Barbara Budd said she would never have dreamt of leaving CBC Radio One's As It Happens. But people close to the CBC's inner workings took the news this week of her departure as another indication of a strategic move within the broadcaster.
"I would never, never, ever walk away from a show that I still truly love. This is difficult for me," Ms. Budd said. She paused, then said, "If there is something they see that they want in the program that requires other skills, then I understand that. But it doesn't mean that I'm not sad to leave."
The CBC producers' decision not to renew Ms. Budd's contract with As It Happens after 17 years as co-host is part of a larger move to replace CBC Radio's news and current-affairs announcers with journalists. Veteran CBC reporter Alison Smith's move to her current position hosting World At Six, and former foreign correspondent Peter Armstrong's new job at World Report, replacing long-time host Judy Maddren, are both part of that push.
Ms. Budd came from a successful acting background - including years performing at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and narrating documentaries and other voiceover work. She moved to As It Happens from a pool of on-air announcers used by the CBC.
The shift is "something that's been happening for years," said Janice Neil, an assistant professor at Ryerson University and former senior producer at CBC Radio in Toronto.
The CBC notes that the strategy is widespread in the industry. "In a general sense, it's true that with the evolution of the show, we are looking to put more of a focus on hosts who are also journalists," said Jeff Keay, a spokesman for the CBC.
It's not entirely a cost-saving measure, he added. "It's not so much that, as it is the evolution of the show, the demands of the show. It gives you more flexibility, and I think it gives more of an ability for hosts to bring a journalistic interpretation to the [work]that they do."
Still, some of the most prominent changes in hosts on CBC Radio have happened within the last year. And Ms. Budd's departure on April 30, which she announced on her show Monday evening with her characteristically sharp wit, could change the feel of one of CBC Radio's anchor programs.
It's common for listeners to confuse Ms. Budd's role with host Carol Off's job. That seamlessness, Ms. Budd said, has long been the show's strength. Ms. Off does much of the journalistic legwork and interviews the guests on topics ranging from national politics to natural science. It's a full-time job. Ms. Budd's position has always been part time. She reads the intros and segues scripted for her, although she has considerable free rein to rewrite or ad lib.
"I have nothing but amazing admiration for her," Ryerson's Ms. Neil said. "I think she brought really, really wonderful qualities to the show beyond her role [as co-host] She really created a role, and I think they really allowed her to spread her wings. I hope that's what they are going to continue doing with whoever replaces her."Report Typo/Error