Tuesday, 26 August 2014

CJAD promotes Kaufman to steer the Exchange with Delmar

CJAD Program Director Chris Bury has always been a pretty good judge of talent. When news came in today that the entertaining weekday evening Exchange programs will become the domains of two hosts - Dave Kaufman and Dan Delmar - I almost stood up and applauded at my desk.
Kaufman (right) seen here with colleague Matthew Ross.

Delmar will remain in the host's chair on Monday evenings and  Wednesdays  while Kaufman maintains his Friday slot, adding Tuesdays and Thursdays. Exchange airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. This schedule kicks in next week.

“We’ve decided to go with two Exchange hosts for the time being versus the three that we had a year ago," said Bury. "It’s going to allow us to establish more consistency- night to night- while still giving some mic time to strong, developing, broadcasters. Dave, and Dan, are both compelling to listen to and have a lot of potential. Listeners will have noticed that both filled in for Aaron Rand this summer.”

Kaufman is a true success story, someone who paid his dues and waited for opportunity to knock. It was clear from his weekly The Kaufman Show on TSN 690 that this man had talent. When Bury assumed the controls at  TSN 690 he saw that immediately and  took advantage of Kaufman's talents on Friday nights. What he got was some compelling radio, great guests and co-hosts.

Delmar in the producer's mode.
"I'm so excited to be doing three nights on CJAD," said Kaufman. "I really hope to make the most of this amazing opportunity.The shows will hopefully continue to be a healthy mix of entertaining and informative. I hope to keep getting to speak with amazing guests and do the show with fantastic co-hosts like Dave McGimpsey, Jay Farrar, Toula Drimonis and Bugs Burnett. "

Will Kaufman continue to do his Monday sports show?   "That's still up in the air.," he said. 

Delmar, who cut his journalistic teeth at The Suburban, was previously employed full-time  at CJAD as a program host and producer. He moved to freelance status when he launched his own communications firm. His talents went to good use though on the noon free for all, guest hosting and of course doing Today's Entrepreneurs and The Exchange on Mondays.

"I've been fortunate to have tremendous co-hosts and guest hosts on this show, which is named after the late Neil McKenty program of the same name," Delmar says. "Dave is a talented, thoughtful broadcaster and has made Friday nights on CJAD incredibly unique. He'll do great things with more airtime, I'm sure."


Friday, 22 August 2014

I talk to the two Montreal-area teams from The Amazing Race Canada 2

Following seven episodes of The Amazing Race Canada on CTV, one thing is abundantly clear. The two teams from the Montreal area do not like each other. When I interviewed Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice, a couple who live on the South Shore and twin brothers  Pierre and Michel Forget, I could tell immediately that the rivalry being shown on television is not just for the cameras.

Audrey was somewhat diplomatic: “It is not that we do not like them. We just play the game differently.”

Alain and Audrey read a clue in a scene from the next episode in Paris.

As for Alain, he notes: “Just wait until you see our interaction in the next episode!”

Pierre and Michel tell the story this way. “The first when we met and knew we were all from Montreal we asked if we could work together,” remarked Michel. “Well they never answered us. After all of their alliances collapsed they came back and said ‘do you remember your question when we first met? I said to Audrey, ‘but you never answered us.’ This is all part of the game. They will never be invited to our house for dinner.”

Pierre and Michel.
Following last week’s  second non-elimination leg of the season in Normandy, all six teams will get to see more of France and race to Paris in next week’s episode airing Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO. As revealed at the end of the last broadcast, Ryan and Rob were saved from elimination at the Pit Stop on the sands of Juno Beach, after countless wrong turns in the rolling countryside and small towns of Normandy.  On Juno Beach, Olympic hockey players Natalie and Meaghan reclaimed their spot atop the podium, winning their fifth leg after starting in fifth place at the Pit Start in Winnipeg.

Previews for the Paris episode show us that tempers will begin to really boil. “This is definitely my favorite episode,” is all Audrey will say, naturally sworn to secrecy.

Alain is an actor and stuntman while Audrey is a real estate broker for ReMax Action. The couple own a triplex in Boucherville. Audrey was raised in LaSalle and sells properties all over the island of Montreal. They have been together for two years. Since the show debuted, they have been gathering on Tuesday nights with friends and family at the Rack'N'Roll Billard Bar (http://www.racknroll.com) on the South Shore to watch the episodes live. Last week  Brett Burstein and Holly Agostino, the Montreal Children’s Hospital physicians who were in last year’s show, were special guests.
The Forget brothers were delivered as a team 42 years ago and have since shared a passion for competition, sport, and life in general. Before becoming dedicated to their current roles with the family meatpacking plant in North Shore Terrebonne, the twins competed in high-level freestyle skiing. Michel gave up his dream of being a competitive skier so that Pierre could compete full time, as their family could not afford for both boys to be heavily involved in the sport. Pierre went on to become a member of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association team and won the International Ski Federation (FIS) Moguls World Cup title in 1994.
Having just been to Paris myself, I am really looking forward to the next episode. For the competitors though, this experience was hardly a holiday. “In terms of any place we go, it is like seeing a country in fast forward,” says Alain. “We are running with backpacks,  jumping over cars. ‘Oh there is the Eiffel Tower,’ I will say to myself.

Pierre and Michel had a really interesting experience in Paris, one which is unlikely to be seen on Tuesday.  Since the show was filmed in May, contestants were not allowed to tell anyone – not even family members – where they were and what they were doing. “I asked one of the producers, what would happen if we saw someone we knew?” Pierre said. “He commented that would never happen. Well, while on a small street in Paris Michel and I heard someone call out our names. Sure enough it was someone we knew. We asked him to please not broadcast this on social media or tell anyone and took a selfie with him. He was good to his word.”

Pierre also wanted to point out how he and his brother are not necessarily portrayed fairly in the episode in Macau where mother and son  Nicole and Cormac accused them of trying to steal their cab. “I want to make it clear,” said Pierre. “We were the first in line. We decided to be polite and classy and just go to the end of the line.”

One last thing. I asked the two teams whether they are getting recognized on the streets because of the national TV coverage. It seems they are flying very much under the radar. “Not much,” said Alain

Added Michel: “Well we live in a francophone area, so not too many people have stopped us either.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Newly branded Canadian TV station says "Yes" to the X-Factor UK

When my family and I saw the X Factor UK live at London's Wembley Arena just a few weeks ago we bemoaned the fact that the program was not available for viewing in Canada. Well, as a subscriber to Bell Fibe TV it turns out I was wrong. 

CTS (Crossroads Television System) will be rebranded as YES TV as of September 1, with shows like the X Factor UK, American Idol, The Biggest Loser, America's Funniest Home Videos, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!,  Judge Judy  and Hot Bench entering their lineup.

"We’re thrilled to be launching YES TV this fall with a strong line-up of family oriented television," Director of Programming Rob Sheppard remarked in an email to me. "

The X Factor UK will air Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m. beginning September 2.  "We encourage viewers throughout Quebec to contact their local cable companies to add YES TV to their local channel line-up," Sheppard said. "We are available to any cable company who wishes to carry YES in HD at no charge.
Simon Cowell not only owns the X Factor, he is back as a judge. Joining him on the panel is the gorgeous Cheryl Cole, Louis Walsh (whom I met in person) and Mel B from Spice Girls fame.  We attended three plus hours of Arena Auditions and they were great. I cannot wait to see them on TV.
The X Factor, which survived three seasons on America's Fox TV before being cancelled, is a mega-hit in the UK. The talent show has a wide age range of eligible singers who sing solo or in groups.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Charismatic Israel Consul General Joel Lion completes his tour of duty in Montreal

It was a brief three year term, concluded prematurely because of a previous assignment abroad, yet Joel Lion made a lasting impression as the Consul General of the State of Israel to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.

Lion, his wife Rivka and six of their eight children, returned to Israel last week.  During his time here he was a presence at virtually every community event. Generally speaking without any notes, he would always have audiences attentive to his every word. Within days of his arrival in the summer of 2011 he began to meet with community representatives and in rapid speed he got to know people on a first name basis. 
Joel Lion, shown here at an Israel anniversary rally.

“I am sad to leave, but after six years on the road it is time to go home,” Lion told the Jewish Tribune in an interview on the eve of his departure. “Our eldest son is in the army and this is not an easy time for us to be so far away.”

I feel a personal loss with Lion's departure. I have worked with many people who held his position before, but never have I felt a deeper connection. He is a very special individual and I miss him already.

Lion chose to have his personal residence in a rented home in Côte Saint-Luc, quite a departure from his predecessors who preferred something closer to the Consulate downtown. As a result, Lion had a presence in the community and made it a point to attend different local synagogue services and community events.

Asked to indicate what the highlight was during his term he responded: “My entire stay here was one big highlight. But I am happy with the contacts I made here and in Atlantic Canada. In Quebec we reached out successfully to the provincial government. That included the Parti Québecois. During their term in office I secured funding to send the Ballet Jazz de Montréal to Israel and we were engaged in serious talks to establish a Quebec office in Israel.”
Lion also played ice hockey for the first time, suiting up in what was called the Kiddush Cup between two local synagogues at the Bell Centre. “I hope to introduce some street hockey in Israel,” he said. “I will be wearing my Montreal Canadiens PK Subban sweater.”

Lion, 49, is an ordained orthodox rabbi. He was born in France, grew up in Luxembourg and immigrated to Israel in 1982. Prior to his Montreal posting he was the spokesperson for the Consulate General of Israel in New York and permanent representative of Israel to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – a post he maintained while in Canada.

A few days before his departure,  Lion penned an editorial in the French language daily newspaper Le Devoir in which he took some of the Quebec media to task for their coverage of the war in Gaza.  “During the last month, when my country was at war against Islamist fanatics, the voices of those who hate the Jews here were mixed with those who do not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel,” he wrote. “They brought with them many do-gooders who have fallen into the trap of Islamist propaganda and did not want to hear the facts.  Some Quebec media have also joined these voices. You accuse us of killing. Let me be clear: I cry every casualty of this conflict, but I would not allow anyone to demonize us because we never deliberately targeted civilians. Never!”

B’nai Brith Canada’s Ted Greenfield notes that he always found Lion to be very accessible. “Very early in his mandate, he met with the local BBC Board and then spoke to the seniors at our building,” he said. “I found that he understood that the way to reach the general community was by promoting the normality of Israel, its creativity, industriousness, and the strides it has made in so many fields in its short history. Obviously, his strength in the French language was a major plus in that regard. 

Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko added: “Joel was a wonderful addition to our community over the last three years. He vigorously defended Israel in Quebec with grace and courage in ways that will benefit all of us for years to come.”

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

West Island Jewish Community Centre to shut its doors October 31

News that  the Board of Directors of the YM-YWHA Jewish Community Centres of Montreal (the Y) has voted to close the West Island Jewish Community Centre (WIJCC) as of October 31 has been met with great dismay and some opposition.

A shot of some people exercising at the WIJCC this week.
 “Facing a demographic shift of the West Island Jewish Community, declining membership of our intended target market, numerous competing fitness facilities and competitive early childhood education programs, the Y considered a number of scenarios vis-à-vis the long-term viability of our WIJCC,”  YM-YWHA president Joel Shalit wrote in a message. “Together with Federation CJA, we carefully weighed our options and in the end, the Board arrived at this difficult conclusion.”

Scenes like this will soon be a thing of the past at the WIJCC.

Some members are not accepting the decision. Pat Libling and some friends have launched a petition that members are signing. “We are also hoping many in the community will do so as well,” she says. “The support has been strong  we hope to reverse the closing. The decision was made without consulting the Y members and we are requesting a meeting with the executive.  The last thing we want is a Jewish institute closing on the West Island.

Shalit said he, too, has heard from some disgruntled Y members.  “The closure is, indeed, unfortunate,” he said. “It is a decision I wish the Y did not have to make.   Membership at the WIJCC has dropped from approximately 550 to 450 members over the past couple of years.

Joel Shalit

The WIJCC opened in 1986, moved to its current location in the Montreal borough of Pierrefonds in 1997, and expanded in 1999, with support from the Y Board, the Montreal Jewish Community and Federation CJA.  Even with the closure, the   West Island CPE du Y daycare will continue to operate.

 Steve Rothstein, a member of the WIJCC and a former board member,   expressed his deep regret over the news. “I am very upset, “ he said. “I have enjoyed the community environment of the Y and have built friendships with many members. The major problem is the location and hours of operations. It should be near Sources Boulevard, Marché de la Ouest, the Civic Center or near one of the synagogues  or at the CJA. The current location adds extra travel time and is out of the way. It also should be  every day,  with the exception of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What is nice is that everyone who works out at the facility knows everyone. It is a much more friendly atmosphere than almost any other gym in the West Island.”

Rabbi Zeitz (right) and his wife Charlotte.,
  Rabbi Mordecai Zeitz, the pioneer of the West Island Jewish community and rabbi emeritus at Congregation Beth Tikvah, Rabbi Mordecai Zeitz, is concerned as well. “I am truly saddened that a long time partner of ours in the West Island Jewish Community is closing its doors,” he  remarked. “Having started in our building, they went on independently to provide significant service to the broader Jewish Community. I think this gives cause to all Institutions to re-evaluate and consider how they are relating to the changing needs of the Jewish Community and how better to meet those needs. We are ready to reach out to assist those disenfranchised  by this closing in any way possible.”

Steven Slimovitch, national legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada and a long time West Island resident, calls the decision “most unfortunate,  whether justified or not. It is essential that the Jewish community living in the West Island have a "Jewish home" and not simply be left to fend for itself.”   

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Montrealers Hamamdjian and O'Hara-Byrne head the CTV National News bureau in London

LONDON - There is a distinct Montreal flavour at the CTV bureau here in London, England, with Ben O’Hara-Byrne and Daniele Hamamdjian serving as the national network’s team on the ground.

Ben O'Hara Byrne and Daniele Hamamdjian at the CTV London bureau.

I got to know both of these  native Montrealers as they were cutting their teeth in the business, Hamamdjian at the local CTV newsroom then known as Pulse and O’Hara-Byrne with Global. Hamamdjian joined CTV National News in 2009. She recently covered Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa,  the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the crisis in Ukraine. While previously assigned to the Ottawa Bureau, she travelled with the Prime Minister’s office numerous times, including to the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea in March, 2012; the G8 Summit in France in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013; Afghanistan for the Prime Minister’s final visit to the troops before the pullout; and the annual trip to the Arctic, tracing Canada's international diplomatic efforts.

Hamamdjian began on-air reporting for CTV Montreal in 2006. A Concordia University journalism graduate, she actually began her career as general assignment reporter at the Santa Monica Daily Press in California. Born in Cairo, Egypt,  she lived in Los Angeles before immigrating to Montreal with her family in the late 1980s and settling in Laval. She speaks French, English, and is conversational in Arabic and Italian.

O’Hara-Byrne moved to London after a stint as CTV’s Beijing Bureau Chief. He spent three years covering stories across China, including the visits of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, and the 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square. He has also reported from Afghanistan, Libya, North Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Russia. Winner of an RTNDA award in 2007 for Best Network Spot News for the Conrad Black Verdict (Global), O’Hara-Byrne was also a 2007 Gemini Award co-nominee for Best Reportage.  He grew up in Mile End, right around the corner from the St. Viateur Bagel factory and lived in Outremont through his teens. “I finished high school at Royal West Academy and I credit my time there, the teachers I had and friends I made, for kick starting what has been a very interesting journey through life so far,” he says. 

Hamamdjian says she still pinches herself when she walks through the streets of London. “I ask myself ‘how did I get here?’ and then I realize how really fortunate I am,” she told  me. “I love Montreal, but when they say that London is the center of the world culturally and financially they are not kidding. It is impossible not to have something to do and see here.”

I would agree with Daniele on that point. We were there for a week and did not accomplish anywhere near the number of stops we had planned.

As for O’Hara-Byrne, he says “the posting in London is really a wish come true. The CTV bureau here is responsible for all of Europe so that offers a endless supply of fascinating and challenging stories, everything from the battlefields of past wars to ongoing conflicts in places such as Ukraine. On days off, the city itself is always fascinating, as the saying goes, bored of London, bored of life.”
After working out of Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Ottawa,  O’Hara-Byrne  accepted the fact that moving around would be part of the job. “ But I had no idea when I decided to apply for a correspondent's position in Beijing in 2008 that I'd still be abroad in 2014,” he says. 

“I really enjoyed the China assignment. So much is changing so quickly there and elsewhere in Asia. I also met my wife in Beijing, so it was a life-changing time. It’s always difficult to pack up and move to yet another new city, but London is its own reward.
Because of the centrality of London, Hamamdjian and O’Hara-Byrne never know when the call will come for them to hop on the plane and go to any location around the globe.  “I love what I do,” Hamamdjian says. “ The bottom line is you are in this business because you love to tell stories. For stories like the Ukraine, you never have much warning. Pack your bag and you are off.”

Hamamdjian’s family still resides in Laval and she was back home recently for a brief visit.

During her time at the CTV Ottawa bureau, Hamamdjian clearly impressed her superiors. She was part of the first international reporting team on the ground in Haiti after the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in 2010, and she also travelled to Guantanamo Bay in August 2010 to report on the Omar Khadr case. “Guantanamo Bay was probably the strangest place I have ever been to,” she says.

Hamamdjian’s coverage of international affairs is balanced by the Canadian stories she has covered, including the 2011 Federal Election. Her coverage of the Attawapiskat housing crisis in 2011 led to testimonies of alleged rampant sex abuse in Attawapiskat and native communities across the country. And then there is the Nigel Wright coup. Wright was the chief of staff to Prime Minister Harper and got in very hot water when he handed over a personal cheque of $90,000 to disgraced Senator Mike Duffy to try and get the latter out of a jam. He ultimately was forced out of the job because of this. Nobody seemed able to corner Wright for an interview. When Hamamdjian found out that Wright took his daily jog at 4:30 a.m. she decided on a stake out. “He was not too happy to see us and I had to run after him,” she says. “Everyone knows that you do not run away from a camera. It does not look good. So he stopped and gave me the interview.”

Saturday, 9 August 2014

So You Think You Can Dance Top 10 tour returning to Montreal

Ricky Ubeda
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, the 11-time Primetime Emmy® Award-winning show that sparked America’s fascination with dance, is set to captivate audiences again this fall – live on tour – with more stops than ever before. Celebrating its momentous 11th season, the show's Top 10 finalists will make their way across North America, performing in more than 70 cities and for the second year in a row Montreal will be part of it.  The tour will stop at the Bell Centre on Monday night, October 27.

I attended last year's Bell Centre show. It was a packed house, the atmosphere was electric and the performers were real crowd pleasers.

The Season 11 tour lineup includes the following Top 10 finalists: Bridget Whitman, Casey Askew, Emilio Dosal, Jacque LeWarne, Jessica Richens, Ricky Ubeda, Rudy Abreu, Tanisha Belnap, Valerie Rockey and Zack Everhart. The show airs Wednesdays (8 p.m.) on FOX and CTV. 

The tour kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans and crosses the United States and Canada with more than 70 stops. The first leg of the tour will finish up on Friday, Dec. 19, at the Maverick Center in West Valley City, UT. The dancers will return for the second leg of the tour, starting at the Rabobank Theatre in Bakersfield, CA, on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Tickets for the Montreal show go on sale August 16. Info:www.evenko.ca.