Confused about CBC Radio in the Morning

There have been some positive developments this season on CBC Radio’s morning schedule.

The Current is an excellent current affairs show, and Anna Maria Tremonti and Jim Brown are excellent hosts.

Even Sounds Like Canada, which is otherwise chaotic and unfocused, has its good points, not the least of which is permanent guest host Bernard St-Laurent, who has managed, inside his tenuous shell of a job, to tilt the show a little to the positive.

That all said, there’s a substantial problem with the morning schedule, and that’s simply that the schedule itself is far, far too confusing.

Here’s the progression as I hear it. Island Morning, the local morning show, now ends at 8:30 a.m., and is followed immediately by about 15 minutes of news and sports. Then comes The Current, which breaks for news almost immediately at 9:00 a.m. There’s another newscast at 9:30 a.m., and then, before 10:00 a.m. comes the “mid-morning break” from Halifax, which huddles around the top of the hour and is a sort of garage sale for otherwise unused bits of vaguely local information. Sometime after 10:00 a.m. Sounds Like Canada starts up, and then there’s more news at 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Somewhere before Noon, Out Front may or may not cause Sounds Lilke Canada to end early. Then there’s more news at Noon.

That’s six newscasts alone between 8:30 and Noon. Some of them from Toronto, some from Charlottetown, some from Halifax. Some are local, some are regional, some are “national and international.”

While much of the individual programming has its good points, it’s scattered over such a confusing schedule that a listener tuning in for Island Morning and listening through to Maritime Noon — as I’ve done every morning for the past week — can emerge feeling mentally pommeled.

The roots of this can be traced back to the introduction of the bottom of the clock “update” newscast into the former 9:00 a.m. to Noon show This Morning. Apparently the Big Bosses felt that we listeners needed more local updating in the vast Sargasso Sea of contemplative current affairs. While this may have made sense in places like Toronto, where perhaps the Don Valley Parkway is backed up and drivers need alerting, here in The Regions, I’m sure most of us can hold our breath and wait to be updated at Noon.

The ultimate demonstration of the insanity of this idea came several years ago during a This Morning interview with former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna: the interview was just developing a nice head of steam when the host had to break for a “local update” and we got to hear Aubrey Bell rhyme off a couple of headlines, and then update us on the IODE meeting scheduled and the status of various lost cats.

I don’t think the CBC has to keep the Peter Gzowski-era format forever, and I’m not opposed to progress. But the chaotic panorama that is the morning schedule needs renovation and simplification.


Steve Rukavina's picture
Steve Rukavina on April 14, 2003 - 12:26 Permalink

I have to weigh in on this as the resident CBC rukavina. The CBC has a strong belief in providing so-called “survival information” (traffic, weather, headlines) at regular intervals. I would disagreee that this type of info. is only imporntant in big cities like Toronto. In Saskatchewan where I used to work regular weather checks are important for farmers, and also just for regular citizens in winter when road conditions can be deadly. This information is also important in remote areas like the north where CBC is the only place you can get it, or in certain parts of Quebec where CBC is the only place you can get it in English.

I agree with you that the transitions could be a little smooter, but I’d have to disagree about the frequency of the information.

And of course, although I work for CBC, I don’t speak for the whole CBC.

Alan's picture
Alan on April 14, 2003 - 13:56 Permalink

I think the entire morning needs a good shake and will likely get some kind of shake with the move of Sounds like Canada to Vancouver this fall. There are too many vestigaes to too many new plans still kicking around. I am glad the local morning shows end at 8:30. Here in Ontario East they do not do the news after 8:30 as they do in PEI and I think the rest of the Maritimes. It runs live so a later start in the Atlantic time zone is a easy accommodation. I also like the 10:00 regional news as one can only hear the Cat Advisory Orange Alert so many times. The best radio here in the Upper St. Lawrence is listening to Northern New York NPR for the 15 mintute drive into work. Unfortunately the building we are in kills the signal for home.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 14, 2003 - 15:04 Permalink

Steve, I can see the place for “survival information,” but it seems to me that increasing the frequency of this information, beyond being annoying and intrusive, is simply not the most effective way of making this information available to the public. If I need the weather at 10:13 a.m., I’ll go to the Weather Channel, or go to the Internet, or phone the Weather Office. If I really need the weather at 10:13 a.m., I’ll have my own weather station. To take time away from what the CBC is really good at — depth — seems a waste of a precious resource.

Johnny's picture
Johnny on April 14, 2003 - 16:53 Permalink

Pete: You can’t go to the Weather Channel, go to the Internet, or phone the weather office from your car, which is, after all, when its most important to know about raod conditions.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 14, 2003 - 17:02 Permalink

Yes, but if the road conditions are coming up at 10:30 a.m. and it’s 10:04 a.m., then that’s not of particular use to me either. If the CBC considers it part of its mandate to equip drivers with timely and accurate traffic information, then that’s fine, but dribbling it out amongst the current affairs foreground programming is not the most effective way of doing that.

steve rukavina's picture
steve rukavina on April 15, 2003 - 19:21 Permalink

It’s a balance; we HAVE to provide survival information because as I said for many parts of the country we’re all they’ve got. I think doing it every thirty minutes is not too intrusive in the current affairs yet still enough to provide a valuable service. I don’t think such info. on the half hour is “dribbling in”. I think it’s reasonable.

former cbcemployee's picture
former cbcemployee on April 16, 2003 - 17:05 Permalink

Ahah Steve,

See they’ve got your brain now…some day your objectivity will return and you’ll release it sounds like someone took a bunch of programming and threw it at the wall.