Oh, Canada!

Larry in VancouverI am moving to Canada. (This is me and the view from my new office.) —>

Let’s get the two most popular questions out of the way first.

No, I’m not hightailing north of the border in anticipation of a Trump presidency.

Yes, you can crash on my couch when YOU want to escape Trump’s empire.

Why Canada?

I have been consulting Corus Radio in Vancouver since January 2014. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching and strategizing alongside some brilliant radio leaders. I have worked closely with and been inspired by dedicated, committed and talented radio staffs. And have I rediscovered the excitement that radio can deliver when a company commits to success, invests in its future and wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

Last August, I was asked to serve as interim Program Director of News-Talk 980 CKNW and AM 730 All Traffic, All the Time. So, for 9-months I have been commuting between my family in California and my work in Canada. Three weeks a month or so in Vancouver with a weekend home and then one full week with the family each month. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t always easy. It took patience, sacrifice, and an exceeding amount of trust from all involved.

Now the “interim” has been removed from my title and my family is moving to British Columbia. I will continue to write blogs and create Radio Stuff Podcasts as time permits.

Radio is Radio, Right?

Sort of.

Radio is different in Canada than the U.S. though not so insanely so. Here are some of the nuances.

Language | Bottom line you will hear more adult language on radio in Canada. From bullshit to asshole and the treasure trove of curses in between. Not fuck. But most anything else. In the U.S. that sort of language is prohibited by the FCC from 6am to 10pm and most companies avoid it all together.

Governing Body | The governing body over radio in the U.S. is the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Listeners can complain about stations to the FCC, but unless there is a deluge of complaints about a certain broadcast the complaint falls on deaf ears. In Canada, the governing body is the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission) and the broadcasters created a coalition called the CSBC (Canadian Standards Broadcast Council) which fields each listener complaint. The complaints are formally delivered the radio station and stations have a finite period of time to respond to each complaint. If the listener remains unsatisfied by the response, the CRTC can make a ruling on the matter.

PPM | People meters in large markets is the standard in both the U.S. and Canada. Three distinct differences though. 1) Nielsen (in the U.S.) is a private, for-profit company that monopolizes broadcast ratings data. Numeris (in Canada) is a not-for-profit, member-owned tripartite industry organization. If you want ratings, you become a member.  If you are a member, you’re part owner. 2) In the U.S., radio stations are battling for quarter-hours. If a listener tunes in for five minutes in a quarter-hour it counts as 15 minutes of listening. In Canada, it’s minute-by-minute. Five minutes of listening is worth five minutes. 3) We also recently began receiving overnight ratings in Canada. So day-to-day you get a snap shot of listening patterns in the market. It was terrifying at first, but really quite useful. Knowledge is power.

Media Companies | In a very broad stroke, based on my observations and experience, media companies in the U.S. are grossly over-leveraged, cost-cutting from the front lines of content creation, investing in upper-management and are more fiscally focused than audience focused. Contrarily, in Canada, I see more fiscally responsible companies seeking strategic acquisitions, cost-cutting and efficiencies at senior management levels, investment in talent and technology and a stronger focus on the consumer experience. Extreme generalizations, I know, but it is my experience.

Listeners | Listeners to radio in Canada are different. The connection to the stations seems stronger and more personal, which means they feel like owners of the stations they listen to. That leads to lots of calls and emails for minor errors and great outrages each demanding returned phone calls, retractions, apologies, and retribution. It also leads to more passionate, dedicated listeners. I know listeners in the U.S. call stations too, but in my experience, for every call I received from a listener as a PD in the states, I get 10 in Canada.

Those are the main differences that come to mind today, I’ll add more over time.

Now off to get a Tim Horton’s coffee and a maple donut.

  1. May 7, 2016 at 8:32 AM

    Larry, your post is very timely as I’m just returning home to the US following the massive CMW extravaganza in Toronto. I agree strongly with you conclusions. It is simply different “there,” even though stations have names like Jack, Kiss, and News Radio.

    When my business was in that fledgling phase, one of my earliest clients was Rogers which owned CFTR (then Top 40) and CHFI (then Mainstream AC called “Beautiful”). (They still own these stations but they’ve changed a great deal over the years.)

    They hired me (among other things) to conduct focus groups among both audiences for several years. While it was clear the “rules & regs” were restrictive, making it challenging for programmers to navigate them, there was an effect that spoken word (I think it was called “mosaic”) had on the populace.

    Compared to the States, the audience was more articulate about many things, especially what was going on in the world, Canada, and Toronto. They also seemed to be invested in their radio stations, as you point out. They appreciated the radio they had, and while they complained as all listeners do, it was often from the standpoint of trying to help. As a moderator from the US, they took great pains to help provide me with useful and constructive information.

    I came away thinking that Canadians (broad generalization coming) were just nicer, more courteous, and considerate. Several people told me that’s due in part to that Canadian inferiority thing but you have to wonder if that ship hasn’t sailed. I enjoyed working in Canada very much. Our company continues to do work for Bell Media, and we’re thankful for that.

    Thanks, Larry.

    • May 7, 2016 at 8:38 AM

      Thanks for the note and insights Fred. Articulate is a great word to use in regards to the listeners. It’s not just “you suck” or another hurled, thoughtless insult, the feedback is typically more thoughtful and considered. Let me know if you’re planning to be in Vancouver, even if your consulting the competition, I’d enjoy grabbing some time together. Be well.

  2. Arnie Celsie
    May 7, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Larry congratulations! This will be a great move for you and a big win for Corus. I know Ronnie and Brad and many of the Corus folks, they love radio and do it well. I so glad that this worked out for both of you. Welcome to the Great Green North that is B.C.

    Arnie Celsie Email: acelsie@rawlco.com Cell: 604 8054665 Sent from my iPad


  3. May 7, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    Congrats on the move! BC is a beautiful part of the world.
    I have mastered the art of swearing on air just enough not to get thrown off so you can ring me when you need the fill in.
    Enjoy, Mate!


  4. May 7, 2016 at 4:08 PM

    Larry loved the thoughts you shared and also the echo from Fred about seeing and hearing many of the same things from his work in Canada.

    My question regarding PPM is do they place more meters in Canada, with relationship to population size, compared to the USA? Seems to me the technology might be good, but under-sampled here in the states.

    AND – what about Votaire in Canada. Last I heard, it was ordered to be turned off (for radio & TV). Yet, having just come from the NAB 2016 show in Vegas, Voltaire works (it was said over & over) and helps formats/content that encodes poorly without it. On the flip side, I’ve not heard anything good about Nielsen’s new CBET. Is that being deployed in Canada? And if not, why not?

    Just some thoughts you stirred up in my head. To say nothing of the longing for that passion in radio that you are enjoying by working in the Maple Leaf country.

    • May 11, 2016 at 6:53 AM

      Thanks Dick. Sample size is a big issue here too. I’ll try to give more context in the next Radio Stuff. Voltaire was outlawed by Numeris last June and remains so. Numeris as mentioned is a consortium of the stations that are members – I believe everyone understands it works and many stations had installed it prior to June and saw immeidate results. Regardless it is seen as unfair if not all stations participate.

  1. May 8, 2016 at 5:45 PM

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