Tag Archives: LCN

Luc Lavoie and the old boys club

Dec. 18, 2011: North Korean state television announces the death of its dear leader, Kim Jong-Il. On a Sunday evening past 10pm, LCN anchor Melissa François announces the news on air, but (probably in part because of how much a lowercase L looks like an uppercase I) she pronounces his name as “Kim Jong Deux”. A clip of this is posted online and spreads around the French-speaking world, much to LCN’s ridicule.

François was pulled off the air and reassigned to a desk job. Her union defended her and asked TVA to put her back on the job, which in turn caused the president of the union to be suspended. She eventually left and got another job at Radio-Canada.

Oct. 3, 2017: On the LCN politics show La Joute, the three hosts are discussing a less serious story than most: Petitions to the National Assembly about the hunting of squirrels. One petition calls for it to be banned, the other for it to be protected.

Luc Lavoie tries to add a joke about legalizing such hunting (with firearms) in urban areas, because they’re a nuisance. He adds:

In fact, I would have liked to be able to hunt separatists, but it seems it’s not possible.

His cohosts, Paul Laroque and Bernard Drainville, immediately tell him he shouldn’t joke about that, as Lavoie lets out a laugh, apparently amused by his own joke.

It’s too late. A few of the people watching hit rewind on their PVRs, record the exchange and post it to social media, where it goes viral.

Lavoie later posts an apology on Facebook (saying he did so without being asked), and the 11pm rebroadcast of the show is spiked, replaced by a rebroadcast of the 10pm newscast.

The next day, the statement becomes even bigger news. La Presse reports the SQ is investigating. Politicians issue statements condemning the remarks.

Groupe TVA issues a statement that says the comments are unacceptable and Lavoie has apologized. But it mentions no sanction, despite calls from various directions that Lavoie be fired. Three hours later, it issues another statement, saying Lavoie is being removed from the air because of the SQ investigation. The existence of a complaint to the SQ seems like less of a triggering factor than TVA perhaps realizing that people are reacting negatively to their earlier non-firing of him.

Deux poids, deux mesures

So what’s the difference between these two cases? Well, a lot. One was an honest mistake that resulted in mockery. The other was a bad joke that resulted in condemnation. Both were mistakes made by people who should have known better.

But the difference in reaction doesn’t have to do as much with what happened or the amount of reaction to it. Rather, it’s who they are. François was a junior anchor, hired only the previous year, doing a weekend shift. Lavoie is one of the faces of LCN, a former executive vice-president of Quebecor, a deputy chief of staff to Brian Mulroney when he was prime minister, and a friend and sometimes spokesperson for Pierre Karl Péladeau.

One is an expendable employee (who couldn’t be dismissed outright because she was in a union). The other is one of the boys-will-be-boys boys, who gets the benefit of the doubt when he jokingly suggests shooting separatists two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

(And, as has been pointed out, this isn’t the first time Lavoie has had to apologize for putting his foot in his mouth on the air. Or the first time he’s said something stupid.)

So it’s entirely understandable in this context to expect that Lavoie’s suspension will be temporary. Maybe he’ll need to find another job, lay low for a while and do something less in the public eye, but his friend PKP won’t abandon him unless he has no other choice.

I generally don’t believe in firing people for single mistakes like this. I find the punishment over-the-top, and ineffective as a deterrent. I’d rather people be required to make some form of restitution and learn from the experience.

So I don’t necessarily want Lavoie to lose his job. But he owes people a more serious explanation than what he posted on his (since-deleted) Facebook page. He needs to explain what he could have been thinking that would lead him to believe that hunting separatists with guns was funny.

And maybe the producers of La Joute can consider that having three well-paid middle-age-or-older white guys hosting a political discussion show comes with an inherent lack of perspective that leads to people being comfortable with speaking before they think.

UPDATE: Lavoie is back on the air.

Oh Jean-Luc, lighten up

As part of the upcoming municipal elections all across Quebec on Nov. 1, the Directeur général des élections du Québec decided to pay an advertising agency to come up with a campaign to get people to vote.

Cossette, the agency in question, came up with this parody of a news/opinion TV talk show with an over-the-top anchor, which it released on YouTube (and fed to Dominic Arpin) hoping for it to go viral.

The video is well done and pretty funny, and most who see it will immediately think of former TQS anchor Jean-Luc Mongrain, who now has a show on all-news network LCN. Probably for that reason more than any other, it went crazy viral, with over 30,000 views in under four days.

The reaction from Mongrain and LCN’s owner TVA when they saw the video was surprising: they’re furious. Mongrain took the ad’s creator to task on his show for not letting him know ahead of time about the parody. TVA sent a letter to the DGEQ demanding that the video be taken down because it sullies his reputation.

Here’s the thing: Nowhere in the video are the words “LCN” or “Mongrain”. The show is called “Chouinard en direct” for the fictional network “RDN” (a mix of “RDI” and “LCN”). The set isn’t the same, the graphics aren’t the same, and the host doesn’t look like Mongrain. The only thing that ties the video to Mongrain is the theatrical way the actor acts and gestures.

TVA’s complaint is that the video might negatively affect Mongrain’s reputation. Setting aside for a second whether his existing reputation could be dirtied by portraying him as an over-the-top drama queen, there’s an inherent contradiction in this logic. Either this video is aimed directly at Mongrain because his style is mimiced so exactly, or his reputation is taking a hit because they’re portraying him as something he isn’t.

I can see TVA’s point that this is a government-funded ad for an election, and so should take great pains to be as non-partisan as possible. But despite TVA’s objections, I can’t see how this could put Mongrain in a “delicate situation” in the run-up to the election.

TVA and Mongrain saw a guy acting crazy on TV, and concluded it damages their reputation. That only works if you already know that Mongrain is crazy. And if you already know that, how is his reputation affected by this video?

Judging from the comments on Mongrain’s blog, it would seem he’s not getting that much support playing the victim here.

Jean-Luc, this video isn’t an over-the-top caricature of a crazy TV news man. You are. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself.

UPDATE: The DGEQ has refused TVA’s request to take the video down and cancel the ad campaign.

Journal Lockout Digest: Protest? What protest?

As the lockout of Journal de Montréal employees celebrated its six-month anniversary, those employees took advantage of an open door on Wednesday and stormed the Journal’s offices (CP, Le Devoir, Radio-Canada, Metro), a place they’ve been forbidden by court order to enter since the lockout began in January. Though there was no outright violence (despite the somewhat staged photo as evidenced by the video above), and they left a few minutes later, it was a very tense, very dramatic few minutes.

And if you’re religiously tuned to the LCN 24-hour cable news network, you wouldn’t have seen a moment of it. While Radio-Canada’s RDI was all over the event, It seems the Quebecor-owned network gave only a brief mention of the incident on TVA’s evening news. There wasn’t even a video to attach to the story.

UPDATE (July 24): Richard Therrien has more in Le Soleil.

Meanwhile, Quebecor has responded by complaining to the court, arguing that the employees who stormed the building were in contempt of court by rather obviously violating a court order that said they couldn’t enter the building. Thankfully, Quebecor-owned enterprises are all over that part of the story (ot at least, copying the Canadian Press version online).

The anniversary has also prompted some big-picture discussion from the blogosphere, with one capitalist saying unions aren’t all bad, and another asking why the union doesn’t forgo Quebecor entirely and start their own newspaper.

UPDATE (July 27): A video originally attached to this post, which criticized Rue Frontenac for a misleading photo, has been taken down by YouTube after a copyright complaint from the photographer. The photos have also been removed from the Rue Frontenac article on the protest, without any correction.

In other news

CRTC Roundup: No Super Bowl loopholes this year

For the latest on Super Bowl ads on Canadian cable and satellite, click here.

Note: This post has been corrected. I originally confused the two rulings for satellite companies as being the same. In fact, the Commission ruled in different ways for the two. Thanks to Patrick for pointing out the error.

Catching up on some CRTC broadcasting news over the holidays:

A complaint filed by CTV against Bell and Shaw, which run our two national satellite TV providers, has resulted in an order from the broadcast regulator forcing the two providers to close loopholes allowing Canadian viewers to see U.S. commercials during the Super Bowl.

Last year, both Bell TV (formerly Bell ExpressVu) and Shaw’s StarChoice concocted a scheme whose logic was something like this:

  1. The CRTC requires broadcast distributors (i.e. cable and satellite companies) to use “simultaneous substitution” to replace U.S. channels with Canadian ones when both are airing the same show. This is so that Canadian networks get all the advertising money. Normally nobody cares that they’re seeing Canadian commercials instead of American ones, but the Super Bowl is the one time of the year when people want to watch the commercials. Canadian Super Bowl commercials just don’t measure up.
  2. The CRTC rules have some loopholes. The substitution is only done when requested by the Canadian network, it’s only done when the Canadian signal is of equal or better quality than the U.S. one (which caused some issues in the early days of HD), and it’s only done in markets that have a Canadian over-the-air broadcaster.
  3. CTV had high-definition broadcasters only in Toronto and Vancouver, so simultaneous substitution of the Fox HD signal is only necessary in those two markets
  4. Bell and StarChoice developed a way to substitute the signal only for Toronto and Vancouver markets, and kept the Fox HD signals unsubstituted outside those markets for the benefit of Canadians wanting to watch the U.S. Super Bowl commercials. Viewers outside those markets would be given a choice of watching a substituted signal or an unsubstituted one.

CTV complained, and the CRTC agreed, that Bell TV is required to substitute those channels nationally, even for customers in markets where there is no Canadian broadcaster carrying the HD signal, because that is the method of substitution they currently use. The company, it said, can’t decide to use one method or the other depending on which is more convenient.

It dismissed Bell’s suggestion that the Super Bowl is an exception because it’s a “pop culture phenomenon”. CTV’s response to that:

CTV added that those viewers who really want to see the U.S. commercials can download them from the Internet within minutes after their being broadcast during the game.

The result is that Bell has to assure CTV in advance that simultaneous substitution will in fact take place for SD and HD signals nationally, and that Canadian subscribers not be given access to the U.S. commercials. Period.

In the case of StarChoice, the CRTC took a different tact. Unlike Bell TV, StarChoice substitutes channels locally through the receiver. They receive the U.S. signals, but are programmed to substitute them based on local requirements. This is the CRTC’s preferred method of substitution, as it protects local broadcasters. Since StarChoice didn’t deviate from their normal practice when they allowed subscribers outside of Toronto to view the U.S. Super Bowl feed, the CRTC ruled they are in compliance.

The CRTC did slap Shaw on the wrist about its cable TV service, which it said did not properly substitute the HD signal in 2008, but accepted the explanation that there were “technical difficulties” because Shaw had only started substitution for HD signals a month before the broadcast. They’re on a form of probation for the 2009 Super Bowl, with orders to take special steps to ensure substitution takes place as required.

The Super Bowl, which I think is a game of rugby or something, airs on Feb. 1 on NBC and CTV.

More commercial substitution

An unrelated issue, which the CRTC will debate next month, concerns “local availabilities of non-Canadian services

If you’ve ever watched CNN and noticed commercials for Viewer’s Choice Pay-per-view or some other Canadian channel, this is what they’re talking about. Canadian broadcast distributors are allowed to override commercials on U.S. networks, but only to put in programming ads. They can’t put in their own commercial advertisements. At least, not yet. They’re arguing to get that privilege.

Personally, so long as the advertising substitution is negotiated with the U.S. network, and it doesn’t disrupt service, I don’t see a problem letting this happen.


LCN has received approval to increase the amount of opinion and analysis programming during its broadcast day from 12% to 19%. CBC argued against the change, saying it would reduce the amount of news programming, which would hurt francophones outside of Quebec.

(As an aside, has anyone watched RDI and LCN and noticed how much local Montreal news and how little local news from outside Quebec are on those channels? It makes sense – that’s where their audience is – but neither is really a national news channel)

LCN argued it needs to adapt to a quickly changing media environment, which I’m sure you know favours opinionated blowhards shouting their mouths off in prime time over any sort of actual news gathering.


Astral Media has received approval to add sitcom and drama programming to its MPix service, which used to be about movies. It’s limited to 15% of its content coming from those categories, and they have to be at least five years old, but I still find it kind of silly that they want to add sitcoms to a movie channel.

They’ve also gotten a reduction in the lead time between a movie’s release and the time they can start airing it, from five years to three years.


SuperChannel, a pay TV network which wants to compete with The Movie Network and Movie Central, is still trying to get carried on some cable providers, including Videotron, despite an order from the CRTC that gives it “must carry” status.

Videotron has refused, citing some minority language rule that I don’t quite understand and probably doesn’t make any sense.

SuperChannel notes that Quebecor applied for a similar service and was turned down in favour of SuperChannel, and this might be payback for that rejection.

De-CanConing The Movie Network

The Movie Network has gotten approval to reduce its Canadian content requirements by getting extra credit for priority programming. This extra credit system came after the CRTC and media watchdogs noticed that Canadian broadcasters preferred certain cheap kinds of programming (like reality shows) over more expensive dramas. So the CRTC decided it would let broadcasters claim 150% credit for dramas and other expensive programming, to encourage them to create more of it.

Digital Home calls this a “weakening of Canadian content regulations“, though it’s entirely consistent with CRTC policy, as flawed as that may be.

CRTC roundup: new rules for converging newsrooms

The CRTC has given final approval for the “Journalistic Independence Code” proposed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a self-regulation body of Canada’s private broadcasters.

The code is designed to replace CRTC rules about the independence of TV and newspaper newsrooms, which affect Canada’s three largest private TV broadcasters:

  • Global TV (owned by Canwest which also owns a newspaper chain including the National Post and The Gazette – which includes me)
  • CTV (owned by CTVglobemedia which also owns the Globe and Mail)
  • TVA (owned by Quebecor Media which also owns the Sun chain, 24 Hours/Heures and the Journal de Montréal)

Currently, the CRTC has rules that the television newsrooms and the newsrooms of affiliated newspapers cannot be mixed or merged. They must be completely independent of one another.

As if to underscore how bureaucratic everything is at the CRTC and CBSC, only three of the ten points in the code actually deal with rules for broadcasters. The rest deal with how the code itself should be administered.

The new rules are:

  • There must be completely independent “news management and presentation structures”
  • Decisions about journalistic content must be made “solely by that broadcaster”
  • TV news managers may not sit on newspaper editorial boards and vice versa (but news managers may “sit on committees or bodies intended to co-ordinate the use of newsgathering resources”)

The CRTC’s rules on cross-media ownership date back to 2001, when Quebecor Media bought Videotron, which then owned TVA. The transaction meant that Quebecor would own the largest private television network in Quebec, the largest newspaper (the Journal de Montréal) and the largest cable TV company. The CRTC decided that some journalistic rules would need to be in place to protect the diversity of voices in the newsroom.

Those rules were just as vague as the new ones proposed. Newsrooms and news management decisions must be separate.

Though they sound simple, the application of those rules is all about interpretation. For example, while newspapers and TV stations can’t decide on the other’s coverage, nothing prevents the parent company of both from dictating news. In fact, under the new rules, nothing discourages TV stations and newspapers from “co-ordinating newsgathering resources.” This could mean, for example, having TV journalists file both TV packages and newspaper articles on stories that have video, and having newspaper journalists file texts to both newspaper and TV on stories that don’t.

Journalist unions, who also protested the original Quebecor takeover, also spoke out during hearings about this code, saying it didn’t do enough to really separate newsrooms. But it seems the CRTC thinks it’s enough for them, and with the new code approved it is allowing networks to modify their licenses to remove the original rules (TVA was first off the bat)

We’ll see over the coming years how many loopholes can be found to cut down costs and introduce “efficiencies” by reducing “duplication” in the two media.

UPDATE (Nov. 25): TVA’s union has objected to the request to use the new rules, saying it threatens journalistic independence.

In other news

Oh, and Pauline Marois is flapping her gums again about creating a Quebec CRTC, further needlessly duplicating government institutions and burning through our tax dollars.

LCN/Canoe needs to learn HTML 2.0

One of the recurring elements of my criticisms of big media websites is that you have to learn Web 1.0 before you try at Web 2.0. Uploaded stories from newspapers still don’t have clickable links, URLs are way too long, related stories aren’t linked to each other, etc.

Another example of this comes courtesy of Quebecor’s Canoe.ca website, which is presenting a “survey” with Quebecor-owned TVA/LCN, Quebecor-owned Journal de Montréal and Corus-owned Énergie 98.5 FM. The survey asks people questions in order to track down differences between Baby Boomers and younger generations (or more precisely, find out what the generations think of each other). Certainly no surprise for the Journal, which prefers to create divisive scandals rather than report on news that’s already out there.

But the version of the survey published online is ludicrously low-tech. Rather than have visitors fill out a web form (a technology that we’ve only had for about 12 years), it presents the options in barely-formatted paragraphs and then asks readers to cut and paste their answers into an email (that they format themselves).

How about I save everyone some time: Young people think Baby Boomers are old, boring, intolerant, stubborn and out of touch. Baby Boomers think young people are impulsive, irresponsible, weird, stupid and disrespectful.

Now where’s my Pulitzer?

UPDATE (Jan. 20): The first results are in, and ranking of priorities shows no real difference between the age groups (though I’m sure they’ll try to find one). Continuing the we-don’t-know-this-technology-stuff motif, the full results are a PDF focument of a scan of what looks like a bad photocopy of a fax of printed sheets of computer-generated charts. Have these people never heard of email?

I know it when I see it

LCN’s Mathieu Belhumeur has exclusive video that cellphone service providers allow their customers to purchase images of scantily-clad women.

The video report is, of course, filled with examples of such images, just in case you’ve forgotten what a scantily-clad woman looks like.

The real scandal here is that people are expected to pay $2 to download a thumbnail-sized image of anything.