You know how they say it’s so bad it’s good? This is worse than that. No wait, it’s even worse than that. It’s so bad, it’s not even the bad that’s worse than bad, it’s so bad people watch it and live-tweet about it to talk about how bad it is.
The Telethon of Stars (left to right): Tania Krywiak, Lori Graham, Jed Kahane, Michel Lanteigne (foundation chair), Claudia Marques, Paul Karwatsky, Randy Tieman (photo: Telethon of Stars)
Aww, don’t they look adorable?
The Telethon of Stars, which aired last weekend on CFCF but didn’t air on V (formerly TQS), raised just under $4 million for research into children’s diseases. That’s a noticeable drop from last year’s $4.2 million, and well off the record of over $5 million, but considering how hurt the campaign could have been from the loss of a French audience (the CTV telethon was “bilingual”, though as you can see it was still a CTV event), it’s not bad.
It’s one of the few special programs produced locally, and a key part of that whole “local TV matters” thing: every year in December, CFCF runs a 24-hour telethon to raise money for the Foundation for Research into Children’s Diseases called the Telethon of Stars. It’s been an annual tradition since 1977.
While originally in both languages on CFCF, the telethon was eventually split up with the French version airing on what was at the time CFCF’s sister station TQS. The two telethons would pool their money together, last year raising $4.5 million.
But with its rebirth as V, CFJP has apparently decided the telethon isn’t worth the expense anymore, according to Richard Therrien. Instead, some francophone flavour, including Chantal Lacroix, will be included in CFCF’s broadcast on Dec. 5.
When TQS went into bankruptcy and was sold to Remstar, the struggling network laid off dozens of employees, including its entire news division. Remstar offered 20% of their contractually-obligated severance pay, arguing that the station was in bankruptcy and the layoffs happened before Remstar took control. It treated former employees as creditors instead of employees.
TQS haters were eagerly anticipating the premiere of Mario Dumont’s new daytime talk show Dumont 360, one of the star attractions to V’s fall lineup.
Though the rebranded station launched on Aug. 31, Dumont’s show made its premiere a week later (ironically, on Labour Day, when most people with weekday jobs would take the day off) with Dumont introducing himself.
The critics’ analysis: It could have been a lot worse (updated Sept. 9 with more links).
This week has a lot of changes for television both local and nationally. Two main reasons for this: it’s September and the fall season is starting, plus CRTC broadcast licenses for conventional television stations end on Aug. 31.
MuchMusic’s digital specialty channels MuchVibe, MuchLOUD, MuchMoreRetro, PunchMuch go commercial-free. MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic – which still have enough viewers to sell commercials – continue to air ads, as will programs that are simulcasted on the digital specialty channels and Much or MMM.
The BBM ratings system switches to the “Personal People Meter“, a device that had been tested in the Montreal market, to allow nationwide monitoring of what people watch and listen to on TV and radio. The PPM is a pager-like device worn by sample audiences, and replaces the less accurate diaries that relied on self-reporting.
8am (6am in Red Deer): CHCA, an E! network station in Red Deer, Alta., goes off the air. (UPDATE: Its last newscast, from last Friday, has been uploaded to YouTube in eight parts)
8:30am (5:30am in Kelowna): CHBC, a former E! network station in Kelowna, B.C., is rebranded “Global Okanagan” as the E! network shuts down.
Tomorrow, Sept. 1
12am: The CRTC begins billing cable and satellite companies 1.5% of their revenues for a Local Programming Improvement Fund, to help small-market television stations. Bell and Shaw, Canada’s satellite providers, have responded by adding a 1.5% fee to consumers’ bills beginning today. Videotron, Quebec’s main cable provider, hasn’t decided to follow suit yet.
At the same time, the CRTC lifts the cap on the amount of advertising conventional television stations can air. It had previously been at 15 minutes per hour. The CRTC believes that the market will self-regulate the amount of advertising (after all, a station with too many ads is going to lose viewers).
1am (10pm in Victoria): CHEK-TV in Victoria goes off the air. See below.
6am: As conventional broadcast stations across the country (at least the ones that are part of large networks like Global, CTV, CityTV and TVA) get new one-year licenses, new local programming requirements come into effect. They require 7 hours of original programming for small markets and 14 hours for large markets (the latter includes Montreal on both the anglo and franco side). TVA’s local programming numbers are defined on a case-by-case basis: 18 hours a week for Quebec City and 5 hours a week for Rimouski, Chicoutimi and Sherbrooke. TQS, because it got special consideration from the CRTC after going bankrupt, isn’t affected by these changes.
6pm: Global Quebec CKMI becomes Global Montreal with a rebranded evening newscast after a CRTC decision this summer allowed them to relicense and accept local advertising. Global Ontario is similarly changing to Global Toronto.
Wednesday, Sept. 2
1am (10pm in Victoria): CHEK-TV in Victoria goes off the air. See below.
Not having been invited the time to attend all the fall launch parties being put on by the radio and TV people over the last little while, I’m pleased to see that most of them are briefly summarized in video form.
But there were also launches for CKOI, Rock Détente, Rythme FM, Musique Plus, Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec, TVA, VRAK.tv and Télétoon, and fortunately the people at WebPresse believe these parties are news.
So here are the launch parties in YouTube format from various sources:
That’s what TQS is going to change its name to: V. Not Canal V, just V. This, after seven months of brainstorming, is the best they could come up with. The idea is that the network will have a lot of stuff starting with V, and so this links it all together.
I guess Canada has this thing about single-letter networks: E!, /A\, D and now V.
And yet, the same thing I said about “A” a year ago still applies: The name is ungoogleable, and therefore useless in a new media environment. Go ahead, put “V” into a Google News search and see what comes up. Compare that to TQS. If you think that’s a minor issue for a television network, you clearly don’t understand how the Internet works.
Even Remstar should have figured that out quickly. The website isn’t v.com or v.ca, but vtele.ca. That should have clued them in that their idea was flawed.
Besides, V is also the name of a bunch of other television networks around the world: the multinational Channel [V], Portugal’s Canal V on Cablovisao, plus all sorts of networks that call themselves VTV.
The decision of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which decides on complaints against private broadcasters, is available online. In summary, it takes issue with the fairness of the contests, particularly with one that asked callers to guess names that turned out to be anything but guessable: Pancho, Hakan, Gabor, Darko, Lamar and Nanno. (I’m not sure if those were chosen to be intentionally deceptive, or because the show is shot in Austria and the crew have no idea what names are common in Quebec.) It also said the program was not being transparent enough about its rules, which is especially a problem when people are asked to pay to take part.
TQS, for its part, didn’t put up a defence of the program. Instead, it absolved itself of responsibility, claiming Call TV was an infomercial, and wanted to pass the buck to creator Mass Response.
The CBSC rightfully called this suggestion ludicrous on its face, reminding TQS that broadcasters are responsible for everything they put on air.
But the CBSC also said it could only adjudicate stuff that was broadcasted, not the stuff that went on behind the scenes. It couldn’t comment on how people were charged for their calls, or whether they might have been overcharged. That, it said, was the responsibility of the government or another government-run body.
That’s one of two big problems with this decision: It doesn’t solve the underlying problem. This isn’t an issue of inappropriate content making it to air, or a broadcaster providing biased information during a newscast. This is an unlicensed overseas gambling operation masquerading as a quiz show to deceive people out of their money one dollar at a time. The investigation must be done by Quebec’s gambling authority, not the CBSC.
The other big problem goes to the heart of the CBSC itself. It’s one of those industry-self-regulation bodies, and so it’s in its best interest not to impose serious fines. Therefore, it doesn’t impose any fines or other serious punishment for such gross violations of its codes.
Instead, despite being found in violation of its own industry’s code, the only thing TQS has been mandated to do is air a short notice twice during the next week.
And presumably make Call TV more fair. Otherwise they might get an even more strongly-worded letter.
There’s a comment to be made here about yet another international reality show franchise being licensed for local adaptation and that qualifying as original programming, but it’s too sad to analyze, so I’ll let the CRTC do it for me:
The Commission notes that TVA broadcasts a significant amount of Canadian programming and applauds that fact. However, the Commission notes that for several years TVA has been broadcasting programs based on foreign concepts and produced in-house or by independent Canadian producers. These include the popular programs Star Académie, Le Banquier, Le Cercle and La Classe de cinquième. The Commission notes that other conventional French-language broadcasters are also taking part in this trend, including the CBC (Tout le monde en parle, Pyramide) and TQS (Wipeout, Le mur, Call TV).
The Commission is concerned by this growing trend is to the detriment of the development of creative Canadian and Quebec talent. The Commission intends to discuss the issue at the 2011 public hearing.
In the current pathetic state of the mouton noir, it’s nice to see them go back to their roots as a low-budget network that’s willing to try anything and look pathetic doing it. I might even think of applauding it if it had been an original TQS idea instead of an Austrian creation (the show is even filmed in Vienna).
But there’s another thing that bugs me about it: you have to pay to take part. An entry fee of $1 per call or text to have a chance to win a prize (the show doesn’t take the first caller, but waits for a bunch of people to call in and then picks one at random).
Marketing contests and prize draws operating in Quebec and elsewhere are usually very careful about giving a “no purchase necessary” option in order to stay legal. Usually this involves sending a postcard or self-addressed stamped envelope, which nobody does because that costs money too. But for Call-TV, there is no option that forgoes payment. And since there is an element of pure chance involved, this should technically qualify as a lottery, no?
In the UK, the Call TV format was investigated to see if it qualified as gambling. The report didn’t make a conclusion, arguing that it was up to the courts to decide if this qualifies. (Even if it had reached that conclusion officially, the difference in laws means you couldn’t make the same conclusion in Quebec.)
Whether or not it successfully exploits a loophole in Quebec’s gambling law, or is even sanctioned by the government, it just rubs me the wrong way. It’s like a slot machine you can play at home. Is that really what you want in television?
At least, at $1 a call, compulsive gamblers can’t lose their life savings in 90 minutes.
UPDATE (June 9): La Presse’s Hugo Dumas did some calling to various government regulatory bodies (CRTC, Loto-Québec, Régie des alcools, courses et jeux, CBSC, Department of National Defence) and got responses ranging from “our lawyers are looking into it” to “technically it’s not our department”.