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.