Television in Quebec

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Television in Quebec is an essential part of the culture of Quebec, as well as the rest of French Canada. With over 99% of households owning a television in Quebec, it has the power to reach every Quebecer. Long a preferred medium of many of Quebec's actors, artists, and writers, television has been one of the important forces in Quebec society, including its substantial influence in a series of dramatic changes in the 1960s: the Quiet Revolution.

Types of Television[edit]

Although broadcast in French, la télévision québécoise has little relationship to its gallic cousin; it's decidedly North American in its approach: a 30-minute programming grid, commercials, local stations, along with the distinction between broadcast television formed around networks of stations—which is freely available to anyone with a TV within their broadcast area—and cable television channels—which requires a subscription to receive.

Broadcast television[edit]

The four major broadcast television networks in Quebec are Radio-Canada, TVA, V and Télé-Québec. All four networks air, with the exception of local advertising and a small amount of local programming, identical schedules throughout Quebec, with the network signals being essentially the output of their Montreal flagships. Local stations affiliated with the networks are located in each of the 10 television markets of Quebec: Montreal, Quebec City, GatineauOttawa, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and Carleton-sur-Mer.

TVA is by far the most watched network: in Fall 2006, it held 28% of the Quebec francophone primetime television audience, compared to Radio-Canada's 19% and V's 14%.[1]

Given the predominantly French-speaking population, only CBC, the English-language television service funded by the government of Canada, is available over the air throughout the province. In Montreal and Gatineau, affiliates of CTV have transmitters; in those two cities as well as Quebec City and Sherbrooke, Global is available over-the-air.

Cable television[edit]

Quebec has the lowest cable television-satellite television penetration rates in Canada, with 85.7% of Quebecers having cable television, as of 2006.[2]

Vidéotron and Cogeco are the largest cable companies in Quebec, although a large number of independent cable companies exist. These compete against satellite companies Bell TV and Shaw Direct, as well as Bell's IPTV service Bell Fibe TV.

The Industry[edit]

There are two primary television seasons of approximately 13 weeks each: a fall season running from the beginning of September to December, and a winter season running from January to April. It is during these two periods that the majority of new domestic series air.

Nearly all Quebecois television outlets are owned by six companies: the federally owned Société Radio-Canada, TVA Group, Corus Entertainment, Bell Media, V Media Group, and the provincially owned Société de télédiffusion du Québec. These companies produce programming themselves or, more commonly, by independent producers. Tax breaks provided to independent producers have increased their workload, although the two largest networks produce a large amount of programming themselves.

Television production is centered in Montreal, where Radio-Canada and TVA have their large studio complexes and where most other independent studio facilities exist. A small amount of national programming is produced in Quebec City, in accordance with the licenses of the broadcast networks.

Quebecois television has been described as having a rigid "star system", wherein many television programs are dependent on featuring local celebrities to drive viewership—in so far that a small pool of personalities may repeatedly appear across different programs. Steve Faguy, a media analyst for the Montreal Gazette, reported that there were at least 40 different French-language programs with formats dependent on celebrity guests, either as a participant or interview subject. In April 2016, during an interview on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle, Quebecois musician Pierre Lapointe criticized the lack of diversity among personalities seen on Quebecois television, which he described as a "culture of emptiness", stating that he was "sick of always seeing the same faces, and I'm one of those faces." Ironically, the episode was airing against the Artis Awards on TVA, which led critics to point out that the 2016 ceremony featured many of the same nominees and winners as the previous year's edition.[3]


Television began in Quebec (and in Canada) on September 6, 1952, with the launch of CBFT in Montreal, the first station in what would become Radio-Canada's television network. Borrowing the technical standards and frequency plan from television in the United States, the station broadcast on the lowest channel, channel 2. Though initially bilingual, carrying programming from sister broadcaster CBC as well, the network would hold a monopoly on French-language television during all of the 1950s.

This "golden age" would end with a producers' strike at Radio-Canada in December 1958. The strike would lead one popular television host, René Lévesque, to launch a career in politics, one that would lead him to found the Parti Québécois and, later, nine-years as the Premier of Quebec.

In 1961, Télé-Métropole in Montreal signed on the air with decidedly populist programming. Known as le 10 for its channel number, it was first private French-language television broadcaster, the station would become the backbone of what is now the largest and highest-rated network in Quebec. In 1971, the network was formalized and given a name: TVA. By the early 1980s, its broadcast coverage reached nearly the entire province.

Colour began to be introduced in the 1960s, and by the end of the decade, unique cable television programming began with the introduction of télévision communautaire, the community channel.

Radio-Québec, now Télé-Québec, began in 1972, creating a third network, focusing on cultural and educational programming; first, its programming only appeared on a cable, three years later, in began broadcasting's on Montreal's first UHF station.

In the following years, additional Quebec cable networks appeared: TVSQ, covering sports, and surpassed in 1988 by RDS; TVJQ, with children's programming, later becoming Le Canal Famille, and now VRAK.TV; the TEQ, carrying an assortment of ethic programming, and now CJNT-TV; and TVFQ-99, now TV5 Québec Canada.

In 1986, Télévision Quatre-Saisons, now V, launched as the newest television network, and the first to be distributed by satellite. With stations in Montreal and Quebec City, its reach was extended with partnerships with Radio-Canada affiliates elsewhere in the province, creating what is known as a twinstick.

At the same time, expansion of the number of cable channels continued: MusiquePlus in 1986; MétéoMédia in 1987; Réseau de l'information and Canal D in 1995; MusiMax, Canal Vie, Télétoon, and Le Canal Nouvelles in 1997; Évasion, Historia, Séries+ and Canal Z, now Ztélé, in 2000; and ARTV in 2001.

In the middle of the decade, as the growth of digital cable expanded, digital-only cable channels began to appear; today they include such channels as AddikTV, Argent, CASA, Cinépop, MOI&cie, Prise 2, RDS2, RDS Info, Télétoon Rétro and TVA Sports.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Portrait de TVA" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  2. ^ "How Many Canadians Subscribe to Cable TV or Satellite TV?". Canadian Media Research Inc. for the CRTC. August 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  3. ^ "Quebec's insular star system may be too much of a good thing". Toronto Star. Retrieved 1 June 2016.