Friday, February 19, 2010

Media: Just Like CBS

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Upon moving to Canada, I shortly discovered that I found many aspects of the CBC Radio One schedule comforting. This wasn't really a surprise; after all, I had long listened to CBC programming since first discovering what was then "Sunday Morning" (now "The Sunday Edition") and "Quirks and Quarks" while in college, and had just added more as time went on. What it took me some time to realize, though, was that one of the reasons that I found the CBC schedule so comforting was that it resembled the CBS radio news of my youth.

Once upon a time, CBS ran a fifteen-minute news program (which ran without commercials in some, mostly minor, markets) at 7 in the morning (Central and Pacific time, anyway; it ran at 8 Eastern and 6 Mountain, which is to say it aired twice, once for most of the country and once for the west coast) called the CBS World News Roundup. Apparently, this broadcast was inaugurated in 1938, hosted by Robert Trout. In my lifetime, it was hosted by Bill Lynch until his retirement. The broadcast in fact survives to this day, shortened in length to eight minutes of content on weekdays and available as a podcast hosted by Nick Young. The CBC has a similar broadcast, "World Report" which airs ten minutes (until recently, twelve) of news at the top of the hour in morning at 5, 6, 7, and 8 (9 on weekends). I just felt like I was listening to the World News Roundup.

In the evening, CBS used to have a similar broadcast that always had commercials but had over ten minutes of content, the World Tonight. Airing at 6 Pacific (6 Eastern, 5 Central and Mountain, so it was fed three times), it was hosted by Christopher Glenn until he moved to the morning Roundup. This show also survives as the World News Roundup Late Edition with Bill Whitney (now just seven minutes of content, fed once at 7 Eastern/4 Pacific). The CBC does even the CBS of the past one better, with nearly a half-hour of news in "The World at Six". Listening to Bernie McNamee is just like listening to Christopher Glenn.

It goes beyond the special news broadcasts, though. CBS used to air a Saturday morning show a half-hour in length (not carried in many markets) called "Seven Days" that summarized what had happened that week in Congress. That should sound familiar to CBC listeners--substitute parliament and that's pretty much the premise of the 48-minute "The House", airing at 9:10 Saturday mornings. I'm not sure when "Seven Days" was canceled, but the House is still running strong.

Of course, there's plenty that CBC does that CBS has never done in the modern era--everything from the news magazines ("As It Happens", "The Current", and "The Sunday Edition") to specialty shows like "Quirks and Quarks" and "White Coat, Black Art", and entertainment shows like "Vinyl Cafe" and "Definitely Not the Opera" (er, "DNTO"). One thing that CBS has always done well that CBC does not do is short-form commentary. Charles Osgood has been a staple my whole lifetime, but at different times, they've also run regular commentaries by Dan Rather, Judy Muller, Bill Whitney, Harry Reasoner, Charles Kuralt, Harry Smith, and in recent times Dave Ross. I wouldn't mind if CBC found a way to incorporate such two-minute features.

Presumably, CBS pioneered the formats and the CBC adopted them and improved them over the years. In any event, the CBC is keeping alive a radio feel that is largely gone from CBS, even if some of the programs survive, and I appreciate that.

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