Me during the broadcast of "Much On Demand" outside in front of the Muchmusic building in Toronto, ON on September 25, 2003.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Winnipeg's Media Personalities: Shiny Happy People.....Well, Except For Jen Zoratti

Why, Jen, Why?

I try to be a happy person and to do positive, fun, and positive-snarky tweets on Twitter. The only negative tweets I do are to some organization or policy that I feel has wronged my way of life in some form.

But a certain media person has made it extremely difficult to keep a smile on my face lately.

Since Twitter began, the biggest thing I have learned about posting on Twitter is it amplifies people's personalities to such a degree that the differences between people become more stark and palpable.

I enjoy following media people and sending them snappy/funny/snarky comments about the things they've written or said on TV or radio. Sometimes I give them a perspective they have forgotten about. Sometimes I add a joke to what they've said.

What do my comments get me? They get me likes and even follows from the happy, positive, upbeat personalities at places like CTV Morning Live and Energy 106. It's such a joy to watch and listen to those people.

And at the other end of the spectrum.......there is Winnipeg Free Press reporter Jen Zoratti.

The same types of comments I send everybody else have apparently caused Jen to block me on Twitter. I discovered this one day by accident. So I emailed her to ask why she was blocking me. Was it a specific tweet I wrote, and, if so, how did she see it? She wasn't following me, so my tweets wouldn't have been in her timeline. Did someone she was following like or retweet one of my tweets, or was she searching for a hashtag? You would think someone would show the proper common courtesy to answer the question of "why" when that person comes a'calling. But instead, Jen's reply to me asking her why she was blocking me on Twitter was, "Yes, I am blocking you on Twitter. No, it is not a mistake. Please stop contacting me."

What a stark contrast between this apparently sour, unpleasant person as compared to the wonderful, happy media personalities I mention above. But I follow media personalities who interest me, and Jen's Free Press stories interest me. I could speculate here on things I think she might take exception to on my Twitter feed as opposed to Winnipeg's other media personalities, but that would be useless because I would be assuming things about her that may not be true.

And that's it, re: her response. No indication of why. I DID contact her again to remind her she didn't tell me why, and she did not respond. I then contacted Winnipeg Free Press editor Paul Samyn, and he told me he would talk to Jen, but that he wouldn't force her to unblock anybody. I told him I wasn't necessarily looking to be unblocked, but to find out why Jen was blocking me. After a few weeks, I emailed him back to say, "How's this coming along?" No response. I emailed him again. No response. I sent the thread to Free Press co-owner Bob Cox. No response. I sent it again a few weeks later. No response.

Then I said to all three of them that I would do a Facebook post whenever I got around to it, with a meme of Jen that said something she would not like. Why would I do something like that? To make the crime fit the punishment. In other words, I would now be giving Jen a reason to block me on Twitter. We could have now said that she is blocking me on Twitter because I did that meme of her.

Alas, Facebook removed the post because it violated their terms of service. That post is essentially what you are reading now, with a few changes. But keep reading.

Then I received a letter from the Winnipeg Free Press' legal counsel informing me they had reported my post to Facebook. So that's how Facebook found it. Even if they didn't remove it, the lawyers demanded that I do it.

The issue isn't what you are reading now. It's what I had said in the meme.

After I replied to the lawyer who sent me the letter and she responded, I believe I have taken out any parts of what you are reading now that would constitute harassment or defamation. Oh, but I am leaving in the facts, and I am posting this here on The Beau Zone, as my original idea had been to repost the original Facebook post here before I discovered the lawyer's letter to me via email. So what's left, after deleting any illegal harassment or defamation sections from my post, are simply freedom of speech issues, which are not illegal.

I want everyone to know what kind of person Jen Zoratti apparently is!

And these are the facts. So YOU decide what kind of person she is based on these facts.

Jen is under no obligation to tell me why she blocked me on Twitter, of course, but, now, regarding that, let's get back to my email exchange with these people from seven paragraphs ago. So then Paul Samyn finally breaks his silence and says, "My previous note to you on this matter made clear that Jen is under no obligation to respond to your demands." No, Paul, you NEVER said that to me. I do apologize for not thinking of the phrase "common courtesy" that I used earlier in this Beau Zone post when describing to you my problem, though. No, she is not under any obligation, but c'mon - if you asked me what 2 plus 2 equals, I am not obligated to answer that question, either, but it's a simple question and answer, so most people would just answer the question if asked it. People don't randomly block other people on Twitter for no reason. She HAD to have a reason to block me. And Jen and Paul don't seem to understand that the way to make me GO AWAY is to simply answer the question! WHY did Jen block me on Twitter? Just tell me, and I will delete this post and go away.

To everyone reading this: do a search of both @JenZoratti and @beauhajavitch on Twitter. Do you see anything there that would cause Jen to block me? She is even answering my tweets in some cases in the past. Once, I used a funny phrase jokingly warning her that someone "would go all North Korea on her" and she responded saying she didn't know what that meant, and I responded back saying I had been planning on doing a tweet about something to her, and before my internet session I heard someone say "go all North Korea on you" on TV and thought it was funny and would work in that tweet. I say that here because that exchange did not cause her to block me. The last time her name came up automatically, re: autofill (signifying someone is not blocking you) when tweeting was when I did a tweet about her story about Earl's letting people park their cars there overnight and what the snowplow operators would think of that. After that, I didn't have a reason to tweet her for a while, and sometimes I look at my Twitter list and say, "I haven't seen that person in my timeline in a while," and check them out. That was the case with Jen, and that's how I found out she was blocking me.

And that's that. When Jen tells me WHY she is blocking me on Twitter, this post will be deleted. But it sure looks like this post will stay here forever.

P.S. Since there might be people on Twitter who don't go on The Beau Zone, and aren't reading this, those people - and you - might notice I continue to tweet "to" Jen (regarding stories she's written), which Twitter still allows, it's just that I have to completely type her handle - no autofill - because the general public doesn't know she is blocking me. Only you, reading this, know. (And I do plan to do a Facebook post that is only a link to this post, and hopefully that is okay with the faceless Facebook's bots, if that's what any future trouble I could have with Facebook is all about.) It's usually at the same time I am tweeting others, increasing the chances of those others replying or retweeting, meaning everyone out there is seeing those tweets EXCEPT Jen. I figure if she's going to block me, she should pay the price. Everyone will see my tweets "to her" EXCEPT her. Serves her right. And everyone reading this will see those tweets if you do a Twitter search on both our handles, or any relevant hashtags, as well. (My original email to Jen asking her why was written Sept. 4, 2017.)

I sure hate wasting time on negative issues like this. I want everyone including me to be positive, think positive, and go through the day with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts. But some things or people won't let us do that. That's a fact we just have to learn to live with, I guess.



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Follow-Up To Last Blog

I haven't blogged in almost two years. Wow.

And that's due to both the contents of my last blog below and what resulted from it. So I'll cover that now.

After my wholesaler job ended in February 2016, I couldn't get hired anywhere for a new day job, including our competitors. Part of that I'm sure had to do with the fact everything is online now, and I have difficulty with that because my internet is dialup. I can't afford high-speed. I do all my high-speed stuff either at the public library's computers, or at a coffee shop or library using their free WiFi with my laptop. All of my Hard Rock Heroes videos were uploaded in this manner; actually, most were uploaded at the Osborne Cyber Cafe before that place closed and became The Toad's new Whiskey Bar. Additionally, my area of expertise is extremely narrow; I'm proficient in the more office functions of a warehouse, like paperwork and buying/ordering. Not the warehouse functions of a warehouse, like using the forklift. As well, I am most certainly NOT going to make a different resume for every job I apply to: That is cruel and inhumane punishment. So the Osborne Village Resource Centre and their advice can sincerely go fuck themselves. I want every potential employer to know ALL of the skills I have and EVERYTHING I have done in the past on my resume so they have no opportunity to misjudge who I am or what I can do. I want to open up that street mailbox and pour a wheelbarrow of 75 photocopied resumes with everything on them into it, with someone who recieved one of those 75 applications hiring me, THAT'S the ideal scenerio. Sending to a simple email address is fine, too. And I would suggest that anyone who would tear up and not even look at a resume that is longer than 3 pages is someone who is not considering the fact some of us are 55 years old and have had many years in their lives to do a whole lot of things. I wrote up 17-page Call For Orders on sale prices on the entire Jamieson vitamin line to be sent to our stores at the same time I was doing interview legwork for Hard Rock Heroes. And I want employers to know that. And that, specifically, was never even in my resume, that at one time was 17 pages long! I did shorten it to three pages, but if I added my new job to it (next paragraph), it would be longer than that again.

So when a merchandiser job I applied to called me for an interview and offered me the job, I was too afraid to turn it down, even though the job is to work overnight on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, with only Tuesday and Wednesday as my days off (my weekend) 52 weeks a year, with no long weekends. I had lost all of my Fridays and Saturdays, and there would be no such thing anymore as Christmas, New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, etc., unless they fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Not only did I fall into a deep depression, I certainly had no time to blog anymore. I had to figure out when I was going to do everyday aspects of my life now with no long weekends to catch up on anything.

And certainly no broadcasting jobs came my way, although I received a few compliments for my Hard Rock Heroes work, including a nice one from CTV News Director Karen Mitchell. I thanked her on Twitter for her kind words.

After I had been at my new job for a year and qualified for holidays, I was able to negotiate those two weeks as only Thursday/Friday/Saturday holidays, where I would still work my "solo" shifts without my co-worker on Sunday/Monday, and take off four Saturdays instead. So it became not so bad in 2017, and the weather was absolutely excellent for almost all of my time off. It felt so exciting on that first day, Saturday, June 17, to see my first Saturday with all those people in the Exchange District around all the clubs for the first time in a year and a half! Much different from the barren depressing Wednesdays where everything's closed and no one's driving around except me and the cab drivers. Things were better in the summer for clubs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, though. Thanks to The Pint and LaRoca and The Cavern for being there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

I will always be interested in broadcasting, though, so if anyone reading this in that industry is interested in me, you can still feel free to contact me and maybe we can make a deal. My contact info is in my last blog post below.

So maybe now, in the future, I can get back to doing blogs on regular things, not myself. Hopefully. We'll see.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Would you like to hire me?

So I'm losing my wholesaler day job after February 5.

I will be looking for a suitable replacement day job, including at our main competitor, but as far as this blog is concerned, I will also be re-stepping up my efforts to take my old TV show I used to produce and host, Hard Rock Heroes, to the next level, whatever that means. As an entertainment reporter? TV stations don't have that anymore. Maybe you can think of something that for someone in media I can be an asset to.

After Hard Rock Heroes ended, I had gotten busy at my day job with different hours, then the internet started and I eventually created the Hard Rock Heroes website. Then I found myself with enough time around 2002 to send resumes and tapes of my show to all the TV stations and a few radio stations. In that material I also talked of my interest in scheduling, and TV stations' scheduling/traffic deptartments. Then You Tube started, and I started uploading Hard Rock Heroes videos to You Tube. Then, instead of sending VHSs or DVDs in the mail, I started e-mailing links to all my You Tube videos.

But I haven't done that in a while, so now I have a reason to start that all over again. I might not get hired anywhere, but I have nothing to lose. I wonder if people are more aware of me now due not only to all of the above, but due to my Twitter presence, as well.

So if anyone in Winnipeg broadcasting is reading this and is interested in me, please drop me a line at beauh@mts.net.

Check out my Hard Rock Heroes videos at http://www.hardrockheroes.com, click on "Video" for video. Or to go directly there: https://petrosal-variations.000webhostapp.com/video.html

Check out my Linkedin page at http://www.linkedin.com/in/beau-hajavitch-09a09b49

For examples of a more journalistic style of writing, check out my band write-ups at my Zoo Archives page, all about the Osborne Village Inn's Zoo & Ozzy's bars at http://www.zooarchives.0catch.com - this includes my editing of bands' bios to correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes, in case you see a band's bio you recognize (copy and paste is the best thing about computers).

For my radio voiceovers I did with daCapo, check out that page as part of my Hard Rock Heroes site at https://petrosal-variations.000webhostapp.com/voiceovers.html

And my Twitter page is at http://www.twitter.com/beauhajavitch

If I get a day job, will I remove this blog entry? Good question. Not sure about that yet.

Thanks for your time, and I hope you've enjoyed The Beau Zone so far.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winnipeg's Downtown Snackeries: After The MTS Centre Lovin', Can We Still Be In Love With You?

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman's recent spat with Mark Chipman makes me think of something else Bowman could hold against him, if he wishes. If he even knows about it. If there is an agreement in place.

I'd rather do a letter to the editor on this to both of Winnipeg's newspapers but I don't know for sure if there really is an agreement in place or not here. I think I saw this being reported in years past, but buried deep in stories about other aspects of True North building the MTS Centre and bringing the Jets back to town, and with only a few quick words before changing the subject.

I speak of the believed-to-be agreement between the city of Winnipeg and True North to do everything in its' power to make sure any nearby convenience stores, donut shops, and fast-food outlets are NOT open after MTS Centre events are over. And that no more of these are built, either.

There are several Tim Horton's and Subway outlets near the MTS Centre. They're all closed at night. Only one real fast-food restaurant, McDonald's in Cityplace. Also closed at night. And most McDonald's stores are open 24 hours, too. The Cityplace store could stay open until 4:00 a.m. to service Shark Club customers (both the nightclub and casino), too. But, no. I think the closest places within walking distance are Robin's Donuts at York & Garry, Mac's Convenience Store at Carlton & Cumberland, and Jumbo Pizza on Balmoral near Sargent. If you consider any of those within walking distance.

The Bargain Shop right outside the MTS Centre just closed. That would have been an ideal location for a convenience store. If you want to hang out outside the MTS Centre afterward in the dead of summer checking out the girls, go in the store and buy yourself a bag of chips. Or a chocolate bar. Or a slurpee. You don't want a full restaurant meal, just something small. As it turned out, the store became a Dollar Tree. Is it open at night? No.

Mark Chipman wants us all to buy the overpriced food at MTS Centre or nothing. So I believed he brokered some klind of backroom deal with the city when the MTS Centre first opened to make sure nothing was open close to the building after their events.

But that was in 2004, even before the Winnipeg Jets came back. Or now, the Moose. The MTS Centre is well established now. It's time to rescind this outdated agreement and allow the Tim Horton's and Subways and McDonald's and Starbucks near the building to be open after their events, and to allow new fast-food, donut, and convenience stores to open. Ironically, there is a Tim Hortons right inside the MTS Centre, and that, too, is closed after the events are over. But if you think that's to clear out the building, well, they are still selling that night's performing rock band's overpriced t-shirts after the events.

That's what, along with people living downtown, will really spark a street scene of people on the streets downtown. Not just traditional restaurants and nightclubs.

So there's a story idea for all you Winnipeg newspaper guys (and I know you love reading this blog), if in fact there is such an agreement. If there isn't, then it's those places I named that all suck for not being open after the events. (And the Subway on Notre Dame beside Solid Gold could grab the bar crowd, too.)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bell Media Part 2: They had 91 layoffs and you might be one

Whenever I've tried to brainstorm ideas of what to blog about next, this Bell Media thing keeps coming back to me.

Because when I wrote my Bell Media/MuchMusic blog entry last time, even with all I brought up in it, that was still before they.....wait for it.....laid off 91 employees, mostly at Much, M3, and MTV Canada.

So now, I guess I have to do a followup.

Talk about being dumbfounded.

Something is clearly wrong with this company.

Isn't Bell Media supposedly the biggest private broadcaster in Canada? And they can't financially run these channels adequately? (Without telling us why not, as I reiterate my last blog's theme.)

In addition to all my observations and complaints last blog about what Bell Media has done to Much (formerly MuchMusic, I hate to say but must), those 91 layoffs mean that almost all the on-air personalities known as VJs that were on Much (most of which Bell Media had moved to other channels after they got rid of Much's flagship show New.Music.Live and replaced the MuchMusic Environment with the studio for CTV's The Social) are now gone, except for Tyrone Edwards and Chloe Wilde, who are still on E! Canada, and Liz Trinnear, now the sole VJ on Much. Much, M3, and MTV Canada now run on skeleton crews, and Much now has only one produced show, the Much Countdown, hosted by Liz. Liz still interviews music stars in the Bell Media building (after they're finished with ETalk, I'm sure), but those interviews run online, and now as insets during the videos on the Much Countdown (a good idea, but I'll come back to this). The rest of the schedule consists of morning videos (that extend into the afternoon and even the evening on some days), the fratboy comedies, and back-to-back Simpsons and South Park reruns. Also back-to-back Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air reruns which, after seemingly forever, they aren't even dropping in favor of another rerun show. This past Christmas season, if you remember all the hour-long review shows the former MuchMusic used to do, like Hisses, Disses, and Kisses, well, Much still did two or three of those, but they were around two minutes long and ran during the commercials on Much and online. Hey, at least they're trying, but, as I said in the brackets, I'll come back to that subject. And Tanya Kim was laid off from ETalk.

How can Bell Media, all of a sudden, decide they can't afford to keep these channels going in a proper manner? Something fishy is going on here, and it's more than just Bell Media taking the MuchMusic Environment away from them and giving that studio space to The Social. And, yeah, that is exactly what happened, as I finally got confirmation on that from, of all people, Jess Allen, on The Social itself, when they were promoting the 30 Years Of Much half-hour special (only half an hour?; more on that later) and they were showing clips of all the music stars that came to the building to play songs in the MuchMusic Environment and, in between songs, answered fan questions and walked up to Much's huge Queen Street storefront window where Much regularly took the glass out so the fans outside could be a part of the show, and signed autographs from those fans and answered their questions, and Jess says, "And that all took place in this very room!" Bless you, Jess. I wonder if she wasn't supposed to say that, because I wonder if Bell Media didn't want anyone pointing out that those days are actually over now, and that there won't be any more stars coming to Much to play and promote any more. I wonder if the MMVAs are no more now, as well.

Whatever Bell Media's financial problems are, clearly, what they are doing now is this: They are simply holding onto these channels for as long as they can so that the competition doesn't acquire them. Because if anyone out there thinks they can do a better job at running them (and I'm hearing rumblings that Ed The Sock might be getting involved in a new music video channel - no, really) and they think Bell Media has lost interest and will sell to them, guess again. If Bell Media sells to them, that will make the buyer a Bell Media competitor. Bell Media doesn't want that. And Bell Media can probably still charge top advertising rates for portions of these channels' programming, because the actual shows themselves - from Pretty Little Liars to Reign to Broad City to Workaholics - are fine shows and attract audiences. If the audience wants to watch these shows, they'll watch them on whatever channel they're on. That's a different issue than the issue of them being on the wrong channel, that I discussed in my last blog. I'm sure Bell Media does advertising package deals that involve these channels plus CTV and CTV Two, too.

Yet what defies logic in Bell Media's stance is how they think they can get away with next to no CanCon (Canadian content) on these channels as per their conditions of license with the CRTC for these channels. When does their renewal hearing come up? When it does, they will undoubtebly be hauled onto the carpet by the CRTC. I don't know how much produced CanCon content they are supposed to provide vs. purchased CanCon, but on MTV Canada, there is zero produced content now, and next to nothing for purchased CanCon. When MTV Canada were at the Masonic Temple building on Yonge Street, they did lots of produced content: MTV Live (I saw a taping), MTV Aftershow, 5 Gays 1 Girl, MTV News. When they moved into the main CTV building at 299 Queen Street West, MTV Live turned into Showtown, but that, and everything else, is now gone. I thought the reason for that content in the first place was to fulfill Bell Media's CRTC license requirements. As said, Much has one produced show, the Countdown, and a few between-commercials Liz Trinnear segments, and that's it. M3, for whatever reason, mostly carries on, as they didn't have too much produced content to begin with, so Gabby Henderson replaces the departed Matt Wells, and they mostly just carry on. So it appears the CRTC will either force Bell Media to live up to their conditions of license at a "show cause" hearing, or take the channels away from Bell Media themselves. Why would Bell Media open themselves up to that? If Bell Media was going to do what they did, instead of laying off 91 people, why not lay off only 75 and keep some more produced content on these channels (especially MTV Canada) to secure their licences? It doesn't make sense.

Now, to be fair, the remaining staff Bell Media has at Much does at least appear to be making lemonade out of lemons. These blogs I have been writing have nothing to do with them; they're just doing their jobs, and they appear to be doing them quite well. After I tweeted to Much, "You don't even have the resources to take those great Liz Trinnear interviews and edit them into a half-hour show?" they.....well, they didn't do that, but they at least run parts of them now in inset interviews on the Much Countdown during the videos. I told them that's a good idea, because on a countdown show, the videos can get repetitive, so those inset interviews relieve any boredom that might set in. They have done some interesting things with the blocks of videos that still remain in the New.Music.Live time slot: Brought back the Spotlight (one artist's videos) one night a week, made another night new videos called "Brand New Shit," made another night videos curated (chosen) by a famous artist, and made Thursday a Throwback Thursday night. All of which are still just videos with no host, no nothing, just the videos, but it's better than just regular videoflow. Because if the morning videoflow (and even that was retitled "Playlist") is too early for people to catch up on videos, you can always tape it while you sleep or work. I've done that. And at least Much did do those two-minute Holiday Wrap "shows" with Liz I brought up above. They could have done nothing. (Because I don't think two-minute segments fulfills license requirements.)

Then there's the curious show they did called "30 Years Of Much." For the last several years, Much has driven away screaming from its' past, because their most recent audience had been teenage girls screaming over The Jonas Brothers and One Direction, and Much didn't want to drive them away by suggesting their parents watched Much in the '80s and '90s in the form of referring to/airing their past all the time. But Bell Media bigwigs canned Much from airing anything that audience was interested in, as I covered last blog, except early morning videoflow, so I suppose the creative people (person?) still left at Much thought they had nothing to lose by mining their past and putting those segments together to create 30 Years Of Much. That show might have even been a way for the people still left at Much to shove the middle finger in Bell Media's face, as if to say, "See how much BETTER things were when Much did all this stuff, mostly when Moses ran the place?" So I looked forward to it, and wondered if it would be an hour or two hours. But it turned out to be only HALF AN HOUR?!?!? Of course: Much doesn't have the resources to make it more than half an hour. I'll bet Winnipeg's Shaw TV Community Channel has more resources today than Much does.

Oh, and CTV President Kevin Crull says people are watching music videos online now. The big problem with that argument is that when people are in control of what they want to watch, they won't punch up videos or artists that they don't know. How would they know about them? Killing new artists is killing the lifeblood of the industry. Today, I STILL come into contact with new artists and current artists' new videos for the first time ("Oh, that artist has a new video? I didn't know that!") by watching the early-morning videos on Much, maybe on tape later as I'm sleeping when they're on. Because Much is controlling what I see and is surprising me and introducing me to things. Someone online, like me, can't do that for himself. Someone has to do it for him.

Throughout my youth and early adulthood, I never found anything I wanted to be. Maybe I'm smart enough for university, but there was never anything taught there that I gave a shit about. I just looked at a job as a needed way to finance my personal life, to give me the money I needed to buy records by Kiss and Cheap Trick and Van Halen and Streetheart and to discuss the intellectual ramifications of those records at drunken house parties. I never found my calling, until I discovered MTV U.S. and then MuchMusic. To this day, all I ever wanted to be was a VJ on Muchmusic. And, while I never made that goal a reality, partly because of my age, I did accomplish the next best thing: I created my own TV show, Hard Rock Heroes, and became a VJ on that show. I mentioned my age; I turned 30 in 1992, right in the middle of the Hard Rock Heroes period.

So to see all of this crap go down with Bell Media and Much and MTV Canada and M3 is not only disheartening, it is cruel, it is heartache, it is inhumane, and it is barbaric. To think that VJs on camera talking about music and artists and throwing to videos all day is something that became too expensive to provide is both head-scratching and pain-inducing. People are passionate about their businesses. Well, this is MY business. And I want to see it survive and thrive, not get kicked in the head like a home invader does to a dog like Bell Media has done.

Hopefully, this story isn't over yet. Hopefully in the coming days the CRTC will investigate why Canada's biggest private broadcaster can't make these channels work. Hopefully someone will come forth and start-up a new music video service with VJs, whether it's on one of the Bell Media channels, if the CRTC takes them away from Bell, or a new channel. Hopefully someone will fix this. Someone MUST fix this! And hopefully whatever the public has been watching on the internet is just a supplement to TV viewing and hasn't really been enough to drive audiences away from channels like Much, unlike what some in the media might think. Audiences of all ages must be educated (re-educated?) to believe, know, and understand, that the music-video/VJ format is not an outdated concept or a fad; that it is as standard a television format as the late-night talk show format is, and that is is simply Bell Media that is trying to kill it. They must become hungry enough (are they already?) that when someone brings it back fully, it will be flocked to and embraced.

If those things don't happen, both the music industry (especially the Canadian artists), music culture, and yes, even pop culture, will ultimately suffer for it.

Bell Media, is that what you want?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why is Bell Media trying to sabotage MuchMusic?

It was June 2007 when the CRTC approved the bid of CTV - in the form of their then-corporate moniker of CTVglobemedia - to acquire the CHUM specialty channels, which included MuchMusic, Muchmore (formerly Muchmoremusic), MTV Canada, and E! Canada, among others.

Since that time, I had been impressed for several years with how CTV not only didn't tinker with CHUM's winning formula for MuchMusic - including its' iconic storefront headquarters at 299 Queen Street West in Toronto, home to the "MuchMusic environment" in the northwest corner of the building, right at Queen and John - but actually enhanced it in small nuances by adding its' own ETalk studios to the building and cross-branding the two by doing such things as adding ETalk to the MuchMusic Video Awards' (MMVA) red carpet, but still being careful not to alienate the younger, hipper Much fans by ever actually showing the ETalk personalities on Much. Telethons and TV commercials featured all CTV/Much/MTV personalities together ("love is louder") but that was the extent of it.

Now, Bell Media has taken over CTVglobemedia. If that fact is relevant to what you are about to read. And it probably is.

And what has Bell Media now done to the historically fabled MuchMusic?

Lots. And all of it bad. Suddenly, they have: 1) Cancelled Much's flagship show New.Music.Live. 2) Taken off all of Much's non-music shows that appealed to an audience who had interest in Much's music programming and replaced them with fratboy U.S. Comedy Central shows that have nothing to do with Much, and, likewise, South Park and reruns of The Simpsons and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; the shows that aren't on Much anymore have been reassigned to other Bell Media channels. 3) Removed all but two of the "MuchMusic VJs," if they're still even called that, from Much and have sent them to do things on the other Bell Media channels. 4) This one is pure speculation on my part, but my gut tells me that New.Music.Live's cancellation had to do with the removal (?) of the famous "MuchMusic Environment," as it was called in the CHUM days, and its' space given to.....The Social? Now, I love CTV's new View-styled gabfest with the four saucy ladies, but that studio they're in looks suspiciously big, so I wonder if it was taken away from Much to give to them. Can anyone reading this in Toronto confirm or deny? What remains of Much's music programming is done on a small set that is in no way indicative of the "MuchMusic Environment" and I can't decide if it's done on a small sliver of space left intact at Queen and John (with the windows covered up) or if it's just some room on the second floor somewhere. Either way, don't expect any more "Live At Much" or "Intimate And Interactive" shows any longer, if the space is not Much's space any more, and the streetside windows are permanently closed as a result.

What makes this even more mystifying is the fact this space was just renovated in 2010 in the first place, as part of the renovation that took us from the Much On Demand era to the New.Music.Live era. Well, that was before Bell or Bell Media came onto the scene, I guess.

Some background is required here for non-Torontonions: Although we non-Toronto Canadians have referred to this building as the "MuchMusic building," it was actually the CHUM/City building before CTV took over CHUM. Toronto's local City TV station was located there as well. The CRTC didn't let CTV take over City TV. So City TV had to find new owners and move out. So CTV then moved in. So the building is still home to more than MuchMusic. It always was. But the potential is certainly there for a new owner, like Bell Media, that might not believe in, or understand, MuchMusic (keep reading) to downgrade the channel's prominent studio space in favor of studio space for their other channels, since it is the CTV building, after all, and the new owner might wonder why so much space and resources was devoted to this one, out of many, channels. And it looks like that is what has happened.

I recall a version of this company - not sure which version - applying to the CRTC to air less music video programming as a condition of their license. The CRTC denied it.

I say that, as well as the observations in the paragraph before that, because I believe that Bell Media not only doesn't understand MuchMusic, but doesn't want Much to even be a music video channel any longer.

Look at the evidence: The music videos now run from 5:00 a.m. to noon-ish each day. Not exactly prime viewing time for a young audience that is either sleeping or in school or working during those hours. Today's Top 10 and the Countdown still continue, and with the only two VJs Much retained, Liz Trinnear and Scotty Willats, but virtually no other music programming does. Obviously, Bell Media is only doing this to satisfy the requirements of their CRTC license that states that Much has to appear to be some kind of music video channel with a certain number of hours devoted to music videos. And they have even (not sure if it's official or unofficial) apparently changed the name of the channel from "MuchMusic" to just plain "Much." They're airing promos that promise Much this, Much that, with "music" being just one of the options, but they didn't say what that really meant was that they were replacing the Much shows that appealed to fans - mostly girls, but whatever (keep reading) - of current pop and hip-hop music with immature fratboy comedy shows whose audience isn't the slightest bit interested in music shows and whose passed out and hungover bodies certainly won't be tuning in to Much at 9:00 a.m. to view the music videos.

I will say this: With message boards dropping left and right, it's hard to find people saying things on the internet anymore, unless you're on Facebook, but I did read somewhere there was supposed to be some kind of replacement show for New.Music.Live. All this time later, it looks like maybe that report was incorrect, but Much does appear to be holding that time slot for some reason. They are, in addition to what I said last paragraph, also airing just an hour of music videos in the show's old time slot. Unless it's a CRTC requirement that they play music videos for at least one hour in almost-prime time.

But WHY would Bell Media sabotage its' MuchMusic channel like this?

WHY would Bell Media want to turn this channel from a music-oriented channel into a fratboy comedy channel? (Oh yeah, and I will acknowledge the retained Video On Trial does satisfy Bell Media's apparent new desire here.)

WHY has Bell Media not retained the interest in keeping MuchMusic the way it was that CTV and CTVglobemedia apparently did?

Not only is this is the hardest part of this blog entry to discuss, it's overall a hard blog entry to write, too, due to all the little details here, there, and everywhere, and no clear order to put everything you're reading in. Plus I want to make sure I don't forget anything. As a result, this blog was written at three different sit-downs. So let's discuss:

See, the fact, if it's so, that Much has lost much of their "environment," doesn't have to have anything to do with all these fratboy comedy shows Much has acquired. Much's music programming could adapt to the loss of the "environment," even if the adaption results were less than stellar. The fact these comedy shows are on the channel could signal a couple of things:

1) Maybe there was a desire at Bell Media to attempt to increase the audience of the channels that they gave Much's former programming to. Maybe people had forgotten that Muchmore existed, or that MTV Canada ever did exist. Maybe the audience for both Much and the Much shows was so strong that Bell Media figured that by sending Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries to Muchmore (now M3 - keep reading for more on that) and by sending Awkward and Degrassi to MTV Canada, that they would send those audiences to those channels as well, perhaps increasing viewership for other shows on those channels, and not decreasing Much's audience because everyone knows Much and will tune into Much anyway. Some people might actually not even be aware what is happening on Much's channel with this horrible move to replace the shows I mentioned with the immature fratboy comedy shows. It may not dawn on them until later. Maybe after this summer is over and they've realized there haven't been any "Live At Much" shows.

2) As I said, in the U.S., these new fratboy comedy shows air on Comedy Central, whose overall schedule I'm not familiar with. In Canada, there may have been a desire by Bell Media to not intermix these fratboy comedy shows with the more traditional brands of comedy that The Comedy Network (also a Bell Media channel) seems to air. Why, I don't know. I'm just grasping at straws here. Certainly Teletoon airs edgier fare at night. Why couldn't The Comedy Network air Workaholics or Broad City or The Kroll Show instead of Much airing them? Maybe it's simply a case of, when you combine what I said last paragraph with this, what WOULD Bell Media put on Much? They have to air something! That's what makes part of me think that the only reason Much airs these fratboy comedy shows was because someone high above decreed they were going to build this big set for The Social and that they didn't care that it took away the MuchMusic environment, and that they were going to just not worry about the Much channel until later. Maybe Bell Media just doesn't even know what to do with this channel anymore because they think it's a "lost cause" because they can't just dump the music video coverage due to the conditions of their CRTC license for the channel which they acquired from CHUM. Either way, keeping Much as the MuchMusic of old, the way the channel was when Erica Ehm and Steve Anthony were VJs there, just isn't a priority, or even a desire, anymore, by the new owners, Bell Media. And back then, MuchMusic didn't need a flagship show, because interviews were just done whenever the stars stopped by throughout the day, because the whole channel was music videos all day, except for a select few one-hour shows devoted to music genres. Eventually, for fans who couldn't watch all day, highlights were aired on half-hour music news shows like Fax or Much News Weekly.

This is made even more complicated by the new M3 Countdown show. Okay, here we go: Now we'll start talking about M3/Muchmore.

M3 used to be Muchmore, which used to be Muchmoremusic. It was originally created as a Canadian version of the U.S.' VH1, which means a music video channel that would appeal to people older than the Much demographic. It aired Sarah Mclachlan music videos, music nostalgia shows, and old prime-time reruns that would appear to a music-video crowd.

But now, here's another channel that seemingly Bell Media doesn't know what to do with.

First, they rename it "M3." What does "M3" stand for? Is it short for Muchmoremusic? Wait a sec, the channel was called Muchmore. They had already shortened it to that from Muchmoremusic years ago. So shouldn't it be called "M2" now? Unless they thought people would think "M2" stands for MuchMusic. There has already been confusion over the years between the two channels when people would write online that something was on "MuchMusic" when they really meant Muchmore. But now, no one would definitely have a clue what "M3" indicates.

Then they use it to air shows like Mike And Molly and The Mentalist that have no appeal whatsoever to music-video fans. If those series are first-run (not sure), then obviously M3 is being used as a dumping ground for shows Bell Media can't find room for on either CTV or CTV2. Now, as mentioned earlier, they sent shows like Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries to M3 for whatever reason, as well. Would the teen-girl-pop-fans who watch those shows, as well as new ones that started after all this happened, like Reign, like the rest of the M3 channel? Well, even before everything in this blog entry happened, Muchmore's music video playlist had started inching closer to Much's playlist. And honestly, very recently I just haven't had the time to adequately compare the videos on the two channels. But it could be irrelevant anyway, since M3 appears to air the videos all cuddled up in those morning time slots as well. It's possible Bell Media has given up on the idea of Much and M3 having two distinct playlists of music videos with only slight overlap.

Maybe Bell Media also considers this channel to be a "lost cause" due to the music video/CRTC requirements. But more of a channel they can do something with, since it doesn't have the "youth" stigma. So they fill it up with all sorts of prime-time series that overall appeal to a broad range of age groups.

Which brings me back to the new M3 Countdown show that kicked off this M3 section.

Someone realized that without New.Music.Live on Much, there was no outlet for interviews with artists on Much. So, instead of doing anything in that regard that would air on Much, which at least still, after all these years had past, purported to appeal to album-buying music fans, even if that crowd is now just a cult audience, which is why Much went for the teen-girl One Direction fan audience to begin with, because that audience was at least still interested in music and pop culture (how's this for a run-on sentence?), someone came up with the idea to put that stuff on a new show on M3 that included a countdown. The show itself is fine, and it reminds me a bit of the old CBC '70s radio show 90 Minutes With A Bullet. But its' existence on M3, combined with the sort of artists profiled and interviewed that would have in the past been on either Much or Muchmore, seem to further underline the erasing of the lines that defined Much and Muchmore to begin with, and in favor of.....what? In favor of keeping Matt Wells employed on M3 because he wouldn't fit in on Much? (Well, he does appeal to older people, and both Much's "former" audience, and the audience they seemingly want to appeal to now have one thing in common: youth.)

All of this makes me wonder what a Bell Media executive would say if you asked him. "What are your target audiences for Much and M3 now?" Or "What are the formats of Much and M3 supposed to be now?" I think that executive wouldn't even know. I think he might have asked his superiors that question already, and that his superiors shot him down, as their decisions I have detailed here were all knee-jerk reactions to one issue or another that they don't wish to discuss. Who knows, maybe someone at Bell Media just wanted to get rid of the teen-girl Much audience (why, don't they buy products?) and the only way they knew how to do it was to disperse everything on the channel to their other channels to fragment that audience and break it away from exclusively watching Much, before, maybe, eventually, in the future, turning Much into something substantial again?!?! Meaning they thought perhaps they couldn't do that M3 Countdown show on Much?

Or maybe it's just goes back to the simple issue I stated earlier of this new company basically not understanding what MuchMusic is to Canadians and basically thinking of it as just one of many channels they own, and treating (or in this case, abusing) it as such. (I've assumed your knowledge of this so far, but to anyone who doesn't know: At one time MuchMusic was City TV's only specialty channel. There was no Muchmoremusic or anything else. So most of that building was divided in half: One-half devoted to City TV, and one-half devoted to the MuchMusic Environment. That's what started MuchMusic as a "big deal" in Canada besides the music-video revolution of the '80s.)

I haven't e-mailed my concerns to anyone at Bell Media for two reasons: 1) It's easier to do this blog first. Heck, I can just send this blog's link via Twitter or e-mail to Bell Media executives, I don't have to even use copy and paste. And, 2) over the winter, I already was having a heated e-mail exchange with Bell Media executives over my quest to find out why Bell Media had taken away all evening E! channel broadcasts of ETalk, leaving Winnipeggers to watch ETalk for the first time of the night at 10:30 p.m. CST on both CTV Winnipeg (CKY) and E! (coincidentally the same time), unless they had the Canadian Time Shift package that cable offers, like I do. You see, in the Central Time Zone, we go from local news into prime-time programming, one hour earlier. So the Big Bang Theory rerun/ETalk hour airs AFTER that, unlike the other time zones where that hour airs after suppertime local news. But we had access to ETalk on E! at 5:00 p.m. CST, and a rerun at 7:30 p.m. Those are gone now. So, for myself, I can continue to watch/tape it at 5:00 p.m. but it will be on ATV in the Maritimes. Or at 6:00 p.m. on CFTO Toronto. Or at 8:00 p.m. on CFCN Calgary. Or 9:00 p.m. on CTVBC (don't know the call letters). But Winnipeggers without that package have to wait until 10:30 p.m. now. And I just could not find out from Bell Media the reasons WHY. All they would say was in the form of an executive from E!, who said, "We feature the premiere airing of the show as a single feed in a timeslot when the majority of our viewers can watch it across the country." That's it. What the hell does that mean? They won't tell me. That's from someone at E!, so are they talking about THEIR first airing, which is at 10:30 p.m. CST? If so, their answer makes no sense, as 10:30 p.m. is many hours after CTV airs it, except for here in Winnipeg. It sounds like it means that the "we" in that answer means the CTV network and that the executive is not just an E! executive, but has a regular CTV network position as well, meaning he is speaking for both the CTV network and the E! channel, and that he means that by taking it off E! until 10:30 p.m., that they filter all the formerly fragmented viewers into the CTV airings, creating higher ratings. So why don't they TELL me that, instead of me coming up with (i.e., SPECULATING, which is just that: speculating) that myself? And again, that doesn't help Winnipeggers without the Canadian Time Shift package. So I'm not crazy to open up another can of worms this soon, unless it's with different people. It may be, it may not be. But for now, I'll let this blog stand on its' own and worry what else I'll do with it after I have it up.

So, now that I think I have gotten in all the most pertinent points, what happens now? Where is this headed? Is this the end of the famous MuchMusic channel as generations of fans have known it since 1984? Are these "changes" just more crap that we music and media fans have to just learn to suck up and live with because answers will not be forthcoming? Or will someone with connections at least use this blog as inspiration to write a book detailing all the answers? Because I, at least, am not satisfied with what Bell Media has done to Much, and, to a lesser extent, M3. (MTV Canada's content always was dictated by what MTV U.S. does, and Awkward is actually an MTV show. So I haven't written much here about that channel. Degrassi might work on it. Without MTV Live/Showtown and all those MTV News airings that have mostly disappeared, how do they get their CanCon requirements in, I wonder? And MTV Canada operates on CTV's old Talk TV license, so they never did have a license to air music videos. This was a venture CTV initiated before they took over CHUM, so that's why MTV Canada and Much both existed by the same company in the first place. CTV/CTVglobemedia/Bell Media haven't actually shut down any of the channels they acquired.) They have sabotaged MuchMusic. This blog is at least one thing I can do to show that someone out there in music/media fandom will not let Much sink without putting up some kind of a fight.

Bell Media, it's your turn. You owe us Canadians, your viewing audience, an explanation.

What are you doing?

What have you done?

And WHY?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Home Town Improvement: Last Man Standing's Winnipeg Connection

Winnipeg has had more than its' share of mentions as part of the dialogue by characters on various U.S. prime-time TV comedies and dramas over the last several years. Possibly because of the David Steinberg influence: Big-time/long-time director/comedian/actor Steinberg hails from Winnipeg, so I think "Winnipeg" is put into the dialogue and plots of these shows as a spoof/inside rib directed to/about him.

But there's been a new one in the past year or so, and it's my favorite. It's also part of a background to a permanent character, so it's not just an isolated Winnipeg reference mentioned in only one episode, it's continuous.

And it has yet to be mentioned in any Winnipeg newspapers, believe it or not.

It's Tim Allen's new sitcom, Last Man Standing, that airs Friday nights on ABC.

I started watching it by accident last year, as it came on at a good time for me each week. I think it had been on for a year or so already before I found it.

Now, being the horndog I am, I, of course, started watching it for all the sex humor involving Mandy, Mike's (Allen's character) free-spirited middle daughter.

But, as it turns out, Mike's eldest daughter, Kristin, has a child with her ex, who she has been slowly getting back together with, and his name is Ryan, and he's from.....WINNIPEG!!!

Last season, for example, one episode dealt with Ryan's parents wanting the couple and their child, Boyd, to come live with them in Winnipeg. Kristen doesn't want to. She says, "First of all, because it's Winnipeg," with a yucky look on her face. They end up not moving. Hey, where were the nasty-but-good-natured comments in the papers about that?

This season, on the Halloween episode, a few family members were discussing the day before Halloween. Now, I zoned out for a sec and didn't hear what someone said they called it, but I did hear Ryan follow up with, "In Winnipeg, growing up, we called it Cabbage Night." (Cabbage Night? I never heard of that. We - in the mid '70s, when I was around 15 - always called it Gate Night. I tweeted that to the show.)

So it's a running gag that Ryan is from Winnipeg. But it also adds another dimension to the show. You see, Mike is an old-school Republican (i.e., he hasn't gone out of his mind, kind of like Will McAvoy hasn't, either) and he and Ryan frequently debate U.S. politics, with Ryan taking the Democrats' side, as Ryan is a staunch left winger, reminiscent of Mike Stivic (the "meathead") on All In The Family. Meaning these whole exchanges are reminiscent of the Archie Bunker/Stivic All In The Family arguments. Except on this show, the dynamic includes the fact Ryan is from Winnipeg, as that takes into account Canadians overall being more left-leaning than Americans. (With our Conservative Party not leaning as far to the right as the U.S. Republican Party.)

Therefore, this show, as a result, has it all: This whole Winnipeg thing with Ryan, the aforementioned Mandy sexpot stuff (and Kristin's pretty hot, too), and even the occasional Home Improvement inside joke thrown in for good measure whenever a cast member from that show makes a guest appearance. Like when Johnathan Taylor Thomas appears as Kristin's boss at the restaurant, and Mike takes another shot at Ryan by telling JTT's character, "You're like a son to me."

Only thing that's unexplained is this: How does someone from Winnipeg drive a beer truck in the United States (Ryan's job)? How did U.S. Immigration let him cross the border to live in the U.S. if he just drives a beer truck? Maybe we'll find that out some day. Maybe he has dual citizenship if his mother gave birth to him when they were visiting the U.S., kind of like Chris Jericho. He could have a green card if he was married to Kristin, but I believe that does not entitle him to work. And I don't believe they were married, just boyfriend and girlfriend, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

So there's the tip: For the best in "Winnipeg" humor, watch Last Man Standing Fridays at 7:00 p.m. CST on ABC!

(Or could this "Ryan From Winnipeg" thing have anything to do with the fact that Wendy Crewson, Tim Allen's co-star in the three "Santa Clause" movies, is from Winnipeg?)

(And Mandy: You're a legal adult at 18. Please come up to Winnipeg where becoming a legal adult means you CAN drink booze and go to nightclubs. Maybe you could visit Ryan's family while you're at it. You know how grating it is to constantly see other characters take glasses of booze out of your 18-year old hands when here, ever since 1970, YOU ARE LEGAL TO DRINK ALCOHOL? Maybe I'll have to visit that family and buy Mandy some booze. I would have no problem whatsoever supplying alcohol to anyone in the U.S. between 18 and 21. My conscience is clear. I have been influenced by my Winnipeg surroundings. I can't be "reformed.")