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The end of SNL Québec? (#216)

Télé-Québec (Québec’s public television broadcaster, but perhaps only in fourth of fifth place in terms of ratings among non-specialty channels) is currently undergoing a round of budget cuts.

Last September, they launched Saturday Night Live Québec (SNL Québec).  The novice comedians of the new series became instant stars and household names across Québec and Francophone Canada.   They have since forged a high-profile media presence for themselves on talk shows, at comedy festivals, and in television and media in general.  In a nutshell, SNL Québec allowed us to view the making of new TV stars (and boy, have they been high-profile the last few months).

However, the nature of Télé-Québec’s cutbacks have finally hit home, and they had to cancel SNL Québec.   Last night’s airing could very well have been the LAST episode ever made.

For the moment, you can still view prior SNL episodes on Télé-Québec’s website, here:  http://snlquebec.telequebec.tv/emissions

I’ve seen it mentioned in the media a few times that Télé-Québec is trying to sell the program to a different network- but only time will tell if they succeed.

Regardless of whether or not another network buys the show, the following TV stars have been born and are taking new roles across all media platforms:

  • Phil Roy
  • Virginie Fortin
  • Mathieu Quesnel
  • Léane Labrèche-Dor
  • Pier-Luc Funk
  • Katherine Levac 

The show may have come to an abrupt end, but I have a feeling these six individuals will continue to be highly visible for many years to come.

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Real-life documentary: Le Garage, “Bienvenue chez Normand” (#215)

This documentary, “Le Garage”, caught my eye the moment I first saw a short 20 second clip, and now I’m hooked!

I’ll provide you with trailers, and an official link for online viewing a little further below.

This is one of the most “real” documentaries I think I have ever seen.  I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before; one which has surprisingly left me with a feeling of having a strange bond with the people featured in it, despite never having met them.

At the very bottom, I’ll provide you with links to official sites where you can watch the full hour-long documentary, officially approved for internet viewing.

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The Trailer:  Here’s how the film maker, Michel Demers, describes his film (translation) : “It is along the banks of the North Coast where we find The Garage.  Between forest and sea, adults, children, and grand-parents all gather in the garage to tell their stories and to gossip.  In an atmosphere in which everyone has each other’s back, you can sample the moose meat, trout, and mussels that everyone has pitched in to bring home together.  Norman and his sons are mechanics, and are under the ever-so-watchful eyes of those who drop in and who watch from the side-lines”.

C’est à Longue-Rive sur La Côte-Nord que nous retrouvons LE GARAGE. Entre mer et forêt, adultes, enfants et grands-parents s’y rencontrent pour raconter histoires et menteries. Dans une atmosphère de solidarité et d’entraide, on déguste orignal, truites et moules que l’on a capturé ensemble. Normand et ses fils y font de la mécanique sous les yeux des gens qui “veillent” dans le côté salon.

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THE STORY LINE:

The film maker’s brother, Norm, lives in a very small village, Longue-Rive, in the relatively remote region known as Québec’s North Shore.    Norm is a mechanic in the village, and works out of his garage set up on his property.   In small towns and villages across Canada, particularly those which are quite remote, neighbours have grown up together and/or know each other very well.   In such places, people often do not lock their doors at night, and villages take on a family atmosphere of sorts (you can walk into your neighbour’s homes without knocking, everyone knows where everyone’s chilren are at all times, and adults spend a lot of time with each other.

Map1

Map2

In Longue-Rive, there is no bar or cafe.  But the blue-collar nature of the small town makes it so everyone has a garage where they work (either professionally or as a hobby), and everyday life revolves around the garage (much like everyday life may have revolved around kitchens 50, 70 or 100 years ago).

I’ve personally driven through Long-Rive a while back, as well as many other communities like it along the North Shore, and all across Canada.  In villages like these, it tends to be more cultural the norm, rather than the exception, to see homes with detached garages, in which residents work or whittle away their time (even in my own family, we I have a number of relatives whose lives semi-revolve around their garage).

Culturally, it is very Canadian to see this phenomenon in remote, rural settings, in all provinces.   It’s something I have never really thought of before, but I think it’s an aspect of our rural culture.    It’s a part of our culture which the film maker, Michel Demers, has captured beautifully.

In the absence of a bar or café in town, Norm’s garage doubles as the local hang-out for family and friends.  People drop by in their free time, pull up a chair (or a “living room recliner”) and meet for a beer, to chat, to eat, organize group activities and just pass away the time.  And it’s not only the village men who have turned Norm’s garage into their local “hang-out”.  Women and children also gather to gossip, joke, and play.

Because everyone shares the same lifestyle (a love of the outdoors, catching up on community news, bonding as a community, hunting, trapping, fishing, clam digging, ski-dooing, etc.), there are more than enough topics for everyone to talk and laugh about.  There is rarely a dull moment.  People bond, and the entire village becomes one big family.

WHAT I TOOK AWAY FROM WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY:

What I love about the film is its simple and genuine nature, its innocence, and how life is uncomplicated for those we see on the screen.  If one member of the community falls on hard times, there will be a whole network of others around to help pick him/her up by their bootstraps and step in until that individual is back on their feet.

Although I now living in our largest city (with Toronto at the heart of the “Golden Horseshoe” which counts over 10 million people), and even though I have lived in a few cities overseas which have ranged from 8 million, to 17 million, to 25 million people people, a film like this still resonates so strongly with me because I see so many echoes of my own early childhood in it;  be it clam-digging close to home with my family, ski-dooing with my dad and his buddies, spending time with my dad as he did odd things around his own garage, or simply growing up in a small, isolated community in which neighbours spent the bulk of their time together.  I talked about many of these things in a couple of earlier posts:

It find it quite interesting that so many aspects of life on the North Coast of Québec (where the St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic) are almost identical to many aspects of life on the North Coast of British Columbia (where the Skeena meets the Pacific), and a good number of other places.  Fascinating stuff!

INTERNATIONAL SCREENINGS:

Apart from the various Canadian cities in which this documentary has or will be screened (both inside and outside of Québec), it is also set to be screened or has been screened in cities as far away as Moscow, Marseilles, Brussels, Chicago and Mexico.

A NOTE ON THE STYLE OF FRENCH USED :

The French accents and expressions spoken are those commonly heard in Québec’s North Coast region.   This style of French has more in common with French spoken in Québec’s Gaspé region, the Atlantic Province’s Acadian regions, and the older generations of Prairie French speakers than it does Western Québec (which includes Montréal) or Ontario.   (You can click the above links for more information on these various accent styles).

However, if your French is at an upper advanced level, and if you’re used to hearing a couple of different Canadian French accents to a fluent level, you should not have much difficulty understanding what is being said.   Just be aware that even if your French is perfectly fluent, or even if French is your first language (such as for those from Montréal or Québec City), but if you are not used to hearing a North Coast accent, the super-strong accents of a couple of Normand’s buddies may throw you off here and there (there were a couple of times when I had to rewind to catch the words in a couple of different phrases).

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SOME ADDITIONAL OUT-TAKES:

Here are some clips of people in the documentary talking about their lives and their”Garage” culture:

Here are some clips of reactions from local residents in Long-Rive when they first viewed a showing of “Bienvenue chez Normand”.

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The documentary’s official website: http://www.micheldemers.com/?cat=67

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HOW TO VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY ONLINE, FOR APPROVED VIEWING:

The documentary will be available on Radio-Canada’s “Tou.tv” website for free viewing until approximately September 2015.

The direct link is as follows:    http://ici.tou.tv/les-grands-reportages/S2015E189

Subtitles (in French) are available in the video if you need them (click the subtitle button at the the bottom of the screen).

Happy viewing !!

Even the media can have a bad day, week… or year (#211)

A little bit of warning:  If you have wine, beer, or something stiffer in your cupboards, you may want to grab a glass of it now… because you’re going to need a drink after reading this.

If you are already well-versed in Canada’s & Québec’s political spectrum, you can skip much of this post and go straight down to the section entitledHow the media’s elastic band became stretched (below).

The first half of this post is going to give you some general information so that the second half makes sense.  This unfortunately is not the type of post that I can break up into smaller chunks, so bear with me.

This is a post about how political tension has been building in Québec’s media for years (particularly since the 2012 student protests – which you can read about by clicking here regarding an earlier post about Gabriel Nadeau Dubois), and how it appears that the elastic band just “broke”.   It will be interesting to see if someone pulls out a “new” elastic band in the coming weeks.

Backgrounder

I have always listened to a LOT of talk radio (both from English stations across Canada, and in French from both Québec & other provinces).  The French-language talk radio I tend to listen to the most are Radio Canada’s “Radio-Première”, primarily from Montréal and Toronto, as well as RCI’s Radio-X in Québec City.

As far as where these two radio stations sit on the socio-economic and political scale in Québec, you couldn’t get two radio stations further apart.

pty.stns

I find that in Québec, radio & TV media can be labelled on a wide-ranging scale in terms of “political ideologies” much more than in English Canada (people often talk about their choice of media in the same breath as their political allegiances).  It is quite interesting in this respect.  In English Canada, with the odd exception (such as the now-defunct Sun News, or certain talk radio stations / shows), people tend to think of English-language radio & TV media as fairly middle-of-the-road, with aspects which can appeal to people on all ends of the spectrum.

With this said, despite Radio-Canada often being grouped into a range which often appeals to certain personalities on the left, I do not believe the “bulk” of its programming venture too far beyond a “mid-range left”.  Of course, there are exceptions to this, and we can’t paint all programming or all hosts with the same brush.

In the same vein, Radio-X often is often labelled as a station which would appeal to those on “far” right.  However, although their programs have a good-deal of overlap with the Conservative party, I do not believe the “bulk” of their programming ventures much further to the right than perhaps what former Federal Progressive Conservative party occupied, or what the formal ADQ party in Québec occupied (however, they are not as “eco” as what the former federal PCs were, and their “eco” stance is one area where they very much overlap with the current Conservatives).  Despite being on the right-end of the Canadian spectrum, Radio-X does not have any religious element to it (Canada generally does not have any Federal parties which venture, on the whole, into religion politics — and where there is a religious element, it is often isolated to a small handful of “independently-minded” MPs or MLAs).

If we to compare where Québec’s TV & radio falls on a comparison with Canadian political partisan scale, the following chart can be quite telling.

pty.pstns

Here is what the chart looks like if we take out other Canadian parties, and just concentrate on those which are players in Québec (federal or provincial).pty.pstns.qc

Generally speaking, adherents who find their political voice reflected on the political chart will also find their voice reflected in the same corresponding range on the media chart.   Take a look at both of the media & political charts, and see if you can line up which media best fits the physical locations of various political parties on the same scale.   This is important, because it plays into the rest of this blog post.

Some side-remarks regarding the political chart:

Because so many parties are so close on the political spectrum (even if their platforms are different), it’s all in the nuances.

In the above chart, although I didn’t mention it, the various NDP & Liberal provincial parties would be roughly positioned in the same place as the Federal NDP & Liberals.  For the sake of reference, I threw in some provincial parties outside of Québec (since there is a variance between the provincial PC parties… Alberta’s is a prime example of one of the PC parties which has made a slight shift to the left over the past 3 to 4 years).

Also, you will note that there is a great deal of overlap between all parties in Canada (mostly concentrated within a couple notches of what would be considered Canada’s “centre”).   Because of this overlap, much of our Canadian politics come down to:

  • (1)  Personality politics of the leader (or of the individual MP, MLA, MPP, or MNA at a local level)
  • (2)  Individual platform issues, rather than an overriding vote for a party as a whole (It is for this reason why we see elections boil down to 3 or 4 major issue demarcations, even if those 3 or 4 issue only constitute 10 or 20% of a party’s overall platform).
  • (3) Voters, like myself, carry a very mixed bag of viewpoints.  What that means is that many voters see constructive views from all ends of the spectrum.  Take me for example:  I know where I stand on many individual issues, but my views are not “partisan” or particular to any one party.  Rather, I have issue-by-issue views which are liable to shift with time, as I become better informed, or with circumstances.   Come election time, I, like many (or most) Canadians try to find the party which best matches perhaps 65-70% of my own issue-by-issue views.  No party will every match all of an individual’s views 100%.  But if I find a party at election time which matches 65-70% of my views, then I’m comfortable when I cast my vote.  But if there is a party which matches every one of your views, you should be a lottery ticket!   In fact, considering our parliamentary style of democracy and how many choices we have out there, this approach is very “Canadian”.  It’s an approach which is generally quite practical, efficient and effective, not to mention very reflective of how a good portion of Canada’s population votes.   And more importantly, it seems to work (after all, we don’t have deadlock for a lack of political options or platforms out there)

These three elements are also the primary reasons why the average Canadian voter is more apt to change their vote from one election to another.   There tends to be much less “party loyalty” or “lifelong loyalty” in Canada than exists in other countries – likely because there is so much overlap.  It just takes one or two major platform issues, or the right (or wrong) personality to come along, and the average person will be more apt to change their vote in a heartbeat (otherwise we would never see polls in Canada shift to the extent that they do, sometimes right up to election day).

Considering that I regularly listen to both Radio-Canada and Radio-X (which are supposedly at “opposite ends of the scale”) I find it fascinating that elements of all these media, as well as the written press (which I didn’t place on this chart) are so often at each other’s throats!   They sometimes hurl accusations at each other even louder and more spiteful than any ruckus in the House of Commons, as if they’re yelling at their worst enemies.

As I continue to write this post, I want to emphasize that,

  1. I’m not a member of any political party, and
  2. I’m not taking a partisan stance as I write the rest of this post (Politically speaking, I’m going to approach the rest of this post as objectively as I can).

How the media’s elastic band became stretched

For about the last three to four years, private talk radio station hosts, newspaper columnists, members of the artistic community (some of whom happen to be hosts at Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec and TVA), and certain television program hosts on all TV networks have been engaged in a verbal tug-of-war – Mostly between the Left and the Right.   Because Québec City’s media is more to the “right”, whereas Montréal’s media is more to the “Left”, this verbal war has also taken on a somewhat “geographic” form (Québec against Montréal, and vice-versa).

The geographic aspect to this verbal media war is much more talked about in Québec City than it is in Montréal.  People in Québec City are much more “aware” of this geographic war of ideologies, perhaps owing to the fact that Montréal doesn’t pay much attention to Québec City’s media, whereas people in Québec City are accustomed to seeing Montréal’s media.  People in Québec City are also much more aware that Québec generally votes to the “right” of the centre line, whereas Montréal generally votes to the “left” of the centre line.

When Montréal’s media takes aim at anything right of centre, I get the impression that Montréal’s Left believes its Left-leaning media is scoring unhindered, unchallenged political points … whereas nothing could be further from the truth.   The moment Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media takes a shot at the “Right” (usually the Conservatives, but also the CAQ, anyone who takes a union to task, budgetary restraint issues, certain industries associated with a rightist perception such as oil, etc.), Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media, within hours, goes bazerk!   The phone lines of Québec City’s talk show programs light up, Québec city twitter accounts smoke from being overworked, and Québec City newspaper columnists put pen to paper for the next day’s editions – all to counter the shots fired from Montréal’s Left-leaning columnists and media programs.   But what I find extremely interesting is that when Québec City’s media also goes on the offensive, most of the time Montréal just yawns, or doesn’t even notice.

How the elastic band finally broke

Since 2011/2012, I’ve been hearing Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media cry foul.   For lack of a better word, they feel that Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media has high-jacked the province’s political scene.  Whether that’s accurate or not, I’m not too sure (everyone is able to vote, after-all, and certain regions and the province as a whole has taken a few sharp turns towards both the right and the left over the last couple of decades).

But needless to say, since the 2012 student protests, the elastic band of this Left-Right war of words has been getting

tighter…

… and tighter

… and tighter

And the elastic band broke!

Something huge happened about a month ago.   It was so big in fact, that I have been holding my breath for the last four weeks, patiently waiting for follow-up reactions in the media…

Here is what happened:

First I will say that I believe Radio-Canada, for the most part, does a very good job of remaining neutral (most of the time).  They are a big organization, with many different personalities – sometimes very strong personalities.   However, I believe that the majority of their on-air (and off-air) personalities do a commendable job of keeping any political affinities hidden from the public (as they should).  The fact that I have difficulty guessing the political inclinations of most on-air Radio-Canada personalities speaks volumes (in a good sense).

But something went “astray” at Radio-Canada last month which I think is representative of numerous media outlets in Montréal – and they found themselves in the centre of this verbal media war of ideologies.  I’m guessing this incident only involved a few strong-headed, opinionated individuals.  But those individuals were aparently able to get their fingers on the “broadcast” button — which broke the elastic band.

A little bit of background:  The Conservatives cut almost $200 million from Radio-Canada/CBC’s budget last year, which resulted in 800+ people being layed off.  Radio-Canada employees held protest rallies and even a massive on-air protest concert.  You can see people at Rad-Can are not happy. (As an aside, the federal Liberals cut $400 million from Radio-Canada/CBC in the 1990s, but I don’t think we ever saw the same extent of displeasure towards the Liberals, at least not on the air).

With this backgrounder in mind, here are the events which lead to the elastic breaking:

In August 2014, Radio-Canada aired the anti-Harper documentary, “La droite religieuse au Canada”.  This is possibly the most politically controversial Canadian documentary of the past 30 years (or at least since Denys Arcand’s “On est au coton”).   After it aired in August, the Prime Minister’s head of communications publicly condemned Radio-Canada, stating that he “feared his worse suspicions about Radio-Canada were true”.  The Radio-Canada/CBC Ombudsman became involved.  The Ombudsman stated that the documentary’s airing did not meet the corporation’s standards requiring the organization to remain politically neutral.

The documentary purports that Steven Harper’s entire basis for being in politics is to align himself, and Canada’s governance, with Israel — so as to prepare himself and the world for the second coming of Christ, thus allowing him, his followers, and Alberta to go to Heaven.   I’m not BS’ing you here! (I couldn’t make this kind of stuff up, even if I tried).  If you don’t believe me, then click on the above link to watch the documentary yourself.  The link will take you to Radio-Canada’s own online re-broadcast site.  The documentary is an hour-long.

For a very long time (years), Québec City’s Right-leaning media had been going nuts over this type of bias, and have consistently cried foul over these types of things.  For months they beefed up their condemnations of Radio-Canada, of Montréal’s Left-leaning media (be it Télé-Québec, Rad-Can, newspaper columnists) and of the province’s very politically-vocal union movements.  In the meantime, Montréal’s media (both television and written press, as well as Montréal’s based union federations) stepped up their attacks of anything right-of-centre.

The elastic band got tighter…

… and tighter…

… and tighter.

Everything came to a head the last half of February 2015.  Get ready for this (grab that drink if you haven’t already… because you’re not going to believe this…):

  • On February 9, 2015, the host of a gourmet-cooking television show on Radio-CanadaChristian Bégin, took take part in anti-Québec-Liberal demonstration in a distant region of Québec.  He joined the unions to very publicly protest provincial Liberal budget cutbacks.  He appeared on television shouting and screaming in the name of anti-Liberal protestors.   This caught the ire of Québec City’s right-leaning media.   Québec City’s media tore into him, as did the very few elements of the Right-leaning written press in Québec.
  • On Feb 11, 2015, Lise Ravary, one of the few Federalist and Right-of-Centre columnists at the Journal de Montréal, wrote a column condemning Bégin’s actions.  In her newspaper column, she took personal shots at him for living the high-life, with a high salary paid by taxpayers (at Radio-Canada), and labelled him as a hypocritical, wine-sipping, gourmet loving bourgeois who is all talk, but doesn’t care about the little guy for whom he was protesting (Ouch!  Harsh! — now you can see they type of verbal war that has been going on since the 2012 student protest, between both sides!).  Rather, she charged that his protest was motivated by political reasons (against the Liberals, versus truly caring about the little guy).   She called him and those like him “La gauche champagne” (which means the “Champagne Left”).   [Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the expression in Europe would be “La Gauche caviar“, which is slightly different from our expression in Canada].  This garnered a lot of attention in the media (both Left and Right), and all media circles (the Right, the Left, sovereignists who traditionally lean Left, federalists who are traditionally lean Centre or Right-of-Centre, artists, columnist, etc)…  basically, everyone went to town over this one.   It was a verbal brawl like I haven’t seen for a very long time – and once again, it happened over the airwaves.
  • Around Feb 12, a host of Radio-Canada’s radio show “La soirée est encore jeune” sought revenge and took direct aim at the columnist Lise Ravary, calling her an “idot” (une dinde) on air, as well as taking aim at Québec city radio stations Radio-X and FM93, calling them “garbage”, and going so far as to lump anyone who is right-of-centre in the same category (again… this is what has been happening for 3 to 4 years, and it has been getting more and more out intense).
  • On February 13th, Québec City’s 93FM and Radio-X “let into” Radio-Canada and its program “La soirée est encore jeune”.  Radio-X’s host, Dominic Maurais, said he heard Rad-Can was going to move “La soirée est encore jeune” from the radio to television in order to give it more “visibility”. Maurais basically gave Radio-Canada a direct on-air warning, stating (actually, yelling, on air) that if Radio-Canada dares to make such a move by moving this program from the radio to television, considering that this program regularly blasts anything right of centre, that it will wake the dragon and will spell the end of Radio-Canada.   Radio-X basically stated that the cuts Radio-Canada was subjected to from the Federal government will be nothing compared to what they will suffer should “La soirée est encore jeune” be moved from radio to television.   Maurais basically told Radio-Canada to get ready to be privatized if things continue as they are.
  • I believe it was around Feb 14th, right after the above, when Radio-Canada aired a very peculiar episode of its popular prime-time family sitcom “Les Parents” (kind of like a Radio-Canada produced version of “Different Strokes”).  In this episode, the Radio-Canada scriptors took direct aim at the Right leaning Conservative Party by having the actors say that it is an embarrassment if a family has children who support the Conservatives.  In this prime-time episode, one of the children of the fictional sitcom family said that he wanted to grow up to be a Conservative so he could “change everything in the world”.  (Again, I’m not kidding you!).  His parents (in the show) told him he wasn’t raised like that, and to not tell anyone that he wants to be a Conservative.  Whoa!!  Holy Crap!    The next day, independent media again went nuts with this one.   Radio-Canada was blasted.
  • On February 15th, Harper made the unprecedented decision to wade into this very public spat himself (I was completely shocked it got to this point! — I’m not saying he was wrong, but holy smokes… I couldn’t believe it actually got to this point)  Harper granted an interview to Right-wing journalist Éric Duhaime of Québec City’s right-of-centre FM93 (the second most popular talk-radio station in Québec City).  Harper stated he (quote) “believed there are anti-Conservative elements inside Radio-Canada with an agenda against him”.
  • I believe it was the same day as Harper’s FM93 interview that Radio-Canada aired, unbelievably, for a second time, “La droite religieuse au Canada”— the documentary which alleges Prime Minister Harper’s entire agenda is to religiously rule and align Canada with Isreal so as to await the second coming of Christ so he can go to Heaven (without giving a “rat’s behind” about Québec, might I add — at least that’s the gist of the “documentary”).
  • Usually when I wake up in the morning, I grab my iPad and quickly skim the headlines before crawling out of bed.  The next morning, I just about fell out of bed when I read the the #1 headline on Radio-Canada’s website at 7:00am – the morning of February 16th.  Quote: “Steven Harper believes many Radio-Canada employees “Hate” Conservative Values” (the link for the article is here: “Beaucoup d’employés de Radio-Canada « détestent » les valeurs conservatrices, croit Stephen Harper”).   

So how did this very public p@##ing contest… er … media catastrophe from hell… er…  spat all end?   Well it looks like Radio-Canada’s senior management must have become involved.  By 10:00 or 11:00am, the above article was no longer anywhere to be found on Radio-Canada’s main webpage.  I’m guessing it must have been ordered taken down by someone higher up in management who wanted put an immediate end to this drama of epic tempertantrum proportions “innocent misunderstanding”.   The above article was taken down, moved and buried where nobody could find it… at the very bottom of an off-shoot page in the political section of Radio-Canada’s website.   This was the first time I had ever seen Radio-Canada take down a headline article within 3 or 4 hours of posting it.  I can just picture the emergency meetings senior management must have held on the top floors of the Radio-Canada tower that morning.  What I would not have given to have been a fly on their wall that morning!

I suppose this sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time in every media organization.   But considering the background of this last incident, I was surprised more self-restraint was not exercised much much earlier.

Regardless, it appears that everyone is now finally exercising a great deal of “lip-biting” self-restraint.   I have been waiting, watching and listening since the end of February – but for the first time since the 2012 student protests, everything seems to gone silent in this vicious Montréal-Québec, Left-Right tussle — on all sides.  I guess the elastic band did finally break.

But guess what’s right around the corner… Union backed student & street protests against Liberal government cutbacks.  I have a funny feeling it may soon be a case of “here we go all over again”.

As an aside, just so you know that these sorts of episodes of crazy manipulative mania can happen in English Canada too… I can give you a similar recent example of where a few over-zealous employees at the CBC pulled a similar stunt.  It happened when CBC decided to air the hour-long documentary “The Psychopath Next Door” (a documentary on what clinically defines a psychopath).  CBC aired this documentary in the time slot just before it aired the Fifth Estate’s hour-long episode “The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi”, (a investigative reporting program which investigated Jian Ghomeshi).  “Coincidentally” the Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi gave all the same psychopathic signs mentioned in the earlier clinical documentary.  Don’t even try to tell me CBC’s back-to-back airing for two straight hours was not a coincidence;  it sure looked like an effort on the part of CBC to seal-the-fate of Ghomeshi in the minds of the public, but more significantly, to deflect public criticism away from how the CBC handled the whole Ghomeshi affair, and shift more anger towards Ghomeshi (sneaky!).   Frankly, it was morally and ethically wrong on the part of the CBC to air the clinical documentary right before they aired their investigative report on Jian Ghomeshi, regardless of the allegations against Ghomeshi.

But with all this said and done… fortunately I still believe that the vast majority of Rad-Can’s  & CBC’s employees and management do their best to remain (and succeed in being) neutral, and do not, nor would not act on any sort of hidden agenda.  Most people who work at Rad-Can are just normal people, raising normal families, and trying to make both ends meet.  Personally, I have met a good number of people over the years within the organization, and have followed the organization for long enough to allow me to believe otherwise (the vast majority are normal people like you or me who would never pull these kinds of stunts).

I think the issue simply came down to a question of the sheer size of Radio-Canada, with hundreds and hundreds of employees.  In an organization of this size, you’re bound to get a few very opinionated individuals (even if they are not the majority) who will make the odd poor decision and who will goof up.

As with anything in life, it’s always the most vocal ones, or the most opinionated ones whose opinions tend to come across the strongest (or push the broadcast button the quickest).  Thus these few high-profile people sometimes tend to give rise to our media outlets acquiring an undeserved bad rap (on the radio, on TV, and in the written press).

I’m not going to give a shortlist of who I think these individuals are, but as you acquaint yourself with various media, you’ll soon find out who I’m talking about – on the Left, in the Centre, and on the Right.

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Addendum:  

27 March, 2015 — things still seem “quiet” on the Radio-Canada front.  Additional Rad-Can job cuts were announced yesterday, but people did not make a spectacle or flip-out over it over the public airwaves (which is something which occurred in the past).  Curiously, Marie-France Bazzo announced her departure today from Radio-Canada as of April 2015.  She very much was one of the on-air personalities who embodied a very public anti-right-of-centre standpoint.  The reasons invoked for her departure from Radio-Canada were “divergent viewpoints” between her and Radio-Canada management as to which direction her popular morning talk-show “C’est pas trop tôt!” should take (the flagship morning show of Radio-Canada).  I wonder how this little event fit into all of the above.  Again, what I would have given to have been a fly on the wall in Radio-Canada’s executive offices when these “divergent viewpoints” were being discussed.  😉 .  (Radio-Canada’s Bazzo’s announcement of her departure, with audio clip (curt, short, and very low-key… makes you wonder what happened):  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/arts_et_spectacles/2015/03/27/001-bazzo-emission-radio-canada.shtml

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-10

I’m still watching, and listening – across all media platforms, to try to figure out what the next chapter in all of this will be.

Quite interestingly, PKP has become the head of the Parti Québécois since the above spats.  It has become more than obvious that a good number of reporters, radio hosts, and television hosts on the left, centre and right so not like PKP and the PQ’s choice in having him as the head of their party.   This “less-than-kind” temperment for PKP (and coincidentally his wife, Julie Snyder) seems to have “united” the media across Québec, regardless if the media personalities are Federalist or Sovereignist, or left, right or centre.

Media elements which usually compete (and take shots at each other) on an ideological basis seem to have lost interest in each other for the first time in years.  Rather, they’re all focusing on what is happening within in the PQ (giving the PQ largely disproportionate news coverage — and often not good new coverage).   This in itself is quite interesting.

This is not to say that competing media elements have ceased taking shots at other media elements with opposing ideological standpoints (I still am hearing cheap-shots being taken on a range of issues), but PKP and his wife’s (Julie Snyder’s) political activism has certainly monopolized much of Québec’s media’s overall energies.

The winner in all of this?  The Provincial Liberal Couillard government (who is not being severely criticized, even from those who are usually most critical of the provincial Liberal camp – namely left-wing sovereignists).  Also, the Federal left-wing NDP party… and now even the Federal Right-wing Conservative party seem to be getting a free ride owing to a lack of airtime stemming to PKP having sucked all the oxygen from the room.

Intriguing stuff.  I can’t wait for the post-summer election season drama to resume in a few weeks to see where this all goes.  With the media squarely focused on PKP (namely against PKP), such a fragmentation of media attention could have an unintended impact on Federal election results.

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-28

It’s the middle of summer and good grief!  It seems to be starting again.

A show on Montréal based Radio-Canada lit into a show on Québec City based Radio X (you can listen to it here:  (Radio-Canada entretient sa guerre contre CHOI)

And Radio X let into Radio-Canada.  You can listen to it here:  Les Salaires à Radio-Canada.

Well, at least it makes for great entertainment.

ADDENDUM:  2015-09-12

Yup, we’re seeing the two “factions” back at each other’s throats again (Sigh x 10!).

Radio-X is all over Rad-Can for what they see as leftist and political bias from 24/60 and a hate-on coming from La Soirée est encore jeune.   They’re also lambasting Montréal’s media (and particularly Radio-Canada) for what they perceive as a continued news bias against anything right of centre.

As for Rad-Canada, Le Devoir, and other Montréal media plaftorms, we’re seeing the same mud being slung towards Québec City and the people of Québec for their overall right-of-centre standpoints.  One Radio-Canada program when so far as to call people from Québec City “des Mongols” – “Mongolians” in English – which is an extremely derogatory term for people with down-syndrome… making fun of their eyes, facial features and intelligence.  http://www.lapresse.ca/arts/medias/201506/17/01-4878745-la-soiree-est-encore-jeune-plongee-dans-une-crise-mediatique.php  

Wow… really really wow!  Unbelievable.  Here we go again!

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Post related to all of the above:  Le Plateau (#72)

Separate blog which regularly writes on the above topics:  http://www.cliqueduplateau.com/

Almost a weekly institution: La Semaine Verte (#209)

If you have gone through the Links page, you’ll notice that I’ve been fiddling with it, adding things, and re-wording things (even right up until a few minutes ago).

One of the links I added was for a TV program called “La Semaine Verte” (The Green Week), which is broadcast every week on Radio-Canada.  This is an intriguing television show on Radio-Canada.  You can watch the episodes online.

As the climate changes and the world’s population increases, the need for sustainable, higher-yielding & more productive agricultural practices will increase.   To achieve this increase in agricultural output, farmers and the livestock / aquaculture industry are always on the look-out for new technologies, better practices, new ideas, or sometimes ways to simply go back to nature.

This show is precisely about these practices.  It’s sort of like a “Popular Mechanics” magazine program for agriculture and the livestock / aquaculture industries.  It’s delivered in short, documentary-style segments.   (For those of you in Western Canada, it’s almost as if The Prairie Farm Report meets The Nature of Things).   Fascinating stuff… It’s really too bad there’s nothing else quite like it in English Canada (and I’m not sure there’s anything else like it in North America).

The show has been on the air for more than 35 years!!  In that sense, it could be considered an “Institution of Québec Culture” in and of itself.

Perhaps its popularity, even with urbanites, comes from the fact that Québec has always been conscious of the management and eco-practices associated with its natural resources and environment.   With the exception of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region (a 10 hour drive North of Montréal), there is only a thin band of highly productive agricultural land on either side of the St. Lawrence River.   It’s a place where agricultural land is in intense competition with towns and cities (this is where 85% of Québec’s population also resides).

In the early 1980s, the René-Levesque government famously passed “ground-breaking” legislation (no pun intended) to protect remaining agricultural land from the encroachment of cities (something all people in Québec have to learn about in school).   That’s likely one of the reasons why “La Semaine Verte” remains such a popular show (if there is only so much land to go around, and if it is not an infinite resource, then it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure it is managed as best as possible using the latest technology, sometimes even bordering on “Star-Wars” technology).

Check out some of its episodes.  You can stream them on the show’s official website here:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/La-semaine-verte/2014-2015/episodes

If you’re learning French, this would be a good show to help you develop an earn and increase your vocabulary.  It is narrated in an average (not too fast) pace, in International French, and it can offer you a host of new vocabulary about farming, industry and environmental matters.

It’s broadcast on Radio-Canada every Saturday at 5:20pm, rebroadcast every Sunday at 12:30pm, and again on RDI every Saturday at 6pm.   It’s broadcast coast-to-coast to all residents across Canada.

An embarrassing example of the “Two Solitudes” (#197)

Yesterday I wrote this post in a different format.  But after sleeping on it for a few hours, I realized the way I originally wrote it was not fair to Toronto, or its people as a whole.  The comments the post received were in agreement with what I initially wrote, but that doesn’t mean that how I wrote it was the right.   If anything, the way I initially wrote the post shows how emotional an issue this subject can be (if I became emotional about it sitting here in Toronto, that can give you an idea of how it might be going over with many people in Québec).

I’m backtracking and I’m re-writing a good chunk of the post.  Here is the re-written format…

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This post is going touch upon a sensitive subject which occurs often enough… so I’m going to raise the issue again.  It’s something more people should be aware of (especially in media circles).

Yesterday were the Canadian Screen Awards organized by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.  (Website: http://www.academy.ca/About-the-Academy).

In a nutshell, these awards could be considered the Canadian equivalent of the U.S.A.’s Oscars.

It’s a huge event.  It is wider in scope than the Oscars/Academy awards because it grants awards to both Canada’s movie and television industries in one fell swoop.   It is not a Francophone award ceremony, nor is it an Anglophone award ceremony.   The Canadian Screen Awards simply awards the best of the best in Canada, regardless of whether or not the recipients are Francophone or Anglophone.

The awards are held here in Toronto every year, and thus they are presented in English, in an English dominant environment (that of Toronto).   They are supposed to be an all-inclusive ceremony.

But what happened yesterday really drives home the notion of the Two Solitudes.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing – and it has garnered a lot of attention today in Québec.

Here is what happened.

Mommy is one of the most successful Canadian movies of the past 20 years, and one of the most successful movies in Canadian history – full stop.   After winning countless awards abroad over the past 10 months, Mommy finally had the opportunity yesterday to receive Canadian awards on home turf (apart from the Jutras which were held not long ago).   In Québec, over the last several days, there was much excitement, suspense and publicity in the run-up to yesterday’s awards in Toronto.

The movie, Mommy, is the creation of Xavier Dolan.  It is considered a Québec film (abroad it is often held up as a Canadian film), it was created in French, and was released in May, 2014.  Between May and now, Mommy basically won the prize for the “best film in the world” (for lack of a better term) at the Cannes Film Festival (the world’s most prestigious and well-known international film festival).  It also won many of the world’s other most prestigious film awards.

But here’s the crunch:  Yesterday Xavier Dolan and the film’s actors – who have been cheered and treated like super stars around the globe – showed up at the festival in Toronto, and guess what happened:    Unless they were wearing name tags, many people at the event didn’t know who they were, including those who were there to cover the event as media.

Because the event was broadcast live in Québec, the awkward treatment the film’s creator and cast received at the gala did not go over very well with influential individuals in Québec or members of the public.  A good number of people were hurt, angry, disappointed, and left confused.

Just to give you the context of how embarrassing this is, earlier this year, at the Cannes Festival  (attended by all of Hollywood and the who’s who of international film), Dolan and those who worked on Mommy were given an 8-minute standing ovation – yes… applause and cheers for a whole 8 minutes – by the biggest names in world of film.  Even the elite of the American media industry attended, stood and applauded for 8 minutes straight (Oprah, Spielberg, Brad Pitt, you name it, the list goes on).  This sort of accolade has never been given to a Canadian (or almost any other) film.

What happened last night when they won here in Toronto?  Polite, timid (and awkward) applause from the seated audience who generally did not know who they were.

I’m dumbfounded.

I’m still trying to make sense of it all.

Last fall, I watched Mommy in the theatres here in Toronto, and it was packed (it was playing in regular theatres).  Thus, what happened last night also took me off guard, as much as it did people in Québec.

I don’t want to bash the gala event, and I don’t want to bash Toronto either (after all, I love Toronto, its people, the vibe, its immigrants, immigrant communities and cosmopolitan nature.  I love its freshness).   But I am so embarrassed today by what happened at the awards ceremony.

I’m also quite embarrassed for the guests of the gala, because something like this could have been avoided.  What happened yesterday occurred at one event (it was not a city-wide occurrence – and I’m not sure the expectation should have been that it was a city-wide event).  Therefore, it could have been better contained with preventative management, and a bit of event-specific “education”.

It’s a sort of ignorance that is seen often enough at events like this, or though Toronto’s “national” media when covering matters which cross the linguistic lines   Yes, I see it in Toronto, but I have also seen it elsewhere in the country, AND I see also see it in reverse, in Francophone media, Francophone events and Francophone society.  It’s a two-way street.

However, the burden falls much heavier on Toronto’s media shoulder, more so than any other media in the country – precisely because Toronto’s media is Canada’s national English-language media epicentre. That’s a heavy burden for any city to have to carry.  But because Toronto’s media has this burden, they need to step up to the plate more so than elsewhere.  That does not only pertain to presenters on the screen, but also to local behind-the-screen support staff such as camera operators, researchers, and those who decide what to cover and how to cover it.  These people tend to be important in deciding who and what makes it on the screen, and how those subjects are portrayed to the public (ie: if a camera operator walks by the biggest star of an event because they don’t know who that person is, then that simple action has huge implications, as we saw last night).   It should be recognized that the support and technical staff are more apt to be hired from the general public in Toronto, and may not have had much interaction with Canada’s Francophone culture (or other aspects of Canadian culture outside Toronto).  Therefore there needs to be more education within those circles, or we’ll see more things occur like what happened at the gala awards.

The implications of this type of ignorance can be significant when such ignorance is broadcast into people’s homes, and when common people feel they have been slighted (the awards yesterday in Toronto were being followed live in Québec by a good deal of influential people – and thus the ignorance shown at the gala event spread like wildfire – the point that it made headline news in Québec).

I suppose it not only shows a that a much better effort could have been made on the part of the awards’ organizers to ensure that the event’s audience, staff and media were better informed regarding who was being invited (simple things like “promoting” the contents of the evening’s program and nominees), but it also serves to highlight that segments of society (and hence the media) need to be better informed about culturally significant matters across our French/English linguistic lines.

But every cloud has its silver lining – and here is this story’s silver lining:  Canada’s Anglophone media is very heavily concentrated in Toronto (that’s why we often hear the expression “Toronto-centric media”)   Because there is a very wide range of people working in Toronto’s media industry with very diverse personal backgrounds, it cannot be expected that everyone will be aware of culturally significant matters in Québec, matters across the linguistic divide, or elsewhere in Ontario or Canada (not everyone in Toronto’s media industry speaks French, or went through immersion, or has travelled, or has lived in Canada long enough to understand all of Canada’s cultural nuances – and that’s ok and normal — because people are people).   But this poses an amazing opportunity on a “national” level.  Because Canada’s “national” Anglophone media is so concentrated in one city – Toronto — it should not be very difficult to educate those who work in Canada’s national media – at least much more efficiently and effectively, than say, if our “national” media were spread across several cities (like it is in the US, with NY being one hub, LA another, and Atlanta another with CNN).

Therefore, if by chance, there are people working in the media who are not sensitive to what is going on beyond a 100km radius (even within Ontario), it is a situation which can, in theory, be addressed and corrected.

Here are a few of the dangers if things do not change:  (especially on the media front or regarding highly mediatized events):  Anglophone Canada’s media is watched and criticised in Québec (I would venture to say that Anglophone media is more visible in Québec than what Francophone’s media is outside Québec).  If the sort of ignorance we saw at the awards ceremony is not addressed, and that sort of ignorance is consistently conveyed by Anglophone Canada’s media, then there is a risk that all of Anglophone Canada will be labelled as being just as ignorant — and that’s precisely what happened yesterday evening at the awards ceremony, and it is continuing to play itself out today.  There are political implications to it.  People in the sovereignist camp in Québec has been tossing this one around like a hot-potato all day – they’re really running to town with it — and it is in their interest to see that the issue remains front-and-centre.  These types of things make an emotional impact, and emotions translate into how people vote.  It’s an issue.

This morning, the Radio-Canada (CBC French) headline in Québec was “Xavier Dolan feels the Two Solitudes at the Canadian Screen Awards”.  (The headlines should have been about the awards Mommy won at the gala).

Last night in Montréal, Xavier Dolan was interviewed on television on 24/60 byAnne-Marie Dussealt.   The interview devoted a significant segment to his reaction of what just happened in Toronto.  Dussealt is the Québec equivalent of Larry King (and 24/60 would be the equivalent of Larry King Live).   However, she’s probably a bit more like Piers Morgan because her own social & political views come across much more than what Larry King’s did.

She asked him what it was like to receive an award in Toronto.   Click HERE for the link to Radio-Canada’s article and the interview video on their official website.

Below, at the end of this post, I’m providing you with a translation of Dolan’s response to Dussault’s questions (it begins at 2:40 minutes, and ends at 7:50 minutes).

I have to admit, when Radio-Canada first published the article, they did not post the video, and they only quoted sound-bites.  The initial article was less-than-flattering (it left far too much to innuendo – and it went viral).   Comments flooded in over the course of the day, and now people are talking about this on the streets in Québec.   It’s not good.

Fortunately, Radio-Canada posted the video clip later in the day, and what Dolan actually said was much more nuanced than what the article first lead people to believe.   But unfortunately, damage has been done, and we’re now all painted as being completely ignorant in English Canada, and out of touch with reality or anything in Québec for that matter.

Likewise, I’m not sure that many people in Québec have the nuanced context to be able to distinguish sectors of Toronto’s media industry from the rest of ordinary people in English Canada (Toronto’s media industry is far too often is held up as being “representative” of Canada).

In this case, I truly believe it boils down to a question of Two Solitudes between “Québec & Toronto’s media industry” rather than “Québec and English Canada”.

Big sigh – truly.   Hopefully our mayor (of Toronto), John Tory, will jump in to say that what happened last night is not representative of most people in our city or of our country.   At least I hope he will.

TRANSLATION OF RELEVANT QUOTES FROM THE 24/60 INTERVIEW.

Question — Anne-Marie Dusseault:  What does it represent to you for your film to have had this sort of presence in Toronto?  What does this sort of recognition represent?  The Jutra awards are around the corner, I’m not sure if there is a hierarchy it.  There were the Caesars.  But what does your presence in Toronto represent?  Especially since I would say that it’s in a very particular universe for you.  

Answer — Dolan:  It’s a universe which is quite specific.  It’s one of English Canadian stardom.  Thus it has more to do with stars from English Canadian television.   I would venture to say that it’s owing more to this than the Gala groups together for both television and movies.

It’s rather strange because we arrived there on the red carpet.  And we were standing there on the red carpet.  And you know, despite all the euphoria going on around us – after all it was a ceremony like any other and we were happy that our work was noticed, appreciated by peers, highlighted… even if we didn’t win and were just nominated, regardless if it’s here, in France, or elsewhere… the effect is the same – we are always honoured that our work is recognized.

But in Toronto, we arrived on the red carpet, and without our name tags, the cards which actually had our names and who we were… the photographers were completely… you know…

Dusseault:  …lost !

Dolan:  … completely lost.  They had absolutely no idea who we were – which, without being pretentious, is rather peculiar.  You know, if you think about it, the film garnered a fair amount of good international success.  And… you know, one would like to think that Mommy is considered part of the…  … I consider that Mommy is part of Canadian films, as much as it Québécois.  In that sense, it represented Québec and Canada in all those foreign festivals, ceremonies, gala award events where it was nominated – that sort of thing.

But it’s still rather particular that we were presenting it in a universe where all the stars of English Canadian television …

Dusseault:  … don’t know who you are.  You’re a complete unknown to them.

Dolan:  It’s to say that the industry… those in the artistic community who sawMommy, they came up to us and they were proud of Mommy.   But apart from that, we could see we were in a world surrounded by a very specific English Canadian journalistic and photography corps which is… well, it’s now a cliché to say it, but it’s still an expression which aptly describes the situation – theTWO SOLITUDES.

I find it rather baffling and curious.  If you think about it, it’s really quite strange, because the gala started with a sort of “ode” to Canadian cinematography, in all its splendour and richness.  But we felt the estrangement… well, no, not estrangement, but rather… hmmm… perhaps “ignorance” towards Québec cinema in the overall picture of things.

Question — Dusseault:  I was kind of wondering this.  Right up to the last minute, we were not sure if you were going to be in Toronto, if you had the time to get there.   Did this make you ask yourself “What am I even doing here? What’s the point of being here?”… Right?

Answer — Dolan:  No, I didn’t ask myself “What am I doing here?” becauseMommy was a film financed by Telefilm Canada.  Factually speaking, let’s be honest;  it’s a film which was made in Canada and it’s a Canadian film.  Let’s not deviate from that, regardless of people’s political allegiances.  It was made within a certain artistic context – political also.   And I’m happy that theCanadian Industry Awards have recognized our work.  After all, it’s our peers who vote for who wins.   So in that sense, I don’t ask myself what’s the point of being there.  I’m happy we were there.   I’m of course happy that Anne was there, and that all the actors were there.

But the atmosphere, all-in-all, reveals… I have to say, a gulf between the two cultures, which would otherwise stand to gain if they were to learn from each other.

You know, I read the newspapers this morning.  English Canadian journalists, who were covering the ceremonies, made the point of saying that each year it is the same thing for them – that there will always be “one” Québécois film, without ever knowing what it will be, which will always triumph above the rest.  Then it will simply sweep all the prizes, and it will always irritate them.   But they still acknowledge it, and they write it.

So in that sense, the whole thing is just so interesting to watch itself play out, and to see the journalists talk about this.

Dusseault:  It is rather interesting to watch itself play out.  Yesterday I was following it on Twitter, and then I’d switch back-and-forth to CBC, and the awards were always making way for “English Canadian Television”.

Dolan:  In that sense, I’m not going to criticize them, because I understand their logic.  I get the impression that if they group together movies and television, it’s because in English Canada, what English Canadians know better than anything else in their own world are the stars of their television – those on CBC, CTV, on their national TV shows.   In a sense, it’s by formatting it this way that the gala event would make English Canadians want to tune in to it.   If they were to only celebrate English Canadian cinema (versus television), I’m not sure the gala event would attract many viewers.   Movies and television were separated in the past, and from what I understand, it didn’t work very well in that format.