Tag Archives: CJNT

City TV’s Montreal Connected debuts May 30; Alyson Lozoff, Wilder Weir to host

Montreal Connected hosts Wilder Weir and Alyson Lozoff

Montreal Connected hosts Wilder Weir and Alyson Lozoff (Photo: Rogers Media)

CJNT, which officially became City Montreal in February after it was bought by Rogers, will launch its first local program a week from now.

Rogers Media announced on Wednesday the details of its new weekly sports show called Montreal Connected (formerly “Connected Montreal”), which starts May 30. Here they are in point form:

  • Schedule: Half an hour a week, Thursdays at 7pm, with repeats Saturdays at 3:30pm and 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm. The show will also air on Sportsnet East on Saturdays at noon.
  • Hosts: Alyson Lozoff, the Sportsnet reporter for Montreal (did you know she’s also a lawyer?), and Wilder Weir, a producer and former hockey reality show star
  • Contributors: Include Sportsnet personality Stephen Brunt, Globe and Mail Quebec sports reporter Sean Gordon, Gazette Alouettes reporter/columnist Herb Zurkowsky, and LNH.com managing editor Arpon Basu
  • Behind the scenes: As previously announced, former water ski champion George Athans will be the show’s producer, with Kelly Greig, formerly of CBC Montreal. They will work under Executive Producer and Local Content Manager Bob Babinski

The show promises to be “an in-depth look at the city’s professional and amateur teams, along with athlete profiles and feature stories on local, national and international sports.”

City Montreal is also launching a culture/lifestyle show in July, and its main local programming, a three-hour local morning show, in August.

City TV Montreal to launch local culture/lifestyle show this summer

Tamy Emma Pepin

Tamy Emma Pepin will be one of three hosts for a new local weekly series on Montreal city life

I don’t know why they made this announcement on a Friday afternoon, but even before their first local program goes to air, City Montreal is expanding its slate of local programming.

According to the press release, which I regurgitated into Tuesday’s Gazette, Rogers-owned City has greenlighted a half-hour weekly “magazine-style” series on local culture, to be hosted by three fresh faces to the local television scene: Tamy Emma Pepin, the former Tourism Montreal ambassador, HuffPost Quebec editor and prolific tweeter; screenwriter and producer Matt Silver; and Dimitrios Koussioulas, whose name I hadn’t heard at all until he came onto the scene with his own Mile End web video talk show Parc Avenue Tonight.

“Only In Montreal takes viewers into the kitchens of the latest restaurants, feature humourous portraits of famous locals and Montreal-loving celebrities, and informative stories on local hidden gems,” the press release says.

CJNT, which officially became a City TV station in February, had promised to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that it would produce a local three-hour morning show and a weekly half-hour sports show to fulfill its mandate for local programming. It decided against a 6pm local newscast mainly because CTV, Global and CBC already have those, and going up against all of those would be asking for failure.

But those programs fulfill the requirements, and there was no talk of a culture/lifestyle show before now, so there’s no reason that Rogers has to do this. Unless … unless it actually thinks it could make money with it.

Imagine that.

English Montreal hasn’t had programming like this in years. CBC cancelled Living Montreal as part of severe budget cuts in 2009. CTV had cancelled Entertainment Spotlight along with Sportsnight 360 a few months earlier, incorporating their features into expanded weekend newscasts.

Put simply, this is exciting news, and I’m anxious to see how it’ll turn out. Without specifying a date, City says the show will begin airing in the summer, which means it would be the first local show to begin on the station since Rogers bought it from Channel Zero and changed it from an ethnic station into an English one.

The biggest question will be what time slot City gives this show. It’s one thing to put it at, say, 7pm on Thursdays, when a lot of people might watch it (provided it’s also properly marketed). It’s another to sandwich it between two infomercials on Sunday morning, or to put it against the top-rated 6pm local newscasts it has already decided it doesn’t want to compete with.

The show will be produced by Whalley-Abbey Media, the Montreal-based production house behind everything involving Chuck Hughes and Debbie Travis.

City Montreal gets a boss: Bob Babinski

Bob Babinski, teaching a student in my intro to broadcasting class in 2004.

Bob Babinski, teaching a student in my intro to broadcasting class in 2004.

As Rogers officially takes over control of CJNT from Channel Zero, and the station adopts the full City primetime schedule as of Monday, Feb. 4, it has announced its first hire: Bob Babinski, a freelance television producer specializing in sports, and a part-time professor in Concordia University’s journalism department, has been named “Executive Producer and Local Content Manager” for what will on Monday officially become City Montreal.

Though only announced on Monday, Babinski has been on the mind of Rogers Media Broadcast President Scott Moore for quite some time. He’s told me in previous interviews that he had someone in mind for this job, but couldn’t name him because he couldn’t actually hire him until the acquisition of the station was approved by the CRTC.

Babinski and Moore know each other from their time at CBC Sports. As his biography shows, Babinski worked for CBC Sports covering the Olympics, the 2010 World Cup, and producing feature stories for Hockey Day in Canada. Moore became the head of CBC Sports in 2007 before leaving in 2010 to go back to Rogers.

Babinski has also been teaching part-time at Concordia University since 2000, with students including yours truly. He’s currently teaching a feature writing class on Tuesday mornings.

In his new position at City Montreal, Babinski will be responsible for its local programs, Breakfast Television (the weekday morning show) and Connected Montreal (the weekly sports show), and the hiring of its 20 to 30 staff in front of and behind the camera. He tells me he’s starting by going to Vancouver, Calgary and maybe Toronto next week to visit their programs to learn how they work.

He has until August to do put these shows on the air, so we’re not quite at the hiring stage yet. But Babinski said he’s already been contacted by many people, including many former students, who heard about the appointment and congratulated him, some with CVs included. “My hope is that the staffing process will happen in the spring,” he said. But he wants to hear from as many people as possible who might be interested in positions. (His email is bob.babinski@gmail.com.)

I asked Babinski what his vision of the morning show was. He used words like “urban”, “young” and “authentic”, which might give us an early idea of how it will distinguish itself from Global Montreal’s morning show, which has already started pandering appealing to West Island anglos.

“I want it to be a celebration of what’s good and great about Montreal,” Babinski said, particularly focusing on its various cultures and reflecting “the international flavour” of the city.

As a freelancer for such a long time, I also asked Babinski if he’s ready for a return to a 9-to-5 job. He laughed, saying I wasn’t the first person to mention that to him. But he said this job fits in with the way he sees work.

“I’ve never seen work as something that starts at a certain time of day and ends at a certain time of day,” he said. “I don’t think the idea of a 9-to-5 job is what drew me to this opportunity.” Instead, it was the chance to “be part of something that’s starting from scratch, and make my mark on it,” to have “one big project that I’m totally into.”

Babinski will be totally into work for the next few months. Starting a television station from scratch isn’t a simple thing to do.

Moore confirms that “assuming some bits of paperwork get done,” CJNT officially switches hands at 5am Monday. The electronic schedule goes blank as of that time. It had been previously established that the station would adopt the full City primetime schedule that day, because it’s the day of the premiere of the City original sitcom Seed, at 8:30pm. A schedule on City’s website shows Metro Debut still there from 7am to 10am, and OMNI News newscasts at 5pm (Mandarin) and 8pm (Italian). has been updated since this was posted. Metro Debut is no longer listed, and neither is any other ethnic programming on weekdays, except for a small block at 7am.

Ethnic programming will eventually come back to Montreal with ICI, a new cooperative station set to launch in late spring or early summer.

CRTC approves CJNT purchase, new ICI station

CJNT Metro 14 Citytv/ICI

It’s a yes.

On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission gave its approval to applications by Rogers and 4517466 Canada Inc. to reorganize over-the-air television in Montreal and add a 10th television station to the market, the first new one in 15 years.

The applications were essentially approved as submitted, which is great news to everyone involved. CJNT, which will become a Citytv station, will be stripped of all ethnic programming requirements once the Rogers purchase is complete, and will launch a local morning show. Rogers and CJNT’s current owner, Channel Zero, also made significant commitments to support a new station, ICI, which will assume ethnic programming requirements as a producers’ cooperative. (The decisions were important enough that the CRTC even issued a press release on the matter, in which chairman Jean-Pierre Blais says that these decisions “will increase the diversity of voices in the Montreal region.”)

My Gazette story on this news is here, including comments from the various players.

Here’s what’s next for them:

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CRTC skeptical about CJNT, ICI applications

As with all ownership transactions it is the responsibility of the seller or its representative to prove that a transaction is in the public interest. The Commission has been abundantly clear about this recently. This means that the burden of proof lies with Rogers and Channel Zero. This is not simply a matter of promising to invest a certain amount of money in the Canadian broadcasting system, many other factors must also be taken into consideration, including the impact on the Montreal market and the Commission’s various policies.

This was the statement at the beginning of last month’s hearing by Jean-Pierre Blais, the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Combined with the grilling that the commission gave to the three parties involved in two applications related to the purchase of CJNT by Rogers, it’s clear that the commission’s hard line about acquisitions wasn’t just a one-off for Bell’s sake.

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Bell Media opposes Rogers plans for CJNT

It’s not that Bell Media, which owns CTV, is opposed to adding a third private English-language station to the Montreal market. But it tells the CRTC it thinks such an application should be done in a straightforward way with a call for new applications, rather than the roundabout two-step process that Rogers is proposing with CJNT.

Normally, when an application is made for a new commercial television or radio station, the CRTC responds by evaluating the market to see if it can sustain an additional station, and if so issuing an open call for applications. The various applications are evaluated and the commission chooses the best one.

With the Rogers acquisition of CJNT, which it proposes to convert into an English station, and a related application for the new ICI ethnic station, which would take over the ethnic programming responsibilities from CJNT, the new application isn’t technically for Citytv, but for an ethnic station to replace an existing one. In comments filed to the CRTC, Bell’s vice-president of regulatory affairs Kevin Goldstein says Rogers is “looking for an extraordinary result from this process” and the CRTC should reject the application, instead issuing an open call for applications for a new English television station in Montreal. Indeed, he questions why it wasn’t the group behind ICI that didn’t seek to acquire CJNT, and Rogers issue the new application.

Even under an alternative proposal, in which CJNT remains an ethnic station but with relief from rules like the one requiring 75% of its programming between 8pm and 10pm to be bilingual, Goldstein says “its commitment to local ethnic programming hours will be drastically reduced and much lower than what is required by other ethnic stations. This would represent a significant loss of diverse programming for Montreal’s ethnic audiences, particularly during the prime time hours when they tune in the most.”

Other Bell concerns include:

Timing: Bell points out that if the two applications are approved, the ICI service would take some months to launch, while Citytv could be converted into an English television station “essentially overnight.” In the interim, Montreal would be absent any ethnic programming on local television.

Programming: Though it doesn’t object to Rogers’s proposed English programming grid per se, Bell does suggest that it might not be the best option in terms of local programming. It points out that the station would have “limited local news” which would be done within a morning show and a weekly sports show. Goldstein suggests that, with an open call for applications, another proposal could offer a better option that would have more or better local programming.

Bell’s main objection, that Rogers seems to have structured this plan as a clever way to get around normal CRTC process for a new television station, makes a lot of sense. But it’s also kind of an academic argument to make, for the simple reason that there’s little demand for new conventional television stations. I’d be surprised if an open call for applications for a commercial English station would result in an application from anyone other than Rogers for the simple reason that there’s no other large mainstream commercial Canadian television network that doesn’t already have a station in Montreal. The only other networks in Canada are the small, mainly religious Joytv and CTS.

In 1996, when Canwest applied to acquire Quebec City station CKMI-TV and convert it into Global Quebec, CFCF objected strongly, saying the market could not sustain a second television station. Ownership of CFCF has changed a few times since then, though.

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Burning questions about CJNT, Citytv and ICI

Sam Norouzi, whose family would own 90% of the company behind ICI, in the Mi-Cam studio on Christophe-Colomb Ave.

I have two stories in Wednesday’s Gazette, explaining to readers the two proposals for new television stations related to the proposed Rogers acquisition of CJNT. The first discusses the plan for CJNT itself, to convert it to an English Citytv station that would air the Citytv schedule and a new local morning show. The second talks to the family behind an application for a new station called ICI that would essentially bring back CJNT’s predecessor Télévision Ethnique du Québec, in which producers acted independently in a cooperative and sell advertising for their own shows.

While the Gazette stories are long and contain a lot of information, there were a bunch of other little facts that I couldn’t cram in there that would probably be of more interest to people who follow local media a bit more closely. So here are some answers:

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Rogers proposes two television stations to replace CJNT

Back in May, when Rogers and Channel Zero announced that they had reached an agreement to buy CJNT from the latter and turn it into a Citytv-branded station (with it becoming a Citytv affiliate in the meantime), it was unclear whether it would remain Montreal’s only ethnic television station. Rogers Media President of Broadcast, Scott Moore, couldn’t be pinned down either way on what, if any, amendments to the station’s licence the media giant would propose as part of the purchase.

On Sept. 5, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission published the application for transfer of ownership, and we learn that, in fact, Rogers is asking to change Citytv from an ethnic station into an English one, or at least to relieve it of a condition of licence requiring 75% of programming from 8pm to 10pm be ethnic in nature (a condition that previous owners have tried and failed to have relieved).

But this request comes with a twist: In exchange for turning CJNT into an English station, Rogers proposes to support a brand new television station in Montreal whose programming would be almost entirely ethnic in nature. The new station, which would be the 10th over-the-air television station in Montreal, would be run by an independent group and would include some of the same programming that used to air on CJNT.

During this week, I’ll be speaking with the principal parties involved (Rogers, Channel Zero and the independent group proposing the new station). In the meantime, here’s what the applications themselves say.

Citytv Montreal

“The acquisition of CJNT-TV and its conversion to an English-language commercial television station will allow RBL to establish an over-the-air television presence for Citytv in Montréal. This is a key step towards making Citytv more competitive with CTV and Global in terms of programming and our ability to access network advertising revenues.”

Rogers has made clear its intention for a more national footprint for the Citytv network, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week. Advertisers treat Citytv, which has no stations east of Toronto, as a small regional player, and Rogers wants that to change. So it signed an affiliation agreement with three small-market western stations in the Jim Pattison Group, and acquired Saskatchewan educational network SCN, rebranding it Citytv Saskatchewan. And it acquired CJNT in Montreal.

The network still isn’t complete. There’s no station in Atlantic Canada, and only a retransmitter in Ottawa. But these moves have increased the network’s reach about 27%.

Being a national advertising player is a priority for Rogers, so much so that it’s willing to lose a lot of money on a Citytv station in Montreal:

“In terms of revenue potential, Citytv has a very limited ability to sell network advertising. National advertising buyers want access to top quality programming on national networks with extensive audience reach to meet their clients’ needs in the most efficient way possible. They naturally look first to CTV and Global for network buy opportunities, as these networks have the national reach that they are seeking. Citytv network buys may be considered to fill the gaps, but only after the buyers have exhausted their advertising opportunities with the large national networks.”

Purchase price

The application lists a purchase price for CJNT: $10.3 million. That breaks down as about $550,000 for the actual assets (mostly transmission assets, as Rogers isn’t interested in the existing studios or programming rights), and the rest for the licence itself. When Channel Zero bought CJNT in 2009, it was in a package deal with CHCH in Hamilton for $12, along with commitments to cover the stations’ liabilities.

If we consider a $6 purchase price and a $10.3 million sale price, that’s a 171,666,667% return on investment in just three years for Channel Zero, or 57,222,222% a year. That’s about 10 million times the rate on my RRSP.

From the Rogers application, we also learn a bit about Channel Zero’s motives, including the fact that it took the station mainly so it could get CHCH:

Channel Zero’s primary consideration was the acquisition of CHCH-TV; however, it was clear that the stations were being sold as a package and Channel Zero was enthused by the opportunity to acquire an ethnic station in one of Canada’s greatest cities.

Channel Zero has invested just under $500,000 on technical upgrades to the CJNT-TV facility including converting the transmission facilities to digital. It has also created new office facilities and has funded operating losses which are expected to total $1.5 million by the end of the current broadcast year.

This is consistent with criticisms that while Channel Zero has invested a lot of time, energy and money into programming at CHCH, it has all but ignored CJNT. (Though, the application also correctly points out that if Channel Zero had not bought CJNT in 2009, the station would likely have been shut down.)

The big question, though, is why Rogers is bothering with this when it could just apply for a new licence for a new television station, and leave CJNT to remain ethnic. The CRTC asked the same question, and here is Rogers’s response:

Montreal, as a major English-language television market, remains a key part of our expansion strategy. As such, we have looked at number of options to monetize Citytv’s programming in this market including applying for a new licence, applying for a rebroadcast transmitter, negotiating broad distribution and simultaneous substitution with local distributors and available acquisition opportunities.

The purchase of CJNT-TV was the most attractive of these options as it represented the fastest and most predictable entry into the market and would allow us to start monetizing our programming in the upcoming broadcast year.

The other point made is that if Rogers tried to start a new station, Channel Zero and CJNT would probably be first in line to oppose it.

It’s through the related application presented for this CRTC hearing that we learn that Channel Zero had originally planned to ask the CRTC to convert CJNT from an ethnic station into an English station, similar to what Rogers is proposing now. Channel Zero and the group behind the new ethnic station project came up with this joint proposal in order to allow CJNT to become English without depriving Montreal of its only ethnic television station.

If the Rogers acquisition is denied, Channel Zero is apparently still interested in converting CJNT into an English station. From Rogers’s application:

In the event the Commission denies the proposed transaction, 2209005 (the licensee of CJNT) intends to apply to the Commission to convert CJNT-TV into an English-language television station as it does not believe the station is viable, on a long-term basis, as an ethnic station based on its current business model. RBL (Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.) has also been informed by 2209005 that should the Commission deny the proposed transaction that it will strongly oppose any applications for a new English-language television station to serve Montreal, as 2209005’s intention is to apply for an English-language television station in Montreal.

Programming

Proposed Citytv schedule for CJNT (PDF)

As previously stated in May, Rogers’s plan for CJNT would not include a daily evening newscast, since Montreal already has three of those (CTV, CBC and Global). Instead, most of a Montreal Citytv station’s local programming would come through a local morning show called Breakfast Television Montreal, which would run from 6am to 9am weekdays. This is consistent with Citytv’s other (non-Toronto) local stations, which also rely on Breakfast Television for most of their local programming.

The application describes the proposed morning show as “a mix of local news, information and entertainment programming focused exclusively on the Montréal market.” It also touts the “community” focus of the shows, covering everything from cultural events to fundraisers.

The other local show would be a weekly sports show, which in its application Rogers calls “Connected Montréal”:

RBL will also launch a weekly half-hour sports program, to be known as Connected Montréal, dedicated to covering the best in professional, amateur, university, CEGEP, and junior league sports in the Greater Montréal area. Currently, there are no programs on television that showcase the talented athletes and coaches that make-up this rich and diverse sporting community. We intend to focus on the positive influences sports bring to young people, community building, and the historical and cultural fabric of Montréal.

This show will include a mix of game highlights; team, athlete and coach profiles; and analysis from a wide variety of local sporting events. This program will be uplifting and motivational, providing Montréalers with the opportunity to celebrate their city’s athletic achievements.

The proposed programming grid lists a one-hour program called “The Fan” that would air Sundays at 6pm and repeat Mondays. The half-hour option seems to be the more recent of the two. It’s not clear at this point when exactly the show would air, but likely on weekends with at least one repeat, Moore tells me.

With 15 hours for the morning show and half an hour for the sports show (repeated once), the station would produce 15.5 hours of original local programming a week, and air 16 hours including the repeat.

Citytv Montreal would also air Citytv network programming as it does now, including Cityline and programs like The Bachelor Canada.

But the big thing is U.S. programming. The reason Rogers wants more local stations (as opposed to distant-signal carriage on local distributors) is to benefit from simultaneous substitution. The real losers here aren’t CFCF or CKMI, they’re WPTZ, WFFF, WVNY and WCAX, who will lose a big chunk of what non-substituted primetime programming it has left.

Plan B: An ethnic station

Rogers’s application proposes an alternative if the CRTC decides against turning CJNT into an English station:

“RBL would be prepared to respect the current licensee’s commitment to provide 14 hours of local ethnic programming each week, provided that the word “original” is deleted. We would be prepared to accept the revised commitment as a (condition of licence) in the licence to be issued for CJNT-TV as an ethnic station.”

But more importantly, Rogers needs the requirement that 75% of programming from 8 to 10pm be ethnic to be removed, as well as another similar condition requiring that at least 50% of programming between 6pm and midnight be ethnic. Without those licence changes at minimum, Rogers says it will walk away from the deal.

“Without these changes to CJNT-TV’s licence our purchase of the station no longer has any strategic value to our broadcast group.”

If the CRTC doesn’t buy the two-station plan, Rogers may have a tough time convincing the CRTC to move forward with this change. The CRTC has already twice denied previous owners’ applications to have this condition removed.

It’s not clear at this point what Rogers would do as far as local ethnic programming in case CJNT remains an ethnic station under its control. But it would not air an English morning show if the station remains ethnic.

Finances

Rogers’s proposed five-year budget for an English-language CJNT shows it would lose between $6 million and $7 million each year as an English station, and in fact it would get worse rather than getting better. The largest expense, about half its total, would be for the acquisition of American programming. Less than half of that, about $3 million a year, would be spent on Canadian programming, including its local shows.

Under the second proposed scenario, where Rogers buys CJNT but it remains an ethnic station (relieved of its obligation to air 75% ethnic programming from 8 to 10pm), it would spend only about $1 million a year on Canadian programming and about $6-7 million on U.S. programs, but would lose slightly less money every year.

Technical parameters

No changes are being proposed to the technical setup of CJNT. It would remain on digital channel 49 (virtual channel 62.1), transmitting from a small tower on the roof of the CTV/TVA transmission building next to the Mount Royal tower, with 4 kilowatts effective radiated power.

Rogers proposes its licence for CJNT expire on Aug. 31, 2016, which is when CJNT’s current licence expires.

ICI

ICI (International Channel / Canal International) is a project of Mohammad Nowrouzzahrai and his family, who want to bring Montreal’s ethnic television station back to its roots. Nowrouzzahrai produced a Persian program for Télévision Ethnique du Québec, which was a public access cable channel and became an over-the-air broadcaster in 1997 as CJNT. It was sold to WIC in 1999, and became a Canwest station when Canwest bought WIC.

Mohammad’s son Sam, who worked for him in the TEQ days, runs the day-to-day operations at Mi-Cam Communications, a production company owned by his father which created programs for CJNT in its early days. According to the application, Sam Nowrouzzahrai, aka Sam Norouzi, would continue in this role at ICI.

Because the ICI project predates the announced sale of CJNT to Rogers, the plan does not consider Rogers’s involvement locally. And with the announcement that Rogers is buying CJNT, the plan doesn’t change much. But there’s an additional bonus for ICI, in that Rogers has proposed to use the tangible benefits package of $1 million (10% of the $10 million purchase price) to help fund the ICI station and offset its losses. This is additional money that ICI’s original plan hadn’t considered. (If the ICI station is denied, Rogers plans to put the money to other uses.)

Because it gets funding from Channel Zero, the ICI application is dependent on the sale of CJNT to Rogers. Otherwise, the two would both be ethnic stations competing with each other.

But the group behind ICI insists that it is not contingent on Rogers converting CJNT from an ethnic station into an English-language one. Though it admits that the business case becomes a lot tougher (particularly if it doesn’t get that $1 million in benefits money), it feels that it could continue while competing with CJNT. ICI’s plan does not involve OMNI programming, which CJNT currently airs a lot of as a Citytv affiliate.

Rogers, however, is less convinced that Montreal could support two ethnic TV stations:

“…we believe there is increased potential for brand confusion and audience fragmentation as a result of having two ethnic stations in the market. Based on the above, and given CJNT-TV’s financial history, it is not clear to RBL that there is room for two ethnic stations in the Montreal market.”

It’s hard to imagine the CRTC ruling in such a way that we get two ethnic stations, considering the precarious history of the existing one. If ICI is approved, expect Rogers to get its wish for a fully English station.

Ownership

The channel would be run by 4517466 Canada Inc., a company owned 90% by five members of the Nowrouzzahrai family (specifically, Mohammad Nowrouzzahrai, his wife and three children). Another 5% would be owned by Marie Griffiths, who used to own part of CJNT and is the controlling owner of Groupe CHCR, which runs Montreal ethnic radio stations CKDG (Mike FM) and CKIN-FM. The other 5% is “to be determined.”

Finances

The group would be financed by up to $1 million from Channel Zero’s Movieola subsidiary, as well as about $1 million in benefits from Rogers (over five years) that come from the tangible benefits package from its acquisition of CJNT.

The station would have an operating budget of about $3.5 million for each of its first seven years, with programming in the news, music/variety and entertainment magazine formats. There would also be about 14% of its programming budget spent on non-Canadian programs.

Its revenue, entirely through local advertising, would start around that level and eventually increase to $6.5 million by the end of its first seven-year licence term. The station would be profitable by the third year, and making almost $2 million in Year 7.

That sounds incredibly optimistic. To put it in perspective, according to the same application, the English stations combined received about $8 million a year in local advertising in the six years up to 2009, and $10 million in 2009-10. And CFCF currently has about 100 times the audience of CJNT.

Cooperative

According to the application, the station would operate as a producer’s cooperative. This means the producers of individual shows would be responsible for their own budgets, and for selling their own advertising. The application explains the structure this way:

Ici proposes a channel that will operate very much like a co-operative in that each of the individual language producers will be able to shape their program as their own business within the overall business structure that ici will create. Each of the producers will own the advertising inventory within their own programming and therefore be in a position to generate revenue through the sale of advertising to the community that they know best. The producer’s will in turn provide a share of these revenues to ici in exchange for the services which ici will provide.

This makes sense, in that the individual producers are closer to their communities than any central ad sales staff could be. But it also means that more of the risk would be on the shoulders of the individual producers. Many would probably end up producing their shows on a volunteer basis.

Programming

Proposed programming schedule for ICI (PDF)

Programming for ICI would originate from a small studio (74 square metres) on Christophe Colomb Ave. in Ahuntsic, at the home of Mi-Cam Communications.

The programming would be in 15 languages and directed to 18 ethnic groups, including:

  • Italian
  • Latino
  • Arab (including: Lebanese, Egyptian, Moroccan, Algerian)
  • Portuguese
  • Greek
  • Haitian
  • Polish
  • Armenian
  • Persian
  • Romanian
  • African (French)
  • Russian
  • German
  • Afghan
  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Chinese

The largest chunk of programming would be Italian (31%, including most of the weekday afternoon schedule), followed by Arabic (10%), Spanish (8%), Greek (3%) and Mandarin/Cantonese (2.5%).

Some of the programs previously produced for CJNT would find a new home on ICI. The application includes signed letters from hosts and staff of Chinese, Bangladesh, African and Egyptian programs that aired on CJNT, as well as potential producers of other programs, that are willing and excited to sign on to this project.

In all, the programming grid proposes 33 shows of half an hour or an hour in length, almost all of them locally-produced weekly shows. Shows appearing more often include a one-hour yoga show weekdays at 7am,, and a Hellenic show and a Greek show that would each be produced twice a week. Most shows would be repeated at least once on another day.

Monday and Thursday evenings, from 7pm to 11pm, the channel would air Teleritmo, which consists mainly of music videos in Spanish.

Despite the involvement of Rogers, which came after the original application for this station was submitted, there are no significant plans for OMNI programming on ICI, even if CJNT is stripped of its ethnic station status. “We do not envision OMNI programming being a significant portion of the ici schedule,” the application says.

Also unlike OMNI (and CJNT under Canwest, Channel Zero and as a Citytv affiliate), the ICI station would not air significant English-language programming during primetime (or at all, really). It says this is because of the way the industry has changed in the past decade. Rather than each station in a market acquiring programming, the large players (Bell, Rogers, Shaw) buy U.S. programs on a national basis, leaving little room for small broadcasters. So instead of trying to put some high-profit U.S. programs in primetime (and take advantage of simultaneous substitution to steal some ad revenue), the station is abandoning this practice and focusing entirely on ethnic programming. It does leave open the door to airing some U.S. programs, however, particularly those that are acquired by other independent stations like CHCH in Hamilton.

Though there are no definitive plans for programming synergies with Rogers, the application does expect Rogers and Ici to collaborate on national ethnic ad sales if CJNT becomes an English station.

The revised application also suggests news gathering resource sharing between ICI and Citytv, much like OMNI and City share resources in other markets, with the same visuals being used by both but with different reporters in different languages.

Master control would either be shared between Rogers and ICI, or if that doesn’t work, ICI says it is prepared to rent master control facilities from other broadcasters.

Conditions of licence

The ICI application proposes to replicate most of CJNT’s current conditions of licence, namely:

  • At least 60% ethnic programming between 6am and midnight
  • At least 60% ethnic programming between 6pm and midnight
  • At least 75% ethnic programming between 8pm and 10pm
  • At least 55% Canadian programming between 6am and midnight
  • At least 50% Canadian programming between 6pm and midnight
  • Ethnic programming directed at at least 18 ethnic groups and in at least 15 languages each month
  • 100% closed captioning of programming, including all advertising in English and French by Year 4
In addition, the station proposes, like CJNT, to have a minimum of 14 hours of local programming a week. The actual proposed programming grid would, in fact, be double this, not including repeats. Including repeats of local programming, more than half its broadcast day and almost all of primetime would be locally produced. If they could pull this off, it would put Montreal’s private English broadcasters to shame.

Proposed transmission pattern for “ICI” would be directional, with a triangular shape.

Transmitter

ICI would operate on Channel 47 (it had originally proposed Channel 51), with a transmitter on the Bell tower on Mount Royal (just west of the main CBC tower). That’s the same tower CFCF used when it was operating a temporary digital transmitter (also on Channel 51). Because the plan for this new station began before CFCF left that channel, they decided to move to Channel 47. Industry Canada also has a moratorium on issuing new broadcasting certificates for Channel 51.

The transmitter would put out a maximum 5,500 watts ERP at a height of 196 metres. This puts it about on par with CJNT’s current signal, for those wondering if they’d be able to capture it.

Unlike CJNT, which is carried by many distribution services, ICI expects it would not get satellite carriage, and so would rely solely on local cable systems (which are required by law to carry all local over-the-air stations). About two-thirds of Montreal’s English population and 80% of the francophone population either get cable or rely on over-the-air reception, according to the application’s estimates.

The CRTC is considering these two applications at a hearing to begin Nov. 7 in Gatineau. The deadline for comments is 8pm Eastern Time on Oct. 5. To submit an intervention, click here, choose Option 1, then choose “2012-0756-4: Rogers Broadcasting Limited” (for the CJNT application) and/or “2012-0175-6: 4517466 Canada Inc.” (for the ICI application).

Citytv comes to Montreal … kinda

CityLine appears on CJNT on its first day as a Citytv affiliate (the box disappeared a few minutes later)

There wasn’t much ceremony surrounding it, but at 5am on Monday, the beginning of its broadcast day, CJNT Montreal went from being a sister station to CHCH Hamilton to being an affiliate of the Rogers-owned Citytv network.

A month ago, Rogers and Channel Zero, which owns CJNT and CHCH, announced that they had come to an agreement to sell the station for an undisclosed sum. The deal made sense because Channel Zero had done just about nothing with CJNT, instead focusing its efforts for the first two years on the higher-rated Hamilton station. And Rogers needs a Montreal presence for its Citytv network and has plenty of experience with ethnic programming thanks to its OMNI stations. It comes as little surprise that Rogers was interested in buying CJNT for years.

Since buying a television station is a long process, requiring approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission before it can close, the deal between Channel Zero and Rogers also included a provision making CJNT a Citytv affiliate as of June 4.

While it’s being branded as a Citytv affiliate, with sitcom reruns in the afternoons, a look at its primetime schedule shows it’s really more of an OMNI station than anything else. Half its primetime schedule is OMNI programming, mainly national daily newscasts in various languages.

The schedule

Citytv has a full weekly schedule for CJNT on its website. Here’s how it breaks down for the new CJNT on weekdays:

  • Midnight to 5am: Episodes of Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men, The Office, Judge Joe Brown, Maury Povich, Cold Case
  • 5am to 6am: CityLine
  • 6am to 7am: Rerun of Italian newscast
  • 7am to 10am: Metro Debut, extended to three hours
  • 10am to 11pm: CityLine
  • 11am to 1pm: Rebroadcasts of other OMNI newscasts
  • 1pm to 3pm: Ethnic programming
  • 3pm to 4pm: General Hospital
  • 4pm to 8pm: Judge Judy, 30 Rock, The Office, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother
  • 8pm to 9pm: Italian OMNI newscast (Ontario)
  • 9pm to 9:30pm: Cantonese OMNI newscast
  • 9:30pm to 10pm: Mandarin OMNI newscast
  • 10pm to 11pm: Murdoch Mysteries (an original Citytv series)
  • 11pm to 11:30pm: Punjabi OMNI newscast
  • 11:30pm to midnight: Portuguese OMNI newscast (Ontario)

On weekends, the schedule is mainly ethnic programming, with documentaries, movies, weekly newsmagazines and other programs.

Fall schedule announced for CJNT

As part of its announcements last week of its fall schedule, Rogers released programming grids for its stations. Here’s the one for CJNT, which still has the Italian newscast at 8pm (except Mondays when it’s at 7) and filling other parts of the prime-time schedule with OMNI documentaries.

Regulatory requirements

The schedule looks like this because of CJNT’s conditions of license that require half of primetime to be ethnic programming. Specifically:

  • Not less than 60% of programming broadcast annually between 6am and midnight must be ethnic programs (the current schedule shows only eight hours a day on weekdays devoted to ethnic programming, so CJNT devotes 100% of its hours from 6am to midnight on Saturday and Sunday to make up the difference, and it does so with less than half an hour to spare)
  • Not less than 50% of programming broadcast monthly between 6pm and midnight must be ethnic programs (the fall schedule shows 50% for 7pm to 11pm – assuming it continues with OMNI newscasts from 11pm to midnight it would meet this requirement and could still air sitcom reruns at 6pm to 7pm)
  • Not less than 75% of programming broadcast monthly between 8pm and 10pm must be ethnic programs (the fall schedule shows 79% in those hours)
  • Not less than 50% of programming between 6am and midnight must be Canadian (the current schedule has weekdays with 10 of 18 hours being Canadian programs)
  • Not less than 40% of programming between 6pm and midnight must be Canadian (with OMNI newscasts produced in Toronto, this isn’t a difficult threshold to reach)
  • Not fewer than 18 distinct ethnic groups targetted monthly
  • Not fewer than 15 languages monthly (with five language versions of the OMNI daily newscast, much of this and the previous requirement is met with weekly weekend programs)

Then there’s the matter of local ethnic programming.

In the CRTC decision awarding a license to Channel Zero, it’s not listed as a “condition of license” but rather a “commitment” – the new owner had actually proposed a slight increase in the amount of local ethnic programming to 14 hours a week.

But in the three years it owned the station, Channel Zero hasn’t produced a minute of local ethnic programming. Instead, it has been airing years-old repeats of local programs that were produced under Canwest, much to the annoyance of the people who ran those programs who would like to be able to reach their audiences again. When I spoke to Channel Zero’s programming director Jennifer Chen a few months ago, she said that there were setbacks because a deal with a local producer fell through, and that the company was in talks with another producer. But she also admitted that to a large extent Channel Zero focused more on CHCH at first than CJNT.

With the CRTC holding a hearing into the sale of CJNT to Rogers, there’s not much point in complaining about how Channel Zero has failed to keep the station on its mandate. But legitimate questions can be raised over what plans Rogers has for local ethnic programming.

Looking at the fall primetime schedule above, it seems Rogers is prepared to continue with the other conditions of license.

Other OMNI stations have similar programming requirements, and produce regional editions of their newscasts. The Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi editions of OMNI News that air on CJNT are national newscasts, while the Italian and Portuguese versions are regional Toronto editions. (This is why, for example, the latter two only go from Windsor to Ottawa when giving the weather.)

No application has been published by the CRTC for Rogers to acquire CJNT. It’s at that point that we’ll have an idea of its plans, whether it will ask the regulator to reduce ethnic programming requirements (unlikely, since it rejected two requests from Canwest to do that) or reduce local ethnic programming requirements in favour of non-ethnic local programming (like Metro Debut or another morning show).

OMNI News

The biggest part of CJNT’s new schedule, and perhaps the most unfamiliar to Montreal audiences, is OMNI News, the foreign-language daily newscasts that make up a large part of ethnic programming requirements for OMNI stations.

The newscasts look about as identical as their title screens make them look. Low-budget with only a single anchor (except the Italian edition which has a separate sports anchor). All are in high definition. The Italian edition is an hour long, the others are half an hour long. The Italian and Portuguese editions are actually local Toronto versions that cover the Ontario region, so they qualify as local programming. Other regions (there are also OMNI stations in Alberta and British Columbia) have other regional editions in various languages.

The newscasts tend to have similar-looking stories, usually with the same top headlines (and using the same video for them). They distinguish themselves where it matters to their communities. More talk of Italian soccer in the Italian edition. More about what’s happening in China in the Cantonese and Mandarin editions. The newscasts make use of foreign news reports in their language and even add the homeland to their weather forecasts.

It might be fun to have something like this in Montreal, a daily newscast perhaps attracting a bit more attention from local ethnic viewers than the low-budget newsmagazines of the old CJNT days. But Rogers’s plans for local programming for the station are still unknown.

Not coming back

With many new programs coming to the station, there’s also a long list of programs that have been pulled off:

  • Fifth-rate American programming (mainly CW network shows) whose Canadian rights are owned by Channel Zero: The Insider, Nightline, Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle and Supernatural, as well as some NBA games. They have been replaced by third-rate American programming from Citytv.
  • The daily sports show Sportsline, produced for CHCH but also aired on CJNT
  • Shows featuring Ed the Sock that are produced mainly for CHCH
  • Frank D’Angelo’s vanity programming (it’s still airing, at least for now)
  • Much of Metro 14’s music video programming, with shows like The Main Line and World Beats
  • Independently-produced local ethnic programming of questionable technical quality, such as Bossbens Show and Amet.tv. Amet.tv disappeared for the first weekend, but returned to the schedule, taking over Saturday afternoons. Religious infomercial Il est écrit is also continuing to air.

Also gone are those three-year-old reruns of former CJNT local programming, like Soul Call, Foco Latino, Hellas Spectrum and Magazine Libanais.

Evan Arppe hosts Metro Debut, weekdays from 7 to 10am

Metro Debut remains

The only show that remains on the schedule is Metro Debut, the morning show hosted by Evan Arppe, who ironically looks like the whitest man on television. The show consists mainly of music videos (some of which are produced in HD, converted to standard definition then converted back into HD, meaning they take up only a tiny box on the screen), interspersed with the host giving news headlines, traffic and weather information with no help from graphics, reporters, live images or anything else. It’s about as low-budget as you can possibly get.

Another program that was on Metro 14 and will come back to it is Jimmy Kimmel Live. This is just a coincidence – Citytv has picked up the Canadian rights to the show from Channel Zero. It will start airing this fall, and CJNT fills the midnight to 1am hour with Seinfeld reruns in the meantime.

Analysis

There’s still a lot that’s unknown and will be determined through the CRTC process. It’s unsurprising that OMNI content will fill much of CJNT’s schedule, and that the schedule maximizes the amount of American programming that airs during weekdays. A look at the station’s programming page shows that it looks to get a lot of its viewers, at least during the summer, from afternoon programming. And much of that will benefit from simultaneous substitution: General Hospital at 3pm (WVNY), Judge Judy at 4pm (WPTZ), 30 Rock at 5pm (WFFF), The Office at 5:30pm (WFFF) and Two and a Half Men at 6pm (WFFF).

If Rogers is planning on local ethnic programming for CJNT, expect it to take the form of new regional OMNI newscasts (Spanish, Italian and Arabic might be good choices here) and weekly newsmagazines.

Will Videotron pull CITY or OMNI Toronto?

With the arrival of Citytv in Montreal carrying much of OMNI’s programming, there’s a question about what will happen to two Toronto stations on Videotron’s illico digital cable system: CITY-DT Toronto (Channel 78 in SD and 678 in HD) and CFMT-DT Toronto (OMNI.1, Channel 80). I’ve asked Videotron about its future plans for these channels, particularly since one uses up a bandwidth-hogging HD slot. I’ll update this when I hear back.

CJNT’s schedule differs from CITY’s enough that there’s probably a good argument to keep the latter. But with ethnic programming all over CJNT’s schedule, there might be less of one for keeping OMNI.

UPDATE: Mike Cohen talks to Rogers VP Scott Moore about his plans for CJNT.

Even more details about Montreal’s digital TV transition

Updated Feb. 23, 2012, with the latest information on transmitters (CKMI now on permanent antenna, CFTU transmitting in digital).

Mount Royal tower is about to go digital

I wrote a feature that appeared in Saturday’s Gazette (Page E3, for those clipping) about the transition from analog television to digital, whose deadline is Aug. 31.

The main story focuses mainly on how local broadcasters are coping with the transition. It’s a big endeavour, and with less than 10% of Canadian households still using antennas to get their television service, it’s difficult to justify the cost (in the neighbourhood of $1 million per transmitter, but varying widely) of replacing the analog with digital.

That’s to say nothing about the consumers, many of whom are on the lower end of the income scale, who must now spend money on new equipment.

The sidebar focuses on consumers, and tries to explain how people can prepare. If you haven’t already heard 1,000 times, cable and satellite subscribers are unaffected. If you get your service by antenna, you either need a TV with a digital ATSC tuner (most new HDTVs have one) or a digital converter box.

My editor was very generous with the assigned length (in all it clocks in at a bit under 2,000 words), but even then there’s a lot of information I had to leave out, including a few conversations I had with actual TV viewers. I’ll try to include most of that information here.

The digital transition in Montreal

First, here’s how the digital transition is going for the nine television stations broadcasting in Montreal (updated 9am Sept. 1):

  • Five (CFCF/CTV, CFTM/TVA, CIVM/Télé-Québec, CFJP/V and CJNT/Metro 14) have completed the transition, switching off their analog transmitters and replacing them with digital ones that are now transmitting. They should all be at full power from their permanent antennas.
  • Three (CBMT/CBC, CBFT/Radio-Canada,CKMI-1/Global) have shut down their analog transmitters and have digital ones operating on their permanent assigned channels, but are not yet operating from what will be their permanent antenna on top of the Mount Royal tower. (CBMT and CBFT are also running at reduced power.) Those who don’t get these signals now may see that improve over the coming weeks.
  • One (CFTU/Canal Savoir) has been given a two-month extension to make the transition. It is still broadcasting in analog until the digital transmitter begins running.

Welcome to the new TV

This week has a lot of changes for television both local and nationally. Two main reasons for this: it’s September and the fall season is starting, plus CRTC broadcast licenses for conventional television stations end on Aug. 31.

This week’s Bluffer’s Guide (courtesy of yours truly) looks at the changes happening on the local television dial. The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson also has a piece this morning, looking particularly at the upheaval at small money-losing stations owned by Canwest and CTVglobemedia.

Here’s a timeline of what’s going on this week in television:

Today, Aug. 31

Tomorrow, Sept. 1

  • 12am: The CRTC begins billing cable and satellite companies 1.5% of their revenues for a Local Programming Improvement Fund, to help small-market television stations. Bell and Shaw, Canada’s satellite providers, have responded by adding a 1.5% fee to consumers’ bills beginning today. Videotron, Quebec’s main cable provider, hasn’t decided to follow suit yet.
  • At the same time, the CRTC lifts the cap on the amount of advertising conventional television stations can air. It had previously been at 15 minutes per hour. The CRTC believes that the market will self-regulate the amount of advertising (after all, a station with too many ads is going to lose viewers).
  • 1am (10pm in Victoria): CHEK-TV in Victoria goes off the air. See below.
  • 6am: As conventional broadcast stations across the country (at least the ones that are part of large networks like Global, CTV, CityTV and TVA) get new one-year licenses, new local programming requirements come into effect. They require 7 hours of original programming for small markets and 14 hours for large markets (the latter includes Montreal on both the anglo and franco side). TVA’s local programming numbers are defined on a case-by-case basis: 18 hours a week for Quebec City and 5 hours a week for Rimouski, Chicoutimi and Sherbrooke. TQS, because it got special consideration from the CRTC after going bankrupt, isn’t affected by these changes.
  • Three stations formerly of the E! network but owned by the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group – CHAT-TV in Medicine Hat, Alta., CKPG-TV in Prince George, B.C., and CFJC-TV in Kamloops, B.C. – begin airing programming secured from Rogers. It includes the Price is Right, the Tyra Banks Show and Judge Judy in daytime, and Hell’s Kitchen and Law & Order: SVU in primetime.
  • 6pm: Global Quebec CKMI becomes Global Montreal with a rebranded evening newscast after a CRTC decision this summer allowed them to relicense and accept local advertising. Global Ontario is similarly changing to Global Toronto.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

  • 1am (10pm in Victoria): CHEK-TV in Victoria goes off the air. See below.

Thursday, Sept. 3

Saturday, Sept. 5

Monday, Sept. 7

  • 5pm: Dumont 360, a talk show hosted by former ADQ leader Mario Dumont, premieres on TQS V.

Tuesday, Sept. 8

Wednesday, Sept. 9

  • 9pm: Télé-Québec premieres Voir, a show by the people behind the newspaper of the same name.

Also of note this week are the 25th anniversaries of MuchMusic (video, CP story) and TSN.

Did I miss anything? Suggest additions below.

CRTC okays CJNT, CHCH purchase

CJNT: SOLD!

The CRTC today approved the application from Channel Zero to purchase CJNT Montreal and CHCH Hamilton from Canwest.

You’ll recall Channel Zero and Canwest announced in June that they’d reached a deal to purchase the money-losing stations. It was a win-win for both Canwest (which is in debt trouble – it announced today it has gotten another extension from its lenders) and the stations, who would have otherwise faced the fate of other stations in the E! network: shutdown.

CRTC approval of the deal was the only question mark – Channel Zero wanted some license changes as part of the deal. There was an expedited approval process, including a hearing on Monday – a week before existing licenses expire and Canwest runs out of programming to air.

The CJNT decision accepted the reasonable requests of Channel Zero, namely to relieve it of its requirement to air a minimum amount of French-language non-ethnic programming, and eliminate a requirement to make sure 25% of its films are Canadian. It will also be relieved of closed-captioning requirements until the fourth year of its license (and there is no requirement to closed-caption programming that is neither English nor French). CJNT is planning to keep all its ethnic programming (even slightly increasing its local ethnic programming requirement) and focusing its remaining schedule on ethnic music videos and other programming geared toward a younger audience.

For the CHCH decision, the CRTC got a promise (after a CTV intervention) that “local programming” would be that directed to the Hamilton/Niagara/Halton area, and that the station would not try to compete with local Toronto news stations. It accepted a request to relieve CHCH’s mandate to acquire “priority” programming (Canadian dramas and other expensive-to-produce shows) since it would now be a stand-alone station and not part of a national network (this is consistent with CRTC policy). The plan for CHCH is to become all news all day, with popular revenue-generating movies in prime time.

Both stations officially become part of Channel Zero on Sept. 1, with licenses that expire on Aug. 31, 2016 (it’s not clear how the handoff will happen – it won’t be smooth if they want to try it literally over the weekend). Both will be required to switch to digital broadcasting on Aug. 31, 2011. And Channel Zero will be asked to re-appear before the commission in 2012 to discuss programming for both stations.

Quickie analysis: Today is a good day for the two stations, and for Montreal and Hamilton. Whether these business models are sustainable, though, is a whole other question.

In Victoria, the news isn’t quite so happy. Despite a campaign from the 40 employees to buy CHEK Victoria from Canwest and run it themselves, Canwest said it wouldn’t work and the station will shut down as scheduled on Aug. 31.

CRTC Roundup: Details on CJNT/CHCH sale

The CRTC has called a hearing for Aug. 24 to hear Channel Zero’s proposal to buy CJNT Montreal and CHCH Hamilton. The application includes some goodies we didn’t hear about in the announcement in June.

The purchase price for both stations is $12, specifically:

  • Land $3.00
  • Buildings $3.00
  • Other Fixed Assets $3.00
  • Goodwill $3.00

The stations would be financed through a loan of $4 million from CIBC and Brian C. Hurlburt, and $3 million from Channel Eleven. That would go to increasing the size of CHCH’s newsroom and creating a new production facility at CJNT, plus eventually changing both stations to digital.

Canwest can pull out of the deal if CRTC approval is not given by Aug. 31. Channel Zero expects the CRTC will make a decision on the same day as the hearing, I guess.

The proposed programming grid for CHCH would be as follows:

  • Weekdays: News and local progamming from 5:30am to 7pm, followed by two movies, news from 11-12, a repeat of the prime-time movies and a really-late-night movie from 4am to 5:30am
  • Weekends: News and local programming from 6am to 1pm, followed by two movies, a one-hour 6pm newscast, two more movies, a one-hour 11pm newscast, and then three repeats of movies shown that day

The proposed programming grid for CJNT would look like this:

  • Local ethnic programming in the morning and during the evening supper hours (four hours a day total)
  • Music videos during the day
  • International ethnic movies during prime time
  • Movies (it’s not clear if this would be ethnic or not) overnight

On how they’ll bring the stations to get rich quick modest profit:

A short answer is that we will, if the application is approved, focus each of these stations on their core competency; news and local programming at CHCH and relevant and local multi-cultural programming at CJNT. We will not be relying on expensive first run U.S. programming and therefore we can bring the stations to modest profitability in a relatively short time frame.

A table of financial projections optimistically shows CJNT showing a profit as early as fiscal 2011, mainly due to the assumption that local advertising sales will have more than tripled by then, from $1.2 million a year to $4.3 million, despite the fact that they’re replacing first-run U.S. shows by less-expensive movies in prime-time.

Similarly, ad sales at CHCH are expected to recover to $43 million a year (on par with pre-recession levels, optimistic since more than 80% of that advertising came from non-news programming which Channel Zero would be getting rid of), which combined with spending $30 million a year less on programming expenses, and the CRTC’s new taxes on cable companies, would result in seven-figure profits beginning in fiscal 2012. Without its projected $4 million a year from fee for carriage (it predicts a “75% likelihood” for that “by 2011”), the station would stay in the red until 2014.

Channel Zero is also asking for changes to the licenses for CHCH and CJNT. Among them:

  • Deletion of a requirement for CHCH to have a minimum level of “priority programming” (things like Canadian dramas and news magazines). It argues such requirements are not asked of small stations, only of large broadcast groups.
  • Deletion of a requirement at CHCH for an independent monitoring committee, since these are related to Canwest’s cross-ownership of various media which Channel Zero does not have
  • Deletion of a requirement for CHCH to air four hours a week of described video (with the understanding that the station would use described video where available)
  • Removal of a requirement for CHCH to have distinct programming from Global’s CIII-TV Toronto, which becomes moot if CHCH isn’t owned by Canwest.
  • Deletion of a requirement for CJNT to make sure 25% of its films are Canadian (Channel Zero argues there aren’t enough foreign-language Canadian films to make that feasible – and it will abide by other Canadian content requirements)
  • Deletion of a requirement for French-language non-ethnic programming. Canwest twice asked to be relieved of this requirement, and was turned down twice by the CRTC. Channel Zero argues the station must focus on one market for non-ethnic programming, and the French market is already saturated here. It’s hard not to agree with that logic.
  • Increase in minimum requirements for local ethnic programming from 13.5 hours to 14 hours per week

The Canadian Media Guild’s Lise Lareau looks a bit skeptically at Channel Zero’s plans for CHCH in Hamilton, notably the requested license amendment to remove the requirement to air Canadian dramas and movies in prime time.

UPDATE: The CHCH union, which has agreed to support the sale in principle, is grieving Canwest’s plan to wind up its pension plan before the sale.

Campus/community radio review

The CRTC is undergoing a broad-based review of its policies for campus and community-based radio stations. Among the questions it’s asking:

  • Should campus and community stations be treated differently?
  • Should high school stations be licensed?
  • What kind of programming requirements should they have?
  • Should low-power “micro” radio stations be licensed or exempt from license?
  • How much advertising should they be limited to?

The deadline for comments is Sept. 11. The hearing is Nov. 30 in Gatineau.

Not so bold

After being slapped on the wrist for violating terms of license, the CBC has made good on its promise to request an amendment to change the nature of its specialty channel known as Bold. Formerly called Country Canada, the channel was licensed as a network for rural Canadians from a “rural perspective”, but since its transformation into bold (they don’t capitalize the B, so as to remain edgy or something) it’s basically been a network to throw leftovers at. It airs everything from drama reruns to soccer games.

The CBC’s argument for the change boils down to this:

There is insufficient programming from a “rural perspective” to program the service.

Sorry farm people, but you’re just not interesting enough for a whole channel, even with Heartland and Corner Gas.

New programming categories

Since the CRTC announced that it would allow specialty networks access to all programming categories when asked, they’ve gotten some requests for exactly that.

Astral Media is asking for access to all programming categories for Canal Vie, Canal D, Historia, MusiMax, VRAK.tv, Ztélé and MusiquePlus

TVA has received approval for Les idées de ma maison to air up to 10% animated programming. Argent and Mystère have access to a slew of new programming categories, everything from religious programming to feature films and music videos, so long as they fit with the channels’ themes and don’t compete with other networks and don’t go above 10% of the broadcast day. Prise 2 also gets categories added (see below)

Prise 2 must keep its CanCon

Prise 2 can now air TV programs that are as little as 10 years old (the previous minimum was 15) and movies as little as 15 years old (previously it was 25), as well as access more programming categories (documentaries and live sports, limited to 10% of the broadcast day). A request to reduce their CanCon requirement from 35% to 30% was denied.

Télé-Québec, Canal Savoir stay on the air

While the major networks (TVA, CTV, Global) got one-year license renewals as they sort out that fee-for-carriage thing, the smaller non-profit networks are being renewed for the full seven years.

CFTU (Canal Savoir) has been renewed for seven years with no changes to its conditions of license (except a reminder that it will need to transition to digital by August 2011).

CIVM Montreal (Télé-Québec) and its retransmitters across Quebec were also renewed until 2016, with some considerations about representation of minorities but otherwise no changes.

Corus gets more steamy

Corus Entertainment has come to an agreement to buy Sex TV and Drive-in Classics, two specialty channels, from CTVglobemedia. The next day Corus reported a $145-million quarterly loss. Last year Corus bought CLT from CTV and rebranded it VIVA.

In other news:

CRTC Roundup: They saved local TV!

Well, not quite.

The CRTC on Monday decided to hike the fee (temporarily, at least) for its Local Programming Improvement Fund from 1% to 1.5% of cable and satellite provider revenues (revenues, not profits), which would give broadcasters an additional $32 million a year ($100 million total in the new fund) to devote to local programming.

You can see all its arguments in the official decision. It’s less than the 2.5% that a parliamentary committee suggested in June.

It’s a victory for broadcasters and a defeat for cable and satellite companies (and probably consumers). CBC is happy. Canwest is happy. CTV is happy. Bell is sad. Cogeco is sad (PDF). Rogers is sad. Videotron is sad. Bill Brioux is annoyed.

Especially when you consider how much the television industry is already subsidized through mandatory fees from cable and satellite companies (now 6.5% of their revenues) and funding from the government, all without us having a say in programming, you have to wonder whether it’s all worth it.

Best of all, the broadcasters say they need more.

The CRTC also released its conditions of license for one-year renewals for the major networks:

Many of the decisions below come from these renewals.

Finally, the CRTC has kicked the fee-for-carriage can (which was in turn kicked to them by a parliamentary committee) and other issues down the road to a hearing in September, where it will discuss that and other issues affecting broadcast television. The indication, however, is that the CRTC supports a fee-for-carriage idea, provided the fees are negotiated with broadcasters and cable/satellilte companies.

Harmonized local programming minimums

And how much more local programming will we be getting for all this extra money? We won’t! In fact, we’re getting less! Thanks to new “harmonized” minimum requirements, most stations in the country will now have to produce less local programming.

For English-language stations, the minimums will be 14 hours a week for large markets (Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver), and seven hours a week for smaller markets (including Halifax, Hamilton and Victoria), with some exceptions. This will mean reductions for CKMI (18 hours a week) and CFCF (15.5 hours a week). Stations with really high requirements might see massive cuts and layoffs. CHCH Hamilton, for example, has dropped from 36.5 hours to only seven, though they’re going to make a go at more local programming, at least in the short term.

For French-language stations (effectively just TVA since TQS has a special exception), it’s on a case-by-case basis:

  • CFCM (Quebec City): 18 hours a week, down from 21
  • CFER (Rimouski): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10
  • CJPM (Chicoutimi): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10
  • CHLT (Sherbrooke): 5 hours a week, up from 3:10

Independent stations owned by Radio-Nord (TVA Gatineau) and Télé Inter-Rives (SRC/TVA/TQS in Rivière du Loup, TVA in Carleton) maintain their current requirements.

Note that for French markets, only Montreal is larger than a million and is ineligible for LPIF funding.

In the same decision, the CRTC also rejected requests from broadcasters to eliminate requirements for priority programming (expensive dramas) and independent production (as opposed to in-house).

Global Quebec is now Global Montreal

After again rejecting union complaints that Global’s produced-out-of-Vancouver plan violates local programming requirements for Global Quebec (not saying it wasn’t in violation, only that there is “insufficient evidence” and it will “continue to monitor the situation”), the CRTC has approved a request to change CKMI from a Quebec City-based regional station to a local Montreal-based station.

CKMI-TV was once based in our provincial capital, but since it was purchased by Canwest and turned into a Global station it has effectively been headquartered in Montreal, with retransmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke (technically, the transmitter was in Quebec with a retransmitter, CKMI-TV-1, in Montreal). Global Quebec was licensed as a regional station, which meant it couldn’t take any local Montreal advertising. The license change makes it a local station which opens up that door (as small as it is) and allows the station to compete directly with CFCF and CBMT for local advertising.

A similar move was made for CIII, which is de facto Global’s Toronto station but was technically licensed to Paris, Ontario, which is west of Hamilton.

CJNT keeps ethnic minimum

A request from Canwest to relieve money-losing ethnic station CJNT Montreal of its ethnic programming requirement was denied. Canwest wanted 5 hours a week, but will be stuck at the original 13.5. Since the station is being sold, it won’t sadden Canwest too much to lose this battle.

Mandatory digital transition (or not?)

The CRTC recognized that some broadcasters are lagging behind in transitioning to digital. U.S. broadcasters were forced to make the switch last month (in a deadline that was delayed from February), but Canadians have until August 2011. The CRTC’s decision doesn’t suggest that this deadline will change for smaller markets (though it suggests perhaps a “hybrid model” may emerge), but it does say it “expects” that major markets will make the transition. It released a list of markets larger than 300,000 it “expects” will do so without complaint, and says it will discuss the issue further in September. The list includes Montréal, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Rivière-du-Loup, Saguenay, Ottawa-Gatineau, territorial and provincial capitals and large cities across Canada. Essentially any market with more than one station.

The issue (which also includes whether there should be U.S.-style subsidies for converter boxes) will be dealt with again in September.

CTV-Shaw rejects get renewed

Even though Shaw’s offer to buy them has fallen through, the CRTC has renewed licenses for CKX-TV in Brandon, Man., CHWI-TV in Wheatley/Windsor, Ont., and CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont., for another year, despite CTV’s request that they be terminated. They’re still expected to shut down in August, although CTV says it is “reviewing” CHWI in light of the new funding. UPDATE: CTV says it will continue operating CHWI until Aug. 31, 2010. CKNX will be converted into a retransmitter, and CKX is still being shut down.

Other CTV stations which had the bare minimum of local programming have been relicensed as strictly retransmitters only:

  • CKCO-TV-3 Oil Springs (Sarnia), Ont.
  • CFRN-TV-3 Whitecourt, Alta.
  • CFRN-TV-4 Ashmont, Alta.
  • CFRN-TV-6 Red Deer, Alta.

No copy-copy

Separate requests from Canwest and Rogers to allow them to duplicate content on E!/Global and City/OMNI respectively were denied by the CRTC. The stations (CHAN-TV Vancouver/CHEK-TV Victoria, CIII-TV Toronto/CHCH-TV Hamilton, and City/OMNI pairings in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) are currently limited to 10% overlap since they are stations with the same owner in the same markets. Requests to be relieved of that restriction were denied.

City stays special

In addition to allowing more overlap between City and OMNI, Rogers asked to be allowed to redirect “priority programming” money (money for expensive Canadian dramas) into local programming, and remove an unusual requirement at City to air Canadian feature films. Both were denied. The Globe has a story.

CHOI News Talk?

RNC Media has applied to the CRTC for a license amendment for CHOI-FM in Quebec City, which would change it from an alternative rock format to 50% spoken word. CHOI has a rather rocky past with the CRTC.

Radio was doing OK last year

The CRTC has released financial statistics of Canadian radio stations (taken as a whole). Looking at all of Canada and Quebec in particular, the numbers are fairly stable on both sides of the balance sheet. Of particular note is AM radio in Quebec, which shows significant losses year after year while the rest of the country just about breaks even.

Asians Asians Asians!

Asian Television Network has gotten approval for a slew of new specialty channels:

Another two networks – ATN Multicultural Channel and Commonwealth Broadcasting Network – were denied, as their nature was judged to be too broad for a specialty service.

ATN announced on Tuesday that nine channels, including some of the ones above, will premiere on Rogers Cable in the fall. The channels are being renamed to more interesting names.

CHEAR!

Ultimate Indie Productions has received authorization to start a specialty channel devoted to emerging Canadian Artists called CHEAR! (and CHEAR! HD)

Ashes to ashes, SCREAM to DUSK

Corus is rebranding its SCREAM! horror channel to DUSK, and expanding its niche to include “paranormal” and “supernatural” stuff that might not be so scary. I guess this means more X-Files? The change takes effect on Sept. 9 (09/09/09, as if that’s scary or paranormal or something).

In other news

  • TVA got a slap on the wrist (hell, not even that) for failing to meet expectations regarding airing of Canadian films and closed-captioning. The CRTC “expects” they’ll meet those requirements in the future, or else they’re going to get a sternly-worded letter, I guess.
  • The Globe and Mail is reporting that Al-Jazeera English may be close to approval as a specialty channel.
  • CPAC has gotten approval for a license amendment that would allow it to broadcast non-CPAC-sounding stuff like music on Canada Day every year. Now it can let loose in an explosion of patriotism on July 1.
  • Vision TV has given up and is now asking viewers to figure out its programming.
  • Cogeco has asked to move its transmitter for CFGE-FM (Rhythme FM) in Sherbrooke and increase its transmitter power to improve reception.
  • MusiquePlus has gotten authorization to hand over its 3.4% of revenues required for the production of Canadian music videos to MaxFACT instead of VideoFACT. The difference is mainly that MaxFACT is what MusiMax gives its money to and this would simplify things for them. The request got an intervention from ADISQ which was concerned that there would be less money for youth-oriented music videos as well as those from Quebec anglophones. MusiquePlus responded that it has no control over the procedures used by MaxFACT to allocate it money.
  • The CRTC is mad at CHRC in St. Catharines for violating a number of conditions of its license. There is, of course, no actual penalty associated with such violations as long as you promise not to do it again.
  • The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has dismissed a complaint against CJMF-FM in Quebec City regarding a promotion related to driving while on a cellphone. The CBSC concluded that the station was not, in fact, advocating that people drive while illegally talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device.