Sunday, March 29, 2009

Margin Notes: Earth Hour, Trains Restored, CBC

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Toronto Hydro's figures are out, and power use was down 15% during Earth Hour last night. On today's Dr. Joe Show on CJAD and CFRB, host Dr. Joe Schwarcz read a letter pointing out that in areas were power comes primarily from hydroelectric and nuclear power, Earth Hour actually results in increased carbon emissions, as candles emit carbon dioxide and the sources of electricity do not. Somebody seems to have missed the point that the event is designed to raise environmental awareness, not reduce carbon emissions--as a joke on This Hour Has 22 Minutes put it a few weeks ago, the event would delay the end of the Earth "by one hour." Perhaps the most amusing take on the event was on blogTO, which had the headline "Earth Hour Makes Like the TSX: Power Use Drops 15%". There's nothing like the economy to keep things in perspective.

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As people continue to look for signs of what is happening with the economy, some very strange indicators are being cited. I've been known to cite the amount of traffic I see on freight trains and the operating pattern of railroads. The Canadian Pacific had apparently stopped running its daytime "Expressway" trains carrying trailers between Toronto and Montreal earlier this year, leaving only the overnight "Expressway" trains running. However, I saw train #122 from Toronto to Montreal starting its journey just after daybreak on Friday morning, so the daytime trains are back--and there were quite a number of Canadian Tire trailers on the thirty-platform train, implying that the retailer may be seeing some strength in the economy.

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CBC/Radio-Canada has certainly been affected by the economy, announcing cutbacks this week that included 800 layoffs. One question raised by the cuts is what CBC Radio One will broadcast in the early afternoon. If regional noon shows will only be an hour long, that opens up the 1-2 pm hour in many markets, and if "The Point" is being canceled, that opens up 2-3 pm or 2-3:30 pm, depending on the market, leaving at least a ninety minute hole in the afternoon. My guess? The current 11 pm programs (repeats of weekend programming from Quirks and Quarks to Writers and Company to Vinyl Tap) will be run at 1 pm, introducing them to yet another audience. Then, from 2 onward, a national program will be made up of "best-of" morning shows from across the country. In Toronto, it would be nice to hear the best interviews from Rick Cluff, Jim Brown, Kathleen Petty, Don Connolly and other regional and local hosts around the country, and we can share Andy Barrie. All it would cost the CBC is a little production time.

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Public radio stations in many areas in the United States are reminding listeners what it costs to listen to them through fund-raising drives. One interesting comment heard during KUOW-Seattle's fund drive last week was "Conversation" host Ross Reynolds saying that when he hears legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, he thinks of tote bags, a common premium for giving to public radio. Come to think of it, I'm surprised NPR hasn't sold Totenberg Tote Bags.

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