Tag Archives: CJNT

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.


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.

Channel Zero offers to buy CJNT Montreal, CHCH Hamilton


The press releases came out Tuesday afternoon and has been rewritten everywhere: CP, Presse Canadienne, Reuters, Financial Post, CBC, Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, LesAffaires.com, Broadcaster Magazine.

Channel Zero (warning: website has sound you can’t turn off), which owns Silver Screen Classics and Movieola, but also AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips Channel and Maleflixxx Television (latter three are Wikipedia links), has agreed to purchase two of Canwest’s five E! stations, CJNT in Montreal and CHCH in Hamilton.

The sale, which is for an undisclosed price (but presumably better than the $1 a station that Shaw was offering in what apparently turned out to be a bluff) is contingent upon the usual CRTC rubber stamp, but also on Canwest wrestling a new deal out of unionized employees at CHCH that would switch from a defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution pension plan eliminate the employee pension plan and replace it with a defined contribution plan, throwing retirees under the bus. (CJNT staff, a grand total of six, are not unionized.) According to my ears at CHCH, the station’s staff are excited by the offer (except for the pension thing) and of the prospect for producing more local news.

Channel Zero has an FAQ posted on its website which actually does a pretty good job answering the kinds of questions this would prompt from skeptics like me. (They promise not to air adult material on either station, though … would that be such a bad thing for CJNT?)


The plan for CHCH is to turn it into an all-news station during the day (5:30 am to 8 pm) with movies in the evening. This capitalizes on CHCH’s unusually high local programming requirement of 36.5 hours per week, which Channel Zero has promised to maintain (it says it wants to keep license terms “substantially similar”, which suggests some changes).

For CJNT, the plan is to air foreign-language movies and multicultural music videos. It’s not clear if that means there will be fewer of the foreign-language talk shows that currently air, or if the celebrity gossip and second-rate U.S. imports will be cut off.

And the rest?

Even if the deal goes through, and that’s a big if, the other three stations in the E! network, CHEK Victoria, CHBC Kelowna (B.C.) and CHCA Red Deer (Alta.) are still up in the air. Canwest has made it more clear that they won’t keep the stations running after this summer, and if they can’t find a buyer for them they’ll be shut down.

But will it work?

CHCH News has an analysis of the deal and an interview with Channel Zero’s Cal Millar, which both sound very positive. People say they want local news, and this company seems prepared to inject funding to create a new all-news station. But CHCH host Mark Hebscher insightfully compares this to Toronto One, which failed as a locally-focused station two years later became bottom-feeding Sun TV.

Call me a skeptic, but Channel Zero has zero experience in running conventional television stations and zero experience with local news. Taking on CHCH is a big challenge, and I think the company is being overly optimistic about its proposed business model, even with the cut to pension expenses. Two or three years down the road, we may very well see Channel Zero come back to the CRTC and ask for reductions in local programming requirements and other commitments as it starts bleeding money.

But, like CHCH employees and their union leaders, I hope I’m wrong.

UPDATE: The Hamilton Spectator is all over the sale with articles about the sale itself, reaction to it, and an opinion praising it.

UPDATE (July 18): Channel Zero tells the CRTC the price of the sale was $12, both stations included.

Canwest argues for changes to Montreal TV stations

Appearing before the CRTC on Thursday, Canwest (my employer, you’ll recall) made the case for license amendments at its two Montreal television stations, CKMI-TV (Global Quebec, which is actually licensed out of Quebec City but operates out of Montreal) and CJNT-TV (a former ethnic programming station which has since become half ethnic programming and half E! entertainment shows).

Here are some highlights from the transcript.

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Canwest considers selling E! network, including CJNT

Canwest (my employer) issued a news release today saying it is “exploring strategic options” for its second network of broadcast television stations, including CJNT in Montreal, which form the E! network (formerly CH). The options, it says, could include selling them.

Canwest, which has been struggling with huge debt, has been exploring options in its vast media empire, saying it wanted to protect its core assets (11 major dailies, comunity weeklies, the Global television network, cable networks and Canada.com and related websites).

The press release says specifically that “as they are currently configured, these stations are not core to our television operations going forward.”

CJNT, broadcasting on Channel 62, is Montreal’s ethnic TV station. It changed hands a few times, finally going to Canwest in 2000. Its CRTC license requires a minimum amount of locally-produced ethnic community programming, but for the rest of primetime the station carries simulcasted U.S. shows. In 2007, CJNT and other CH stations were rebranded as E!, focusing on celebrity gossip, but keeping the primetime sloppy seconds from Global.

Affected stations

So, anyone wanna buy CJNT?

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail, obviously, is all over this story, saying that someone picking up the stations for peanuts would be easier than Canwest continuing to run money-losing operations or having to face severe shutdown costs.

The Globe also says that Astral, Rogers and others aren’t interested in buying broadcast television outlets, preferring cable channels instead. Getting rid of these might end up being as difficult as getting rid of TQS.

La Presse quotes from CJNT’s general manager (one of six employees at the station) saying it’s not bad news if it gets sold.

CJNT: Multicultural American celebrity news

Once upon a time, Montreal had a low-budget multi-ethnic television station whose mission it was to provide a space where allophones could communicate. The station was called CJNT, and broadcasted over the air on channel 62.

Then the channel was acquired by a media company, which was in turn acquired by CanWest/Global. CanWest forced the station to declare bankruptcy, and has been egging the CRTC to allow it to reduce its ethnic content to put more commercially viable programming on instead.

The latest sad move in this direction came in April, when CanWest announced that its CH stations would be rebranded as “E!” entertainment (read: celebrity gossip) channels. That change took effect last Friday, and the channel’s been running all sorts of “E!” programming from the U.S. network ever since.

But what about its commitment to 60% multicultural programming? The channel still runs its multicultural shows, many during prime-time (the CRTC rules require this). And in between, they provide E! celebrity gossip shows dubbed in other languages. Now you can hear about Britney Spears in Portuguese!

Not only is celebrity gossip bad in and of itself, but to take a channel designed to give a voice to those who can’t get access to commercial airwaves, and use that channel (to the extent allowable by law) to broadcast unimportant information about people who have so much television coverage that they take great pains to limit it…

Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

Needless to say, the only reaction this change has gotten in the blogosphere is bad: “Tripe.”

CJNT: America is a culture, right?

It seems Global’s second network of stations they don’t know what else to do with is being rebranded. Starting in September, CH stations (including Montreal’s CJNT-62) will become E! Yes, that E! Only it’s E! in Canada.

This is significant for a number of reasons, the most distressing of which is that CJNT is supposed to be Montreal’s ethnic station, but because ethnic programming isn’t a money-maker, the station was bought out by a company which was in turn bought out by CanWest/Global. They petitioned the CRTC to agree to only 50% ethnic programming during prime time, and though they were denied that request, they still have quite a bit of U.S. network programming in their prime time schedule.

So what was once a struggling 100% ethnic programming station (albeit one that only broadcast for about 12 hours a day) will now include programming that Canadians clearly need on an over-the-air channel: Celebrity gossip and second-rate U.S. network TV shows.

They even have a video with Ryan Seacresty good ness (he even mentions our country’s name!)