Montreal Radio Blog

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Radio Musings


2011 was an eventful year for Montreal radio. We saw plenty of big names change positions on the dial and lots of station re-brandings. The Habs also found a new radio home and play-by-play guy. I’m glad to report that at Radio Centre-Ville, the English programming sched remained pretty much unchanged from the year before. In other words, thankfully I’m still on the air!

I can’t help but think about Montreal’s radio past. We lost Ted Tevan in 2011. His influence over an entire generation of Montreal-born radio people cannot be understated. Tevan knew how to entertain and understood that when you make a living on the radio, it's important to differentiate yourself from your competition. Of course, those were the days when they actually allowed you that freedom. It’s rarely about personality anymore - it‘s primarily about the brand.

And speaking of personality and influences. I have a great fondness for overnight announcers of old. I remember listening to Dave Patrick in the 1980s put on a show between 12-4 AM that was better than most of what you will find in daylight hours on many talk stations nowadays. You could have made the same argument when it came to Peter Anthony Holder. His show was less geared toward the “what’s on your mind” crowd though.

I still think the best talk radio is heard after midnight. It’s less inhibited and allows for the more colourful personalities and “regulars”. They don’t count the ratings for overnights, so these kind of shows have become expendable. I was a night shift worker for many years and believe me, when it is gone, it leaves a huge void.

Another year is about to end. Before you soak up the usual predictions for 2012, remember that most of the big news stories of 2011 caught everyone totally off-guard. We’ve got too many talking heads and too many advice dispatchers. Either way there is a lot of money to be made in scaring people or attempting to tell them how to “repair” their lives. I don’t know what will happen next year, I just hope it involves good health, love, and economic stability for everyone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Musings II

YouTube has allowed for a limitless amount of creativity to take form over the past few years. No doubt, you can spot some real talented filmmaking there, but those who have that gift are in the minority. When it comes to live broadcasting, and I use that term very loosely, it is even worse. 

I discovered Justin TV and Ustream about a month ago because “The Digital Life Show” was experimenting with live streaming. We had a few technical issues, but at least in that case, there was some actual content. That can’t be said of most of what you will find there.

What strikes me most about Justin TV in particular is how some people are streaming TV feeds or recorded shows and movies almost around the clock. The copyright issue definitely exists, but apparently the copyright holder has to make the first move in requesting the content be taken down.

Aside from the above, there is some interesting stuff available that is totally legit, like a live cam in Australia or a guy with a camera in his truck as he rolls down the highway. You can also follow “gamers” do their thing, which I suppose would interest some people.

There is however, an ugly side to the live streaming. The extreme narcissism, otherwise known as lifecasting, is breathtaking to behold. There are what seem to be endless pages of people - mostly attractive young females, who just sit in front of their web cams expecting to draw an audience for no other reason than that they are sitting in front of their cameras. It’s obvious who checks them out and why… Voyeurism has never been easier, especially when people seemingly invite you into their homes. These people have taken their cue from reality TV, and believe that fame does not come from accomplishment or talent, it comes from simply being seen and/or heard. That stands true even if you have nothing to say.

And speaking of reality TV… There are now more TV channels than we could ever have imagined possible. The problem is that content has not kept up with content providers. The audience is fragmented like never before, but what are they watching? When was the last time you checked  your TV sched? It’s a sad state of affairs. We live in the golden age of editing, because in essence that is the most important element for any so-called reality program. These editors must be geniuses to even attempt to make programs about cupcakes and hog hunters seem remotely interesting, never mind entertaining. Scripted programs are rarer than they have ever been and that is sad for many reasons. One of the biggest is that there is less work for those who create and star in them. Just look at the death of the American soap opera, which will likely be totally extinct by the mid-way point of this decade.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Radio Centre-Ville's 2011 Radiothon

Once again this year, Radio Centre-Ville will be holding a Radiothon to help fund the station's operations. The 2011 Radiothon will run from November 7th to the 13th. During that time, most of our programming will be devoted to the funding drive. As always, English-language programming begins Friday at 10:30 PM and continues until 4 PM Saturday. If you are a regular listener and enjoy our programs, please tune in and help us out. You can do so online by clicking HERE.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yesterday's News: A History of Pro-Baseball in Montreal - THE TRANSCRIPT

Listen to the show:



The transcript:

PART I:

Many have suggested that the departure of the Expos was proof that Montreal was never a baseball town. Others have gone so far as to question whether the game of baseball was ever truly part of Quebec culture. Those people may also suggest that the sport of baseball was an American pastime, with no deep roots in Quebec and that the sport was followed for the most part by Anglophones. In reality, baseball and more specifically professional baseball, have roots in Montreal going back to the 19th century. And in terms of numbers, attendance at professional baseball games in Montreal has always been predominantly francophone.

To begin our look back at Montreal’s pro-baseball past, we have to go back to the late 1800s, and more specifically, 1897. That is when the Rochester Brownies of the Eastern League moved to Montreal and were renamed the Jingos. The team changed their name to the Montreal Royals in 1901. The Jingos and then the Royals played at Atwater Park. Atwater Park stood where Alexis Nihon Plaza is today. The Royals played in the International League between 1912 and 1917, and the franchise faced many challenges during that time period. Montreal lost the franchise following the 1917 season.

So for over a decade, Montreal had no baseball. In 1928, a group of local businessmen worked together to land an International League club. They were set on resurrecting the Royals. That group was led by former Major League Baseball executive George Stallings, Montreal politician and attorney Athanase David and businessman, Ernest Savard. They purchased the International League’s New Jersey franchise for about a quarter of a million dollars and transferred it to Montreal.

By then, Atwater Park was out of commission, and it was clear that a new stadium had to be built. Delorimier Stadium would be constructed in a matter of only a few months. It would be located on Ontario Street East at the corner of De Lorimier Avenue. The 20,000 seat stadium would house the Royals for their entire second incarnation. It was also the home of the Montreal Alouettes from 1946 to 1953. One of the new team and stadium investors was Charles E. Trudeau, father of future Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The new Royals were very successful. Their position as the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers meant that immensely talented players would pass through town on their way up to the big leagues. Duke Snider, Chuck Connors, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella, Walter Alston, and Tommy Lasorda were just a few of the big names that spent time in Montreal.

But the most famous person to ever wear a Montreal Royals uniform was Jackie Robinson. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31st, 1919, in Cairo Georgia. His father left the family in 1920. His mother then moved him and his four older brothers and sisters to Pasadena California.

Robinson excelled at sports while in high school. In addition to track and field and tennis, he played football, basketball and of course, baseball. Robinson continued to pursue sports while attending Pasadena Junior college. After graduating from Pasadena in 1939, he moved on to UCLA, where he went on to have much success in athletics. That is also where he met his future wife Rachel.

Jackie Robinson would leave UCLA before graduating to take a job with the National Youth Administration. He would be drafted into the army in 1942. Robinson was court-marshalled in 1944 because he had refused to move to the back of an army bus. The court martial derailed his chances of being sent overseas. He received an honorary discharge in 1944.

After leaving the military, Robinson accepted a job as athletic director at Sam Huston College, in Austin, Texas. While at that college, he accepted an offer to play professional baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs, of the Negro Leagues. In 1945, the Boston Red Sox held a tryout for black players at Fenway Park. Robinson had dreams of playing in the major leagues and attended. It turned out that the event was nothing more than a publicity stunt, and those who showed up were subjected to racial slurs from Boston management.

Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey was serious about wanting to sign a black player. He went about scanning the Negro Leagues for a candidate. Rickey would decide on Jackie Robinson. He eventually met with Robinson to discuss a possible assignment to the Dodger minor league club, the Montreal Royals. Rickey and Robinson had a long discussion about what it would mean and how much abuse would be thrown Robinson’s way. The Dodger GM warned Robinson that he had to in his words, “turn the other cheek” to the abuse he was about to face. On October 23rd, 1945, Branch Rickey announced to the baseball world that Jackie Robinson would be coming to Montreal in 1946.

When Jackie Robison arrived in Florida the following spring to join his new teamates, he wasn’t allowed to stay in the same hotel with them. And many spring-training sites refused to allow any game to be played which would include him. Florida officials were making life very difficult for the Dodger organization and many were pressing for Rickey to cancel his plans. But the Dodgers did not back down. On March 17th, 1946, Jackie Robinson put on a Royals uniform for the first time during an exhibition game against the major-league Dodgers in Daytona Beach. On April 18th, The Royals opened their season in New Jersey. Among Jackie Robinson’s first game accomplishments, were four hits, including a 3-run home run and two stolen bases. The Royals won the game 14-1.

Branch Rickey believed that Montreal was the perfect city to begin the integration process, and he was proven correct. Where Robinson had faced terrible hostility south of the border, Montreal baseball fans appeared to be very much on his side. The Royals drew over a million fans to Delorimier Stadium in 1946. Led by Robinson, the Royals would capture the Little World Series that year and were the talk of baseball. Of course, Jackie Robinson would take the next step in his historic journey, when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues the next spring. He would have a successful ten year career with the Dodgers. But the stress would take a toll on Jackie Robinson. He began to deal with serious health problems and died from heart disease and complications of diabetes in 1972. He was only 53 years old.

A statue of Jackie Robinson, by artist Jules Lasalle can now be found outside the rotunda entrance to Olympic Stadium. In 2011, a commemorative plaque was also unveiled at Jackie and Rachel Robinson’s former Montreal home on de Gaspe Avenue. 

The Montreal Royals would win 7 championships from 1939 through to 1960. However, attendance began to decrease toward the end of the 1950s. In 1960, the Dodgers announced they were ending their affiliation with Montreal. The fact that they were now located on the west coast in Los Angeles was also likely a key factor in their decision. The Royals would arrange a new big league affiliation with Minnesota but the franchise would be still be transferred to Syracuse in time for the 1961 season. The Royals became the present-day Syracuse Chiefs.

De Laurimier Stadium was eventually torn down. A school now occupies the land where the old ballpark used to stand. A stone at the corner of Ontario and Delorimier indicates the history of the site and houses another plaque commemorating Jackie Robinson.

PART II

With the Royals’ departure, Montreal was left with no professional baseball for the first time in decades. Towards the end of the 1960s, some influential Montrealers, including Mayor Jean Drapeau began talking about baseball’s return to the city. This time however, they believed Montreal deserved to be in the Major Leagues.

A man who spent nearly a decade trying to get baseball back in Montreal was city councillor Gerry Snyder. Years later, Snyder would also have a hand in the organization of the Olympic games and in bringing a Formula 1 race to town. Gerry Snyder had owned a sporting goods store on Queen Mary Road and was involved with amateur sports around the city for decades. He then began a career in municipal politics. Snyder would spend 25 years at City Hall and was Jean Drapeau’s right-hand man for much of that time.

Gerry Snyder met with Major League officials during baseball’s winter meetings in Mexico in 1967. The National League was looking to expand, and among the people on the expansion committee was Dodger president Walter O’Malley. O’Malley was a big fan of Montreal as a baseball city, having seen first-hand the success of the Royals. On May 27th, 1968, it was O’Malley who announced that Major League Baseball would be expanding to San Diego and to Montreal. The teams would begin play in 1969.

So against all odds, Major League Baseball was coming to Canada. Right away, the people who won the franchise began to face serious obstacles. The problems began when their major financial backer, Jean-Louis Lévesque, withdrew his support from the project. Never one to give up, Gerry Snyder turned to Seagram’s Charles Bronfman to take over. Bronfman would take a controlling interest in the team. Another small group of investors would join him. Ex-Major League player and executive John McHale was recruited to become team president and Jim Fanning was hired as GM. The two would have the daunting task of building the on-field organization in only a matter of months.

Another big problem facing the new franchise was were they would play. Way before the Big Owe was ever conceived of, MLB had been assured that eventually, Montreal would build a domed stadium much like the Astrodome in Houston. That was one of the main reasons the franchise was given the go ahead. In the mean time though, the team needed somewhere to play. Soon it became clear that Delormier Stadium, the Autostade and Molson Stadium were each out of the question. The National League was so concerned about the stadium situation that they threatened to revoke the franchise during the summer of 1968. Then, mayor Drapeau got an idea. It just could be that an existing small city park might be the answer.

Jarry is a neighbourhood park in the Villeray district. It had been named after Raoul Jarry, who was a Montreal city councillor. A 3000 seat baseball stadium was built there in 1960. Drapeau, National League president Warren Gilles and the Expos ownership decided that it just might be possible to enlarge Jarry into a stadium that could host Major League baseball temporarily. That, until the promised new domed stadium was built. In another race against the clock, Jarry was given a makeover and its seating was expanded to nearly 30,000 in time for opening day 1969.

Then there was the question of what to name the team. Royals had already been taken by Kansas City. The new team name had to be something that worked in both official languages. In the end, the name Expos became the choice of club officials. It would recognize the highly successful and defining world’s fair that had been held in Montreal in 1967.

When it came to assembling the on-field talent, an expansion draft was held for the Padres and Expos on October 14th, 1968. The Padres won the first pick and chose Ollie Brown from San Francisco. The first player selected as a member of the Montreal Expos was Many Mota, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Expos’s second selection was Mac Jones from Cincinnati. The team would fill out their 60 man roster and make a few deals before the start of their inaugural season. Among the trades made was the acquisition of Rusty Staub. Staub would become a Montreal sports icon. Finally, the Expos hired former Phillies’ skipper Gene Mauch to be their first manager.

After competing in their inaugural Spring Training, the new Montreal franchise played their first regular-season game on April 8th, 1969 at Shea Stadium in New York. Of course, there was a nice contingent of Montrealers who made the trip up to New York, including mayor Drapeau and other dignitaries. Prior to the game, the Canadian National Anthem was played for the first time at a Major League ballpark.

The Expos defeated the eventual 1969 World Series Champion Mets by a score of 11-10. The first Expo to bat was Maury Wills. He was struck out by Tom Seaver. A few batters later, Bob Baily collected the franchise’s first ever hit: a double to right field. Dan McGinn would hit the Expos’ first ever home run in the 4th inning. Don Shaw got the win and Carroll Sembera collected the Expos’ first-ever save.

A parade was held through the streets of downtown Montreal before the Expos’ first home game. The Expos played the first Major League game played on Canadian soil on April 14th, 1969. Over 29,000 fans packed into the newly expanded Jarry Park to watch the Expos defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-7.

The early years of the franchise were highly successful ones at the gate, even if wins were scarce. Players connected with fans in ways that are rarely seen anymore. The intimacy of Jarry and the fact that players had not yet attained monstrous salaries were two of the main the reasons for that. And there was no bigger Expo star during those early years than Rusty Staub. Staub was one of the first Expos to connect with the community above and beyond his on the field duties. He even learned a little French. Staub would be traded in 1972. Although the trade might have made baseball sense, it understandably did not resonate well with fans. Staub would be re-acquired by the Expos during the 1979 season. His first plate appearance at Olympic Stadium that year resulted in perhaps the most dramatic, emotional and prolonged standing ovation in the team’s history.

Aside from some brief moments of glory, like Bill Stoneman’s two no-hitters and an unlikely pennant race in 1973, the Expos struggled mightily on the field during their time at Jarry. But it didn’t seem to matter. They were becoming a fixture in the community, and on the airwaves from coast-to-coast in Canada. By the mid-1970s, the franchise was slowly developing a young core of star prospects that were about to make the jump to the major leagues. The Expos played their last games at Jarry Park on September 22nd, 1976. On that day, they dropped both ends of a doubleheader to Philadelphia.

Olympic Stadium was the promised modern stadium the Expos had been waiting for, minus the dome. Incredibly, the stadium had been constructed with no input from Expo team officials nor with any baseball usage in mind. The Big Owe, as it would be named by the late Montreal radio legend Ted Tevan, would open its doors for baseball on April 15th, 1977. A crowd of over 57,000 were on hand to see the Expos lose 7-2 to the Phillies. The facility was new, state-of-the-art and of major-league calibre. It was however, a shocking departure from Jarry Park. Gone was the intimacy. In its place was a gigantic concrete bowl.

But at first, it didn’t seem to matter. At the time, Major League Baseball was filled with similar multi-purpose stadiums. Montreal fans were more concerned with the on-field product. After a decade of existence, people were waiting for a competitive team. The Expos completed their first winning season in 1979. But that was just the beginning. The Expos were about to embark into their most successful stretch as a franchise and become serious contenders for the first time.

PART III

You could say that pro baseball in Montreal reached its high point during the early 1980s. Not only were the Expos finally contending, but just as important, attendance at Olympic Stadium ranked amongst the highest in baseball. The franchise appeared to be solidly established in Montreal, and on television and on radio, from coast-to-coast in Canada. Some young stars like Gary Carter actually made their off-season homes in Montreal and were fixtures in the community. At that time, the idea that the franchise might one day leave town was unthinkable. 

The culmination of the early 80s success came in 1981, when the team finally made post-season. 1981 was an unusual season. Players walked off the job on June 12th, and the strike wiped out a good portion of the schedule. When play resumed in August, it was decided that the season would be split in two halves. The Phillies had been in first place in the National League East when the strike began, and took the first half crown. The Expos had finished in third.

The Expos would finish first in the second half. Like for so many other crucial Expo moments, the team clinched the second half title at New York’s Shea Stadium. Following the victory, Expo outfielder Warren Cromartie waved a Canadian flag to the contingent of Expo fans who had made the trip up to New York. It became one of the most celebrated moments in the franchise’s history.

The Expos would face Philadelphia in a playoff series to determine who would go to the National League Championship Series. The Expos would win that series 3 games to 2. Finally, a World Series appearance seemed within reach. The Expos would play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. A series they would lose three games to two in a heartbreaking deciding game at Olympic Stadium.

That infamous game would become known as “Blue Monday”, for two main reasons. First of all, the game was played on Monday, October 19th. It had originally been scheduled for the day before, but was cancelled because of rain. Ironically, the weather eventually cleared up and the game could have been played. Instead it was held on a cool and dreary afternoon in Montreal with a much smaller crowd than would have attended the day before. And back to that name… It was Dodger Rick Monday’s solo home run off of Expo ace Steve Rogers in the 9th that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Rogers had been brought in by manager Jim Fanning to start the 9th . He had retired the first two batters, but couldn’t do the same with the Dodger outfielder. The Expos got two men on with two outs in their half of the 9th, but couldn’t score. No-one at the Big Owe that afternoon could have imagined that the franchise would never see another playoff game.


People had high expectations for 1982. To add to the excitement, Montreal hosted the first All-Star Game held outside the United States that July. Five Expos were named to the NL squad. The NL won 4-1 in front of over 59,000 at Olympic Stadium. But that was the beginning of the end of the good times for the so-called Team of the 80s. Many Expo players struggled with drug abuse, and the team never lived up to its potential. Fan favourite Gary Carter was traded in 1984. The Expos put together an unlikely run in 1987, but again fell short in the end. That coincided with the year Olympic Stadium’s original roof was finally installed.

The team began very strong in 1989, taking a lead in their division into mid-season. Owner Charles Bronfman desperately wanted to win that year and the team pulled off a big deal. They got star pitcher Mark Langston from the Mariners. In return they gave up a young Randy Johnson. Little did they know… But they wanted to win in 1989, as the future surely would be brighter following a post-season appearance. Unfortunately, after an initial jolt, the team collapsed and finished the season with a .500 record. 
From that point on, the franchise’s off-field fortunes would begin to overshadow the team‘s on-field exploits.

By 1990, Charles Bronfman had had enough. He wanted to sell the club. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no local takers. From then on, speculation about the team’s relocation would become an annual event.

Eventually, team president Claude Brochu managed to put together a local ownership consortium to keep the team in Montreal. It was this group that would lead the franchise for the rest of the next decade. One of the key elements in getting the consortium aboard was a promise to limit their operational investment, most notably payroll. With skyrocketing salaries, the Expos could simply not spend a lot of money. They would have to build from within in cycles of talent. Fortunately, they had maintained one of the best developmental and scouting systems in baseball. After a disastrous 1991 season, in which even Olympic Stadium crumbled, the first group of young talent arrived in earnest in 1992. Suddenly the team was back in contention. Felipe Alou was hired in 1992 and became an iconic figure in Montreal sports circles. It should be noted that Alou had initially been named as interim manager only.

One significant off-field blunder would cost the franchise dearly in the 1990s. Still under Bronfman’s ownership, the Expos had signed away the Southern Ontario TV market to the Blue Jays. From then on, it would become excessively difficult to get Expo games aired on Canadian TV. Broadcasters were reluctant considering they could not air most games in Canada’s largest population centre. That was just the start of a series of media and marketing moves that would eventually all but eliminate over the air broadcasts in English. The English radio network also began to disappear, as the franchise began to focus away from the national market, looking regionally instead.

But on the field, things were looking up. The Expos participated in an exciting pennant race in 1993, but fell short. During the off-season Expo GM Dan Duquette pulled off what at the time was a very controversial trade. He sent fan-favourite DeLino DeShields to Los Angeles for a skinny young pitcher named Pedro Martinez. Duquette then quit to join the Red Sox. By mid-1994, miraculously, the Expos had assembled the best team in baseball.

But the timing couldn’t have been worse. Players walked off the job on August 12th in protest of a proposed salary cap. It seemed unthinkable that an entire season could be wiped away, but it was. On the day the strike began, the Expos seemed destined to make post-season for the first time since 1981. They had a record of 74-40 and a 6 ½ game lead in their division. They were also on pace to have their best ever season at the gate.

It was Expos managing partner Claude Brochu who announced the cancellation of the season in September. At the time, he called it short-term pain for long-term gain. As the local consortium had made clear from the start, they were not willing to spend the money necessary to keep the 1994 team together. When the strike finally ended in the spring of 1995, it only took a few days for Expo General Manager Kevin Malone to unload the core of the team. As far as the issues that caused the strike, nothing had been solved. Attendance plummeted throughout MLB in 1995, but the Expos still managed to draw respectable numbers all things considered. That, despite having a poor season on the field.

A few more magical trades brought the team back into contention again by 1996, and they drew 1.6 million to the Big Owe. Pedro Martinez would go on to become the Expos’ only Cy Young Award winner in 1997. Of course, that meant he would be traded away by 1998. But the wind of change was coming, and it wasn’t a good one. During the 1990s, professional sports began a renewal of their facilities. It was thought that the number one way to raise badly-needed revenues, particularly for so-called small-market franchises, was to build a new stadium. Across North America, new ballparks were popping up almost everywhere, and almost always funded in some way by governments.

In 1997, the Expos would make their first pitch for a new stadium of their own. 

PART IV

It began with a lavish press conference where Expos’ president Claude Brochu unveiled the preliminary mock-up of the proposed new stadium. The park was to be built within proximity of the then Molson Centre at the corner of Peel and Notre Dame. The location was thought to be perfect for both automobile access and public transportation. The design included a possible retractable rain cover. The estimated price of construction was pegged at around $240 million dollars, although some have since claimed that figure was merely a starting point, and that the actual price would have been much higher. 

It became clear from then on that the building of the new park would be tied to the team’s survival in Montreal. It also became clear that Brochu expected government involvement in the project. Lucien Bouchard was Premier at the time and the PQ was in full deficit-reduction mode. Hospitals had been closed and some saw investing in a baseball stadium a waste of tax payer’s money. Brochu appeared to have a more sympathetic ear in then finance minister Bernard Landry, or so it appeared. Landry still towed the party line about stadiums vs. hospitals. Any proposed government financing ideas were nixed by Lucien Bouchard.

Quebec eventually agreed to guarantee a loan, but nothing more. Meanwhile, the Expos secured a lease on their desired piece of land and were able to sell naming rights to a large brewery for a significant amount of money. Again, cynics pointed to that as being nothing more than a publicity stunt for the company in question. Finally, the Expos began to sell seat licenses and so-called bricks to fans who wanted to invest in the ballpark. Throughout the entire process, Claude Brochu was vilified by many and his true intentions were continually brought into question.

By 1999, the money to go ahead with the project was simply not there. It looked as if the team would be sold to American interests before long. But the Expos were about to get one more chance, or so it seemed. By the end of the year, Claude Brochu was bought out by the remaining consortium and a new general partner was brought in. At first he was a man of mystery that no-one in Montreal had ever heard of.

Jeffrey Loria was an art dealer from New York City. He had previously owned a minor league club and was desperate to buy a Major League team. He had gained the confidence of the remaining local ownership as the man who could save baseball in Montreal. In December of 1999, Loria and his stepson David Samson were introduced to Montrealers in a memorable and positive press conference. They were joined by members of the consortium and new investor Stephen Bronfman. It appeared that perhaps the franchise could be saved after all. Soon after, Loria was approved by Major League Baseball and the New York art dealer made public his revised plans for a new stadium.

But it would only take a few months before it became clear that all was not well within Montreal ownership circles nor between Loria and the media. By opening day 2000, the club was unable to reach broadcasting deals for television and for English radio. Last-minute negotiations led to a French radio deal. Canadian broadcasters were refusing to pay the market value that Loria sought. And for the most part, they were not willing to pay any rights fees at all. When the 2000 season began, now hall-of-fame broadcaster Dave Van Horne was relegated to calling games on the Internet. The team was blacklisted from television both over-the-air and cable in both official languages. That lack of exposure was an ominous sign of the gloom ahead.

Within the Expos’ boardrooms, Loria had made a cash call that was refused. According to their agreement any such refusal would lead to Loria taking control of the team. Not long after, Loria returned deposits for seats and bricks, gave up the land and seemingly gave up on Montreal. At the same time, the team struggled mightily on the field and at the gate.

By 2001, all had unravelled. Eventually, even Felipe Alou was fired. Following the season, in a bizarre twist of events, the owner of the Florida Marlins purchased the Boston Red Sox and Jeffrey Loria ended up with the Marlins. On his way out, Loria took along with him a good part of what had been Expo infrastructure and personnel. Major League Baseball then took over control of the Montreal franchise.

The next three seasons were painful for what was left of the fan base. The odds had never been so stacked up against the Expo franchise. There were no new potential local owners, no new stadium project on the table, no broadcast revenue, and last, but not least, a 69 cent Canadian dollar made operating a professional sports franchise in Canada very difficult. And if that weren‘t enough, Major League Baseball was making it clear that the franchise would end up relocating, no matter the team’s performance and no matter how many people showed up at the stadium. It got so bad that Major League Baseball threatened to eliminate the franchise altogether along with the Minnesota Twins.


2004 was about as bad as it could get for Expo fans. For the first time, all hope had been lost. It seemed inconceivable that the franchise could return to Montreal in 2005 and play another season under the conditions they had faced since the turn of the millennium. Still, when the announcement of the move to Washington was made on September 29th, it stunned Montreal sports fans. It was on that very night that the Expos played their final game at Olympic Stadium. In a sad twist of irony, they would lose 9-1 to the Florida Marlins, complete with David Samson in the in the crowd. Over 31,000 people were on hand for that sombre evening. Plastered on the outfield wall during that final game was a sign that read 1994: Best team in baseball. For Expo fans, the recognition, as unofficial and irrelevant as it was, did little to ease the pain. The Expos played their final game as a Montreal franchise on October 3rd at Shea Stadium in New York, where it had all began 35 years earlier. They also lost that game by a score of 8-1.

The Nationals, as they have been renamed, have been playing in Washington since the 2005 season. In 2008, they inaugurated a new state-of-the-art ballpark - one that eluded the Expo franchise during their 35 years in Montreal. Nationals Park cost over $600 million dollars to construct, most of that publicly financed. As of 2011, no players remain from the Montreal days, and the Nationals have yet to record a winning season. As for Montreal, there was little if any political reaction to the Expos’ departure at any level. That held particularly true when it came to Montreal’s City Hall and Mayor Gerald Tremblay. There are few lasting remnants of the team’s existence and Olympic Stadium now sits empty for most of the year.

Even prior to the Expos departure many city of Montreal baseball diamonds were being converted into soccer fields. There were fears that the Expos’ departure would hurt baseball leagues in Quebec, but they have managed to survive. The Quebec City Capitales have been very successful and have been drawing good crowds in the Can-Am League.

Since the Expos left Montreal in 2004, there has been much nostalgia about the team, especially on the Internet. A Facebook page dedicated to the team had no fewer than 100,000 members as of the summer of 2011. 

In recent years, there have been rumblings about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the Montreal area. In the summer of 2011, there were rumours, emanating from former Expo broadcaster Rodger Brulotte that a group of local investors were interested in bringing Major League Baseball back to Montreal. Whether or not there is serious interest remains to be seen.

Major League baseball in Montreal lasted for nearly four decades before its untimely demise. There had been professional baseball in this city since the late 19th century. Montreal started off as a successful minor league city. The Royals entertained generations of Montrealers and played a historic role as Jackie Robinson’s first stop on his way to the major leagues. When the Royals departed, it left a void, but Montreal was thriving and was ready to become Major League.

The Expos left their fans with more heartaches than highpoints during their 35 year existence, but it didn’t matter. No matter the result at the end of the season, the Expos would return each spring, and everything seemed possible again. Eventually, terrible timing and terrible ownership decisions would cost the team its very existence. When the spring of 2005 came along, there was no redemption - there was just nothing… Long-suffering fans of the Montreal Expos are now left with their deep-rooted memories, a nagging sense of loss and disappointment, and the frustration of what could have been…

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dangermouse and Custard Part 1

Want to get into radio?


I have been asked more than a few times about what are the best ways to get into radio. I will not pretend to be an experienced veteran nor do I claim to have any history with the inner workings of commercial radio. I have yet to be paid to create content, although hopefully that day will come. What I can say with few reservations is that landing a job in a major market with no experience is practically impossible.

Be prepared to learn your craft at a college or community radio station. As will become obvious pretty quickly, theory or simulation will never substitute for the real thing. If you are young leaving town and heading for a small market station might be easier and a lot more appealing than if you are past the age of thirty.

I guess the biggest question is whether you necessarily need to go to school to learn radio. There is no yes or no answer to that question. It does not hurt your chances of employment if you have completed a university program or a course. I’m going to be brutally honest now about my personal experience… I had wanted to study communications and journalism when I was younger. I wish I had. If you are able, you can’t go wrong with a credible university program which will offer you honest-to-goodness internship possibilities. It is getting your foot in the door that is so desperately important and the earlier you get that opportunity the better. Of course, that in and of itself is no guarantee of success. It is still very difficult.

If you can’t go to university or just are not able to commit to the time and money, there are other ways to get behind a microphone. There are radio schools that offer courses that can teach you the basics in a relatively short period of time. That was the route I ended up taking. At the time, I believed it was my final opportunity to give radio a shot. Back to the brutal honesty: Not all radio schools are alike. Keep in mind that most radio schools are above all else businesses. Be very careful about your realistic expectations. Be weary about success rate claims as well. If you look very closely, the number of graduates who actually end up landing long-term successful “paid” large-market gigs is actually relatively small. Unless the school gives you real internships and the opportunity to produce programs and learn how to deal with your radio entourage, watch out. These courses cost a lot of money and you really have to think things through before you make a decision. There is no easy road to land a job, forget that right away.

That will bring me to my final suggestion. There is an easier road to land on the airwaves, even in a major market like Montreal. There is no better place to learn radio than at a college or community radio station. Many campus and community radio stations continually offer training sessions for people who want to learn the technical or on-air side of broadcasting. It is hands-on from the get-go. In Montreal, CKUT is a great place to learn as is a station like Radio Centre-Ville, which is always looking for new volunteers. There are normal constraints, but you can attain a level of creative freedom which is practically impossible for all but a select few working in commercial radio. The experience you gain at one of these stations can definitely help prepare you for the big leagues. You might never be called up, but at the very least, you’ve got to experience your dream.

You might also try and make contacts with people working in the business. It is not a guarantee to success, but it can’t hurt. Also set up an Internet presence. Above all else, you want people to know that you exist. And podcasts are a wonderful thing - use them! Keep in mind the preceding comes from someone who has yet to land a radio job, and from someone who’s always done things the hard way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Radio Show and Tell

A few of the most memorable highlights from my time at The Montreal Radio and Television School were our field trips to radio stations. I had already had a chance to visit CJAD during Halloween 2008 to interview Sol Boxenbaum. He was nice enough to show me around the three Astral stations before we sat down. Before  I left, Sol gave me some of the best advice I could have gotten in retrospect. He told me to always watch my back because there would always be someone waiting in the wings ready and eager to take my job. That holds true far beyond the world of radio, as I have since learned…

Well, our school class went to visit Astral in December. We were led upstairs by Olga, of Laurie and Olga fame. There we were given the grand tour by Mark Bergman, who couldn’t have been nicer. It’s a top-notch set up to be sure. The old saying: “if these walls could talk” sure holds true over there.


From right to left behind Virgin's Mark Bergman: Yours truly, John Kakoulakis and Luigi Di Grappa
In January of 2009, we made the “pilgrimage’ to Team 990. For most of the guys who wanted to get into sports radio, it appeared to be a truly religious experience. By comparison, 990 was far less flashy, but no-less historic when you consider the history of CKGM on Greene Avenue. Below you can see Andie Bennett and the back of Mitch Melnick's head.


I'll end with a peek at Radio Centre-Ville, where I have been a contributor since early 2009.


Once you make your way up what seems like a thousand stairs, you'll find a pretty vibrant community radio station. Just watch the chairs, they are a little dated... At CINQ, it’s what goes on the air that really matters. Here is a look at Master Control, where many of your favourite RCV shows emanate from. And no, I have never actually seen the reel-to-reel player in use. You are hearing Janet Stubbert's "Scottish Voice"  playing in the background.



And that concludes this week’s show and tell. Thanks to Robert Vairo for snapping the first two photos.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yesterday's News: A History of Professional Baseball in Montreal



download 128 kbps
download 64 kbps

Yesterday’s News: A History of Professional Baseball in Montreal

Part 1:
- The Montreal Royals and Jackie Robinson

Part 2:
- MLB expands to Montreal
- The Expos: 1969-1979

Part 3:
- The Expos: 1980-1997

Part 4:
- The Expos: 1997-2004
- Montreal without the Expos

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RIP Ted Tevan

Montreal has lost another radio legend. I’ve been looking at some of the obits that have already been posted about Ted Tevan. If anything is clear by the words of others, it is how he influenced an entire generation of future media personalities.

The Ted Tevan era was a great one for Montreal English radio. I can only go back as far as the 1980s, but even then there was an abundance of personality-driven entertaining radio in Montreal. And Ted Tevan epitomized the word personality. He was a showman above all else. You tuned in knowing you were going to be entertained.

Years before there was such a thing as sports radio, CFCF Radio was a sports powerhouse as the home of the Expos and Habs. And coming on after the night games was Ted Tevan and his cast of regular callers and crew. Tevan was a master of the ad lib. When he got started, he could just go on and on… His interaction with the callers was also special. His trademark phrases, commercials and sound effects are forever part of Montreal radio history. You just don’t hear that kind of thing today - because for the most part, radio people aren’t given that kind of creative freedom anymore.

George Balcan, Gord Sinclair, Ted Blackman and now Ted Tevan. Who are their 2011 equivalents? Aaron Rand and Mitch Melnick seem to be the last of the “old school” that are left. I don’t think there is anything on Montreal radio today that will be looked back at years from now with the same fondness as the stuff we had back in the 1970s and 80s. I don’t say that to in any way put down this generation of radio people. Times have changed.

For all his radio presence, Ted Tevan appeared to be a very private individual. There are surprisingly few photos of him that are widely available. The bigger shame though is how it is nearly impossible to come across old sound checks of his CFCF-era shows. Of course, his style didn’t please everyone. That is likely because they just didn’t get the whole premise of his program. It was more than just a sports show. Ted Tevan called it “The game of life”. Cue Neil Diamond…

In Honour of Ted Tevan: Neil Diamond Hello

Sunday, July 17, 2011

STM Testing Air Conditioning on Buses

The STM has launched a so-called pilot project to determine if Montreal’s bus fleet should be equipped with air conditioning. There has been quite a bit of local media attention given to the story. Last year, opposition Projet Montreal made a big deal about air conditioning our public transportation system, particularly since new Metro cars were about to be ordered. Keep in mind, Projet Montreal is the “Green” party at City Hall.

The baffling thing about this pilot project is the survey that is being issued to some people lucky enough to catch one of the dozen or so climate controlled buses presently roaming the streets of Montreal. Two of the questions in particular should send out alarm bells to those who believe the STM should enter the 21st century.

One of the things being asked is whether users would be willing to pay more for having air conditioned buses. Since when does the STM or any public agency care about whether or not people are willing to pay more for anything? They always go ahead and raise prices regardless of public opinion. Nobody asked Montrealers whether or not they were willing to pay to subsidize Bixi, which in actuality is used by a miniscule portion of the population compared to those who use public transit.

The STM claims it would cost $20 million to air condition the fleet, but that is a very misleading figure. There is no way the STM has any intention of retrofitting existing buses with air conditioning systems. The decision would apply to new bus orders. It costs around $15,000 more for a bus out of the factory with A/C. I don’t know how many new buses are ordered annually, but I doubt the extra cost of A/C would amount to $20 million. Fuel costs are another matter. But think about it, using the same logic, it would cost far less in fuel costs if they were to stop heating buses in the winter, would it not? But you don’t see them asking users whether or not they are willing to pay extra for heating, do you?

Which brings us to another idiotic question being asked. That is whether users would be willing to accept an increase to the STM’s carbon footprint. Let’s put all ideology aside and continue to stick to facts: Canada as a whole contributes 2% of all the world’s carbon emissions. The combined emissions of Montreal buses with air conditioning would not even register. To think that they would seriously be basing a decision on this factor is mind-boggling. Furthermore, are we supposed to be that more self-righteous than just about every other major North American city that we are willing to give up the “luxury” of air conditioned public transit because we are so more concerned about the planet than everyone else? What a pile of nonsense! They don’t use that logic in Ottawa, Toronto or New York, do they?

Last year the STM went ahead and ordered the new Montreal Metro cars without air conditioning. The people in charge were emphatic that it just couldn’t be done, for all sorts of reasons. Of course, it can in other cities… It is no secret that the Metro is at times unbearably hot and uncomfortable, not matter the time of year. Go down to the subways in New York or Toronto. For the most part, the stations look like crap, but the minute you enter the train, you notice the difference immediately - you can actually breathe! The STM claims the new metro cars will have powerful ventilation systems and that A/C will not be needed. We shall see. Don’t hold your breath. You may not be aware of the fact that the conductor’s cabins are air-conditioned. They are because early on when the Metro first opened, a conductor lost consciousness from the heat.

Here’s the point, the STM loves to tell everyone how great it is. Fact is, the reasons ridership has increased in recent years has NOTHING to do with anything the STM has done. It is because of a combination of high gas prices and the way motorists in Montreal are now being treated like quasi-criminals. Parking has become such a nightmare that most rational thinking people will never take their cars downtown. Of course those who can afford to will continue to travel by car. It is those with shrinking budgets who are forced onto public transit. Concern about the planet or satisfaction with the system have nothing to do with their decisions. Ask most people whether they enjoy their time packed onto an A/C-less bus during rush hour during a heat wave, and you’ll get a pretty unanimous no.

If the STM really cared about public opinion, they would not have filled their fleet with low-floor buses people have almost unanimously hated from the day they began roaming Montreal streets. This A/C pilot project will have one of two possible results: 1) New buses will be ordered with air conditioning as of next year and fares will increase with that as the supposed reasoning. 2) The STM will claim self-righteousness or poverty and tell us that unlike most of the continent, Montreal just can’t handle such a profound luxury. Either way, I believe the decision has already been made and this is simply a PR exercise.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Radio Centre-Ville Shows Worth Checking Out

One of the biggest issues programs on community stations like Radio Centre-Ville face is getting the word out about their existence. With new technology it has become much easier than ever before to establish an audio web presence. That is certainly true for many of CINQ’s programs. Podcasts and iTunes have made it possible to gain listeners in ways that were once unimaginable.
Having said that, I thought I would spend a few paragraphs here introducing you to three programs that you might not necessarily be familiar with. I believe they are each well worth listening to. I will admit that I have been involved with each in some capacity over the past few years, so I may be a little biased.

Let’s begin with one of the most underrated programs on Montreal radio. Arts Notebook airs every Saturday from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM on CINQ 102.3 FM. The program is hosted by Stanley Asher, who has been a fixture on Montreal radio for over 30 years. Asher is also involved with Radio Shalom, a radio station in Montreal that serves the Jewish community. Asher used to teach at John Abbott College but is now retired. He is probably one of the smartest people I have ever met. His co-host is Davyn Ryall, who is the Artistic Director of Village Scene Productions and very well-known in Montreal theatre circles. There are probably few people who are as knowledgeable and passionate about Montreal theatre than Ryall.

Arts Notebook mostly features guests from the city’s cultural scene. When it comes to film, theatre and/or music, if it’s happening in Montreal, you will hear about it on Arts Notebook. Every show features interviews with performers and production people from Montreal and elsewhere. You will almost certainly hear about stuff not ordinarily mentioned on commercial radio stations.

I move on to another unique listening experience: Scottish Voice. It airs every Saturday between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM on CINQ 102.3 FM. For over a decade Cape Breton-native Janet Stubbert has brought listeners authentic music from Scotland and Nova Scotia as well as special guests and interesting stories. It is the only Scottish-themed program of its kind in Quebec. Where else on your radio dial will you come across authentic Gaelic lessons?

I have been involved with Scottish Voice as technical producer for about two and a half years. In that time I have learned more about Nova Scotia culture than I ever imagined possible. Since the end of 2010, the reach of the program has expended to include listeners on K-LEE 1600 AM in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. You can listen in on K-LEE Sundays and Wednesdays at 6 PM ET. And if you miss a program, you can log onto the Scottish Voice Podcast Archive or subscribe via iTunes or Podbean.

And finally, another program that deserves a lot more attention is The Digital Life Show. It airs every Saturday from 2:30 PM to 3:00 PM on CINQ 102.3 FM.  Host Reisa Levine describes the show as “a half hour weekly Podcast and radio show featuring regular guests from all sectors of society who are working and playing in the digital domain…” The program differs from a lot of other so called digital shows in that it doesn’t focus on gadgets. The Digital Life Show is more interested in digital media’s impact on society.

From Managing Editor of Le Devoir, Roland-Yves Carignan to Montreal star blogger Steve Faguy, the quality of the program’s guests is very impressive. Current digital news is also a subject of discussion as are the place of grass-roots movements involved in the digital world. Check it out, it’s another program that deserves to be heard. You can also subscribe to The digital Life Show on iTunes.

So there are just a few examples of Radio Centre-Ville’s English language offerings. English programming runs from every Friday night at 10:30 PM to Saturday afternoons at 4:00 PM. Shows are available through live streaming at the Radio Centre-Ville web site. Here is the complete schedule of programs along with podcast links. Hope you find something enjoyable!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aaron Rand The Last Montreal Radio Legend?




There has been a lot of reaction to Aaron Rand’s last week at the “Q”. It’s amazing how many people have been revisiting their 1980s radio nostalgia in preparation of Mr. Rand’s departure. And it is well worth looking back to one of the “golden“ eras of English radio in Montreal which was the 1980s. Aaron Rand told CTV today that creativity is pretty much stifled nowadays in favour of more music.

You can’t argue with his point of view. It must be very difficult to do a purely music show now, especially when you have no control over what you are playing. But then again, it’s been like that for a while. I tend to believe that people tune in to be either entertained or informed. The only difference today is how there are so many other options. You now pretty much have access to just about any song ever recorded on your mobile device. There is much less dependency on someone choosing what you should be listening to, even though that is how a lot of music still gets exposed in the first place.

As for Aaron Rand, he has all but promised to resurface in the near future. Whether that will be on a traditional radio station or not remains to be seen. From all that has been said, it appears Mr. Rand will be remaining in Montreal, which is great news. Rand has set up a web site where you will be able to stay informed on his future radio endeavours.

Aaron Rand’s “legacy” goes way beyond Montreal. I wrote a little blurb about his departure from the “Q’ a few months back and it has become one of the most read blog entries here. It has been drawing search engine inquiries from far beyond the borders of Montreal. Does that indicate that people are nostalgic? There seems to be an appetite for old air checks of the famous CFCF 600 show. The "Aaron Rand Show" has had such a lasting impact on what were then a group of young radio listeners. For a couple of years, it was so good that you could have easily set it up as the standard to which all other radio shows ought to aim for.

Times have changed. It is no longer 1986. We’ve lost so many Montreal radio legends over the past decade. We ought to appreciate the ones who are still around. It would be great if a new generation could be inspired by the creativity and yes - genius - that has been displayed by people like Aaron Rand and Paul Zakaib over the past three decades.

UPDATE: Check out this wonderful recap of Aaron Rand's last morning at the "Q" on Steve Faguy's Blog.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twittersphere 1 Elections Canada 0

Radio stations were forced to pull their feeds on Monday night. All this was done to keep election results in certain areas from reaching those who had yet to cast their ballots. The Canadian law concerning election results dates back to the late 1930s. The premise is an obvious one: it is believed by some that people may be influenced by the results in other areas of the country. No doubt that may be the case, but why is that any different from posting opinion poll results up until a day before the election? Surely those have far more influence.

In any case, the original law has been on the books for a very long time. It came into being when radio was the only means to obtain updated election results, other than making a long-distance phone call. Well, since then TV had become the king of all media. They too have had to adopt the same policy. Make no mistake about it, today’s traditional media nearly unanimously hates the law. They would much prefer to broadcast results to everybody as they become available.

Still, the law was effective in keeping people in the dark since it was implemented. Broadcasting was the only means of informing large masses and unless you had contacts in the areas in question, you simply had to wait until the polls closed in your part of the country. That all began to change with the advent of the modern Internet.

As far back as 2000, people were beginning to challenge the law. This was years before the explosion of social media. A Vancouver resident was actually fined that year for posting election results on his blog. Paul Bryan was fined $1000. He appealed the law all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. The Court voted 5-4 to uphold the law.

Enter the 2011 vote. Twitter may not have been a huge factor in swaying public opinion during the campaign, but it would become a huge story in reporting its results. Elections Canada had warned people not to tweet early election results, or face the consequences. Those could include fines of up to $25,000. Well, it didn’t take long for the law to be openly challenged. Within minutes of the closing of polls in Newfoundland, results were being posted for all to see. Shortly after, the hash tag #tweettheresults overflowed with not only results, but with plenty of Elections Canada bashing, comedy and sarcasm.

By 9 o’clock Monday evening, #tweettheresults had become the top trending topic on Twitter in Canada, and amazingly, the third highest trender in the world. Now this should in no way indicate that the entire world was fixated on the results of the Canadian election. On the contrary, most probably had no idea we were having one. It did show the incredible penetration of social media in Canada right now. And yes, there were several people down south and in other parts of the world who found the blackout rule fascinating and decided to join in. Some even asked people in Canada to forward them results so that they could in turn tweet them.

Elections Canada is now grappling with how to respond to what happened Monday night. It was clear going in that with the rise of the Internet and new media that such a law is not enforceable. They do say that in order to go after someone for posting results, they would first need to have received a complaint. It remains to be seen if the law will be changed in time for the next election, now scheduled to be no less than 4 years away.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Radio Centre-Ville Benefit Performance - April 15th

Village Scene Productions
In association with the Rialto Theatre

Presents

EQUUS

“Passion can be destroyed; it cannot be created.”- Martin Dysart

Written by Peter Shaffer

Directed by Paul Van Dyck

Choreographed by Jacqueline Van de Geer

Wednesday, April 13 to Sunday, April 24, 2011

At the Rialto Theatre, 5723 avenue du Parc.

Tuesdays to Thursdays at 7:30 pm,

Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday April 24 at 8:00pm.

Matinées: Sundays at 2pm.

Tickets: $30 regular, $24 students/seniors.

20% discount off regular rate offered to valid card carrying members of: UDA, ACTRA, CAEA, QDF, QWF, ELAN, at the door only.

Preview, Wednesday, April 13, 7:30 pm, two-for-one (tickets at the door only)

Opening Night is Thursday, April 14 at 7:30pm (By invitation.)

Advance ticket purchase: (Service charges may apply.)

On line at La Vitrine www.lavitrine.com, P.D.A. 145 Ste-Catherine W.,

Priape- 1311 Ste-Catherine St. east.

ÉM - Café Mile End 5718 avenue du Parc.

Information: Tel: 514 965-9VSP (877) www.villagescene.com


Benefit performances:

Friday April 15- Benefit: Community radio station, Radio Centre-Ville CINQ 102.3FM (regular ticket prices).

Sat., April 16- Benefit: RefugeRR, rescue & retirement ranch for horses. Tickets: Regular 30$ ot 24$ Or $50* including : play at 8 pm; meet & greet talk back session with cast; and performance by Soul Fusion at 11 pm. *A 25$ tax receipt willl be issued on request. Available at the door or by reserving directly with Refuge RR.

Easter Sunday buffets: -Brunch buffet service 11:00-13:00 $20; -Dinner buffet service 17:00-19:00 $25. Contact the Rialto for reservations at: 514 268-7069 or ecarosielli@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Digital Sound Editing

I spent a couple of months at CKUT during the summer of 1997. I had hoped to gain some on air experience, but aside from recording a commercial, I got stuck in the music library. While I was there, the library was in a very cramped room. I haven’t been to the place since that summer, so they may have changed things around since then. Anyway, there was a way of labelling the CDs, records and tapes and this old Macintosh computer for entering each item into the records. Obviously, like all radio stations now, the station has since gone digital. I think/hope they have also since installed air conditioning. Back then, the place was unbelievably hot in the summer.

I’ve heard stories of how radio people used to have to splice tape back in the day. At CKUT, I was supposed to take a little training on the basics of radio. I only attended one meeting, but that is where I learned the splicing technique, complete with the use of a pretty sharp blade. I was fortunate enough to get through the lesson with all my fingers intact. I can’t say that I still remember how it was done. We would use a similar kind of technique when splicing film once upon a time. Obviously, it was a painstaking way of editing. One mistake could not only ruin your content, but cause physical harm.

There are some pretty cool looking tape reel machines at Radio Centre-Ville. I wonder when they were last put to use. Fortunately, we’ve gone past the tape days. Now we do our editing on computers using some pretty nifty pieces of software. Adobe Audition is the standard at most radio stations, although there are other audio software packages out there. I was first introduced to Audition at the Montreal Radio and Television School. Like everything else, practice is the only way to learn it. You can manipulate your audio almost completely to a point. Still, if it is really bad, there is only so much that can be done to make it “listenable”. In terms of digital “splicing”, your edits can literally sound flawless if done correctly. Of the utmost importance, you can also monitor your waves as you record.

Audition is a huge and expensive program. Many find it out of reach for home use. You can however download it for a free 30 day trial. Fortunately, there are quite a few smaller free programs you can download. They will by no means give you to same degree of control or quality the bigger programs have, but they can still do a pretty nice job. One such piece of software is called Audacity. It isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done. You will need to download an add-on in order to save in MP3 format.

Whether you use something basic or powerful, it beats using a blade… Progress is a great thing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting on iTunes

I’ve recently posted a couple of radio programs on iTunes, including Yesterday’s News. I procrastinated about it for a while because I thought it would be overly complicated. Over the past few weeks, I started looking into how to get an RSS feed up. After a bit of investigating, I decided to go with a podcast host that handled all the tech stuff for me. HTML is one thing, but I didn’t have the patience to take RSS lessons. The only thing I really had to take care of was creating images to go along with the feeds.

It took a few hours to set things up, but once all is up and running, the maintenance is no big deal. After sending iTunes the feed, I thought it might take a while to get it online. Surprisingly, it only took a couple of days for one and four for the other. You notice the difference in “hits” almost right away.

The topic of how traditional radio can compete with sites like iTunes has come up several times on this blog. And as you can clearly see by logging on to iTunes, there seems to be no limit to the amount of podcasts that originated as traditional radio programs. There are also plenty of podcasts that are in no way connected to conventional radio.

Whatever the future holds, the more choice you have, the better. The worst thing you can do is to not keep up with the times. Btw, here is the link to Yesterday's News.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RCI Turns 66

We've just passed the 66th anniversary of the launch of Canada's shortwave service. Radio Canada International first started broadcasting on February 25th, 1945. Originally, it was known as the CBC International Service or “Voice of Canada“. The service was launched as the Second World War was drawing to a close. In the beginning, it was meant to keep Canadian military personnel in touch with Canada.

After the war ended, the mandate would become focused on spreading news, information and entertainment from and about Canada throughout the world. This was done in many languages. Like most western broadcasters, RCI would pump their content into the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. What would become RCI also broadcast events from Expo '67 to the rest of the world. Of course, shortwave listening was more widespread in western countries in those days than it is now.

The service is based in Montreal, which makes it about the only branch of the CBC aside from Radio Canada that is based here. It has faced a number of budget cuts over the years, as radio enthusiasts are probably well aware. It's not unique to Canada though, as we have recently seen with the announcement coming from the BBC. Budget cuts over the years have resulted in cutting back many foreign language broadcasts.

RCI currently broadcasts in 7 languages: Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and Portuguese. RCI’s only transmitter is located in Sackville New Brunswick. The service can also be heard on satellite and of course online.

What does the future hold in store for RCI and other shortwave services? Hard to say, but these broadcasts are favourite targets for budget cuts, as mentioned above. That will probably remain the case for the foreseeable future. New media is seen as a better way to deliver content to far away places. However, realistic access to digital technology is still not within reach of a high percentage of the world's population.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Aaron Rand Leaving "The Q"

Montreal radio circles are abuzz with the news that Aaron Rand will be leaving “The Q” in April. He’s been working for the same company for 26 years, under several different call letter variations and ownership groups. It is a truly remarkable feat in any market anymore. Most of Aaron Rand’s time has been spent as the morning man at what was once known to all as CFQR. And up until 2009, he was joined by his long-time friend Paul Zakaib, also known as Tasso Patsikakis.

You don’t last that long in any market unless you are really, really talented. Aaron Rand really is in a league of his own, especially now that greats like George Balkan, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman have passed away. There is no doubt that radio was far different when the preceding were in the prime of their careers. Rand sort of acknowledged the change during his departure announcement on Friday. No news as to whether he has plans to jump to another station or leave town. He did say he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. Hopefully that means we haven’t hear the last of him.

If you are too young to remember the mid 1980s, then you missed out on what was without a doubt the best radio show “anglo” Montreal has ever produced. The Aaron Rand Show on CFCF 600 was appointment radio. When you think about how much work it takes to produce a quality program, you just have to marvel at how much effort it must have taken to put that kind of show together 5 days a week. I first discovered the Aaron Rand Show in November of 1985. It was like nothing I had ever heard before or since. The “Ask my Dad” segments were pure gold. The way they would go to the lines at any time and talk to the quirkiest callers was classic. You could tell how much fun these guys were having and the amazing chemistry that existed between Rand and “Tasso”. I could go on, but I urge any fans of classic Montreal radio to get a hold of some old recordings of that show - you won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BBC World Service Cuts

The BBC’s shortwave presence is going to all but disappear in the coming few years. Recently, BBC officials announced massive cutbacks and layoffs at the World Service. In making their decision, they argued the need for them to adapt to “new” media. In other words, shortwave is considered expendable. We faced the same issues with cutbacks in Canada at Montreal-based RCI a while ago.

It seems that running the World Service is extremely expensive, which isn’t really surprising. They are being forced to trim about £46 million out of their present budget of £237 million-a-year over the next three years. They estimate the cuts will cost them around 30 million listeners worldwide. Keep in mind, there is no financial profit to be made of that seemingly large amount of people, which of course makes them expendable in the eyes of the BBC.

And when you bring up the concept of new media, it can’t be overemphasised how most shortwave listeners that will be lost do not have access to Internet or cell phones. In many cases, these are extremely impoverished areas of the world. Some are war-torn or under dictatorships. The BBC feed was one of, if not their only sources of un-filtered news and information - sometimes about stuff that was going on in their own backyard. As we have seen in recent years, there are ways to censor TV and the Internet, or even cut off phone service. Shortwave, as old a concept as it might sound, is still one of the most viable ways to broadcast without being censored.

Many people travelling abroad from Europe in particular have also used the BBC service to keep informed when no other means were available. To assume that the Internet is already at the point where all people in all places have equal access is not a fair or accurate statement. But then again, I am not a U.K. tax payer who might have a different opinion as to the viability of spending so much money on a service that does not directly benefit them. In terms of England’s image around the world, the damage of the World Service’s absence might be more substantial.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reality Television Isn't Reality

There is no such thing as reality television - it’s rarely a reflexion of reality in any shape or form. It seems that a long time ago, you actually had to have some ability or talent in order to achieve some sort of fame. You may have been a bad actor or terrible singer, but at least you were doing something that attempted to entertain. Now, you can get instantly famous without having any talent or even any personality to speak of. Behind all this rage of reality TV is the once-repressed human urge of voyeurism. People are always curious to see the “inner lives” of others. When McLuhan claimed that the medium itself was the message, he wasn’t kidding. Now you’re famous simply because you’re on TV, even if you are just sitting around a table and talking pointless drivel.

It all started inocently enough. One of the first reality shows, “COPS“, is still on. From the start, it kind of seemed far less contrived in that you really didn’t know what you were about to face when you headed out on the road with the police. Seemed like a good premise for a show and it was a big eye-opener. Rare are the reality shows that maintain that quality though…

As we entered the 2000s, scripted programming began to take a beating… It really started with the emergence of “Survivor”. It was something different, but at least there seemed to be a point to the premise. It became a huge hit and is now part of American popular culture. It’s the kind of show that could stay on the air forever… Unfortunately, the show’s format has become mercilessly copied from the start. The concept of getting rid of someone at the end of each show became a new fad - from who gets the last rose to who leaves "Hell’s Kitchen". It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most popular. No, in real life you can’t usually get rid of people that way, although TV has made it seem fashionable.

And then there was the “celebrity” reality show. It must be noted that at their very beginnings, they actually used real celebrities and their families. Again the voyeur factor played a big role in some of these shows’ success. People wanted to see the way these folks really lived, and at first you probably did. At some point, however, it became obviously staged for the cameras. The first one of these successful shows was “The Osbournes” about a decade ago. Ozzie Osbourne was a big star with or without the show, but along the way these series began to pop up “starring” washed-up celebrities attempting to resurrect their careers. And eventually, you starting getting shows based on the lives of people who had never accomplished anything except that they have a recognizable name. Kardashians?

Another category of reality television is the “expert is gonna fix everything in an hour” show. It doesn’t matter if you have a failing restaurant, have a bad marriage, have nasty children or dogs that don’t behave, the expert will waltz into your home and miraculously fix everything by the time the show is over. In the meantime, that person will also subject you to ridiculous or even sadistic “challenges” that in many cases have nothing to do with your actual problem, but seem to make for better entertainment.

There are TV shows that follow businesses or professionals. There must be a dozen cake shows on TV, and at least a couple that make cupcake making look like a dangerous profession. No matter what you do in life, a camera crew is ready to follow you around. The thing is that a lot of the time they focus on personalities instead of the actual task at hand, and a good deal of the “drama” is obviously staged. Will they be able to fit the giant cake into the truck? - as the dramatic music plays as they break for commercial… Sometimes it is just laughable.

Then there is the reality show that focuses on groups of people. They are usually young people who either are thrown into a house together or hang out all day. It’s not a problem for them, since many apparently don’t have a job, and never intend to get one. As pointed out in the beginning, these people are famous only because they are on a show in the first place. “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore” are good examples of this kind of “show”.

And finally, there is American Idol and all the sad and very poor imitations that have filled the airwaves since it debuted. On these shows, groups of people are subjected to another version of the “vote off”, only this time it is done by the public. The fact that it is probably the same miniscule group of people voting 50 times a piece should not take away from the drama of it all. These shows create their own “brand” of stardom. What is an “American Idol“ or a “Masterchef“? They are titles created by the producers of those shows, that otherwise don’t really mean anything. On a show like Idol, with rare exception, the most talented performers have gone on to great fame without having won the whole thing. Of course, the exposure didn’t hurt…

It’s really amazing to see how many reality shows are on the air today and what they are about. Some are just too ridiculous for words and you just can‘t believe they exist. Just look through some of the titles on this list and try not to laugh! The fact remains though that somebody must be watching…

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Great Ice Storm of 1998

We have reached yet another anniversary of the Great Ice Storm of 1998. It began in Montreal on January 5th of that year. The storm hammered the Montreal area. Not only was Montreal affected, but so was a wide area of southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. There was also ice accumulation in New Brunswick. Northern New York and Vermont were also hit hard.

Nobody really saw the storm coming. Three storm waves of freezing rain came through and lasted for 80 consecutive hours. Some parts of the affected region were hit with 100mm of ice or more.

Life in Montreal become paralyzed as the ice continued to accumulate. Roads were almost impassable, and travel became nearly impossible as the bridges and tunnels to and from the island of Montreal were shut down. People would literally stuck on the island.

By far the biggest impact of the storm was on the power grid. Ice accumulation brought down immense hydro pylons, cutting power to huge population centres. For a time, around 4 million people were without power, and most of them were in Quebec. it would take weeks, if not months to restore power for some. The power situation was particularly brutal on the South Shore. Montreal’s water treatment plants were also affected by the power outages and people were forced to boil their water.

Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick requested the Canadian military be called in on January 7th. About 16,000 troops would help with rescue and clearing operations. It was the largest non-combat-related military mobilisation in Canadian history. Municipalities also set up special centres to house people who had lost power. Some people were afraid to leave their homes for fear they would be looted.

By the time the storm ended on January 10th, 28 people had died in Canada, and most of them died of hypothermia. The cost of the damage was estimated to be over $2 billion in Quebec alone. Harm was also done to the landscape. Over 80 per cent of Mount Royal’s trees were damaged, and 5000 of them would have to be cut down. Farms were devastated and the maple syrup industry was also hard hit.

As far as radio was concerned, the storm knocked out CJAD's antenna. They would reach a deal with CKGM to broadcast on 990 kHz for several months until their signal was re-established on 800 AM. Many listeners switched over to the now-defunct CIQC when CJAD got knocked out. That resulted in them gaining a whole new audience. They were not able to translate that into any long-term success, and most listeners returned to CJAD once they got back on the air.

Some smaller Montreal stations also managed to stay on the air despite the ice. I've heard stories of how CINQ continued to broadcast using auxiliary power. Yes, the Internet was around by 1998, but when the power grid goes down, just about everything else goes down with it. Even if you have battery power for your computer or mobile device, the relay centres may be overwhelmed or down. You may have to go back to the basics and get your local information from old-fashioned terrestrial radio.

Here are some classic Ice Storm YouTube clips from January 1998: