunity and an unbelievable challenge.”
At first, she hosted an entertainment show on the local station. Then the morning show, another entertainment show, the late-night newscast, and since 2004 she has been the senior anchor and the face of the station and its local news.
Or had. On Thursday, Orchard announced that she had been laid off, one of apparently dozens of people across the country that Corus Entertainment has decided are no longer needed.
I'm very sad to let you know that tonight will be my final broadcast on @Global_Montreal. Like many of my colleagues, and many of you, I have fallen victim to pandemic layoffs. Very grateful to have been given the chance to say goodbye tonight. Please tune in at 5:30 or 6:30. xox
— Jamie Orchard (@secondactsis) August 20, 2020
While it’s usually standard procedure in broadcast media to have on-air staff escorted out the door when they’re told they’re being dumped, and certainly never put in front of a live microphone again, Orchard was allowed to stay on for another month, keeping the news secret that whole time, and give an on-air goodbye. (It doesn’t look like Global posted it online.)
It’s a testament to the trust Orchard has built with the station, and its viewers, and station manager Karen Macdonald, who has also been with it since the beginning.
The union, headed by veteran reporter Anne Leclair, also issued a statement saying “Jamie is an excellent journalist who always approached every subject with great professionalism. She is a model for ethical journalism. We are also losing an important voice and key connection between our newsroom and Montreal’s English-speaking community.” The statement notes that the station has lost 10% of its newsroom permanent staff this summer, not including Orchard.
Naturally, the news angered Global Montreal’s viewers. Not that it has too many of them, falling well behind CTV Montreal in audience for its entire existence.
Its small audience may be loyal, but their threats to change the channel won’t matter. Local news is a money loser for Global in eastern Canada, and cutting costs has more of an effect on the bottom line than feeding that loyalty.
My reaction to this news isn’t so much anger as it is disappointment. Global seemed to be headed in the right direction. After years of cutting to the bone and centralizing the tasks of news production, there seemed to be an air of renewal, with new staff being hired and a new focus on online reporting as the future of journalism. But this summer, facing a budget crunch caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Global backtracked and laid off that young, diverse workforce it had just hired.
Since I first visited Global Montreal and met Orchard more than a decade ago, I was left with the impression that the small station with limited resources had one special thing going for it: its staff was close, like a family. That’s why, I was told at the time, staff turnover was so low.
It’s why Orchard said she would stay as the station’s anchor for as long as it would have her. It’s why she was allowed to say goodbye on air, because she could be trusted with that.
It’s unfortunate that, 23 years later, Corus Entertainment couldn’t be nearly as loyal to Orchard as she was to her employer.
UPDATE (Sept. 22): Rather than hire a new anchor, Global has decided to have Montreal’s local evening newscast anchored out of Toronto.
In a decision released Friday afternoon, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it has approved the acquisition of the V television network by Bell Media, filling one of the few remaining holes in Bell’s multi-platform empire.
The V network’s five owned-and-operated stations (it also has three affiliate stations that aren’t affected by the transaction) will become part of the Bell group as of Sept. 1, and have new conditions of licence, including an incremental increase to the amount of local programming and local news they are required to broadcast:
- All stations: 5 hours local programming and 2.5 hours locally reflective programming per week
- CFJP-DT Montréal and CFAP-DT Québec: 8.5 hours local programming and 4.25 hours locally reflective programming per week
- Other stations (Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Sherbrooke): Same as 2020-21
Bell has committed to exceeding those requirements.
The CRTC has also increased Bell’s requirements for Canadian programming, which were 35% for its French channels (RDS, Canal Vie, Vrak, Canal D et al) and 10% for V, up to 40% to for the combined group.
For Programs of National Interest (mainly expensive scripted programs), which became a point of contention in this proceeding, the CRTC has sided with critics that said Bell should be forced to keep it at 18% for the entire group instead of averaging the group between the 18% for its existing French-language channels and the 10% that V was previously subject to.
The CRTC calculated tangible benefits at $3.1 million, split between the Canada Media Fund (60%) and the Bell Fund (40%). The latter, a certified independent production fund, will spend the money solely on French-language initiatives.
Bell welcomed the decision, without giving any specifics on its plans. The company told the CRTC it would expect to get newsrooms back running at the V stations by next January, and those newsrooms would be independent from those run by CTV.
The acquisition also includes Noovo.ca, which is V’s online video hub and whose change of ownership does not require CRTC approval.
The specialty channels Elle Fictions (formerly MusiquePlus) and MAX (formerly Musimax) remain under the control of Maxime Rémillard and with the same minority shareholders including the Caisse de dépôt, Investissement Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Another CRTC decision regroups them as their own separate group, whose name is to be determined.
UPDATE (May 7): Quebecor has filed notice in court that it may appeal the decision, once the CRTC releases its reasons.
Updated April 15 with some 11pm newscasts returning.
Local news is vital. It provides an essential service, especially in times of emergency. People rely on local broadcasters to provide them up-to-the-minute information told by local journalists.
So what does the CBC do during an unprecedented public health crisis? It shuts it all down.
The public broadcaster announced Wednesday that effective immediately it is “consolidating” its TV news coverage, and replacing the 6pm and 11pm local newscasts at all of its stations (except CBC North, which provides news in Inuktitut) with CBC News Network.
According to a memo sent to staff this morning, the decision was made because of a lack of staff at CBC’s Toronto Broadcast Centre, which handles master control (why it has a lack of staff is not explained), as well as “much stricter newsgathering protocols.”
The free ride is over. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that the CRTC had overstepped its authority in the way it created an exception to simultaneous substitution rules, CTV will once again be taking over the U.S. feed for the Super Bowl on Sunday for Canadian cable and satellite TV subscribers.
And that means Canadians will be looking for loopholes to get around those rules. So here they are.