Stick with what you do well and others can’t do – that’s my suggestion for CBC Radio. An example, from this past week’s Sunday Edition, the story of The Investigator, a 1954 CBC Radio play about the McCarthy Communist “witchhunts”. Two important points: one, the power of drama as social and political commentary and, two, the power of a broadcast being heard across an entire nation at exactly the same time. CBC Radio can do that, your hometown radio station cannot.
So if programming must be scaled back due to less money, cut what others do and keep what fulfills CBC’s mandate as a national broadcaster. If I had to do a quick and drastic cut, it would be local programming: the morning, noon and ‘drive-home’ time slots. I’d keep national and international news, documentaries and drama.
Local information is valuable if you live in the locality. In southern Ontario, “local” programming comes from Toronto. It doesn’t matter even a tiny bit to me what traffic in Toronto is like. And while it can be entertaining hearing what Toronto City Council is doing, I can live without it. If it’s deemed necessary to keep regional programming, cut each time slot to one hour and have production staff and hosts work part-time or split shifts.
A Facebook friend’s comment on CBC Radio was that he’d listen more if it had local news relevant to him, in London Ont. Doing just that was the reason for the much ballyhooed local news break on the half hour inserted by CBC into its programming a few years ago. All that has done for me too often is interrupt the thread of interviews and documentaries for a weather “update” six or ten hours old. Being in touch with regional communities is a good idea, but that way of doing it hasn’t worked. I don’t know how much that 90 second break costs, but it’s not worth it.
Local is good if you are local to CBC station
When I lived in St. John’s, I enjoyed the CBC St. John’s local shows. They were informative and entertaining about my community. Keyword: my community. If I lived in Gander, it wasn’t relevant. I remember when CBC Newfoundland planned to shut down regional stations and programmes across the island. There was outrage. Gander, Grand Falls, Corner Brook all wanted to keep their own CBC local programming. Traffic reports weren’t going to make that much difference to the day’s decisions, but people wanted their broadcaster to reflect their lives. Valid point.
I’d like that in St. Thomas too. But I’ve never got it from CBC in Ontario. In St. Thomas, London, Windsor or Owen Sound, you get Toronto. Faced with the choice of Don Valley Parkway traffic reports and who’s singing where in Toronto or in-depth national and international news and socio-cultural analysis, I’ll pick the latter. CBC Radio should put its resources into what other, local radio stations do not do. If I want to hear St. Thomas news, I’ll switch to 94.1 myFM for its hourly news, then go back to CBC.
CBC is where I’ve been able to hear documentaries, political and cultural analyses, literature discussions and radio drama. Make Radio Two a definable station as it used to be (i.e. not a mishmash of music genres you can hear elsewhere). Also keep RCI alive. Make greater use of existing regional facilities and staff for national programming from areas outside the Toronto broadcast centre. Play RCI programmes like The Link if more repeat broadcasting is necessary on Radio One. (Also see my praise for RCI The Link here.)