CBC eyes growth in region
Fri, May 4, 2007
The London area is at the top of the list for a Radio One station.
By HANK DANISZEWSKI, SUN MEDIA
Fans of CBC Radio One in the London-Kitchener area might finally get their own full-scale station.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is considering a plan to beef up its presence in 15 areas across Canada it considers "underserviced."
The Southwestern Ontario market is at the top in the list because it's the most populous, said Ted Kennedy, chief of staff for CBC's English Radio network.
"Southwestern Ontario is the No. 1 priority . . . we're talking about one-and-a-half million people," he said.
CBC has a two-person news bureau in London but local listeners get a morning show based in Toronto and an afternoon show out of Ottawa.
Kennedy said the CBC recognizes the region deserves better service.
"There was a time when Toronto was more representative of southern Ontario than it is now. Many people in Southwestern Ontario define themselves as 'not being Toronto,' " Kennedy said.
Kennedy said if the plan goes ahead the London-Kitchener outlet would be the largest of the new stations and would employ more than 20.
He doesn't expect strong opposition from private broadcasters serving the London and Kitchener markets because the CBC doesn't sell advertising and has a different focus. "They recognize we're fishing in a different pond."
Kennedy quietly held a meeting at the University of Western Ontario this week to unveil the CBC's plans to an invited group of about 30 civic and business leaders and academics. He said the plan to service all 15 areas will cost about $25 million a year and hinges on funding approval by the Harper government.
David Spencer, a professor of media and information studies at UWO, said the London area is a "gaping hole" in CBC radio coverage and a new station would be welcomed. He expects most of the staff in a London-Kitchener station would be in London.
Spencer said the new station would offer a full range of local news and programming.
"The station here would be very little different from the one in Toronto," he said.
Spencer expects there will be an outcry from private broadcasters in the area. But he said the Harper government, struggling to build its political base, may be surprisingly supportive.
"There are a lot of things happening with the government right now, but alienating the CBC is not one of them."