For many Canadians, it is a Sunday morning ritual: Michael Enright’s opening essay, followed by a long-form interview or panel discussion, a documentary, some music, and all kinds of radio gold over three hours. Mr. Enright once received a letter from a Saskatchewan minister saying he was planning to move his nine a.m. service into the parking lot because his congregation was in their cars listening to the radio.
But come September, the final hour of CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition will be replaced by a current affairs program from Western Canada.
The move – which will be announced at a CBC event on Thursday – was not motivated by budget cuts, according to CBC’s executive director, radio and audio, but an opportunity to try something new. “For us, this is about program development and schedule development,” Chris Boyce said. “Not about trying to save money.”
The Sunday Edition, currently airing from nine a.m. until noon, is a ratings hit, with about 1.1 million people listening to some part of the show on an average week this season, according to CBC. But the public broadcaster, looking to introduce new programs and personalities, felt the time slot was a good fit for The 180 – a show it has been developing (currently airing on Friday afternoons with a Sunday evening rebroadcast) with the popular former host of the CBC Calgary morning show, Jim Brown. The show is produced from Calgary and Vancouver.
“Senior management said they wanted to reconfigure part of Sunday, which is always a good thing, I think, to shake up the schedule,” said Mr. Enright, 71, a veteran journalist who has been named to the Order of Canada. He said he is in favour of a current affairs show from Calgary. “We are, after all, a national network, and we should have production from centres other than Toronto.”
Mr. Boyce said The Sunday Edition team will spend time between now and September “figuring out how the show is going to be different.”
Mr. Enright said the three pillars of the program – long-form conversations, documentaries and music – will remain. “The idea of the show will stay the same, but it won’t be truncated. We’re not actually going to lop off an hour and say, ‘Here you are, folks.’ We’re actually going to try new things.”
After more than a decade as host, Mr. Enright said he is looking forward to getting “a bit of a breather” with more time for other things, such as writing.
CBC has been laying off staff to deal with budget cuts. When asked about a report this week that Radio 2 could be moved online, Mr. Boyce said: “We have no plans to move Radio 2 to be an online service. I think inevitably if you look down the road, every broadcaster in this country at some point in the future is going to make the transition from being a broadcast service to being an online service. But that is not something that we’re contemplating in the near term.”