Broadcaster Magazine

UPDATE–Fans Shocked as Canada AM Goes Black

Canada AM  fans expressed shock today as CTV announced the morning program would be ending its 43-year run just a day later.

“There was no warning,” said Elaine Uskoski, a holistic health practitioner in Caledon, Ont. “I don’t think that’s fair to the fans.”

“I’m just stunned,” added Katia Ulysse Saint Vil, a political communications professional in Ottawa, who watched the show nearly every day.   “I would never think that the show would be ending just like that.”

CTV declined a request for interviews on Thursday but said in a statement that it was making the move in order to evolve its programming.

“As the television landscape continues to evolve, so too must our programming. We look forward to building upon the success of Canada AM as we move forward,” said Randy Lennox, president of entertainment production and broadcasting at Bell Media.

“We invite viewers and fans to join us as we say goodbye tomorrow and acknowledge the lasting legacy this series and its talent  both now and in the past  have had on Canada’s broadcasting industry.”

CTV said co-hosts Beverly Thomson and Marci Ien will continue to stay with Bell Media while Jeff Hutcheson will begin his previously announced retirement.   Thomson will move to CTV News Channel while Ien will develop new projects with Bell Media In-House Productions.

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Billed as “Canada’s most-watched national morning newsmagazine,”  Canada AM has been airing since 1972, providing news and lifestyle headlines as well as interviews with stars and newsmakers.

CTV said it will announce a new program for the 6 to 9 a.m. timeslot next week. A simulcast of live CTV News Channel programming will air in the timeslot on CTV beginning Monday.

Friday’s episode will be a tribute to both the program and its hosts.  The show has been home to many of CTV’s broadcasting greats, including Craig Oliver, Sandie Rinaldo, Tom Clark, Lisa LaFlamme and Seamus O’Regan.

“I really liked the way they reported the news,” said Ulysse Saint Vil.  “One of the things I also like about is that, I think that in Canada, black people are not very well represented in the media and seeing Marci Ien was also one of the reasons why I was watching every morning.”

Uskoski said she enjoyed the team’s “sense of humour, their relevancy to what’s going on, their interviews.”

“I liked that they had entertainment on the show. It’s probably more about Jeff’s sense of humour. I liked the camaraderie between them. It was fun to watch.”

Of course, much has changed in the media landscape since the 1970s.

“There was a time when morning news and current affairs shows like Canada AM,  just as much as evening flagship shows, totally set the agenda,” said Lisa Taylor, assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto.

“This show was borne of a time when we really did have to roll out of bed and turn on a TV to actually find out what had happened overnight, to find out what was going on.

“With the change in our consumption habits and with the advent of digital media, of course the whole game has changed.”

Taylor noted many viewers now get their news from their phones as soon as they wake up. They also work longer hours than they used to, and the largely female demographic that morning shows like Canada AM  had in their early days has changed with gender parity in the workforce.

“Morning shows that just tell us what is going on no longer have a ton of currency, because they’re speaking to a smaller and smaller audience,” she said.

The Canada AM  model of television with a full-production, sit-down set is also expensive and can look dated, she added.

“When we look at the reduction in advertising dollars going to terrestrial television, we see perhaps shows like this simply aren’t as profitable as they once were.”

“Canada AM  was recently drawing an average audience of about 234,000 viewers, according to Numeris, which was down two per cent from the previous year. But ratings were down 21 per cent in the key 25-to-54 demographic favoured by advertisers.

Taylor would like to see CTV replace Canada AM  with a morning news program that  ‘totally breaks free of the existing models.”   “I worry it would just be filler or a script show and nothing that will really create many jobs or keep many people employed in the business,” she said.

In an emailed statement, Scott Henderson, vice-president of communications at Bell Media, said the new morning show “will result in incremental job opportunities at Bell Media.”