Tag Archives: CNN

CRTC Roundup: Global, porn and death

In response to a complaint issued by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada that Canwest’s* decision to centralize master control of local news at four broadcast centres violates aspects of local stations’ conditions of license requiring a certain amount of local programming, the CRTC has ruled that while it can’t make a final decision because the broadcast centres aren’t fully operational yet, it sees no evidence that Global TV is violating those conditions of licenses, and that the impact of this reorganization should be brought up during license renewal hearings.

For those of you who couldn’t get through that massive sentence, here’s some background: In 2007, Canwest announced that it was laying off 200 people across the country, mostly technical positions at small stations (including CKMI in Quebec City/Sherbrooke/Montreal).

To save money, it decided it would centralize master control operations for all its stations at four broadcasting centres in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. These stations would be responsible for cueing up reporters’ packages and even controlling the movement of cameras remotely. Though editorial decisions would rest with local stations, local reporters would continue to do reporting and the newscasts would be anchored locally (well, kinda), the CEP argued that this still didn’t qualify as locally-produced programming and complained to the CRTC.

The new reorganized system and green-screen sets launched last March.

Canwest stated that the allegations set out above were incorrect because control of and responsibility for the broadcasts will remain with the local television station:

Canwest submitted that the decision to move some production elements (for example, camera work, lighting, microphone levels, generation of virtual sets, physical assemblage of news run-downs) to the Broadcast Centres would not, in any way, abrogate its individual licences or take decision-making capabilities away from the local stations.

Canwest further submitted that, while the Broadcast Centres will control technical production support, all material decisions regarding the content and presentation of the newscasts, with the exception of set design, will continue to occur at the local level, as will local news gathering.

While not making a final decision on the matter, the CRTC essentially agreed with Canwest’s assertion that this still qualifies as local programming. It also said that for most stations, while there are “commitments” to local programming, these haven’t been part of their conditions of license since 1999.

But the CRTC does leave the door open for the CEP to bring this up during Global’s license renewal hearings this year, where their commitment to local programming will be a factor in the CRTC’s decision of whether or not to renew stations’ licenses.

Considering the current financial crisis facing media and conventional television in particular, I don’t expect the CEP will get too far.

More porn!

And now for something completely different. The CRTC last week approved the creation of a new digital specialty channel called Vanessa which is devoted to sexuality:

Its adult programming would be devoted to the themes of charm, sensuality, eroticism and sexuality and might also include documentaries, news and magazines covering the industries that exploit those themes and the personalities that revolve around them.

The channel got through the approval process without a big fight. No one filed any interventions opposing the channel, and the only hiccup is that it asked to be free of closed-captioning requirements and the CRTC said no (closed-captioning and porn has been an issue before).

Sex-Shop Television, the company behind Vanessa, is a creation of Image Diffusion International aka Productions IDI, the company of Marc Trudeau and Anne-Marie Losique that produces content mainly for MusiquePlus. It got approval in 2007 (after originally being denied) for a French-language pay TV channel of the same name. But discussions with Videotron were … ahem… anti-climactic. The cable provider said there was not enough capacity or enough interest to distribute a service like this that they don’t own. (The CRTC theoretically has rules that prohibit cable companies form offering preferential treatment to other services owned by the same company, but I guess they don’t apply here.) The goal is to launch an English service which would get picked up elsewhere and force Videotron to get on board or lose customers.

The content of the channel isn’t entirely clear. It’s limited to only 10% of its programming being feature films, and can only broadcast explicit adult material between 11pm and 6am. So expect this to be like Sex TV: exploring sexuality in a tasteful (or even fun) way during the day and in a raunchy way after dark.

UPDATE (April 17): Presse Canadienne reports on the approval only a month and a half late.

Je me souviens is coming

Canwest’s Marianne White has an interview with the guy behind that Quebec obituary channel that was approved last week. He says he wants to have it up by the summer and, if all goes well, start a similar English-language service at some point in the future. It also talks to funeral home owners who say they like the idea, so long as it’s done in a tasteful way.

CP also has an article on the channel in which the guy says basically the same things. That in turn is expanded in a Globe piece which points out how unlikely it is that people are going to sit in their living rooms for hours on end watching obituaries scroll by (though I could see a Weather Network-like model, repeating them every 10-20 minutes and people checking in once a day when they want to see who’s died recently)

Magdalen TV

Diffusion communautaire des Îles, the company behind CFIM radio on the Îles de la Madeleine, has gotten approval to setup a community cable channel, which would be distributed through the only cable operator on the islands which have a population of about 13,000. Their goals are modest: two hours a week of local programming, rising gradually to five hours a week in 2012-2013.

New approved channels

  • CNN International, the sister network to CNN that broadcasts stuff other than U.S. politics to the world outside Canada and the United States (usually with anchors who have British accents). We sometimes see this network late at night when breaking news happens. Now we’ll have access 24/7, at least for those with Shaw Cable or StarChoice, as Shaw was the one who requested it.
  • AUX TV, a channel devoted to emerging music artists. The CRTC rejected a request that they be partially exempted from having to close-caption user-generated content.
  • TREK TV, a channel devoted to “world cultures, travel, geography, exploration and anthropology” (sadly, not space travel). Again, the CRTC rejected partial exemption from CC for user-generated content.

All these networks will need to negotiate with cable and satellite providers before they’re carried on those systems.

Global getting on the digital bandwagon

Canwest has gotten approval to setup digital transmitters for CICT in Calgary and CITV in Edmonton, two of its biggest stations. Both stations would broadcast in high definition.

CTV and Global have been slow to setup digital stations, even though there’s a deadline looming in 2011, because of the cost, the current recession and the instability in conventional television broadcasting.

More HD, please

The following networks have applied for permission to begin distribution of HD versions:

Barrie examined

The Barrie Examiner looks at conventional television and CKVR-TV in Barrie, the CTV A-Channel station that survived being shutdown but has laid off a third of its staff and cancelled its morning show.

We didn’t get called!

I don’t usually look at the telecom side of the CRTC’s affairs, but a recent survey shows that 80% of Canadians have noticed a drop in telemarketing calls since Canada’s Do-Not-Call list was launched.

Speaking of telecom, the company behind the Weather Network told the CRTC that mobile providers are putting up walls to control what kind of content (i.e. theirs) can be accessed through wireless networks.

*For the three of you unaware, Canwest is my employer through my contract at The Gazette (though they weren’t my employer in 2007 when I commented about changes at Global Quebec).

CRTC Roundup: Shaw seeks CNN International license

Shaw Communications has asked the CRTC to add CNN International to the list of eligible channel imports for Canadian cable and satellite companies. Canadian viewers’ exposure to CNNI is currently limited to the British-sounding people they sometimes hear behind an anchor desk during a noon-hour show or when breaking news happens late at night. The programming is distinctly different from CNN’s U.S. channel, and obviously focuses much less on U.S.-specific stuff.

The CRTC’s notice suggests it is ready to approve the channel, since it doesn’t compete with Canadian networks and is unlikely to have any program licensing issues.

No HD for you

Also from the CRTC this week is a denial for a new channel called Canada HD Network, which I mocked back in July. Back then I suggested the CRTC would likely deny the request unless it got much more specific about programming. Otherwise it would compete with conventional general-interest broadcasters.

Sure enough, there were objections from CTV, Canwest, Rogers, Astral Media, The Score and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and Canada HD Network was shown the door. Similar decisions were made against its Diversion channel in high-definition and standard-definition (which were for some reason filed separately)

New HD channels coming

The CRTC has approved high-definition versions of the following CTV-owned specialty channels:

  • CTV Newsnet
  • Business News Network
  • MTV Canada
  • Comedy Network
  • travel+escape
  • Outdoor Life Network

This is only the first step in the process. The HD channels must now be created and CTV must negotiate with carriers to have the HD versions added to their lineups.

Good news, bad news for CMT

CMT Canada (Country Music Television) had a few requests for amendments to its license:

  1. It wanted to make changes to the categories of programs it can air, by adding animated programming and improv/stand-up comedy, by increasing (slightly) its cap on drama/comedy programming and by removing restrictions on the number of feature films it can air (though those films must still feature country music artists). All programming would still have to fit in with the country music theme and fit existing limits on non-music-video programming. Since no opposition was voiced and the proposed changes are not huge, the requests were approved.
  2. CMT wanted to change the criteria by which videos are deemed “Canadian” to judge only the music and not the video itself. For music video television stations to consider a music video as Cancon-compliant, not only must the music be produced/written/performed by a Canadian (similar to the criteria radio stations use), but the video itself must have been produced by Canadians. This means that a Shania Twain music video wouldn’t be Cancon if it was entirely produced in the States, even though the song itself counts as Cancon for radio stations. This request was denied because it would change policy across the board.
  3. CMT wanted to change its required financial contribution minimums. Currently it must spend 22% of gross revenues, half on creating new Canadian country music videos and half on creating new (original) programming. It wanted to shift the balance toward programming and away from videos. Partly this is because CMT is less of a music video station (its requirement dropped from 90% to 50%), and partly this is because it would have to spend less of that remaining 78% on original/Canadian programming to meet CRTC requirements if it could shift that budget over. This request was also denied, as the CRTC pointed out that CMT’s revenues have gone up and the network is hardly in a financial crisis.

Hurricanes suck

I admit, I get a perverse pleasure out of people who are the creators of their own misfortune. Tragedies in the classical sense. Not necessarily causing death, but at least causing inconvenience. Hurricane Gustav created two examples of this, and the victims are our favourite punching bags: politicians and the media.

The first comes out of the video above. A few weeks ago, Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family posted a video online in which he half-jokingly suggests that Christian Conservatives pray for rain during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at an open-air stadium. They say they never meant for it to be taken seriously, but it was, and the video was pulled (the one above is a copy).

Of course, there was no rain the night of Obama’s acceptance speech, and the Democratic convention went off without a hitch. But the day after, as John McCain was announcing his vice-presidential pick, we start hearing about this hurricane headed for the Gulf Coast. Toward New Orleans. Three years almost to the day that Katrina struck.

Oh the irony. It almost makes me believe in a god, as it did Michael Moore.

The second example comes from our good friends at CNN. When Barack Obama announced his VP pick, CNN filled the airwaves with news and analysis. Responding to a viewer comment via Facebook (oh how the media has changed, folks), anchor Rick Sanchez says this on air:

By the way, I have to share this with you. It is from Sam. He says, Rick — this is on Facebook — I’m counting on you to do the same kind of coverage when McCain announces his vice president as you’re doing tonight when Barack Obama has announced his vice president. Sam, we’ve already made that decision. I can guarantee you we will.

No caveats, no ifs or buts, just a bold guarantee. Of course, neither CNN nor the other news networks are coming close to meeting that guarantee for the convention. Half the news about Sarah Palin was surrounded (literally) by hurricane updates, and the convention coverage is being threatened by it. Even the convention itself is changing plans at the last minute to deal with people (like President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal) who can’t speak.

I actually feel a bit bad for the Republicans. It’s not their fault this hurricane hit with such horrible timing, nor is it their fault that Bristol Palin got pregnant. If they lose in November, it should be because of the issues, not because the campaign was derailed by … well, acts of God.

It’s Canada. Who cares?

Number of foreign bureaus at the Washington Post: 18

  • Bureaus in the Middle East: 5
  • Bureaus in Europe: 4
  • Bureaus in South America: 2
  • Bureaus in China and Japan: 3
  • Bureaus in Canada: 0

Number of foreign bureaus at the New York Times: 23

  • Bureaus in Europe: 7
  • Bureaus in South America: 3
  • Bureaus in Africa: 4
  • Bureaus in Canada: 0

Number of foreign bureaus at the Los Angeles Times: 20

  • Bureaus in Europe: 5
  • Bureaus in South America: 2
  • Bureaus in Africa: 3
  • Bureaus in China and Japan: 3
  • Bureaus in Canada: 0

Number of foreign bureaus at CNN: 28

  • Bureaus in Europe:6
  • Bureaus in the Middle East: 6
  • Bureaus in South America: 3
  • Bureaus in Africa: 4
  • Bureaus in China, Japan and South Korea: 4
  • Bureaus in Canada: 0

Does anyone else notice something odd there?

Dear CNN

Dear CNN,

I know figuring out ways to fill airtime is hard.

I know you’re going to resort to ripping off other news organizations and muddle through giving them credit for those stories.

And certainly, this great opinion piece by the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins about horse racers breeding irresponsibly in search for speed beyond anything else is worthy of mention. The Gazette ran a copy of it this morning in the sports section.

But I have a couple of concerns:

According to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That’s an average of two per day.

That’s a crazy statistic, but it doesn’t need to be inflated. So no, Don Lemon, 1.5 is not “almost two” as you say. It’s 1.5. Even for extremely large values of 1.5.

And was it really necessary to drag an expert out of his California bed in the middle of the night so he could be interviewed on an east-coast morning show with a pitch-black racetrack behind him? Have you no sympathy?

Is “unedited” a good thing now?

CNN’s new social news site iReport.com bills itself as “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.”

Is this a good thing? Perhaps I’m a bit sensitive since I’m a copy editor and I take my job very seriously. But I’d think that journalism in general is (at least in part) about filtering and editing to take out the junk.

Of course, filtering and editing requires human intervention, and that means hiring employees who cost money. Sucker-generated content is free, and also hip. So it’s worth it to take in the pounds and pounds of dreck with the occasional half-decent video.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe “Sleds on a Hill” really is the future of journalism.

Craig Silverman on Reliable Sources

For those who missed it, Regret the Error‘s Craig Silverman was on CNN’s Reliable Sources this weekend, shamelessly plugging his book discussing some of 2007’s most hilarious corrections:

UPDATE (Jan. 6): The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein also writes about Silverman, crediting him as having been interviewed by CNN for his newspaper-corrections expertise.

Cable news is too fast-paced

The director of Al-Jazeera slammed 24-hour news channels for their obsession with breaking news (via J-source). He argues that there should be more investigative journalism and analysis than constantly pestering with minute updates as they happen.

Of course, this isn’t just a problem for Arabic news channels, it’s a problem all around the world.

But I’d like to take his thesis and modify it slightly: What bugs me isn’t so much that cable news channels are obsessed with “this just in” news, it’s that the networks are too obsessed with their schedule.

Tune to CNN during the day and watch an interview. It usually follows a predictable path: A news story introduces an issue, and then the anchor speaks to someone by satellite (or two people to get a “debate” going). The guests are asked a few questions, and inevitably end up being cut off by the anchor because they’re “out of time”.

Setting aside for a moment the inherent rudeness of inviting someone on your show and then interrupting them to cut them off, what do you mean you’re out of time? It’s a 24-hour news network. The show doesn’t end.

The problem is that these networks have such rigid schedules. They can be thrown out the window when breaking news happens (a plane crashes, a celebrity gets arrested, a white girl disappears), but they can’t be delayed even by a couple of minutes to let an expert explain a point.

But, of course, actually explaining things isn’t the goal of these news networks, is it?

Wire services are a double-edged sword

There’s an interesting trend happening in the news media. As wire services become ubiquitous, providing almost all the content for crappy, journalist-free newspapers like Metro, major news organizations are beginning to realize that they need to provide good, original content to distinguish themselves from these free alternatives. Otherwise, why would people buy their paper or visit their website when they can get the same wire story from another source?

Earlier this summer, CanWest completed its pullout of Canadian Press, the only nationwide news service in Canada. The decision cut CP’s budget by 9 per cent, and had some people crying that the sky was going to fall.

Although we’re only a couple of months into it, that looks unlikely. CP’s reliance on the big papers was already much lower than it had been previously, thanks to these free papers and other organizations like radio stations who are too cheap to have a news staff of their own. They’re also expanding their online presence, providing things like those Flash-based election tickers. (It’ll be interesting to see how CanWest papers handle general elections where the CP wire is of critical importance.)

I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the move, both inside and outside affected newsrooms, because it limits access to news from small regions, and because other outlets will run news they don’t have access to.

But I see it as a good thing. CanWest used some of the money they saved from dumping CP (though very little compared to how much they’re pocketing for shareholders) to expand its CanWest News Service, which before this summer was basically just the newsrooms of CanWest papers and a few reporters scattered in places like Ottawa, New York and Washington D.C. Now instead of one news service, we have two competing ones, and more journalists covering news.

In a similar vein, as of today CNN is no longer a client of Reuters news service. (If your first reaction to that news was “CNN was using Reuters?”, you’re not alone.) Instead, the news channel and Internet news giant will be boosting its own news-gathering, while still using Associated Press copy. That’s probably just some marketing speak and the investments will be trivial, especially when you consider that they were just looking for a better deal, but it’s better than nothing.

Wire services are very important, because they allow small news organizations to get news from far-away places, and provides an alternative to, say, expanding the White House Press Briefing Room to the size of a small stadium.

But in the Internet age, where a story carried by a wire service can be read from hundreds of different websites, news media have to provide strong original reporting to send eyes their way.

It’s vain, self-serving, greedy and transparent, but it’s good for journalism.

UPDATE (Sept. 11): CNN dumping Reuters comes back to bite them in the ass when they couldn’t run the Bin Laden video that Reuters had gained access to and started distributing. I wonder if Reuters paid Bin Laden royalties?