More U.S.-Style News North of the Border

Article excerpt

Canadians say yes to all-news programming but no to tabloid TV.

Baseball isn't the only American pastime making inroads in Canada. Canadian broadcasting is beginning to develop a distinct American flavor. News managers there historically have tried to avoid U.S. influences, but all-news radio and television programming, U.S.-based consultants, fast-paced video and increased ownership concentration are becoming more commonplace.

Canada's first local all-news radio station, CHFI, went on the air in June in Toronto with the help of one of the United State's all-news pioneers, Westinghouse Broadcasting CHFI's owners, Rogers Communications, now is planning to launch a local all-news cable channel in Toronto modeled after New York 1 News in Manhattan.

"Our company's emphasis has been that if it works in the U.S., we ought to look at it," says John Hinnen, news vice president and executive editor of CHFI. "When we decided to go into all-news radio we discussed it with Westinghouse and they agreed to help us. Their top people helped train our news and sales staffs. We even borrowed a little from their allf-news slogan, 'Give Us 22 Minutes We'll Give You the World.' Our slogan is '20 Minutes of News Every 20 Minutes.'"

U.S. news consultants also are showing up in Canadian newsrooms. "I was the first Canadian client for [Frank N.] Magid [Associates]," says Ron Johnston, news director at CKCO in Kitchener, Ontario. "That was four years ago. People here were just as dubious about consultants as they were in the states, but they've definitely helped improve our reporting and our newscasts."

One of those consultants, Eric Braun of Frank N. Magid Associates, says American viewers wouldn't notice much different about Canadian newscasts. "The form and reporting is the same, although Canada's tough libel laws minimize their investigative reporting," he says. "There also is less live reporting. The one notable difference in style is that Canada has lots of very well-established anchor-presenters who came from a print background. Canadians also do not have as many options or choices for news. And because there are fewer stations, coverage is more regionalized, covering the provinces and not just the local town or city."

Because much of Canada's population is located near its southern border, U.S. television programming is familiar to most Canadians. In the remote or less populated areas of the country where reception is poor or non-existent, programming from the three U. …