Tag Archives: language

CRTC says no to demanding English programming from Télé-Québec

It was a nice try from the English Language Arts Network, but the CRTC didn’t bite. In renewing Télé-Québec’s broadcasting licence for a five-year term on Tuesday, the commission turned down ELAN’s request that Quebec’s public broadcaster devote 10% of its programming budget to English-language programming (proportional to the number of anglophones in the province).

The request made headlines when it was published earlier this year, and an angry motion from independent MNA Martine Ouellet.

ELAN pointed to Ontario’s creation of TFO, a francophone equivalent of TVO, as precedent for having bilingual public broadcasters. But the commission was unconvinced.

“The creation and operation of TFO in Ontario is a decision of the Government of Ontario,” the commission wrote. “Provinces have the opportunity to put in place educational television stations in both official languages for their citizens if they wish.”

Télé-Québec argued its programming was reflective of all Quebecers, including anglophone Quebecers, in the topics discussed if not the language it is discussed in.

ELAN also asked for “a policy and an action plan relating to Quebec’s diversity”, a 20% quota on programming reflecting minorities, and an advisory committee. The CRTC said the demands were “beyond the scope of this licence renewal process” and should be dealt with at a policy hearing.

Other interest groups also sought quotas or commitments from Télé-Québec. Producers wanted more spending on scripted programming, children’s programming and original French-language programming, a Quebec City group wanted a 10% quota on programming from Quebec City, and ADISQ wanted an expectation related to music.

The commission turned those down, but did add a purposely vague expectation related to regional programming: “The Commission expects the licensee to make use of independent producers from all of Quebec’s regions in such a way that producers from the regions outside the Montréal Census Metropolitan Area, as well as producers from the Montréal CMA, are proportionally contributing to the production of programs broadcast on CIVM-DT Montréal.”

It also allowed Télé-Québec to extend its target audience for youth programming to include teenagers ages 12-17.

Télé-Québec has 17 over-the-air transmitters across the province, but even though they mostly carry different callsigns, they are all formally licensed as retransmitters of the Montreal station, and the programming carried on all of them is identical.

Its new licence expires Aug. 31, 2024.

Sun News Network 2012 debate translation highlights

This marks the second provincial election campaign in which TVA has decided to separate itself from the consortium that organizes televised leaders’ debates and go it alone with a series of one-on-one debates.

It almost didn’t happen. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois said no at first, wanting to limit her to the other, more traditional debate that aired on Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec. But she later relented.

You might recall that the Sun News Network, which like TVA is owned by Quebecor Media, also aired the TVA face-à-face debates in 2012. Few people watched it on Sun News, but when a report about the debate that included two short clips were posted to Sun News’s website, it went a bit viral. The clips came to a total of about 23 seconds, and they were highlights picked by Sun News, so they didn’t show the worst parts.

Since the translated debates weren’t posted online, they might have been lost to history if not for one thing: I recorded all three hour-long debates on my PVR. And they’ve been sitting there ever since.

With the 2014 face-à-face debates only hours away, I recorded some clips from the debate and compiled them into eight minutes of highlights. The result is the video you see above.

A source at Sun News tells me that the network will air tonight’s debate, but that they have hired different translators.

I’ll be PVRing it anyway. Just in case.

TVA’s face-à-face debates air Thursday, March 27 from 8pm to 10pm on TVA and simultaneously translated on Sun News Network. It will also air on CPAC.

UPDATE: After posting the video to YouTube, I went in to clean the automatically-generated captions. But the captions generated for the debate clips were just so great that I couldn’t touch them. They include such gems as:

  • 2:06: “I wouldn’t victims contra months prego merman”
  • 5:28: “second spend your life getting minutes for me his / as Julia and modern yesterday sent / week with the mall butthead”
  • 6:14: “he added that the troops mister sister 20 as you go”
  • 6:34: “thank you so much as a queen of thank you so much musica”
  • 7:21: “and mister across america their leader / how to Chris you’re a doctor becker / he wouldn’t allow your the day all the balls we have”
  • 8:08: “going to help me fire a gritty / you lose my me I cannot do we”
  • 8:37: “your house layout so attacker 7,000 jobs that are you gonna cut people”
  • 8:49: “overheard the Cougar 30 Passa Passa”
  • 8:53: “I hope this exchange farewell lighting you for your torso”

Anglos hate Quebec, says SSJB report condemning malicious generalizations of linguistic groups

Examples of francophobia on social media collected and published in a report by the SSJB.

Examples of “francophobia” on social media collected and published in a report by the SSJB.

I really don’t want to write this. I hate wading into language issues, because I know nobody’s mind is ever changed in those debates. And I hate giving attention to something so unworthy of it yet so desperate to get it.

But a manifesto published by a group assembled by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste that condemns “francophobia” by, among other things, anglophone media in Canada, is way off the mark, and predictable sarcastic responses by people like Don Macpherson will do little to enlighten anyone.

The thing is, there is Quebec-bashing out there, and attention does need to be paid to it. But a factually-incorrect manifesto that has the focus and self-criticism of a blog post comment thread will just lead the other solitude to conclude that the problem does not exist.

So let’s delve into the document that purports to give an update on “recent” examples of francophobia (Mordecai Richler is mentioned three times even though he’s been dead for 12 years).

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Living English: Un peu de respect, SVP

CBC Living English panel, from left: Debra Arbec, Kevin Tierney, Terry Mosher, Jean-François Lisée, Anne-France Goldwater, Tamy Emma Pepin, John Stokes, Mike Finnerty

CBC Living English panel, from left: Debra Arbec, Kevin Tierney, Terry Mosher, Jean-François Lisée, Anne-France Goldwater, Tamy Emma Pepin, John Stokes, Mike Finnerty

It started with a chuckle when Jean-François Lisée raised his hand after moderator Mike Finnerty asked who in the crowd thought the English language needed protection in Quebec. It could have been seen as a good-natured laugh at the idea that a Parti Québécois minister, a member of a cabinet that pushes for stronger language laws, believes the English language needs help.

It got worse about 16 minutes in when blogger Tamy Emma Pepin tried to explain language conflicts in a historical context, saying that while historically francophones have felt oppressed by anglophones who had economic power here, her generation has no recollection of the days before the Quiet Revolution and there’s less resentment on both sides of the language divide. (She didn’t explain it very well, using the word “superior”, but it wasn’t hard to figure out her point.)

The crowd got angry. One person sitting near me actually said out loud that she was lying about history.

As the night went on, the interjections from the crowd got worse, and the entire event even more awkward and infuriating for spectators like me who came to hear a polite discussion.

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Urbania explores the other solitude

Urbania's Anglo issue

Urbania’s Anglo issue. Apparently that is actually a jar of (pig’s) tongues, but no word on what language they spoke

One of my pet peeves living in Montreal is how so many people who should know better have little to no knowledge of what life is like on the other side of Quebec’s language divide.

To many francophones, Quebec anglos are no different from Torontonians or Albertans, a bunch of Harper supporters who have paintings of the Queen of England on their walls, who despise the French language and have no culture of their own, and who live here only because they can’t find a better job across a provincial or international border.

To many anglophones, Quebec francos are all hard-core separatists, card-carrying members of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, obsessed with language issues and with eliminating the English language from the province so they can impose their new world order which consists mainly of blackmailing the rest of Canada to send more money its way.

The media, sadly, doesn’t help this much. The French media don’t pay much attention to anglophone Quebec culture or local issues in their communities, while the English media pay so much attention to those things they don’t have the resources to explore Quebec’s francophone culture with more than a passing glance.

So it was with some excitement that I heard last month that Urbania, a hip and irreverent magazine that I’d heard about and had followed on Twitter for a while, was coming out with an issue focusing on anglophones.

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Anglophones: Vote PQ (ha ha, just kidding)

It happens, it seems, during every election. Reporters stuck on campaign buses to Saint-Félix-de-who-kn0ws-where look for some unusual story to report on inevitably throw out the idea that anglophones might somehow be interested in voting for a sovereignist party.

The sovereignist party – the Parti Québécois during a provincial election or the Bloc Québécois in a federal election – are never ones to say no to any votes (they are, after all, politicians), so they indulge, pretending Quebec anglos might have a reason to vote for them.

The party leader explains that this is an election, not a referendum, and federalists can still vote for a sovereignist party that will (in the case of the Bloc) be a voice for all Quebecers in Ottawa, or (in the case of the PQ) be an alternative to the Liberals. They remind the anglos that an independent Quebec would continue to respect their rights and that they, too, are Québécois.

Then comes election night, and the big victory speech, in which the leader proclaims a huge win for sovereignty, as if every vote for that party is a vote to make Quebec into an independent country.

Jean Charest alluded to this phenomenon just before the last provincial election in 2008.

But then, maybe we think it’s more commonplace than it is. The night of the 2008 federal election, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said the vote for the Bloc was not a vote for sovereignty, according to an article in The Gazette from way back then. Though he did say the vote showed that Quebecers wanted Ottawa to recognize the supremacy of the French language in this province, and insist that Quebec’s French-language charter apply to federally-regulated institutions.

I’d compare this with other recent sovereignist party victories, but unfortunately for them there haven’t been many. The PQ hasn’t won a provincial election since 1998. The Bloc was doing well until last year, when it collapsed into near-oblivion.

Few options for anglos

All this anglos-voting-PQ silliness highlights the problem that there really isn’t an alternative to the Liberals for federalist anglophones in Quebec. Of the five parties with a chance of winning seats, three of them are openly and proudly sovereignist, and four of them want to strengthen the French-language charter in some way to counteract a perceived threat to the French language in Quebec. Even the Coalition Avenir Québec, which is being seen as an alternative hope for anglos, makes it clear in its platform (PDF) that it would strengthen the role of he Office Québécois de la langue française and put in place measures to ensure more immigrants to Quebec speak French.

The Liberals, meanwhile, aren’t exactly the Equality Party. The best that anglos can hope for with them is the status quo.

It’s no wonder, then, that there won’t be an English-language leaders’ debate, even with the offer to have Pauline Marois do her part in French. The PQ really has little to gain from such an event, and the Liberals and CAQ don’t want to be seen as too friendly to federalists or anglophones, which might scare off soft nationalists.

It’s to the point where francophones are asking about how anglophones are being treated here.

I won’t use some of the ridiculous hyperbole being used by some, comparing Quebec to some totalitarian government or its leaders to some iron-fist dictators who think nothing of murdering millions of their citizens.

But let’s just say that you can understand why there are some people here, maybe some whose families have been in Quebec for generations, or who might be perfectly bilingual but have the misfortune of having the incorrect mother tongue, who feel that on the ballot will simply be yet another list of parties for whom this umpteenth-generation Quebecer isn’t really Québécois enough.

Anglo rights in a sovereign Quebec?

It’s not hard to imagine why anglophones in Quebec are so against the idea of separation. For them, there isn’t this big conflict between being Canadian and living in Quebec. For them, Canada’s bilingual nature – imperfect as it may be in practice – includes them more than Quebec’s attitude of French-but-some-English-too-if-we-have-to.

But it’s more than just a feeling of belonging. Canada’s laws give anglophones the right to live in their own language, to educate their children in English, to deal with the government in English, to have laws written in English. Quebec is obliged to offer services to anglophones, including English school boards, whether it wants to or not. And judging by the amount it restricts access to English public schools (and how much some want to restrict it even further), anglophones could be forgiven for thinking they really don’t want to offer these services, lest they threaten the francophone majority.

I don’t remember every detail about the 1995 referendum campaign – I was 13 at the time and had more important things to worry about that fall. Besides, it’s not like I was going to vote.

I remember about that time and in the years afterward (before it became clear that the whole separation thing wouldn’t be achievable in the short term) how the leaders of the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois – the de facto leaders of the sovereignty movement – would reassure the anglophone community that we’re Quebecers too. During some provincial and federal election campaigns, some even had the gall to suggest that anglos vote for them because their common ground on social or economic issues was more important than their division over sovereignty. And I remember after every election, both those parties would proudly proclaim that every vote for them was a strong mandate for sovereignty.

Politicians being two-faced and pandering is hardly new, but it doesn’t exactly instill confidence when, for something as important as national independence, a lot really has to be based on trust in political leadership.

So it’s not surprising that, even though there were assurances that an independent Quebec would continue to respect the rights of the anglophone minority (under the unspoken assumption that all would be done to ensure they remain a minority), anglophone Quebecers didn’t really trust that a PQ government would do everything in its power to protect their interests.

I mention all this because an article came out in La Presse on Saturday that describes a draft Quebec constitution created in the summer of 1995 that would be enacted in the event of a Yes victory, one that hadn’t been made public until now. A PDF copy of that draft is linked at the bottom of the story. The constitution, which establishes Quebec as a state completely disassociated with the British monarchy, where a president appointed by the legislature would be the head of state but power would rest in the hands of the prime minister, was designed as a transition constitution that would keep everything as it is and eventually be replaced with a permanent one drawn up by an independent Quebec.

Nevertheless, a lot of thought clearly went into it, and those thoughts are described in notes that accompany each article of the constitution. In most cases, it’s the status quo, with a unicameral National Assembly making laws and the same rights and freedoms guaranteed in the existing charters of Canada and Quebec.

As far as anglophones are concerned, the constitution affords certain rights to the anglophone community in Quebec, there’s even an entire section devoted to the topic, starting at article 124 (PDF). Among them:

  • The right to speak in the National Assembly in English
  • The right to communicate in English during court or tribunal proceedings, and have decisions translated into either language
  • The right to educate children in English, from kindergarten until university
  • The right to administer their own educational institutions, presumably meaning the maintaining of linguistic school boards
  • The right to receive medical and social services in English
  • The right to maintain its “identity” and “institutions” (neither of these is defined very well)

That’s not to say everything would be the same. The constitution purposefully doesn’t include, for example, the right to have all laws and transcripts in English as well as French, preferring to leave that up to laws passed by the legislature. And a lot of these rights are very vague, leaving the details to legislation.

Nevertheless, it’s a pretty surprising list of rights from the perspective of a paranoid anglo. What’s more, Article 151 provides that amendments cannot be made to the articles guaranteeing these anglo rights without the consent of the anglo community (although what form that consent takes is left up to the legislature to define).

A logic major such as myself might point out that Article 151 itself could be repealed without the consent of the anglo community, clearing the way for stripping of other anglo rights, but I’m willing to give good faith the benefit of the doubt here. Like the Notwithstanding Clause, just because something is possible in theory doesn’t mean it can easily be abused in practice.

I’m not going to say I’m a convert to the cause of sovereignty. There are questions much more important than the finer points of the French language charter. And it’s hard to take seriously a draft document drawn up in secret that may or may not have been accepted by the population and may or may not have been heavily modified or completely replaced once the public had its say.

But this is perhaps a nudge toward the idea that an independent Quebec might not do everything in its power to strip anglophones of their rights, and maybe there are some deep within the sovereignty movement that believed the anglophone community (or at least the “historic” anglo community in Quebec) is as much deserving of protection as a minority within their new country as the francophone minority did in North America.

Or, you know, I could just look at the French-only-laws thing and scream racism. But I’m not paid to pick fights with Richard Martineau and Jean-François Lisée. ;)

Ici on parle English, mais n’inquiétez-vous pas

L'actualité cover from last Friday

“Ici on parle English” – “Quel avenir pour le français à Montréal?” – “Montréal français? It’s over!” – “Des unilingues anglais comme patrons? Get used to it!”

Kind of hard to imagine words that could infuriate language activists more. I won’t call it sensationalist, but when a magazine puts a picture of a frog on its front cover and tells a people sensitive about their language that their battle is essentially lost, I can’t really find a better word.

Last Thursday, L’actualité released results of a survey they did (with CHMP 98.5FM) of Quebec anglophones in which they asked them questions about language issues in Quebec. (The full results – with actual questions – are here in this PDF file)

The questions and answers were rather interesting, and I’ll summarize them here. Of Quebec’s anglophones:

  • 81% know enough French to carry on a conversation
  • 59% believe it’s possible to live one’s entire life in Quebec without having a single significant conversation in French
  • 63% believe companies should have the right to hire unilingual anglophones as managers, even if that means communicating with them at work would have to be done in English
  • 59% are “at peace” with the fact that Montreal will become predominantly English while the rest of the province maintains its French “charm”
  • 54% believe that because of globalization, most economic activity in Montreal will eventually be in English
  • 37% believe that the predominance of French is the key ingredient in Montreal’s originality and that without it the city would lose its soul
  • In the week before they were surveyed, about half used French in conversation for about an hour or less, the other half a few hours or more
  • 21% agree that as a Quebec resident, it’s their duty to help ensure that French remains the most important language here
  • 83% believe it’s important that their children grow up to be bilingual

The results appear in last Friday’s issue of L’actualité (or is it l’Actualité? Or L’Actualité? Even francophones have issue with capitalization of proper names), along with two stories analyzing them. One is by Jean-François Lisée, a former PQ adviser who hammers the panic button. The other is by Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies (or, more accurately, it’s a reporter’s Q&A with Jedwab), who highlights how things have improved. There were also some sidebars, including an interview with Sherwin Tjia, the unilingual anglophone whose appearance on Daybreak a few weeks back ignited a whole controversy because he dared say he’s okay being unilingual.

The magazine also asked Gazette columnist Josh Freed to blog for them, giving an anglo’s perspective (with his usual dose of humour).

Reaction to the poll and accompanying pieces seems to have fallen in one of three categories:

And there is a lot of contradiction. Apparently about half of anglo Quebecers have never had a significant conversation in French. But 80% of them are bilingual. This begs the question: How do this 30% know they’re bilingual if they’ve never spoken French?

One of the more surprising results is that for most of these questions, it’s the younger anglophones who seem to take the more anti-French stance. More young anglos think it’s okay to live life as a unilingual anglophone, despite the stereotype one imagines of the old West Island angryphone who grew up in the 50s being the most anti-French.

I wonder how much of that is more due to inexperience than a generational difference. I suspect many of these views might change as these people get older, become more familiar with francophone Quebec and try to make careers for themselves in this province.

I could go after the methodology. It was an online poll, which has issues in terms of accuracy. Some of the questions seemed a bit pushy. And some were based on false premises (the proportion of people on the island of Montreal whose first language is English is diminishing, not increasing, and there’s no risk of anglophones outnumbering francophones in Montreal or Quebec any time soon).

But one thing we can all seem to agree on is that more research is needed. These are complex issues and I suspect the answers given have complex reasoning behind them.

Of course, people who are paid to drum up controversy to fill column inches won’t be satisfied with waiting for more research.

Cultural solitudes

L’actualité’s survey also tested Quebec celebrity recall. Among anglophones:

It shouldn’t be particularly surprising that anglophone Quebecers don’t get much news from Quebec City, don’t watch much of Radio-Canada and TVA, and don’t listen to French-language radio.

Just like it’s not a surprise that francophones have little to no interest in English Canadian culture (what little of it there is). On a recent episode of Tout le monde en parle, Guy A. Lepage interviewed Jian Ghomeshi, and at the end he cited Jack Layton, saying once that English Canada doesn’t know Lepage and French Canada doesn’t know Ghomeshi.

This is a problem, and one I think we need the help of both sides to solve. (When was the last time Julie Snyder, Véronique Cloutier or Régis Labeaume reached out to the anglophone community in any significant way?)

There are all sorts of places to lay blame here. We could blame the CRTC, which requires broadcasters to have their programming in English or French but never both. We could blame French-language media, who consider anglos a community not worth trying to target. We could blame English-language media for not connecting its audiences with francophone culture. Or we could blame the two solitudes themselves for sticking to their ghettos and ignoring the other side.

Fortunately, simple demographics might be helping change this. Anglophones in Montreal are mostly bilingual, and many of them are in relationships with francophones. To some this might be assimilation (particularly since most of these couples choose English as their common language), but I like to hope that this assimilation goes both ways.

And there are people trying to do their part using new media. One blogger offering English summaries of Tout le monde en parle to try to get anglos to care about this important show.

With a bit of patience, a bit of tolerance, and a bit of effort from both sides, maybe we can get recognition of Véro and Guy A. among anglophones and Rick Mercer and Mutsumi Takahashi among francophones to the point where it’s clear that there is no more divide.

Then, we can hope, the next survey of anglophones by L’actualité won’t be whether they know who Julie Snyder is, but whether they preferred Mélissa, Andréanne or Andrée-Anne.

Un gars peut rêver, can’t he?

UPDATE (April 10): Jack Jedwab responds to L’actualité’s survey with one of his own. It shows:

  • 25% of anglophones and 48% of francophones believe “eventually the majority of Montrealers will work in English” when the question is not preceded by reference to globalization
  • 90% of anglophones have francophone friends, but only 60% of francophones have anglophone friends
  • 70% of anglophones 18-24 believe francophones don’t like anglophones
  • 55% of anglophones, 54% of allophones and 15% of francophones believe Bill 101 has contributed to the decline of use of English
  • 10% of anglophones, 13% of allophones and 44% of francophones believe English speakers are the principal threat to the French language in Montreal
  • 55% of young anglophones are not comfortable with English becoming the majority language in Montreal
  • 60% of anglophones believe relations between anglos and francos have improved over the past give years. 45% of francophones agree versus 38% who disagree
  • 54% of anglophones and 43% of francophones believe their community feels positively about the other

St. Patrick’s: Montreal’s anglophone parade

The Beat gets some dance help for its entry into the St. Patrick’s parade.

This year was the first time I’ve gone to a St. Patrick’s parade in Montreal without volunteering in some way, either by working for the parade itself, or (as I did last year) taking pictures for a friend.

I figured out last year what a gold mine it is for taking photos of local media personalities. The local radio and television stations are well represented at the parade, each seeing it as a good opportunity to connect with their audiences, do some marketing in front of tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of people and in general have a good time. So long as I have a good view, I can pick a spot, attach the long lens on my camera and get shots of dozens of people as they slowly roll past. Now I have lots of photos to use as file shots when someone gets fired/promoted/arrested/quits/dies/etc., or just for people to caption.

CHOM's St. Patrick's parade float included live music performed by, among others, on-air personalities Bilal Butt, Jason Rockman and Sharon Hyland

CTV, CHOM, Virgin Radio and CJAD had floats on flatbed trailers (CTV’s was voted best media float, but I have to give CHOM credit for actually playing live music on theirs), CBC borrowed the Hurley’s float for their people (I missed that float, sadly, but their flags were everywhere), The Beat had a big ad truck that its personalities walked behind along with a dance troupe, and TSN Radio and Global had convertibles with personalities sitting in the back.

Stéphane Giroux gives a thumbs-up from the CTV St. Patrick's float, which also had live dancers

Virgin Radio had a live wedding on its St. Patrick's parade float, though the whole "leap year" thing is kind of old, and it's something you can only do once in front of a small part of the parade crowd.

But if you’re looking for Montreal’s francophone media personalities, you’re really out of luck.

Among francophone media, I counted all of two vans – one for CKOI and another for Rythme FM. Both are Cogeco stations and their vans were kind of thrown in along with the Beat’s entry. Unless they were travelling incognito, neither had on-air personalities present.

CKOI's parade presence: A van with balloons.

TVA, Radio-Canada, V, Télé-Québec, NRJ, Rouge FM, 98.5, CKAC, MusiquePlus, CJPX, the list goes on of francophone media who are based in Montreal who had no presence at the parade. I’ll exclude print media because anglo print publications weren’t present either. But I didn’t see any ethnic media present either.

I don’t want to point fingers at any individual broadcaster, but when all the anglo ones go through great efforts and the franco ones couldn’t seem to care less, you know there’s something going on. Clearly this parade is seen as being an anglo one, just like the St. Jean Baptiste parade is seen as being francophone, even though both at least pretend to reach out and welcome anyone who wants to participate.

Part of the blame lies at the feet of the United Irish Societies of Montreal, which organizes the parade. It’s clearly an anglophone organization. Its website isn’t even available in French, which is kind of surprising for something based in this city. I won’t go all Dutrizac over them for it, but it’s hard to pretend you’re welcoming to francophones when you don’t communicate in their language.

Hard work for volunteers

I asked UIS about this. Sharleen McCambridge, their VP of public relations, answered that they’re a volunteer organization and “there is certainly no target except for anyone interested in the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Irish Community.” She said their newly redesigned website has a French version “in development right now and expected to be launched very soon,” presumably well in advance of next year’s parade.

“All media French and English are invited to all activities leading up to and including parade day. I think that if you check this out, you will find news releases, articles, websites, live interviews as well as printed publications. This takes a lot of coordination from our resources.”

She’s right. Francophone media did, in fact, cover the parade as a news story, even if they didn’t participate.

“We do not have language restrictions in the parade as we are not a business, we are not political and we are celebrating our Irish heritage in many languages including Gaelic, English, French and even Polish.”

I don’t know how much Polish there is, but it’s certainly very English.

I’m not going to come too hard on an organization made of volunteers, but for all the organization that went into the parade (including increased security to make sure nobody got too close to floats), it seems a bit strange that making even basic information available in French wasn’t considered a priority.

Does it matter?

Maybe I’m making an issue out of something that shouldn’t be one. I’ve never been particularly crazy about media being at parades in the first place. What do they have to do with Irish heritage? For that matter, what do Ukrainian dancers or Total Diving have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? But that battle has long been lost. The parade is less about showcasing Irish culture and more about local businesses getting free advertising by sticking giant shamrocks on the side of flatbed trailers and giving people of Irish descent an excuse to walk around in their top hats.

What gets me most about this is how little effort is required. Radio and TV stations have big marketing budgets. All they’d have to do is show up, put a few personalities in the back of convertibles and – if they’re a music radio station – play some of their music.

I’m not expecting big stars like Véronique Cloutier or Guy A. Lepage to be walking the parade route. And I’m sure Benoit Dutrizac and Richard Martineau wouldn’t have come even if they were paid generous overtime, but were Martin Grenier, Kim Rusk and Patrice Bélanger too busy to spend a few hours with a few thousand spectators? What about Julie Bélanger or the 12 people who do Rythme FM’s morning show? Pierre Pagé, Martin Lemay and Julie St-Pierre of NRJ? Anyone from TVA and Radio-Canada?

It’s hard to imagine an explanation about their lack of presence than these media just don’t care.

Hopefully that’s something that, with help from both sides, we can change. I’ve got plenty of photos taken with Mutsumi Takahashi, but it would be nice to have a few with Véro.

CRTC limits musical montages on French radio stations

It’s no secret that Canadian radio stations don’t like the content requirements imposed on them by the CRTC. For stations that broadcast popular music, 35% of the songs they play must be Canadian (that term being defined by meeting certain criteria). That’s why we hear a lot of Nickelback or Kim Mitchell.

For French-language radio stations playing popular music, there’s an additional and more serious limit the CRTC imposes: 65% of their songs must be in French (55% during the day, to prevent them from getting around this by playing all their French songs at 3am).

A few years ago, some genius found a way to get around this requirement: montages.

Because the CRTC counts “musical selections” by number, and not by length, a two-minute song and a 20-minute song have the same weight. And because the CRTC specifically counts music montages as one selection, you can have large (but not complete) parts of 20 songs in there and have it counted as one selection for the purpose of French-language minimums.

ADISQ, Quebec’s musical industry group, objected to the abuse of this by radio stations, and complained to the CRTC, which held hearings into the issue, specifically focusing on CKOI-FM Montreal, owned by Cogeco, CKTF-FM (NRJ) Gatineau, owned by Astral, and CFTX-FM (Capitale Rock) Gatineau, owned by RNC Media.

The statistics are pretty telling. The CKOI and NRJ stations were found to be using montages to a significant part of their broadcast week. CKOI was the worst, using 101 montages in the studied week, representing 17.9% of its total broadcasting time (this works out to an average of about 20 minutes per montage, though one case was found that was 55 minutes long). The NRJ Gatineau case was only slightly less, with 75 montages representing 14.5% of their 126 hours of broadcasting.

The study found these montages were almost all English-language American songs.

Astral and Cogeco argued they were not breaking the rules as they were written, which is true. They also presented public opinion polls showing that francophone audiences want to hear more English music, and in many cases francophones are tuning in to English stations.

There’s some irony in all this: 13 years ago, the CRTC set definitions of montages as they are to prevent the reverse from happening: radio stations using short clips from French-language songs in a montage and counting each one individually.

On Thursday, the CRTC addressed this, and imposed limits on the use of music montages. CKOI and CKTF can use montages for only 10% of their broadcast week. (CFTX was already well below this limit, so the CRTC did not impose one.) It also said it would study this matter further, and possibly impose new regulation generally.

The most obvious solution, to me, is to count musical selections based on length, not number. Under such a system, a four-minute song would count for twice as much as a two-minute song, and musical montages would be split up for the purposes of counting French-language or Canadian content requirements.

This is obviously more complicated for the station, but it would eliminate the problem.

The CRTC says it will begin looking into this issue in 2012.

Other coverage:

UPDATE: Cogeco Diffusion has issued a statement saying it will comply with the ruling, and suggesting the whole montage thing was Corus’s idea, that it’s using less of them, and its other radio stations don’t do it. Astral and RNC Media issued a joint statement also saying they would comply with the decision. Both said they would participate in hearings about French-language requirements, undoubtedly in an effort to get the CRTC to lower them.

ADISQ also issued a statement, praising the decision as a victory for francophone artists.

We open our arms to you, arrogant bastards

A new Impératif français ad shows young people holding up buttons that say "Oui! Je parle français"

I saw an ad tonight on TV from Impératif français, the French-language rights lobby group. What struck me most was that this ad was on CFCF-12. An anglophone station airing an ad for a group that seems, on its surface at least, to be so anti-anglophone. Kinda strange.

It turns out they launched a new ad campaign specifically targetting anglophones. And its press release actually sounds very progressive in its views of anglos in Quebec (emphasis mine):

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Un souper presque Epic

Epic Meal Time's Harley Morenstein and Sterling Toth on Tout le monde en parle (photo: Karine Dufour for Radio-Canada)

I’m a lifelong Montrealer who from two to 23 years old spent his life living in a home in Pierrefonds. I went to school there, learned French there, watched TV there.

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve really started paying attention to Quebec’s francophone culture. It’s not so much that I didn’t understand the language, although that certainly turned me off when I was younger. But it’s hard to just pick up a different culture, especially when you don’t understand its cultural references.

The fact that I was educated in an English public school also contributed. One of the unintended consequences of Quebec’s French language charter (Bill 101) is that it separates English and French-speaking children socially by having them go to different schools. Children whose parents were educated in French and not English were prohibited by law from going to school with me.

Maybe it was anglo guilt, or a desire to understand what was going on in francophone media, or perhaps just wanting to see, hear or read something that was produced close to home, I’ve started consuming Québécois popular culture. (Notice here I say “popular” – I’m a very uncultured person in either language.)

Among the cultural icons I consume is Tout le monde en parle, the Sunday night talk show hosted by Guy A. Lepage that regularly attracts more than a million viewers (despite being almost two and a half hours long) and some of the most high-profile guests you’ll see in Montreal.

Sunday’s episode was, for the most part, like any other. A mix of politics and culture, high brow and low brow, serious and funny. Discussions of autism and Libya, but also of filmmaking and comedy.

And Epic Meal Time.

In case you haven’t heard of them, this group of anglo Montrealers posts YouTube videos of massive meals they create, made up for the most part of meat (particularly bacon) and other fatty substances that send the calorie count into the stratosphere. They do this in character, for some reason thinking that having personalities that take themselves too seriously will improve the quality of their videos.

The Epic Meal Time videos have gone crazy viral, and have been watched tens of millions of times. Among those viewers, apparently, was Mr. Lepage’s son, who suggested his dad invite them to his talk show.

The viewers found out as Lepage introduced them to the plateau that Morenstein and Toth spoke very little French and so the interview was conducted in English. The two even had earpieces installed so the questions could be translated into English for them.

Montreal anglos unable to talk in French on a talk show with a huge audience. You bet that provoked a reaction.

I’ve rounded up some of the tweets I found on the subject.

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