CKO Closing, 40 Years Ago

Bits and Pieces of BC Radio History

CKO Closing, 40 Years Ago

Postby cart_machine » Tue Aug 11, 2020 1:22 am

40 years ago today, Hal Davis ended his ‘NW 8 a.m. news as usual by saying “Have a good day now, d’ya hear?”

But just before that, he read a short wire item stating CKO was ceasing local programming in Vancouver and laying off all but one person.

That’s how some staffers learned they were losing their jobs. From someone at another radio station.

So much for a “good day.”

The Vancouver Sun got on the story that day for its later editions:

All-news radio network closes its local bureau
After three years of operating losses, the all-news CKO radio network is "restructuring" its operation, closing its Vancouver bureau and replacing it with a one-man news operation that will provide material for the national network.
Vancouver news director Tom Spears [sic] said today in an interview that the FM station will no longer carry local news. The decision means that six employees in the local CKO newsroom will be laid off, he said.
The station will continue to broadcast Vancouver Canadians baseball games and will honor all local advertising contracts, he said.
"I've been here for a year and a half that's the longest of anyone here. It's sad.
"Anytime a thing like this doesn't work out, it's sad."
Spears said the station staff found out about the layoffs this morning.
"The company is being very good about it," he said.
The layoffs take effect Friday and the new format will be phased in after that, he said.
The "restructuring" was announced from Toronto earlier today by Ben Torchinsky, president of Agra Industries Ltd. of Saskatoon, majority owner of the network. He dismissed as rumors earlier statements that Agra would either sell the network or shut it down because of excessive startup costs.
"This is not true," Torchinsky said. "We do not intend to shut down CKO, but we are looking for ways to improve the efficiency and quality of its operations."
Correspondents will be installed in areas such as Halifax, Saint John, St. John's, Northern Ontario, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, northern B.C. and the Northwest Territories, he said.
CKO outlets currently serve Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and London, Ont., as well as Vancouver. It was not immediately apparent how many would suffer the same fate as the local outlet.
Vern Furber, CKO's chief executive officer, said the revised operation will give the network the flexibility to provide listeners with programs of regional interest.
He said advertising sales as of Aug. 1 were 48 per cent ahead of the same period last year.
Torchinsky predicted that the revised network operation should provide sufficient savings to make the all-news format viable.

The next morning, Toronto tried to re-hire the traffic manager it had just fired because Vancouver had a large contract with another company that re-sold time and someone was needed to log spots. As I recall, Kathleen Mason gave a two-word answer to their offer.

Later stories stated the Vancouver newsroom had a staff of six. I’m not sure at this late date who they all were. Tom Spear and Craig Henderson were anchors, John Kendrick and Shirley Meyer were reporters and the station had only just hired another reporter whose name I don’t remember and was quite annoyed that I was the one being kept on and not her. Paul Mitchell was our operator for the home Canadians games. (Paul soon left after making an offer to buy the station for $1).

The idea may have been to have a sole reporter filing to Toronto but that isn't the way it worked out. Paul and I were in the building 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. opping the board. Our BN wire was still operational, so he and I ignored Toronto's plan and carried on with local newscasts during drive times, with a stringer system set up, including a legislature reporter (Mark Collins, then Skip Kelly). It was smoke and mirrors, but better than nothing. CKO reopened the Vancouver station in 1982 and by 1986 was the origin of network programming on weekdays from 2 p.m. to midnight until red ink put all the stations off the air for good on November 10, 1989.

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