Jan. 30, 2013 - Issue #902: Come cry with Daniel Romano
The costs of local radio
Citing limited resources and an attempt to best allocate those resources, CKUA Radio recently announced that it was making two major changes to its programming. The first was that it would be discontinuing Tom Coxworth's enduring Folk Routes program after 15 years. The second was that CKUA would no longer be producing local news and current affairs programming. "Producing original news journalism is expensive and our current financial situation prohibits the sustainable production of the quality of news coverage we want to achieve," reads the release. "CKUA will be offering BBC World News in place of our local news service."
The latter change is a particularly disheartening one. We don't need BBC programming, or any other sort of broad global coverage for that matter. We live in a time when the world is hyper-connected and global news can be delivered to your phone while you sit on the bus; we're independently connected to the global community moreso than ever in history and we can go straight to the source for news from other places.
But what we need in Edmonton—and what a localized, dedicated station like CKUA can best provide—is Edmonton-based, Edmonton-focused content. It's an important source for local happenings. According to CKUA's own mission statement, "CKUA connects the hearts and minds of listeners to create better communities." Well, local coverage is what builds and betters those communities.
It's easy to sympathize with the costs of crafting quality local news. News programming can be a hard sell to advertisers, certainly, and I'm sure the station's cultural programming will remain vital. But news is the voice that needs the most protection at media organizations because it's the one that really, truly belongs to listeners in Edmonton. It lets us talk about us, our city, and in doing so, engages the audience.
CKUA has obviously had to make some hard choices, ones that call for—and deserve—faithfulness and clemency from its audience while the broadcaster attempts to find a way to remain afloat. But isn't it harder to feel that connection when CKUA has stopped telling our own stories? The farther we go down the path of seeing journalism purely as a dying business model—one that's capable of being hacked apart and outsourced, part by part—the more it starts to lose its relevance to audiences completely.
Let's hope that as CKUA regroups, it will return its emphasis beyond local culture to the full scope of discussing the Edmonton community at large and being an empowering voice for the city. V
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