Tag Archives: language

C’est quoi le 24 juin? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: L’Autre St-Jean seems to have changed its mind again. See below.

Quebec flag

As an anglophone Quebecer, it always annoys me when people confuse “Québécois” with “French-Canadian”. Not all Quebecers are francophone, and not all francophones in Canada live in Quebec.

It’s not just the Rest of Canada that does this, it’s also many of the Québécois themselves. Us anglos are really better off living in Toronto, where we belong. And French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec are ignored because they won’t be part of the new sovereign country anyway.

Thankfully, these views aren’t shared by the majority. Which is why I’m heartened at the near-universal outrage in the comments section of an article by La Presse’s Martin Croteau about two anglophone bands being banned from Fête Nationale celebrations on June 23. (The fact that hell is being raised by francophone publications (see also Voir, Bang Bang, Josée Legault) instead of just The Gazette, CJAD, CTV or The Suburban is also nice. Those outlets would be quickly dismissed for bringing up stories like this first.) There’s even a petition going around to bring them back (with requisite Facebook group).

It seems that the Autre St-Jean organizers were getting pressure from Fête Nationale directors (read: SSJB) and others to remove Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew from their event, even to the point where protests were threatened if they were allowed to go on. Though both are Quebec bands, their songs are in English, and that’s just not right, they argue. Fête Nationale is about celebrating a French Quebec.

This, of course, comes mere days after celebrating the fact that they were including anglophone bands and being more inclusive.

UPDATE (June 15): A short, bilingual message posted on the event’s website says they are “maintaining” their list of invitees, including the two anglo bands:

Montreal, June 15th 2009 – As the producer of L’AUTRE ST-JEAN, we, C4 productions, have been mandated by l’association Louis-Hébert to create an alternative musical event to celebrate our National Holiday.  In that sens, we maintain our choices for the line up of the event with Malajube, Vincent Vallières, Les Dales Hawerchuk, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Lake of Stew et Bloodshot Bill which represents forty minutes of anglophone music on a six hour show.

We wish that the event on June 23rd at Park ‘du Pélican’, which is, in our opinion, in the image of Québec and Montreal in 2009, will be peaceful.

More info will be communicated wednesday.

Mind you, in Quebec City, it’s still French-only.

Whether or not they’ll actually get to play, I think back to the basic question: What is the Fête Nationale supposed to be about anyway? Is it about language, culture, or about the province of Quebec?

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Fête Saint-Jean-Baptiste was about language and culture before the Quebec government got its greedy little paws on it. It was about French culture, and by that logic you might consider having only francophone bands perform at such an event.

But the Quebec government turned it into the civic Fête nationale holiday, wrapping it in the fleur de lys, blocking off non-Quebec francophones and making it to Quebec what Canada Day is to Canada.

Perhaps it’s because of their proximity on the calendar, combined with the political Quebec-vs-Canada divide that’s overwhelmed our politics over the past half century that people see an equivalence. Patrick Lagacé suggests if we turned this around – francophones being banned from Canada Day celebrations because of threats of protests from Albertans who want it to be English-only – that the outrage would be much higher.

If we accept that le 24 juin is a civic holiday about celebrating the state, then the comparison has some credence. The only catch is that Quebec wants to be unilingual while Canada does not.

But if it’s about culture, then a more apt comparison would be with St. Patrick’s Day in Quebec (indeed, the holiday has its genesis from those who wanted a celebration of the Québécois on June 24 like that of the Irish on March 17). And anyone who’s been to a St. Paddy’s parade in this town knows they’re very liberal when it comes to who can call themselves Irish. It’s not just Scottish pipe bands that slip by. Ukrainians, Israelis, Chinese are all welcome. Just put a shamrock sticker on your cheek and some green in your beer and you’re accepted into the club. So even then, anglophones (and any other language) should be welcome.

Provincial civic holiday, or francophone cultural celebration? Which is it? And which should it be?

CRTC Roundup: The American retransmission consent model

Another term to add to the zeitgeist of CRTC talks about conventional television funding is the “American retransmission consent model,” thanks to a comment from Rogers during hearings this week on whether conventional television broadcasters should be allowed to collect fees from cable and satellite companies for retransmission of their channels.

Asked by the commission a House committee whether Rogers would approve of a U.S.-style system in which cable companies have to seek permission (and therefore pay fees) to carry conventional television stations, Rogers said it would, provided carriage was optional.

CTVglobemedia pounced on this, issuing a press release in which it praised Rogers for agreeing to fee-for-carriage in an “industry-to-industry solution” that follows the “American retransmission consent model.”

I personally think this is a better idea and could live with this kind of compromise. If broadcasters choose to demand fees that are too high for carrying their signals, the cable and satellite companies (or better, the consumers themselves) could decide it’s not worth it and use their rabbit ears instead to get the channels for free.

Not that I think the CRTC and all the players involved would support such a system.

Michael Geist also weighs in on this issue.

Conventional television pros and cons

For those who want to keep track, here are the various pros and cons to running a conventional television station instead of a cable specialty channel:


  • Over-the-air reception: This used to be a no-brainer, but with only 10% of Canadian TV viewers still using antennas (and most of them probably not watching TV all that much), this incentive becomes a lot less powerful than it once was.
  • Simultaneous substitution: Hated by most Canadian TV viewers, it’s the practice of replacing U.S. feeds with Canadian ones when both are running the same programming, in order to ensure that only Canadian commercials are watched (and Canadian networks get all the ad money). The problem is that it’s not done properly a lot of the time (especially during live events) and can end up cutting off programming. Still, it’s a huge cash cow to have a monopoly on the Canadian ad money when you air a new episode of House.
  • Spot on the dial: It’s mentioned often, though I think its effects are trivial. The CRTC requires that conventional television stations have low spots on the cable dial (channels 3, 4, 5 etc.). Perhaps there’s a minor psychological effect, but my TV viewing patterns are the same whether it’s channel 3 or channel 125.
  • Mandated carriage: Simply put, the cable companies must include these channels as part of their basic packages. This means there are no homes in a local area that don’t have access to these channels. (Well, almost. Satellite carriers don’t have to carry all channels, and Bell still doesn’t carry Global Quebec.)


  • Cost of transmitters: This is serious because of the mandated switch to digital television. It’s not an issue so much in major centres like Toronto and Montreal, but small markets don’t have enough size to justify such huge capital expenditures. A recently-released report puts the cost of converting all stations in the country to digital at between $200 million and $400 million.
  • Cost of local production: The CRTC mandates a minimum amount of local production, usually in the form of local newscasts. Even with huge cuts to newsrooms and increased use of technology to reduce the need for technical jobs, broadcasters say being forced to produce local programming is hurting their bottom line. With some exceptions, local newscasts are money-losing operations.
  • Lack of subscriber income: Ironically, even while being forced to spend more on programming, conventional television doesn’t get access to subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies, having to rely on advertising alone for income. Before the explosion of cable and the Internet, that wasn’t a problem. Now it is.

A plea for local TV

Richard Therrien in Le Soleil asks what purpose the CRTC serves, which is kind of a misleading title because his article advocates stronger regulation of private broadcasters. He argues that TVA is abandoning Quebec City, asking the CRTC to reduce its local programming requirements and producing generic non-regional shows out of its Quebec City studios.

Journalistic Independence is here (kinda)

Global TV, TVA and Sun TV have received final approval from the CRTC to suspend parts of their licenses relating to cross-media ownership (Canwest and Quebecor also own newspaper properties) and replace it with a standard policy called the Journalistic Independence Code. The code provides for an independent body (half controlled by the industry it’s regulating) to adjudicate complaints related to independence of co-owned media outlets. The outlets are to have completely independent news management, but there are no restrictions on news gathering, which means corporate management is free to force as much convergence as it likes, provided editorial boards are separate.

The CRTC mentioned it got complaints from concerned citizens who were up in arms over these firewalls being taken down, but the commission essentially argued (as I have) that these complaints should have been brought up when the Journalistic Independence Code was discussed in the first place.

Minority-language communities are well-served

The Governor-in-Council has issued a report about minority-language broadcasting in Canada (English programming in Quebec and French programming outside Quebec). The report, which is in no way binding, concludes that in general, language minorities have sufficient access to programming, mainly due to the CBC, national specialty channels and the Internet.

It does, however, also bring up a few suggestions for strengthening access to French-language programming in English areas. Among them:

  • Requiring Ontario cable companies to distribute both CBC French-language stations in the province (CBOFT in Ottawa and CBLFT in Toronto)
  • Encouraging cable and satellite companies in English-language areas to provide the option of a single package of all francophone services to subscribers
  • Encouraging negotiations between the CBC and CTV/Rogers/TQS consortium regarding distribution of French-language Olympics programming to minority French communities outside Quebec using CBC transmitters. (The consortium has already said it would air all programming on RDS and allow cable and satellite providers to distribute the station for free during the Games)
  • Requiring that TFO be distributed as part of the basic service on all cable and satellite services.
  • Consider expansion of CBC Radio Two to serve minority linguistic areas
  • Find a way to support funding of minority-language community radio stations
  • Find ways of increasing spectrum available for radio stations, either by reassigning TV channels 5 and 6 (which sit just below the FM broadcast band) or by encouraging the adoption of digital radio

None of these are binding, and most aren’t even formal suggestions. But they might come up in more formal contexts at the CRTC in the coming months and years.

As for the flip side – English programming in Quebec – the report concludes that anglo Quebecers have ample access to English-language programming.

Fox Business coming to Canada

The CRTC has approved a request from Rogers to add Fox Business Network to the list of foreign channels eligible for rebroadcast on Canadian cable and satellite services. This means that Rogers Cable and others can add FBN as an option on digital cable or satellite (assuming they can negotiate a reasonable price for carriage).

Fox Business Network is a competitor to CNBC (and a really bad one at that if you look at the ratings). CTV argued to the CRTC that it would also be a competitor to its Business News Network (formerly Report on Business Television). The CRTC determined that this was not the case because BNN focuses on Canadian business and there is no programming common to both networks.

Besides, they’d already approved CNBC, which is a far more formidable competitor than Fox Business will be.

Specialty channels raking in the dough

The CRTC has released financial figures for specialty, pay and video-on-demand services. It shows increases in both revenues and profits, but no increase in the number of people employed (in fact, it went down by six people). The headliner was that for the first time ever, spending on Canadian programming by these services topped $1 billion.

Community TV station in Laval?

Télévision régionale de Laval has asked for a license for a low-power (50W) television station serving the Laval area, on which it would air programming it is currently producing for Videotron’s Vox TV.

The station, which currently has a budget of about $400,000 a year and is affiliated with local media and the city of Laval, would broadcast on Channel 4, which would cause interference problems with CBOT (CBC) Ottawa and CFCM (TVA) Quebec City, both on the same channel (not to mention analog cable reception of Radio-Canada’s CBFT for homes very close to the transmitter).

The main motivation for this move, according to TRL, is that Vox isn’t giving its programming enough play, especially during prime time viewing hours.

It’s an ambitious move, and one wonders if the small group behind it would be up to the task of keeping such a station running (they’ve already asked for an exemption from a 100% closed-captioning requirement). But it’s nice to see some people still think locally-produced over-the-air television is worth something.

Al-Jazeera trying again

Though the CRTC hasn’t issued a call for public comment yet, news about Al-Jazeera English’s bid for CRTC approval is making its way around. It started in the Globe and Mail back in February, and has since hit the Toronto Star, Sun Media, LCN and Cyberpresse.

Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language network is authorized for distribution in Canada, but with unique special requirements that put the onus on distributors to monitor its content. That made it too difficult (read: expensive) for cable and satelllite operators to abide by, so none have picked up the channel.

Al-Jazeera is trying to clean up its image as a radical jihadist network, launching an online campaign and even lobbying the Canadian Jewish Congress, which says it’s on the fence about supporting the network’s bid. Despite its reputation (many of its critics have never even watched the network), it is based in a relatively pro-U.S. country (Qatar), employs Western journalists for its English network, and reports on a lot outside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even PBS affiliates have used some of its reports (though that caused a kerfuffle).

Canadians will have their say when the CRTC opens the application for comments. The issue probably won’t be whether the network is approved, but whether the same onerous restrictions will be placed on its carriage.

General changes to broadcasting laws

The CRTC is asking for comments about a list of minor but general changes to its broadcasting laws, which provide for:

  • Cable and satellite companies inserting targetted ads into programming (with the agreement of the broadcaster)
  • Establishing the Local Programming Improvement Fund, which will be funded by a 1% tax from broadcasters to help small-market stations
  • Prohibiting networks from withholding programming from cable and satellite companies during a dispute
  • Removing the distinction between small cable companie (fewer than 20,000 subscribers) and large ones when it comes to minimum financing rules for community television initiatives (such as Videotron’s Vox network).

In other news

And on the telecom side

The CRTC has approved changes to the National Do-Not-Call List so that numbers added to the list stay for five years instead of three. It also clarified that independent politicians (who are not connected to political parties) are also exempt from the do-not-call rules. Arguments for these decisions are here.

The commission has also launched a public consultation on ISP traffic management, namely asking whether Internet providers should have the right to use traffic shaping during high-usage times to slow down peer-to-peer file sharing so that regular users have a chance to use more bandwidth. This comes at the same time Bell says it will charge independent providers metered rates instead of flat ones, effectively ending the idea of unlimited Internet access.

Livre de visage, là

Facebook has launched a Canadian French site, about a year after it launched a French French site.

The translation was done with the help of Facebook users in Quebec, I guess because Facebook is too cheap to hire a real translator for a week to make sure they get it right. These crowdsourced translations caused problems last time, but I don’t notice any glaring errors so far.

Among the translations:

  • “Posts” becomes “publications”
  • “More” becomes “d’avantage”
  • “Tagged” becomes “identifié”
  • “Wall” becomes “babillard”
  • “Edit Options” becomes … uhh … “Edit Options” (oops)

French FAIL

This week, Canadian Press issued a press release announcing some mobile portal. It sounds really impressive but it isn’t. Still, websites that specialize in rewriting press releases (or just cutting and pasting them) picked it up and regurgitated it without doing any research.

Had they done such research (and by “research”, I mean “going to the websites being talked about”), they might have noticed that the French version, nouvellesmobile.ca, doesn’t have a word of French on it. Oh, and the website asks us to “enter your US mobile phone number”, basically because this CP website just redirects to the Associated Press version.

Memo to CP: Before announcing websites, maybe it would be best to do some sanity checks first.

Le français, avant tout

I’m getting a bit tired of the language debate in Quebec.

I feel a bit guilty saying it, because the neverending battle has become so central to the province’s identity that it’s almost like I can’t call myself a true Québécois unless I have a spot on the front lines. What does it mean to be a Quebecer if not to constantly argue about French vs. English, federalism vs. sovereignty, Liberal vs. PQ/BQ?

The most popular post on this blog, by far, in terms of comments is a criticism I made in 2007 about anglo rights crusader Howard Galganov. The comment mark on that post just passed 500 (all of which I had to individually approve), and new comments are added every day. Discussion of the statements made in the post or of Galganov himself have long fallen by the wayside. The four participants who keep the thread going just yell at each other, call each other racist and compare each other to Hitler in their discussions of the great divide. I block those comments that go too far, but if I deleted those that I didn’t think advanced the conversation enough, over 90% would disappear immediately. At this point, I’m just watching the counter go up, in awe about how much time people can waste trying to change the mind of someone who is obviously never going to agree with you.


I’m an anglophone. Even though I’ve lived in Quebec my entire life, I’m seen as the enemy. No different than the Rest of Canada. It’s assumed that I’m just waiting for my chance to make it in Toronto or New York, and that I don’t really belong here because I don’t really want to be here. Though I love Quebec as much for its culture (which is inescapably intertwined with its language) as its politics (which is inescapably intertwined with language issues), because I use English more than French in my daily life I’m set aside from real Quebecers.

Once, in a conversation with some young francophone journalists, I was asked about my opinion on Quebec politics in a way that gave me the impression I was introducing these people to a culture they’d only read about. I felt like I was giving them a sociology lesson on what it’s like to be an anglo Quebecer.

One of the things that was odd about the conversation is that it came a bit out of nowhere. People don’t stop me in the street to debate politics. I’ve never been refused service at a commercial establishment on account of my language. Francophone bloggers link to me, and I link to them, with little regard to the fact that our posts are in different languages, unless the thing were talking about is language politics. Quebecers are more concerned with daily life, gossiping or getting laid than they are convincing others of their point of view on separation.

I got dragged into a brief debate about my positions on Bill 101 recently, and though I have serious issues with some of its provisions that seem more anti-English than pro-French (and the psychological factor and selective enforcement only exacerbate the anti-English sentiment), part of me wanted to scream out at one point: “I don’t care!” I can read French signs fine. I can communicate fine in that language (just don’t ask me to write in it for a living). In that sense, Bill 101 doesn’t really affect me. Though I cringe at how much the government is spending on language enforcement rather than language education, I think there are far more pressing issues for it to deal with than reforming our language law.

Pure laine

I bring this up because of a couple of debates going on that really make me wonder where Quebec’s priorities lie.

La Presse’s André Pratte had to apologize on Friday for noting that Michael Sabia, the ex-Bell CEO who has just been named to head the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, is (a) not a Quebecer and (b) doesn’t speak French very well. It seems he was wrong on both counts. Sabia has lived in Quebec for 16 years (“how long do you have to live in Montreal before you become a Quebecer?“) and his French, while accented, is fine. He attributed his first error to “un détestable réflexe québécois” – namely that if you’re anglo, you’re not a Quebecer. Believe me, this is a big problem. It’s not just in Quebec, of course. People, media and PR agencies all over Canada will look at someone with brown skin and assume they’re an immigrant. In the U.S., if you’re latino, it’s assumed you’re an illegal immigrant or the descendant of one.

I accept Pratte’s apology, but he wasn’t the only one to bring this up. Sabia needed to defend himself from an attack by Bernard Landry, saying he’s now chosen to live in Quebec three times since 1993.

UPDATE: No, wait, La Presse has gone back to saying he doesn’t speak French well enough for their liking.

Now we know why there are rules against political interference in the Caisse’s affairs. If something as petty as province of birth is a political issue (and deemed more important than making money for Quebec pensioners) then who knows how many ways 125 MNAs could figure out to screw with the system and doom our finances in order to maintain political correctness.

As Martin Patriquin points out, “Quebec must be the only place in the world where it actually matters what language money speaks.”

Not just money, but pucks.

Jeu de puissance

The other debate, which has just started, is over who will fill Guy Carbonneau’s shoes as head coach of the Canadiens. For any of the other 29 NHL teams, the only criterion would be the ability to coach a team of players to a Stanley Cup victory. (Well, that and not being a child molester, hockey gambling addict or 9/11 terrorist, I guess.) But in Montreal, they want to add another: the ability to speak French. And because former Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever is a prime candidate (he was promoted to Habs assistant coach when Carbonneau was fired), there’s already discussion that, no matter how good a hockey coach he might be, he can’t get the job because he won’t be able to speak properly to the media and to fans. Even Bob Gainey, who speaks French fine but with a strong accent, isn’t good enough for the people at RDS.

The Gazette had a little fun with that Saturday, suggesting some intensive training courses and giving a list of simple phrases for an anglo coach to learn.

This debate should come as no surprise. The same debate has been going on ever since Saku Koivu was promoted to be the Canadiens’ captain. Patrick Lagacé complained about it when he was at the Journal (though he’s softened his stance at La Presse – Lagacé the old softy disputes this in a comment below) in a column more notable in media circles for its hilarious follow-up. Of course, there are plenty of NHL players who don’t speak a word of English, but nobody complains about that. After all, their job is to play hockey, not to give speeches. But, in defence of this particular point, there aren’t any NHL captains who can’t at least carry on a conversation in the language of Gary Bettman.

And then there’s debate any time you see a trade, a call-up, a healthy scratch, or even a line-change which alters the makeup of the team to make it less francophone. It doesn’t matter what Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre or Mathieu Dandenault’s skills are. What matters is that they can be interviewed in French on RDS during intermission, and therefore they must be on the team and in the lineup. For these people, a Patrice Brisebois is more valuable than an Andrei Markov, and certainly more than a Mike Komisarek.

Fans can demand these things. It’s their right. And Canadiens fans aren’t exactly known for their logic or cool-headedness anyway. And it’s the government’s right to demand that the head of the Caisse is a Quebec-born francophone who watches Star Académie.


But when you say that language and nationality is more important than skill, you can’t complain when you don’t get results compared to others. You can’t complain that the Caisse is losing more money than other pension funds when you passed over a qualified anglophone for a less qualified francophone for the job. You can’t complain that the Canadiens failed to bring home their expected 25th Stanley Cup when you cut the field of head coach candidates to less than half of what it was so that RDS viewers don’t feel uncomfortable.

In the United States, the military is mocked because it fires gay Arabic translators even when it’s in desperate need of them. We make fun of the Americans because they put what you are above what you know, to their own disadvantage.

Sometimes, I wonder if Quebec is any better.

Except, I’m tired of debating the point. So I’m just going to hit “publish” and move on to something more interesting.

UPDATE: More discussion of this on Lagacé’s blog, which also talks about Simons’s opposition to that stupid OQLF sticker campaign.

Gazette explores anglo exodus, DiMonte

It’s really a story only The Gazette can do. And therefore it’s a story The Gazette must do: The exodus of anglophones from Quebec.

So in a five-part feature series that ends today, the paper went all out, sending reporter David Johnston and photographer/videographer Phil Carpenter out to Calgary and Vancouver to interview ex-Montrealers.


Of particular interest to media watchers is probably Part 3, which interviews former CHOM morning man Terry DiMonte and his sidekick Peppermint Patti MacNeil (ex-Lorange). Although focused on language and culture, it also goes into a bit more detail about DiMonte’s decision to move to Calgary and work at Corus’s Q107 (it was business, not language politics, that was behind the change):

DiMonte’s more recent departure can be seen as an example of the “normalization” of anglo migration from Quebec. As political and linguistic uncertainty has subsided in Quebec, anglos now leaving Quebec are tending to leave for the same ordinary dull reason that people everywhere move – opportunity. In DiMonte’s case, there was also the added complication of a troubled relationship with a new boss; but there again, as he says himself, there’s nothing so unusual about that. Here he was, a big fish in a small English market in a large French city, breezing along in midlife at the top of his profession, when suddenly he was presented with a new contract that called for him to sign in and out of work every day.

Until that offer was put before him by Bob Harris, newly arrived operations manager at CHOM, DiMonte had worked for years under simple contract terms: a 2-per-cent annual salary increase, and a car. But now he was being asked to sign a 15-page contract with a lot of fine print. DiMonte says he went to see Astral Media vice-president Rob Braide about it all, and Braide warned him, “Don’t you dare try to bring in a lawyer.”

The day after the 15-page contract was put before him, Corus Entertainment, owners of Q107 in Calgary, called DiMonte. A five-year offer; big money. Patti MacNeil remembers being at home on the day she heard DiMonte was moving to Calgary, and thinking, “Cool, someone new in the market, someone I know and like and will listen to.” But then the incumbent morning-show team at Q107 was let go, and the next thing she knew, DiMonte phoned her up and asked what she would say if Corus were to approach her – about teaming up with him.”

Of course, some might call this whining.

If the name Bob Harris sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the guy in charge of CJFM, aka Virgin Radio 96 aka the crap they replaced Mix 96 with. Both are owned by Astral Media. (Q92, where DiMonte phones in a noon show, is owned by Corus.)


Aside from the big features are two video series from Carpenter (all compiled on this page): a documentary of interviews from those same ex-Montrealers (including DiMonte), and some interviews with young students here about their future.

Carpenter goes into some behind-the-scenes detail on his blog, saying it took him four months (on and off) to put the three-piece, half-hour documentary together.

And more

There are also two Flash animations with graphical data (one points out that unlike most regional newspapers, The Gazette’s online traffic comes primarily from outside the province), and a blog from Johnston, in which he explains the story idea came from a conference he went to combined with a report from Statistics Canada showing anglos growing again for the first time in decades.

Quebec City goes crashy-crashy Saturday night

If you’ve never seen Red Bull’s Crashed Ice event, you need an immediate injection of testosterone. Every year, “competitors” in this event gather in Quebec City to “skate” down a 550-metre track whose grade is better suited for tobogganing than anything one would do on skates. (It’s a 56-metre vertical drop, according to this PDF press release).

The point is not important, I guess it’s a race of some sort. The fun is watching everyone crash as the tumble down the ice. And this year, for the first time, they’re opening it up to women.

Of course, because it’s harmless fun, there’s gotta be someone out there to spoil it. The Mouvement Montréal Français, apparently confused because this event is in Quebec City, is demanding that Red Bull give it a proper French name. The government, desperate to appease francophone activists, has passed on the request with official backing, though they’re stopping short of asking Red Bull to change its own name.

I think it’s a bit insulting to have an event like this in Quebec City with an English name. I’m sure Red Bull’s marketing people could come up with a bilingual one or a clever French name that would solve this situation easily. (They’ve already done it for Italy’s Toro Rosso F1 team) But this should be a result of grassroots pressure, not government fiat.

Either way, let’s not let the political discussion ruin the fun.

Crashed Ice is being broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in French on TVA and in English on TSN HD.

Ici on tue personne

The Office québécois de la langue française, always looking for fun ways to spend money making anglos feel unwelcome, has started a new campaign to get store owners to place stickers in their windows reassuring people that yes, they speak French. They even got comedian Louis-José Houde to lend his voice to radio ads (because some unfamiliar voice telling you your language is in jeopardy just isn’t good enough).

The campaign is focused mainly on Montreal, but also Gatineau and the Eastern Townships, which are the three places you’re most likely to find anglos in Quebec.

I don’t quite get the point.

By law, all Quebec merchants should serve customers in French. So this sticker would be at best redundant.

The supposed idea is that merchants who don’t show the sticker would not see any francophone customers (or at least no card-carrying members of the St. Jean Baptiste Society). But that would only work once a majority of businesses got the sticker, which won’t happen any time soon no matter how free they are. Indeed, anything that smells of the OQLF would probably be rejected by Montreal businesses who don’t want to rock the boat and make things political for no reason.

Not to mention that searching for stickers would also annoy hard-core francophones who think all businesses should serve people in French (which, again, they’re required by law to do).

Besides, it would be fairly simple to just lie, put up one of those stickers and then promptly ignore it. People do that with alarm system stickers all the time.

So this campaign, which encourages retailers to unnecessarily affirm that they follow the law, and which annoys francophones and anglophones alike, is good for what exactly beyond wasting a bunch of taxpayer money?

Why wasn’t the debate broadcast in English?

Richard Therrien points out that TQS was the only “généraliste” (read: broadcast) network that didn’t broadcast the Quebec leaders’ debate last night.

Well, that’s not exactly true. CBC, CTV and Global didn’t broadcast it either, even though all three are based in Montreal and have a duty to the people to bring these kinds of things to them. So the question is: Why didn’t they? Why wasn’t the debate broadcast on the English networks?

The basic answer, of course, is that it was in French. Rebroadcasting it would have required simultaneous translation, and wouldn’t have had as much of an impact on the voters. But does that mean it’s irrelevant? Unlike the federal leaders’ debate, we don’t have an English version to turn to. That was it. Two hours at a table was all we would get of the leaders facing each other directly, of the networks showing political programming that wasn’t paid for by the parties or filtered through news anchors.

The other argument you could make is that those who wanted to watch the debate could just turn to RadCan or TVA. But if that’s the argument, why bother having “broadcast consortiums” at all? Why not just leave it to Télé-Québec and CBC?

What’s worse is that anglos with cable couldn’t watch the debate translated either. While RDI and LCN carried it live, CBC Newsworld and CTV Newsnet didn’t. Even CPAC didn’t carry it live, though they repeated it later (it’s not on their online schedule, so I can’t tell if it’s being repeated again).

Of course, you could also argue that anglos don’t matter because they’re all going to vote Liberal anyway. So perhaps nobody but me is going to be outraged that a million Quebecers are being left out of this entirely.

But it bothers me that not a single anglophone television network, even those specifically devoted to news, could be bothered to show two hours of a political debate that will affect how this province is governed over the coming years.

Was simulcasting House really more important?

UPDATE (Nov. 29): CTV’s Barry Wilson touches on the lack of an English debate, without saying why his station decided not to show the debate live (or taped, for that matter) with translation.

RBO et al need to understand anglos better

Patrick Lagacé put this video up on his blog (so if you read his blog, don’t bother watching it again). He didn’t add much commentary, so I guess he just found it funny.

It’s an old sketch from RBO, which makes fun of anglo TV news, specifically Pulse News (what CFCF’s newscast used to be called before CTV decided local brands were a bad thing).

But much as I admire RBO, I don’t find it funny. Instead, it seems ignorant, bitter and sad.

Part of being able to do a good caricature is knowing your subject well. They got the logo right, and that joke about people in Ottawa going to bed at 8:30 was funny, but that’s about it.

There is plenty of stuff about anglo TV newscasts in Montreal that is very worthy of caricature: Ron Reusch’s pronunciation skills (though they won’t be an issue soon), Todd van der Heyden’s over-the-top gravitas, Lori Graham’s wardrobe, Frank Cavallaro’s zucchinis, Tim Sargeant, Global Quebec’s green-screen studio-in-a-box are just a few examples. A lot of these references are contemporary, but I’m sure there are plenty of similar examples from back when this sketch was made.

And sure, the anglo media is predominantly federalist, fears sovereignty and many people have trouble pronouncing French names. And, as a commenter on Lagacé’s blog points out, it does tend to discount most of Montreal east of St. Laurent.

But instead of understanding the target and eviscerating it where it is most vulnerable, RBO made the same mistake that Culture en péril did: put anglo Montrealers in the same boat as anti-French Albertans, franco-incompetent Ontarians and gun-toting southern U.S. rednecks (it even calls one of its reporters “John Redneck” as if this is somehow funny). It’s insulting name-calling (“Brian Britt” becomes “Brian Twit” – oh, how my sides are splitting).

And yet, it was a hit (a “classic”, even) among other uninformed unilingual anti-English francophones which form their target audience, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

When I watch these sketches from RBO and Prenez Garde Aux Chiens (another group I greatly admire when it does media criticism right), and I see people with incredibly thick francophone accents pretend to be anglos who can’t (and don’t want to) speak French, it seems painfully obvious that they are completely unfamiliar with what they’re targetting, beyond the ill-informed caricature that makes no sense in the first place.

I find it somewhat ironic, at the same time, reading another post from Lagacé in which he says the government shouldn’t be teaching francophones English. I’m fine with that. I’m more than happy to take the job of a unilingual francophone whose government put ideology over proper education in an unavoidably globalized world.

But I just wish some francophones would learn to understand the anglos a bit better. We might find some stuff in common. For example, we both know what it’s like to be a linguistic minority. And they might find we agree on a lot of non-sovereignty-related economic and social issues.

More importantly, anglo TV news is in desperate need of really good satire.

Canadian Association of Broadcasters ignores Quebec

This week, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which represents non-CBC radio and television broadcasters across Canada, awarded its annual Gold Ribbon Awards for “excellence” in broadcasting.

Looking at the list of finalists and especially the winners, it’s clear that Quebec is vastly under-represented here, both on the anglophone and francophone sides. In fact, only one Quebec-based broadcaster won an award, and that was the one specifically for French-language broadcasting. CKMF won the “Humour – French” category for its insanely hilarious Les 2 minutes du peuple.

Looking at the list of finalists, here’s how it stacks up for Montreal and Quebec:

Number of nominations for anglophone Quebec broadcasters: 2

  • CJAD 800 (Breaking news for Dawson Virginia Tech shooting)
  • CFCF (Diversity in news and information programming for My Montreal)

Number of nominations for francophone broadcasters outside of French-only categories: 5

  • Info 690 Montreal (Diversity in news and information programming for Philippe Bonville en Afghanistan)
  • CJDM 92.1FM Drummondville (Promotion: Audience building for Drummond Matin)
  • CKMF Énergie 94.3 Montreal (Promotion: Station image for Le week-end des hits perdus)
  • CFGS Gatineau (Television documentaries for De Gatineau au Kilimandjaro)
  • CJNT Montreal (Television magazine programming for Le Pont)

Number of categories with no nominations for Quebec-based or francophone broadcasters: 16

  • Radio community service (large market)
  • Radio community service (medium market)
  • Radio community service (small market)
  • Radio humour (English)
  • Radio information program
  • Promotion of Canadian musical talent
  • What radio does best
  • Television community service (large market)
  • Television community service (medium market)
  • Television community service (small market)
  • Television entertainment programming
  • Television fictional programming
  • Television breaking news
  • Television special/series and public affairs
  • Television promotion (station image)
  • Television promotion (Canadian program/series)

Nominees in the humour (French) category: 5

  • CFTX-FM, Tag Radio 96,5, RNC MEDIA INC., Gatineau (Katastrophe)
  • CIGB-FM, Énergie 102,3, Astral Media Inc., Trois-Rivières (C’est l’fun de bonne heure)
  • CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Les 2 minutes du peuple)
  • CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Le Retour de Dominic et Martin)
  • CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Salvail Racicot pour Emporter)

Now, let’s compare these numbers to other ones I’ve compiled:

  • Nominations for broadcasters in Vanvouver: 17
  • Nominations for broadcasters in B.C. outside of Vancouver: 11
  • Nominations for broadcasters in Alberta: 12.5*
  • Nominations for broadcasters in Saskatchewan: 7.5*
  • Nominations for broadcasters in Toronto: 16
  • Nominations for broadcasters in Ottawa: 6

* Stupid Lloydminster. Pick a province, we’re at war.

So Quebec’s seven non-token nominations rank Canada’s second-largest province about on par with Saskatchewan, a province with 1/7th our population. Does that sound right?

I’m not including pay and specialty channels here, because Montreal is fairly well represented here through MétéoMédia and Astral Media’s Canal D, Canal Vie, and Ztélé, all based out of Montreal. Astral media ended up winning awards here (two for Canal Vie and one for Ztélé), which I think shows how little original programming Canadian specialty TV contributes.