CKNW Radio changes reflect the state of the industry

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      Commercial radio has survived the arrival of television, the Internet, and satellite radio.

      But nobody will ever refer to the current era as the golden age for what broadcasters sometimes refer to as "theatre of the mind".

      Canadian broadcasting giant Corus Entertainment's third-quarter financial results tell the story.

      Television revenue rose from $140 million to $170.6 million year-over-year.

      Radio revenue fell from $47.1 million to $43.5 million year-over-year.

      Over the first three quarters, television revenue is up 16 percent at Corus. Radio revenue has fallen six percent over the same period.

      This morning, its flagship CKNW station didn't have a sponsor for its 8 a.m. major newscast. That's unusual, given that 8 a.m. is a peak listening time.

      Recent changes at the station must be seen in light of these results.

      After veteran broadcasters Bill Good and Philip Till announced their retirements, the station that likes to call itself the Top Dog had a chance to shuffle the deck.

      Instead of luring a popular broadcaster from another station (such as CBC Radio's Stephen Quinn) to fill a prime weekday spot, CKNW kept costs down by moving people around.

      Able veteran Jon McComb goes from the afternoon drive to a long morning slot, stretching from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. That's one-and-a-half hours later than Till was on the air.

      Afternoon host Simi Sara will be on the air a bit earlier, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by Michael Eckford from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

      Eckford, best known as Fiona Forbes' partner for years on the Urban Rush cable TV show, had been doing evenings on CKNW.

      It means that the key morning and afternoon drive positions will be held by CKNW incumbents.

      The only newcomer is  Justin "Drex" Wilcomes, who will be on the air from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.—never known as the highest-paid slot in radio.

      Wilcomes had already been working for Corus at CFOX FM, which is CKNW's sister station.

      In 2013, Wilcomes achieved some notoriety when he was fired from Courtenay radio station Jet FM. It came after he asked Premier Christy Clark on the air if it was better to be a "MILF" than a "cougar".

      In June, CKNW did some downsizing by laying off newscasters Tom Mark and Terry Bell, and sportscaster Stu Walters.


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      Aug 14, 2014 at 12:16pm

      I agree with you, Charlie, that the industry in general is struggling, however I (and many others) also feel CKNW's recent misfortunes are mainly the result of disastrous decisions made by management over the years.

      The firing of Raif Mair, the decision to march Frosty Forst in to early retirement and replace him with Philip Till (excellent newsman but mis-cast as a morning show host), the daily platform given to Michael Campbell to espouse Fraser Institute propaganda without providing similar exposure to ideas from the other side of the political spectrum, the constant pro-business, pro-BCLiberal viewpoint (regular CEO profile series, but nothing like that for labour or environmental leaders), the constant, incessant commercials, especially on McComb's show (if I had a nickel for every time Jon has had to say "we've got to leave it there for time ..." I'd be rich), the loss of the Canucks game broadcasts, the continued firing of talented news staff (most recently Tom Mark and Terry Bell) and the general lack of balance in the way politics and other issues are covered has resulted in the mess they are in now.

      The old time listeners are tired of the shabby treatment of the on air talent who were the reason we tuned in all day for all of those years, yet the station has done nothing to attract new listeners. These moves feel like trying to do more with less, as opposed to trying to draw in new listeners.

      I will say I am glad they have kept McComb and Simi Sara, but I doubt these moves will turn around the station's fortunes. I stopped listening for good almost two years ago when I switched to CBC and I have not looked back. I miss the local focus (outside of the morning and afternoon shows things are pretty Ontario-centric) and I miss the "Major" news casts at 5:00 and 8:00 AM, but I find myself yelling at the radio a lot less frequently, which makes my wife happy.

      Sorry for the long rant, but the ice burg is still looming and I think Corus management is still just shuffling deck chairs.


      Aug 14, 2014 at 5:01pm

      I'm glad to know that Michael Eckford is moving to an afternoon shift. He's smart, inquisitive, enthusiastic, nice, and funny. He's a great interviewer and lateral thinker. He was also waaaaay too high energy for the evening slot. As good as he is, he wound listeners up at a time of day when they should be winding down. Unsure of Justin Wilcomes. Please tell me he's more laid back and therefore more appropriate for an evening slot. And good luck to Michael. Excellent decision to bring him on board and even better to move him to afternoons!

      ken gibbons

      Aug 14, 2014 at 5:36pm

      I have to say that getting rid of rafe was the worst thing to happen in vancouver radio.Fair, and a great balance between left and right.He also could ask the hard questions and get the answers.Where are you now


      Aug 14, 2014 at 6:40pm

      I am a huge fan of Michael Eckford and I completely agree with the post @Changes description of his style. I met him once while volunteering and he was just as nice and charismatic. He is one of my favorite local personalities and I also loved him on television . However, I always tune out when he hosts with his former cable cohost who I found to be annoying, two faced and catty. She was pretty mean to him at times.
      Love Michael though, great guy!


      Aug 14, 2014 at 6:50pm

      i always enjpw when they put micheal smyth on for guest hostings. i wonder if they asked him.

      btw, losing the canucks games was the biggest hit. many a night worker used to listen to those casts and we moved over to 1040 on game nights.


      Aug 14, 2014 at 7:39pm

      I haven't listened to CKNW since they lost the Canucks and now will Bill Good gone, they should almost put a fork in that station.

      no loss

      Aug 14, 2014 at 10:27pm

      CKNW jumped the shark a long time ago


      Aug 15, 2014 at 2:06am

      the sooner this BC Liberal party squawk box dies the better

      blatant bias passes for news at this station. without all those ad dollars from the provincial government cknw would have been history 10 years ago

      Old timer

      Aug 15, 2014 at 7:57am

      I understand that they are doing away with call-ins in favour of Twitter!!?? I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but if it's anything like the terrible journalistic practice of just pasting in a column of tweets instead of writing a story, then they are going to lose even more older listeners, which have been their bread and butter. If they are trying to entice a younger crowd they are doomed since young people are connected to their cell phone screens and not radio. I know that being able to communicate with broadcasters via Twitter is very popular, and good for the station, but it decreases the need to actually listen to the station. Sooner or later the excellent interviews and discussions will be replaced by 140 character smart-ass comments and moronic hashtags.