The Weekly Briefing

RADIO/AUDIO/PODCAST:

The Radioplayer Canada streaming app launched Wednesday, marking the initial North American expansion of what’s now the top-rated digital app in Europe. Listeners are now able to access live and catch-up radio broadcasts from 400 stations across the country through Radioplayer Canada’s browser-player and on connected devices through the iOS or Android app, including integrations with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Chromecast, and smartwatches. CBC/Radio-Canada is the latest broadcaster to come on board, joining previously announced companies Bayshore Broadcasting, Blackburn Radio, Blackgold Radio, Byrnes Communications, CAB-K Broadcasting, Central Ontario Broadcasting, Clear Sky Radio, Cogeco Media, Corus Entertainment, Durham Radio, Fabmar Communications, Golden West Broadcasting, Harvard Broadcasting, Larche Communications, Newcap Radio, Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, Rogers Media, Rawlco Radio, RNC Media, Saskatoon Media Group, Vista Radio, and Westman Communications Group as well as the member stations of the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA/ANREC).

Sirius XM Canada Holdings Inc. has extended the outside date by which its recapitalization go-private transaction must be completed to April 30, 2017. The company is currently awaiting CRTC approval.

Edmonton’s 91.7 The Bounce (CHBN-FM) has been rebranded as KiSS 91.7. The CHR station made the switch last week by going 91 hours commercial free. The station’s on-air line-up remains the same. The Rogers station joins KiSS-branded counterparts in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

Denham Jolly

Denham Jolly, the licence holder of Canada’s first black-owned and operated urban radio station, has published his memoir In The Black: My Life. Jolly was president of Milestone Communications, which launched The Flow 93.5 (CFXJ-FM) Toronto, after a 12-year battle to get a licence, fueled by the the need for a stronger voice for the black community. At its launch in 2001, Flow 93.5 became the model for urban music stations across the country and is credited with helping introduce artists like Drake and many others to commercial airwaves.

The North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) has announced support for a voluntary North American Digital Radio Standard at the NABA Future of Radio & Audio Symposium in Washington, D.C. A position paper was developed by the NABA Radio Committee’s Digital Radio Working Group after consulting widely with radio broadcasters, broadcast associations, manufacturers and service providers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. NABA believes that all stakeholders would benefit from a continental North American approach to over-the-air digital radio. The position paper can be found here.

SIGN-OFFS:

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls, Feb. 23, suddenly while on vacation. Nicholls was well-known in the community of Georgina, ON as a former town councillor and Rogers TV personality. He was most recently known for hosting the current affairs program Politically Speaking after serving as a town councillor from 1994 to 1997 and sitting on the board of directors for both the Georgina Public Libraries and Georgina Cares organizations. In addition to his extensive volunteer work, Paul was a distinguished toastmaster and actor, starring in local productions and short films. Former mayor Rob Grossi hosted a special edition of Politically Speaking on Rogers TV on Tuesday to celebrate Nicholls life.

Jack Gray

Jack Gray, 90, on Feb. 23. One of the driving forces behind the creation of The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) in 1991, Gray committed 25 years of his life to working on behalf of Canadian screenwriters. He was the first writer-president of ACTRA, serving two terms from 1978-81 and was the last chair of the ACTRA National Writers Council. Believing strongly that screenwriters needed to be represented by a writer-driven organization, Gray organized his fellow screenwriters into leaving ACTRA and forming the WGC. In 2002, Gray was given the WGC’s “Writers Block Award for Service to Canadian Screenwriters.”

Pierre Pascau

Pierre Pascau, 78, on Feb. 28. Born in Mauritius, the well-known Montreal talk show host and reporter, joined the Mauritius Broadcasting Service at the age of 19 and was subsequently awarded a three-year scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. During his time at Guildhall, Pierre worked as a freelance reporter for the British Home Office. In 1965, Pascau moved to Montreal, working as a reporter for CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup and CBC Television’s Hourglass. He later moved to CFCF-TV Montreal, establishing himself as an investigative reporter. While at CKLM-AM during the October Crisis, Pasco was contacted by the Front de liberation du Quebec responsible for kidnapping British diplomat James Cross and served as an intermediary between the FLQ and the government. Pascau went on to have a short-lived run as co-host of Canada AM in 1974, moving on to CKAC-AM where he hosted L’Informateur. He left the station in 1990 for CKVL-AM where he began hosting Le Point du Jour. Pascau retired in 1997 and relocated to Paris in recent years.

TV/FILM/VIDEO:

Sylvain Bellemare

Two Canadians took home Oscars at Sunday night’s Academy Awards. Montreal’s Sylvain Bellemare gave a shout out to his hometown as he accepted the Oscar for Best Sound Editing for his work on Arrival. Alan Barillaro of Chippawa, ON also took home an Oscar for his animated short Piper, which screened in theatres last year ahead of Pixar’s Finding Dory. According to Numeris, the awards show drew 5.5 million viewers to CTV, up one per cent over last year. The show delivered a 53 per cent share, with one in two English-speaking Canadians tuning into the four-hour broadcast. Viewership peaked with 6.7 million viewers at 8:48 p.m. ET as Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) accepted his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Oscars Opening Ceremony: Live From The Red Carpet drew 2.9 million viewers, up eight per cent over last year.

Warner Bros. Television’s Arrow is a huge hit for British Columbia’s economy, according to a report from Canada’s MNP LLP. The report says over the last five seasons, the production created 7,087 jobs and was responsible for $360.8 million in direct production expenditure in the province. In Season 4 alone, the production spent $44.3 million on crew and labour, and $27.9 million on goods and services. A look behind the scenes at Arrow also reveals approximately 825 businesses from 31 communities across B.C. benefited from the series’ production.

HBO Canada is offering free sampling of complete seasons and new episodes On Demand and at HBOCanada.com until March 31. Would-be subscribers can binge on over 40 hours of content including the complete first seasons of HBO series Game of Thrones, Veep, Girls, Silicon Valley, and Ballers. Episodes from HBO’s current lineup including Big Little Lies, Crashing, Westworld, The Night Of, The Young Pope, and Quarry are also available to preview.

CTV has greenlit two more seasons of Cardinal. The order marks the first time CTV has ordered two consecutive seasons of a drama. Produced by Sienna Films and Entertainment One in association with CTV, and commissioned for French-language Canadian broadcast by Super Écran, Cardinal has averaged 1.2 million viewers since its January premiere. Both series stars, Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse, will return for Seasons 2 and 3. Season 1 has been licensed to BBC in the UK, C More in Scandinavia and Calle 13 in Spain by eOne, and has more negotiations underway.

HBO Canada says the dawn of the Donald Trump era is netting record audiences for its talk shows. Final data from Numeris indicates after four weeks, the average audience for Season 15 of Real Time with Bill Maher is 404,000 viewers, a 73 per cent increase over Season 14 and the highest audiences ever for the series. Meanwhile, the Season 4 premiere of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Feb. 12 was the series’ most-watched episode ever on HBO Canada, with an average audience of 403,000 viewers, double the average audience of the Season 3 premiere.

Antoine de Maximy

Groupe Média TFO has struck a partnership with Ontario-based tech startup Vubble. The agreement will see online French-language educational videos delivered to IDÉLLO, Groupe Média TFO’s educational, digital platform. The Vubble service offers a variety of high-quality short web videos from Canada and around the world from current affairs, math and science to travel and cooking. Series include Hygiène mentale – Éducation aux médias dealing with media literacy; Axolothors-série #1: Une journée chez les astronautes taking an insider look at how astronauts are trained; and J’irais dormir chez vous – Iran, a unique travel adventure series with Antoine de Maximy.

The Quebecor Fund has announced the names of the production companies and distributors whose projects will receive funding in the 13th round of the Event and Film Production Assistance Program (EFPAP). The selected producers and distributors will share a total of $946,000 in funding. Four successful projects will be produced and distributed by Canadian companies GO Films L.P.R.S. Inc., Production Caramel Films Inc., CarpeDiem Film & TV Inc., Les Productions Orange Films Inc., Les Films Séville Inc., Les Films Christal s.e.c., Les Éditions CarpeDiem Film & TV Inc. and Orange Médias Inc.

Mina Shum

CBC’s Breaking Barriers Film Fund, aimed at helping level the playing field for underrepresented creators like women, Indigenous people, visible minorities and persons with disabilities, has announced its inaugural recipients. Meditation Park, written by Mina Shum, Angelique’s Isle, written by Michelle Derosier, and Octavio Is Dead! written by Sook-Yin Lee are the inaugural projects to receive financing through the fund. The CBC’s commitment will see the public broadcaster invest at least $7.5 million into the fund over the next three years. All three films are also supported by Telefilm Canada.

Dale Johnson

Dale Johnson brought his film Pawn Sacrifice to his hometown of Camrose, AB last month to open the 8th annual Nordlys Film and Arts Festival. The film financier and creative producer arrived direct from the gala premiere of his latest film The Lost City of Z in Berlin. Directed by Academy Award winner Ed Zwick and starring Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber and Peter Sarsgaard, Pawn Sacrifice tells the story of American chess prodigy Bobby Fisher and his tumultuous role within superpower rivalries at the height of the Cold War.

Stingray Digital Group Inc. has completed the first phase in the rebrand of iConcerts, a television channel and on demand service dedicated solely to live music. Currently distributed in 85 countries as Stingray iConcerts, the company says the rebranding effort ensures a consistent identity across Stingray’s portfolio of multi-platform music products and services available to content providers. The second phase of the rebrand will include a new, responsive website.

David Spade

Much is launching a nationwide freeview on more than 30 TV service providers between March 7 and April 4. Among the new additions to the Much schedule this month are British comedy Brotherhood, prank show Fameless with host David Spade, and the debut of Conan O’Brien’s special Conan Without Borders: Made In Mexico.

More than 40 live television channels are coming to YouTube, but Canadians will have to wait for the service. Dubbed YouTube TV, the $35 a month streaming service will be available in major U.S. markets accessible via YouTube’s mobile app or website. It also includes a cloud DVR feature with unlimited storage. A subscription offers access to ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, The CW, Disney, MSNBC and Fox News. The service is similar to Sony’s PlayStation Vue service, Dish Network’s Sling TV, and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which are also only available in the U.S.

Hustler TV Canada launches March 21. Montreal-based adult entertainment company VanessaMedia is partnering with owner LFP Broadcasting on the offering which will include both a 24-hour porn channel and video-on-demand service.

John Tory

Toronto Mayor John Tory is promising to streamline regulations to better position the city to compete for film, television and digital productions. The city says that production contributed more than $2.01 billion to Toronto’s economy in 2016, topping a previous high of $1.5 billion in 2015. Combined with investment from broadcasters and interactive digital media, that figure climbs to $3.26 billion. The bulk of that was from 115 foreign and domestic TV productions which brought in $908 million in 2016. Investment by broadcasters was down year-over-year about $69 million to $211 million, while interactive digital media rose to $1.05 billion, from $1 billion in 2016. Commercial production was up 10 per cent to $380 million.

ONLINE CHANNELS:

Google says it will start offering media outlets an artificial intelligence tool designed to stamp out incendiary website comments. Called Perspective, the programming tool promises to moderate discussions by filtering out abusive or internet “troll” comments. Perspective’s application programming interface (API) uses machine learning to rate how users might react to comments. The tool, which will be provided to outlets free of charge, is currently being tested by The Economist, The Guardian, The New York Times and Wikipedia.

Alberta’s ATB Financial has become the first full-service financial institution in North America to successfully facilitate payments using chatbot technology on Facebook Messenger. ATB will make chatbot banking available to a test group of customers this month. Banking with a chatbot is essentially the same as chatting with Facebook friends, with customers able to check account balances and make transactions on Messenger by asking questions or giving commands, such as: “How much money do I have in my savings account?” or “Please pay my cable bill.” ATB plans to add personal financial management capability on Facebook Messenger that will allow customers to check with the bot to see for example how much they’ve spent on gas this month. ATB and Finn.ai are collaborating to make conversational banking available on other platforms including SMS and Whatsapp.

GENERAL:

Ice Wireless has 50 days to get its Sugar Mobile customers off the Rogers network. The CRTC has denied an application from the company for relief against Rogers Communications Canada Inc. who complained to the commission that Ice Wireless was violating its service agreement in offering more than periodic roaming. The CRTC ruling concurs, saying Ice Wireless improperly allowed end-users of its mobile virtual network to obtain permanent, rather than incidental, access to Rogers’ cellular network. The commission also released its decision yesterday on the terms and conditions around wholesale mobile wireless roaming service tariffs.

The CRTC is seeking feedback on proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations and the Television Broadcasting Regulations. The commission says the amendments seek to: provide terrestrial broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) with greater flexibility in making their contributions to local expression and direct-to-home BDUs with the ability to claim an allowable contribution for locally relevant news programming; provide financial support to over-the-air television stations; reflect policy changes regarding the operation of community channels; streamline logging requirements for over-the-air television stations; eliminate the daily Canadian content requirement for over-the-air television stations; update language and references for consistency; and address anomalies identified through correspondence with the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. The deadline for comments is April 3. The CRTC has also called for comments on proposed amendments to the standard requirements for on-demand services.

The CRTC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs to fight spam in both countries. The CRTC says the agreement will promote close cooperation in enforcing both countries’ laws on unsolicited commercial electronic messages, with the agencies committing to sharing information and intelligence.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8, The Canadian Journalism Foundation’s J-Talk No Safe Space: Harassment of Women in Media will explore what can be done about intimidation, threats and abusive comments directed at women’s voices online, on air or in print. Moderated by Piya Chattopadhyay, host of CBC Radio’s Out in the Open, speakers include Manisha Krishnan, senior writer for VICE Canada; Heather Mallick, staff columnist with the Toronto Star; and Janet McFarland, business reporter with The Globe and Mail. The event happens March 7 at the TMX Broadcast Centre in Toronto.

Google has announced it will bring its digital assistant to smartphones running the latest versions of its Android operating system. The Google Assistant was limited to the company’s own products when it was released last fall, but has been expanding to a broader range of devices. The Google Assistant rolled out to English speakers in the U.S. this week with phones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow. English speakers in Canada, Australia and the UK are next. Samsung Electronics has also announced plans for an assistant.
The federal government is investing in state-of-the-art weather-prediction information technology and radar modernization. An $83 million contract was signed with Selex ES to buy 20 new radars with the first to be installed this fall and the rest to be replaced over the next seven years. The contract also contains options to install up to 13 additional radars in the Canadian Weather Radar Network by March 2023. Located across Canada, the new tech will increase Environment and Climate Change Canada’s ability to anticipate severe weather. A second contract was awarded this past May to IBM Canada Ltd. to design, build and host a state-of-the-art, high-performance computing (HPC) solution in the Montreal area which will be fully functional by this summer.

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