The 2018 Jack Webster Awards, recognizing excellence in B.C. journalism, were handed out Monday night. Among this year’s winners were Global BC’s Jill Bennett, John Hua, Catherine Urquhart and Grace Ke for Soliris Fight (Excellence in Feature/Enterprise Reporting – Television); CBC Radio One team Bal Brach, Laura Palmer, Stephen Quinn, Matthew Parsons and Lee Rosevere won in the radio category for SOLD!, while CBC.ca’s Justin McElroy claimed the Excellence in Digital Journalism award for We’ve Tracked Every Promise the B.C. NDP Made in the Last Election: Here’s Where They Stand. The 2018 Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to retired Global BC managing editor Clive Jackson, with the 2018 Bill Good Award presented to former CBC Radio VP Donna Logan. Find the full list of winners here.
Innovation and Economic Development ministers at the federal, provincial and territorial level have agreed to make broadband a priority and develop a long-term strategy to improve access to high-speed Internet services for all Canadians. The pledge comes as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) proposes a national broadband strategy. FCM says many remote communities still rely on dial-up and have spotty mobile connections with nearly four-fifths of Canadians unable to access 50 Mbps download speeds – the CRTC’s universal service objective. Calling for federal investment of $400 million a year for 10 years, FCM recommends clear standards and timelines to achieve CRTC speed targets for fixed broadband (50/10 Mbps upload/download), and a new target for rural mobile access; long-term, predictable funding for broadband and mobile internet in rural, remote and northern communities; and affordable and accessible internet in rural communities matching that of big cities, guaranteeing access to the hardest-to serve populations.
CRTC hearings on misleading and aggressive sales practices by the country’s telecom providers concluded Friday afternoon, with Shaw, Rogers and Bell disputing that questionable sales practices are a systemic issue. A full commission panel sat for five days hearing from a range of consumer groups, in addition to both small and large wireless carriers. The commission panel challenged the providers on a range of issues raised on the record earlier in the week, including upselling bundles of unwanted services, levels of escalation required to cancel services or resolve complaints, confusion around discounts available to the deaf and hard of hearing community, employee bonus structures and commissions, and sales support training. Bell came armed with a proposal for new rules that would apply to all service providers, recommending compliance with a modified version of the Television Service Providers Code (TVPC) “clarity of offer provision” which stipulates clear communication of offers to consumers including the minimum commitment period during which an early cancellation fee can be applied. Read more here.
CRTC chair Ian Scott appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications (TRCM) on Tuesday to offer testimony for its study on the modernization of the Telecommunications Act, Broadcasting Act and Radiocommunications Act. Scott used his appearance in part, to talk about the implications of deploying 5G network technology. Rolling out 5G tech will require small cell radio and antenna installations on both public and private property such as lampposts and bus shelters. Scott is advocating for increased CRTC jurisdiction that would allow the commission to resolve disputes, order access and set guidelines. Scott also testified that “all players that benefit from participating in the Canadian broadcasting system should contribute to it in an appropriate and equitable manner.” “It’s no longer enough for new players to draw significant revenues from the system without giving back to it. There are social and cultural responsibilities that come with operating in Canada,” Scott told the committee.
The CRTC has given CBC/Radio-Canada a second one-year extension on its broadcasting licences, citing the transition to a new president and CEO. The commission has renewed all licences until Aug. 31, 2020.
Rogers is extending wireless service to the Witset First Nation along Highway 16, BC’s so-called “Highway of Tears.” The project will result in continuous network coverage from New Hazelton to Smithers. Approximately 900 people in Witset First Nation and 5,000 Smithers-and-area residents will benefit from improved cell service. Construction of the Rogers cell tower began in late September and is expected to be completed in the coming months. When operational, the cell tower will enable voice, data and text services via high-speed wireless and internet coverage on 4G and LTE networks for Rogers and Fido customers. Customers using other providers will also be able to dial 9-1-1 in the community and along the highway. Rogers has also announced it’s made wireless service improvements in three Ottawa neighbourhoods: Manotick Main Street and O’Grady, McKeown and Coker, and Orleans Village, as well as improvements in Maple Ridge, BC near the Abernathy Connector and at Rupert Street and East 45th Avenue in Vancouver.
Shaw Communications Inc. has announced consolidated financial and operating results for the quarter ended Aug. 31, 2018. Revenue from continuing operations increased by approximately seven per cent both in the fourth quarter and for fiscal 2018 to $1.34 billion and $5.24 billion respectively, compared to the same periods in fiscal 2017. Operating income before restructuring costs and amortization of $560 million for the quarter and $2.09 billion for the year increased 16.9 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively. Wireless postpaid net additions of 85,000 in the quarter and average revenue per unit (ARPU) growth of nine per cent year-over-year. Wireline operating income before restructuring costs and amortization improved 15.7 per cent in the quarter primarily due to continued revenue growth in Business and Internet combined with approximately nine per cent lower operating costs year-over-year. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018, approximately 460 employees exited the company, bringing the total number of employees who departed under the Voluntary Departure Program (VDP) to approximately 1,300 employees. Shaw incurred an additional restructuring charge of $16 million in Q4 for a total of $446 million in fiscal 2018, primarily related to severance and other employee-related costs, as well as additional costs associated with its Total Business Transformation (TBT) initiative. The company still anticipates total restructuring costs to not exceed $450 million.
Videotron has revealed the name of its new enhanced TV distribution system Helix, based on Comcast’s X1 platform. Videotron president and CEO Manon Brouillette spoke about the new tech in a speech delivered at the Canadian Club of Montreal. Helix, set to launch in the “coming weeks,” will be built around voice-controlled assistant technology.
CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin says there were an unacceptable number of errors and a lack of context in a CBC Ottawa story about a new bylaw allowing for construction on private property within Gatineau Park, a conservation area, administered by the National Capital Commission (NCC). However, Enkin did not find bias. The complainant, Jean-Paul Murray, secretary of The Gatineau Park Protection Committee, appeared as a voice in the radio and web story, but found it biased in favour of private landowners. Enkin says the story was under-researched and failed to meet CBC’s standards of accuracy. In her review, she writes “I do not believe that this, in any way, was deliberate or arose out of any agenda. You are an advocate with decades of knowledge and activity and a very strong point of view. It is not realistic to expect daily news reporters to have that depth of knowledge – but it is for them to get it right and have enough background to provide context for listeners and readers to make up their own minds about the issue.”
TVO has asked a man who dresses up as a spoof mascot of its Polkaroo TV character to cease and desist. Mark Scott has been attending cannabis legalization events dressed as “Tokaroo” – a parody of the beloved children’s character that’s been around since the 1970s. The Ontario public broadcaster is threatening legal action if Scott doesn’t stop use of the character.
PrimeTime 2019 will kick off Jan. 30 with the event’s opening reception at the Westin Ottawa. This year’s speakers lineup includes Stephane Cardin, director, Public Policy, Canada, Netflix; Eagle Vision partner Lisa Meeches; and Banger Films co-founder Scot McFadyen. Find the full list here.
Mark Kassof will speak about the importance of radio at OAB Connection/18 in Toronto on Nov. 8. Kassof will share Ontario research on where radio stands in the consumer choice landscape as it competes with podcasting, streaming, and social media. Other speakers include radio futurologist James Cridland, consultant Valerie Geller and Caroline Gianis from Radio Connects. Find this year’s full speakers list and registration info here.
The Western Association of Broadcast Engineers (WABE) 2018 Convention gets underway Nov. 4 in Vancouver. Among this year’s speakers is Hugo Gaggioni from CTO Sony North America who will delve into IP networking for studio and outside broadcasting production applications. Find the full convention schedule here.
The Sidney Hillman Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2019 Canadian Hillman Prize honouring excellence in investigative journalism. The Hillman Prize celebrates print, digital and broadcast reporting that highlights social or economic injustice and hopefully leads to meaningful public policy change. Entries must be published or broadcast in 2018 and have been made widely available to a Canadian audience. Nominated material and a cover letter explaining how the entry meets the requirements can be submitted here. There is no fee to enter. The Canadian Hillman Prize winner will be awarded a certificate, a $5,000 honorarium and travel to New York City. This year’s Canadian judges are Tony Burman, former managing director, Al Jazeera English and editor-in-chief, CBC News; Garvia Bailey, arts journalist and former Jazz.FM host; and Bonnie Brown, documentary and news producer, CBC. The deadline for entries is Jan. 15.
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