Promoting the hand that feeds

CBC, Global plan news changes
TORONTO (CP) – A Mohawk haircut and metal studs on Peter Mansbridge are not in the cards.
But CBC News introduces a new look and attitude next Monday on all its platforms in response to demands from Canadians that the public broadcaster try to be hipper and cooler. Global News also plans to leave the status quo behind. Next month Global National with Kevin Newman will move to 5:30 p.m., the beginning of the supper hour, in a tactic that may carry some ratings risks.
CTV News, now leading the network ratings race, is maintaining an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach. But they may be carrying the concept of targeting a younger demographic to extremes in hiring precocious eight-year-old Treehouse TV star Daniel Cook as an election reporter.
The revamping of the CBC’s news operation includes new music and logos.
“We’re not trying to transform the CBC into some kind of contrived hip operation,” assures Tony Burman, CBC News editor-in-chief. “I think our visual look will be sharper and more dynamic and more colourful. We’re experienced TV people and we know how to deal with that.”
The changes at CBC are in response to a sweeping survey completed two years ago. Burman says the survey, in which 1,200 Canadians were interviewed, found that parts of the operation didn’t appeal to young people. He says the network has already acted on that concern by hiring the likes of Avi Lewis and George Stroumboulopoulos.
He adds that the overriding – and encouraging – message was that Canadians want high quality information, more original journalism and more in-depth investigative coverage. Improvements in those areas will be made over the next couple of years, Burman says.
“What Canadians are telling us is go the reverse of dumbing down.”
Beginning Monday, the supper-hour news across the country will begin with half-hour regional newscasts called CBC News at Six, followed at 6:30 by Ian Hanomansing’s Canada Now (except in Newfoundland-Labrador where Vancouver-based Hanomansing will follow one hour of local news).
Meanwhile, CTV news president Bob Hurst says his operation leads the pack because of a commitment to a 30-year-old plan and a belief in consistency.
“Steady as she goes,” Hurst proclaims. “We don’t believe in radical changes. Changes can be disruptive to the audience.”
But he says that doesn’t mean “the big dog” is doing nothing. There are constant improvements in staff and technology, Hurst says.
“The big dog runs harder and faster than any other dog in the race.”
Hurst notes they did hire Daniel Cook who, he admits, is more famous than Lloyd Robertson to pint-sized (albeit non-voting) TV watchers.
“We’re just having some fun with this to try to brighten up the election campaign with a different set of eyes.”
The carrot-topped youngster’s first piece on the Stephen Harper campaign was due to air on Mike Duffy’s Newsnet show Thursday night.
Global TV plans a rebranding of its image next month, beginning during the Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 5. and followed by a major change in Global National with Kevin Newman the following Monday.
As part of what may be a risky positioning strategy, Newman’s newscast will not only unveil a new set and logo but move up an hour to 5:30 p.m. in all time zones except the Maritimes.
“There’s a huge audience available at the supper-hour period,” says Steve Wyatt, senior vice-president of news at Global, dismissing suggestions that many news viewers may not even be home from work at that early hour.
“We want to be first out of the gate with a big picture,” he says. “The Kevin Newman fans that are home at 6:30, a whole bunch of them are home at 5:30, too.”
Global will use the popular daytime soap Young and the Restless as a lead-in to Newman who will then hand off the audience to locally produced news, then an hour of Entertainment Tonight leading into prime time.
Unlike CBC and CTV, Global will continue to leave its end-of-night newscast to local affiliates.
Newman says it’s a coincidence that the changes are being introduced shortly after CBC’s TV news makeover, that they’ve been in the works for several years. He says they have more to do with creating a consistency across the country where, until now, supper-hour news has been at different times in each region.
“Now we will be able to promote Global National at 5:30 on a national scale, 6:30 in the Maritimes,” he says.