The Weekly Briefing

 

RADIO/AUDIO/PODCAST:

Peter Kash and Blake Carter

Stingray has delayed Flow 93.5 (CFXJ-FM) Toronto’s transition to a syndicated morning show out of the U.S. amid demand for local information as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts daily life for many Canadians. The Breakfast Club, which originates from New York City hip-hop and R&B station, Power 105.1 (WWPR-FM), was set to start airing on Flow weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m, starting Mar. 16. Steve Jones, Stingray’s SVP, Brands & Content, Radio, says Peter Kash and Blake Carter will helm the morning show going forward until ongoing concerns around COVID-19 have passed. Read more here.

Taz and Jim of FM96 (CFPL-FM) London are among the radio personalities broadcasting from their respective homes this week as they self-isolate following international travel. Aaron Rand, a host at Bell Media’s CJAD 800 in Montreal, is also doing his show from his home studio after returning from Mexico. Bell told Broadcast Dialogue in an email that they are making that accommodation for on-air talent where possible. Read more about how broadcasters are adapting to this week’s developments, here.

CKUT 90.3 FM, the McGill University campus community station, has shuttered its studio and suspended live programming. The station’s offices, including its music library, are closed to contain the spread of COVID-19. It’s airing a mix of original pre-recorded shows being sent in remotely, content from its archives, and special programming. The station’s 2020 funding drive has also been postponed.

Canadian Music Week (CMW) is pushing its annual May music festival, and radio and industry conferences to September. The festival will now take place Sept. 8-13, with the conferences remaining at the Sheraton Hotel from Sept. 9-11. All badges and wristbands will be honoured on the new dates. Read more here.

The SOCAN Awards in Toronto are canceled. The 2020 SOCAN Awards were slated for March 30 in Toronto. The SOCAN Awards are typically a private celebration, but Ontario banned gatherings of more than 250 people.

 

NEWSTALK 1010 (CFRB-AM) Toronto has launched a new daily podcast, Global Outbreak: The Facts and Fiction of COVID-19. Each episode presents the data, breaks down the news, debunks myths surrounding the virus, and answers listeners’ questions. With six episodes available now, guests include Bell Media science expert Dan Riskin, CTV W5 investigative correspondent Avery Haines, CTV News’ medical correspondent Avis Favaro, infectious disease physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch, and psychology professor Steve Joordens.

Harvard Broadcasting’s X92.9 (CFEX-FM) Calgary is taking the opportunity to use a new billboard campaign to remind listeners to ‘Wash their Hands’, among other messaging. Centred around the creative “If you listen, you know,” one-third of the billboards will be devoted to ‘Take Care’ messages. The station is also airing ‘Wash Your Hands’ i.d.’s on the hour.

SiriusXM will broadcast the Ultra Virtual Audio Festival on UMF Radio starting Friday, Mar. 20. The festival will feature live DJ sets from artists who were originally scheduled to perform at Ultra Music Festival, including Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Martin Garrix, Above & Beyond, Major Lazer, Lost Frequencies, Oliver Heldens, Nicky Romero, and more. The UMF Radio channel will launch at 5 p.m. ET and air through Monday, Mar. 23 on channel 52 on satellite radios and the SiriusXM app. The limited-run channel will also highlight past live DJ sets from previous Ultra Music Festival performances, including Kygo, The Chainsmokers, Marshmello with special guest Roddy Ricch, Zedd, and Carl Cox.

Elisabeth Hart

FEATURE: In Benztown CEO Andy Sannemann’s latest blog he talks to Toronto imaging producer (and Fanshawe grad) Elisabeth Hart on imaging Sportsnet 590 the Fan and her love for the Toronto Blue Jays. Read more here.

LISTEN: On the latest episode of Broadcast Dialogue – The Podcast, Jean-Marie Heimrath, president & CEO of The Podcast Exchange (TPX). The Toronto-headquartered podcast monetization company has grown into a Canadian leader in the space and is making headlines again following Stingray’s acquisition of a 30% stake in TPX. Heimrath talks about the importance of not standing still organizationally, why all organizations should already be planning for their post-COVID-19 rebound, and what the future holds for TPX.

LISTEN: On the latest Sound Off Podcast, Matt Cundill shares a few thoughts on the opportunity ahead for radio in the age of coronavirus.

SIGN-OFFS:

Vern McNair

Vern McNair, 91, on Mar. 11. Raised on a farm near Shoal Lake, MB, McNair was a pioneer in Canadian farm broadcasting. Starting his career as an ag rep with Manitoba Agriculture in Carberry, McNair joined CBC Winnipeg in 1955. Among the television programs he worked on were Country Calendar, which later became Country Canada, and weekly show FarmScene. On the radio side, the Country Comment series saw five-minute information briefs aired by nine radio stations across the province. McNair returned to Manitoba Agriculture in 1959 to develop the department’s radio and television strategy. Under his leadership, Canada’s first electronic distance education short course for farmers, This Business of Farming, was developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture, CBC and Manitoba Agriculture. He went on to become Chief of Information Services and then Director of Communication Services, retiring in 1989. McNair was inducted into the Manitoba Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2013.

TV/FILM/VIDEO:

Farah Nasser

Global News confirmed Monday that two employees at its Toronto television station have tested positive for COVID-19. Rishma Govani, senior manager of news and radio communications for Global News, said in a statement that both employees are in quarantine and staff who’ve been in close contact are being identified and advised to self-isolate. Global News personality Farrah Nasser, who just returned from a vacation to Mexico, has also been co-anchoring the Global Toronto evening newscast from her backyard as her and her family self-isolate for 14 days under public health guidelines.

Rogers Sports & Media said it’s exploring technical solutions for its producers and on-air personalities to create content from home and has moved to reduce its live-in-house productions. While CityNews, Breakfast Television, OMNI News, and all Rogers Radio stations continue with live production, Sportsnet and Cityline have temporarily ceased all live in-house productions. Rogers tv has also paused some live productions and redeployed resources to focus on coverage of city and health authority news conferences and local information on COVID-19. For Citytv and OMNI original productions, commissioned shows Hudson & Rex and The Wedding Planners have already wrapped for the season while Blood & Water has suspended production until further notice. The network said it’s continuing to work with its production partners to build out contingency plans.

Netflix has suspended all Canadian and U.S. productions for at least two weeks, joining the dozen or so CW/Warner Brothers series that shoot in and around Greater Vancouver, including The Flash, Supergirl, Batwoman, and Supernatural. CW’s Riverdale was the first show to suspend production after someone working on the show came into contact with a test-positive COVID-19 case. About 40 feature films and series were in production in B.C., including the forthcoming Mighty Ducks series for Disney+, which is now on hiatus until Apr. 5. Creative BC has set up a COVID-19 response page that includes a place for those in the Creative Industries to share project and event cancellation updates.

Canadian Screen Week and the Canadian Screen Awards, including the national broadcast gala Mar. 29, have been cancelled due to restrictions on large gatherings. The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) has also cancelled its 2020 awards, saying it will recognize talent both virtually and at the 2021 ceremony. On the festival front, the Hot Docs Film Festival, scheduled to run Apr. 30 – May 10 in Toronto, has been postponed, in addition to Canadian Film Fest, which was set for Mar. 24-28.

CBC News Network coverage is replacing local CBC supper hour and evening TV newscasts across the country as of Wednesday, with the exception of CBC North, as the public broadcaster moves to consolidate its news resources in response to COVID-19. CBC News Network will evolve into “a core live breaking news service that will integrate journalism and coverage from CBC News Network, The National and local CBC stations across the country,” the broadcaster announced Wednesday morning. CBC News Network will temporarily replace most local supper hour and late night newscasts on CBC and CBC Gem at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time. CBC North will continue to produce and broadcast Northbeat from Yellowknife and Igalaaq from Iqaluit in Inuktitut. Local stations will continue to provide local radio, digital and social news programming, and feed into national programming. Power & Politics is also being placed on temporary hiatus so the show’s Ottawa production team can be redeployed to CBC News Network.

CBC News Network, ICI RDI, CP24, and CTV News Channel are being made more widely available as Canadians clamour for more information as COVID-19 spreads to more provinces. CBC News Network is now available to all Bell TV, Shaw, and Cogeco subscribers, and free to stream via CBC Gem, the CBC News app, and CBC.ca. Previously, live streaming the channel was accompanied by a $4.95/month charge. French-language counterpart, ICI RDI, will be available to all Bell TV, Vidéotron and Cogeco subscribers, and online at ici.radio-canada.ca/rdi and via the Radio-Canada Info app. CTV News Channel, CP24 and French-language channel LCN are also being offered to non-subscribers through participating TV service providers and offering free, live streams on their respective sites.

TSN and Sportsnet are teaming up to re-broadcast last summer’s Toronto Raptors 24-game journey to the NBA Championship. Starting Friday, Mar. 20 through Sunday, Apr. 12, the networks will alternate coverage in prime time of the Raptors post-season showdowns against the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors. The games will also be made available on both networks’ streaming subscription services, TSN Direct and Sportsnet NOW. Find the full broadcast schedule, here.

Rogers Ignite TV and Digital TV customers now have free access to a rotating selection of channels through Apr. 30, including Disney, Disney Jr., Family Channel, Family Jr., YTV, Treehouse, Teletoon, ABC Spark, and FX, in addition to CP24, CTV News Channel, and CBC News Network. Rogers says new channels will continue to be added to the rotation. Smaller cable providers like Quadro have also announced that Corus has made its specialty channels available on free preview through Apr. 30.

CBC is introducing ‘Movie Night in Canada’ which will replace Hockey Night in Canada on its TV broadcast schedule with the postponed NHL season. What the public broadcaster is calling “a celebration of acclaimed Canadian films” will feature back-to-back movies Saturday evenings beginning at 7 p.m. (8 AT, 8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. The line-up includes a double-bill featuring Scarborough-raised actor Stephan James; Paul Gross’ acclaimed war drama Hyena Road; and Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story, which delves into the hockey legend’s comeback at age 44. Find the schedule to date, which the public broadcaster says is subject to change, here.

Sinking Ship Entertainment has announced that the theatrical release of Dino Dana The Movie is being postponed. The film, a spinoff of the award-winning kids’ series, was set to premiere Mar. 21 with U.S. and Canada-wide screenings at over 550 theatres.

 

FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting has introduced The Friendly Daily – curated recommendations for streaming TV shows, films, shorts, and other Canadian content to enjoy while self-isolating. Sent out to FRIENDS’ email subscriber list, its recommendations will focus on feel-good viewing, from new web series to classic documentaries.

Sienna Films and Media Headquarters are the latest prodcos to move out from under the Kew Media Group (KMG) umbrella. Robert Cohen, CEO of Toronto-based Media Headquarters, which is behind shows like Canada’s Smartest Person and Salvage Kings, has entered into an agreement with KMG to repurchase the company. Quebec producer/distributor DATSIT Sphere has also now acquired both Sienna Films (which makes CTV drama Cardinal), and BGM (formerly Bristow Global Media). Nikki Ray Media Agency, a new prodco owned by Architect Films founders Mike Sheerin and Tanya Linton, has entered into an agreement with KMG receivers to buy back Architect Films’ shares.

Boon Dog Professional Services, an Ottawa-based research and consulting firm, says Canada’s publicly-traded television service providers, combined, lost a record number of TV subscribers in 2019. The company says the continued launch of new streaming services, a slowdown in the growth of IPTV, and continued cable TV subscriber losses, contributed to a record cumulative loss by the big Canadian TV service providers of an estimated 278,000 subscribers in their respective 2019 fiscal periods ended Nov. 30/Dec. 31. That’s up from an estimated loss of about 170,000 TV subscribers in the previous year. Boon Dog estimates that the number of Canadian households subscribing to a traditional TV service dropped to below 10.7 million in 2019, which represents about 3% of the total market. According to its latest projections, Boon Dog estimates the number of internet streaming subscribers in Canada will surpass the number of traditional TV (cable, IPTV, and satellite TV) subscribers this year.

CBC has announced it will broadcast a 90-minute special celebrating Schitt’s Creek on Tuesday, Apr. 7. The special will follow the airing of the show’s finale at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT). Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the sixth and final season. Directed by Amy Segal, the special includes never-before-seen footage of table reads, audition tapes and heartfelt moments from the very last day on set, in addition to interviews with the creators, cast, journalists and celebrity fans, including Carol Burnett, Cameron Crowe, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Paula Abdul, Amy Sedaris, and Johnny Weir.

Drew and Jonathan Scott’s latest HGTV Canada series, Celebrity IOU, will see the Property Brothers help Hollywood A-listers with home renovations. Premiering Apr. 13, the season’s celebrity lineup includes Brad Pitt, Melissa McCarthy, Viola Davis, Rebel Wilson, and Michael Bublé. Celebrity IOU is produced by Scott Brothers Entertainment. 

Canadian Strain, which was supposed to open in Toronto and Winnipeg this weekend, is now available on demand on Apple TV. The indie comedy, written and directed by Geordie Sabbagh, stars Jess Salgueiro as a weed dealer being run out of business by legalization. The cast also features Colin Mochrie and Naomi Snieckus, among others.

 

ONLINE/DIGITAL:

The Coast, Halifax’s independent alt weekly newspaper – one of the last standing in the country – has been forced to lay off 20 staff amid the COVID-19 crisis and will publish online only for the forseeable future. In a post Wednesday, publishers Christine Oreskovich and Kyle Shaw cited a shutdown in the publication’s advertiser base, namely bars and restaurants, and its ticketed events business. Thursday’s print edition will be the last for the 27-year-old paper as a small editorial crew continue publishing online.

Groupe Média TFO has launched Le Camp TFO en Famille, an initiative to support Francophones and Francophiles across Ontario and Canada while schools are closed. TFO’s platforms, including its TV channel, IDELLO.ORG and BOUKILI.CA will host a program of learning activities and educational resources.

Stingray is offering free access to three of its popular apps, Stingray Karaoke, Stingray Qello, and Stingray Classica, for the next month as families struggle to entertain themselves in self-isolation. The Stingray Karaoke app’s entire catalog of over 50,000 songs are on offer, in addition to Stingray Qello, which features full-length concerts, as well as Stingray Classica which will make a limited number of classical music documentaries and concerts available. Read more here.

GENERAL:

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) says all CBC/Radio-Canada employees will receive sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. CMG says under pressure from the union, CBC/Radio-Canada has agreed to extend paid sick-leave to all temporary employees for scheduled work during the pandemic. CMG has also asked the broadcaster to extend the Apr. 1 deadline to submit annual leave requests. The union says there is too much uncertainty to force members to make leave plans at this time.

Bell, Rogers, and the majority of telecommunications providers are making accommodation for customers as many transition to working from home. For wireless and home phone consumers, and small businesses, Rogers and its brands, Fido and chatr, are waiving long distance voice calling fees across Canada from now until Apr. 30. Rogers and Fido have also temporarily removed data usage caps for customers on limited home internet plans from now until May 31. Bell is also waiving extra usage fees for its residential internet customers. Videotron is suspending data limits (overage charges) on all residential and business internet plans for its existing customers until Mar. 31. Cogeco Connexion says it will waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. Shaw Communications, meantime, is providing open access to Shaw Go WiFi hotspots across Western Canada until further notice.

The Western Association of Broadcasters (WAB) board of directors has made the call to cancel its June conference at Fairmont Banff Springs. Rather than postpone the event to later in 2020, WAB will focus its efforts on its 2021 Conference, set to take place June 9-10, 2021.

 

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is cancelling its upcoming national conference, scheduled to happen May 29-31 in Montreal, and changing the format of its in-person awards gala. The CAJ awards jury continues to review and deliberate this year’s nominations with a short list to be released as planned on Apr. 6 and the winners announced online May 30. The CAJ board is currently exploring options for online training and networking opportunities to fill the gap left by the cancellation of this year’s conference. CAJ says it also plans to release a set of best-practices for journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be made available soon.

The CRTC has suspended all deadlines between now and Apr. 10 for open proceedings, including the Broadband Fund and Wireless Review. The commission says deadlines will be announced in the coming days.

The CRTC is set to host delegates from around the world in Ottawa, Oct. 5-8, during Communications Policy & Regulation Week, organized by the International Institute of Communications (IIC). The week will consist of a number of events, including its International Regulators’ Forum, hosted by the CRTC along with ISED’s Spectrum and Telecommunications Sector, and its flagship annual conference. The international gathering brings together senior decision-makers from the telecommunications, media and technology sectors with anaim to encourage open dialogue to shape the global policy agenda. The event was last held in Canada in 2009.

BROADCAST TECH NEWS:

Matrix and WideOrbit have announced a new integration that gives media sellers the ability to review Accounts Receivable aging data in Matrix’s media ad sales platform, Monarch, from WideOrbit’s traffic and billing system, WO Traffic. This is aimed at helping reduce customer credit issues and optimize both the salesperson’s commission and advertiser inventory options. Specifically, the integration provides a graphical, Accounts Receivable data card that gives users the ability to review outstanding accounts by 30/60/90/120+ day aging periods, with deeper insights into the invoice details of the advertisers. Exposing this data from WideOrbit in Matrix Monarch’s dashboard will enable media companies to improve cashflow through streamlined collections.

ARHT Media, the Toronto-headquartered producer and distributor of hologram content through its patented Holographic Telepresence technology, has introduced Virtual Global Stage. The tech is designed to provide an on-stage experience online, without the need for a venue, travel, or the gathering of presenters or attendees. The multipoint broadcast solution can bring multiple 3D, life-size presenters to a virtual stage, side-by-side, as if all parties were physically next to each other, while actually being in completely different locations around the globe. It also offers the audience capability to interact with presenters through a moderated chatbox, and integrations for 3D graphics and PowerPoint.


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