Quebec man hopes to remember the dead with obituary channel
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009 8:31AM EDT
MONTREAL - A Quebec entrepreneur is planning to bring obituaries out of the back pages of newspapers to a new home on the small screen.
Gerald Dominique hopes "Je me souviens" -- a niche network dedicated to broadcasting digital obituaries -- will be ready to begin broadcasting by the summer.
The French-language speciality channel will charge a fee to broadcast obituaries, prayers, hospitalization notices and messages of thanks.
The Quebec entrepreneur obtained a licence in February from the CRTC and has designs on expanding the channel to the rest of the country, under the moniker "Remember the Name."
"The goal of this channel is to tell stories," Dominique said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"How many stories are lost all over the world each year -- great stories about people's lives -- those are the stories we hope to tell."
Dominique said he'd often hear about people passing away but that the information would be fragmented or cursory.
"There is always the exchange of information (among friends and family) , but it never makes it into the paper which offers only one dimension of the story and it costs a fortune," Dominique said.
"I felt the need to do more."
Dominique said the TV obits will include sound, music, photos, video, text and testimonials and will cost about the same as a newspaper obit.
Eventually, there will also be obits and memorials for more famous personalities, including political figures and celebrities.
Dominique estimates there are about 56,000 deaths yearly in Quebec, and even a fraction of those stories could provide the revenue he needs.
Suzanne Scott, executive director of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, said the television format sounds intriguing.
It's not uncommon for small-town radio stations to broadcast death notices on a daily basis, but she said even such local, free service is starting to disappear.
"There are many radio stations -- certainly in Ontario, the Prairies and smaller places -- that have a certain time of day that they will announce all the obituaries," Scott said.
If the televised obits are important to people, funeral directors are likely to support them, she said.
Obituary television is relatively new.
Etos TV, one of the world's first television networks devoted to death, launched last year in Germany with quite a bit of fanfare.
That network shows pictures and video clips of the deceased for a fee and broadcasts documentaries on related topics. It is backed by an association that represents German funeral directors.
Dominique, 44, who describes himself as a self-educated entrepreneur, is firming up plans for the launch.
He doesn't have the same type of financial backing yet as the Germans do, and Dominique acknowledges he will need some assistance.
"Certainly I'd like to have some help -- I'm not sure what kind -- but I would need some help," Dominique said.
"But if the planets align, I should be on the air in July."