The Weekly Briefing

 RADIO/AUDIO/PODCAST:

Blackburn Radio staff in Wingham, ON are celebrating after winning $1 million in the Jan. 6 Lotto Max draw. The 27-member group includes employees and managers from 101.7 The One (CKNX-FM), Classic Rock 94.5 (CIBU-FM) and CKNX-AM 920, representing about three quarters of the staff. They’ll each receive $37,000. Employees have been purchasing tickets for over nine years, with this their first monetary prize win.

The CRTC will hear applications on March 27 related to its call for a radio licence or licences to serve the urban Aboriginal communities in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The call was issued after Aboriginal Voices Radio Inc.’s licenses for Type B Native radio stations serving those markets was revoked on the basis of repeated non-compliance. The applicants include Wawatay Native Communications Society (Ottawa and Toronto), Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (Calgary and Edmonton), VMS Media Group Ltd. (Calgary and Edmonton), Northern Native Broadcasting (Vancouver), and First Peoples Radio Inc. (Ottawa, Toronto, Ontario; Calgary and Edmonton, Vancouver).

880 CKLQ-AM Brandon, MB has received approval from the CRTC to shift to FM while continuing to also broadcast in AM, as a repeater. Riding Mountain Broadcasting Ltd. is proposing to broadcast the station at 91.5 MHz at 100,000 watts with the timing of the FM expansion to be determined. The use of 91.5 MHz is conditional on Native Communications Inc. (NCI) changing the frequency of CIWM-FM, a rebroadcasting transmitter for Native radio station CINC-FM Thompson, from 91.5 MHz to 107.5 MHz. NCI has until March 2018 to make the change.

The CRTC has approved an application by 1811258 Alberta Ltd. to operate an ethnic commercial AM radio station in Edmonton. The company, which already provides brokered ethnic programming on Newcap-owned CKJR-AM Westaskiwin, proposes the use of 580 AM. The new station will serve a growing ethnic audience, offering a mix of spoken word and music programming, primarily targeting the South Asian community but also providing programming to nine ethnic groups in at least 17 different languages. The CRTC also approved an application by Société Radio Communautaire du Grand Edmonton Society for a broadcasting licence to operate a French-language community FM radio station in Edmonton, which would broadcast at 97.9 MHz.

Eternacom Inc. has applied to the CRTC for six rebroadcasting transmitters of Christian station CJTK-FM Sudbury. The proposed locations are Spring Bay, Sundridge, Iroquois Falls, Sault Ste. Marie, Englehart, and New Liskeard, ON. The deadline for interventions or comments is Feb. 7.

The man who had convictions for sex assault and forcible confinement overturned after homophobic comments by a juror on the now-defunct Dean Blundell Show on 102.1 The Edge (CFNY-FM), won’t face a new trial. The Crown won’t retry Joshua Dowholis, 36, after the Ontario Court of Appeal quashed his 2013 convictions last fall and ordered a new trial following jury foreman Derek Weisman’s on-air comments. The producer and on-air personality discussed the case, involving alleged assaults on men the accused met in a bathhouse, with Dean Blundell and co-host Billie Holiday, making derogatory comments. The two-to-three decision saw one of the panel judges disagree, saying comments made in the context of a program that indiscriminately mocks everything and everyone is not definite proof of juror bias.

Valley Heritage Radio (CJHR-FM) in Renfrew, ON will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Jan. 15 with a birthday party at the Renfrew Armouries. The community radio station officially hit the airwaves Jan. 15, 2007. Unable to obtain a bank loan, VHR’s board initially raised the $337,000 to purchase broadcast equipment by obtaining $1,000 loans at six per cent interest from the Ottawa Valley community. A board member put up the remaining $30,000 to take the station to air.

SiriusXM ended 2016 with over 31.3 million subscribers, adding more than 1.7 million net subscriber additions last year, exceeding company projections of 1.7 million net additions. Self-pay net subscriber additions in 2016 were 1.66 million, coming out ahead of estimates of 1.6 million and resulting in self-pay subscriptions of about 26 million at year end. The company also announced it expects to meet or exceed its 2016 guidance for revenue, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow.

David Frear

Shares of internet radio service Pandora tumbled last Friday morning after SiriusXM CFO David Frear poured cold water on the idea of a merger or acquisition. Pandora’s stock has been buoyed on speculation Sirius would offer a buyout. Following Frears comment that an acquisition was “not very likely,” Pandora shares were down 5.2 per cent on Friday to $12.33. Pandora has not offered a rebuttal.

Norway has become the first country to start switching off its FM radio network. The Norwegian government started the process Jan. 11, which will be complete by the end of the year in favour of DAB or digital audio broadcasting. Switzerland plans a similar shift in 2020, with the UK and Denmark also considering the move. DAB has failed to catch on in North America, in part due to the high cost of digital receivers for consumers. Fourteen Canadian radio stations continue to experiment with HD Radio, with about 4,000 American stations now using HD technology.

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) has renamed JUNO Award category Aboriginal Album of the Year as Indigenous Music Album of the Year, acknowledging all First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. The category accepts all traditional Indigenous music including traditional Aboriginal music: Iroquois, Social Pow Wow Drum (i.e: Sioux, Assiniboine, Cree, Ojibway & Blackfoot, etc.); all Hand Drums (e.g. Inuit, Dene, Cree, Micmac, West Coast, etc.), Inuit Throat Singing; Traditional Flutes; Métis, Cree & Micmac Fiddling. In addition, fusions of all genres of contemporary music that incorporate the above and/or reflect the unique Indigenous experience in Canada, by virtue of words or music. The Indigenous Music Album of the Year award will be presented at the JUNO Gala Dinner & Awards on April 1 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.

Corus Entertainment Inc. announced its first quarter financial results reporting an increase of 105 per cent in its consolidated revenues for the quarter, consolidated segment profit growth of 100 per cent, consolidated segment profit margin of 41 per cent and net income attributable to shareholders of $71.1 million. Adjusted basic earnings were $0.41 per share for the quarter. The results for the quarter ended Nov. 30, reflect Corus’ acquisition of Shaw Media last spring. Without those consolidated results, Corus’ overall revenue would have been down five per cent year over year. President and CEO Doug Murphy says the Q1 results reflect meaningful improvements in the company’s cost structure, with solid segment profit margins and subscriber revenue growth offset by anticipated softness in advertising revenue.

Larche Communications is celebrating its new studios, equipment and transmitter for Hot New Country KICX 106 (CICX-FM) Orillia, ON.

TV/FILM/VIDEO:

Shaw Communications Inc. has launched its cloud-based X1 platform BlueSky TV, that it’s developed with and is licensing from Comcast Corp. Shaw is looking to go head-to-head with Telus’ IPTV service Optik TV. While Optik TV offers a PVR that can be used across multiple TVs and devices as well as app integration, Shaw hopes to go further with BlueSky offering a voice-controlled remote eliminating the need to remember channels or scroll through the guide, real time sports scores and a specialized KidsZone with age-appropriate programming. The new set-top box product is now available in Calgary, and set to launch in more markets in the coming months.

The Jan. 5 World Juniors Gold Medal Game was the most-watched English-language hockey broadcast on any network since the 2015 World Juniors final between Team Canada and Russia. The game averaged an audience of 5.2 million viewers on TSN (4.2 million) and RDS (950,000) with Numeris confirming 11.1 million unique viewers. Overall, 17.2 million individual Canadians tuned in to 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship coverage.

TVA Sports is now the exclusive French-language broadcaster of Montreal Impact and MLS games for the next five years, scooping the rights from RDS. TSN has also extended its English broadcast rights agreement for an unspecified term, that will see the network become Canada’s exclusive English-language broadcaster of MLS. Beginning with the 2017 season, TSN will air exclusive coverage of every game featuring Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a slate of Montreal Impact matchups, marquee games featuring U.S.-based teams and other major MLS events.

PureFlix.com has expanded into the Canadian market. Through a content marketing partnership with Crossroads Christian Communications Inc. (CCCI), the SVOD service is billed by CEO Lorna Dueck as “like Netflix, minus the violence, sexuality and questionable language.” It will also carry content from 100 Huntley Street, Context TV and Tricord Media. PureFlix.com offers access to nearly 4,000 faith and family streaming video titles, including original series, movies, TV shows and kids’ programming. The content can be accessed from a number of different devices, including ROKU streaming media player; Chrome browser; Apple Apps for iPad and iPhone; Google Play for Android; and Google Chromecast.

A federal court has ruled BCE Inc. did not infringe an IPTV patent after a $350 million lawsuit brought about by Mediatube Corp. and Northvu Inc. in 2013. The suit surrounded Bell’s work with MediaTube to commercialize its IPTV services, under a confidentiality agreement, before launching its own Fibe TV service. Bell was awarded costs, elevated by 50 per cent.

DHX Media’s online kids’ network WildBrain has announced a deal with Turner International to manage a number of Turner Kids YouTube channels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The agreement will see WildBrain create and manage channels, provide content production services, audience development and social networking expertise. New local-language channels have already rolled out for key Turner brands like The Powerpuff Girls and Adventure Time in the UK, Russia, Poland, Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America, with more languages following soon.

DHX Media has also licensed exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for 30 brand-new half-hour episodes of Teletubbies which will begin airing on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr. preschool channel in 2017. The new show was commissioned and premiered in the UK by CBeebies, and has been picked up by 23 broadcasters worldwide to date, as well as Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

ePlay Digital Inc. has announced plans for a multi-platform Digital TV channel that will bridge poker, gaming, eSports and sports content. The new PVN Digital TV channel is expected to launch in Canada during the first half of 2017. PVN will provide Live Event coverage of premier poker tournaments in Canada and around the world, promising to enhance and gamify the viewer and player experience. The network will also feature original reality programming, sports handicapping, as well as eSports and gaming shows. PVN has recruited former Rogers and TSN broadcast exec Jim Nelles, former City/Rogers Media studio executive Malcolm Dunlop and former CBC sports producer Lynne Kellner to its management team.

YES TV, the Ontario-based religious channel, and the Canadian Basketball League (CBL) have announced a 10-year broadcast partnership. The league believes television exposure and a steady opportunity for viewership will help grow the league’s popularity and sponsorship opportunities. The league currently has four Ontario-based teams in Scarborough, Wellington, Durham and Hamilton.

Cineplex Events has rebranded its Great Digital Film Festival as the Flashback Film Fest.  From Feb. 3 – 9, 17 fan favourites will screen in over 24 cities, including The Princess Bride and The Running Man, which are marking their 30 year anniversaries; 1999’s Fight Club and Groundhog Day.  

Lionsgate will represent the international rights to Participant Media’s upcoming slate of narrative feature films and documentaries. The deal will cover Participant films in all territories outside of North America. Lionsgate will initially introduce two Participant narrative feature films, José Padilha’s Entebbe and Rupert Wyatt’s sci-fi thriller Captive State to buyers at the at the European Film Market in Berlin in February. Participant plans to provide Lionsgate with up to five narrative films annually, along with several documentary features.

TVO has received a $2 million donation from Goldie Feldman and the Barry and Laurie Green Charitable Trust that will create a new network of TVO Local Hubs in the province to expand and deepen news coverage. Focused initially on the first Local Hub in Thunder Bay (with three more Hubs TBA), the donation is aimed at increasing the overall presence of Ontario issues, ideas and events on TVO’s broadcast and website, and will include more in-depth current affairs coverage of indigenous issues. $500,000 of the donation is contingent on TVO fundraising additional dollars.

ONLINE CHANNELS:

Lionsgate has also announced it’s investing in eSports franchise Immortals, reflecting a continued focus on the potential of the eSports market. The Immortals currently compete worldwide for over 200 million fans in League of Legends, Counterstrike GO, Overwatch and Super Smash Brothers.  Lionsgate says the eSports market is projected to grow to over $1 billion by the end of next year. The League of Legends World Championships were played at a sold-out Staples Center in Los Angeles this past year.

New Brunswick-based Xplornet Communications Inc. has acquired all YourLink Internet operations in Saskatchewan from Vecima Networks Inc. YourLink, Saskatchewan’s leading provider of high-speed wireless Internet to rural and remote communities, will continue to operate while integrating operations with Xplornet. Xplornet has plans to further expand its network with the continued extension of its LTE coverage and the launch of two new satellites in an effort to improve rural broadband speeds.

GENERAL:

The CRTC’s fall survey on wireless issues indicates Canadians are complaining less about their wireless services, but bill shock remains an issue for one-in-five customers. In 2016, 17 per cent of Canadian wireless customers reported making a complaint, compared to 26 per cent in 2014. Of those who complained, 25 per cent felt the issue wasn’t resolved with 46 per cent dissatisfied with the resolution. The top reported complaints were incorrect billing, data charges, poor service quality and misleading contract terms. According to the survey, Canadians didn’t lodge complaints with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services (CCTS), by and large, because 69 per cent did not know about the CCTS, 13 per cent didn’t feel it was worth the effort and nine per cent didn’t think it would resolve their issue. The survey results will inform the current review of the Wireless Code, which includes a public hearing from February 6 – 9 in Gatineau, Que.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation, in partnership with the Public Policy Forum, is exploring Canadians’ attitudes toward the media in a public opinion poll, conducted for PPF’s study on News, Democracy, Policy and Truth. A special panel discussion on the results and what they mean for the future of news in Canada takes place on Jan. 26 in Toronto at the TMX Broadcast Centre. Christopher Waddell, from the Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication, will be in conversation with former Globe and Mail editor Edward Greenspon, now president and CEO of the Public Policy Forum; pollster and pundit Allan Gregg of Earnscliffe Strategy Group, which conducted the survey; and former journalist April Lindgren, now associate professor at the Ryerson University School of Journalism. The discussion will explore how public perception of social media and mainstream news organizations differs and whether or not government has a role in financially supporting news outlets.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. are among the winners of the 2017 Canada’s Top Employers for Young People competition. Mediacorp Canada Inc., which publishes the competition, says APTN was recognized, in part, because of its unpaid apprenticeship/work experience program for students of Aboriginal descent; Corus for its scholarship, internship and awards programs with Ryerson University, SAIT Polytechnic, Mount Royal University and Sheridan College; and Rogers for its dedicated rotational program to help candidates who have graduated within the past two years gain industry experience.

Feb. 1 is the deadline for nominations for this year’s Press Freedom Award presented by the Ottawa-based Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom (CCWPF). The honour, which comes with a $1,000 prize, goes to a media worker in Canadian print, digital or broadcasting, who has made an outstanding contribution in the last year in defence of press freedom. The 2016 press freedom award winner was Ben Makuch, a national security reporter with VICE News, who fought the RCMP’s attempts to seize his correspondence with a former Calgary resident alleged to be an ISIL militant.

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