Montreal Radio Blog

Friday, February 25, 2011

Aaron Rand Leaving "The Q"

Montreal radio circles are abuzz with the news that Aaron Rand will be leaving “The Q” in April. He’s been working for the same company for 26 years, under several different call letter variations and ownership groups. It is a truly remarkable feat in any market anymore. Most of Aaron Rand’s time has been spent as the morning man at what was once known to all as CFQR. And up until 2009, he was joined by his long-time friend Paul Zakaib, also known as Tasso Patsikakis.

You don’t last that long in any market unless you are really, really talented. Aaron Rand really is in a league of his own, especially now that greats like George Balkan, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman have passed away. There is no doubt that radio was far different when the preceding were in the prime of their careers. Rand sort of acknowledged the change during his departure announcement on Friday. No news as to whether he has plans to jump to another station or leave town. He did say he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. Hopefully that means we haven’t hear the last of him.

If you are too young to remember the mid 1980s, then you missed out on what was without a doubt the best radio show “anglo” Montreal has ever produced. The Aaron Rand Show on CFCF 600 was appointment radio. When you think about how much work it takes to produce a quality program, you just have to marvel at how much effort it must have taken to put that kind of show together 5 days a week. I first discovered the Aaron Rand Show in November of 1985. It was like nothing I had ever heard before or since. The “Ask my Dad” segments were pure gold. The way they would go to the lines at any time and talk to the quirkiest callers was classic. You could tell how much fun these guys were having and the amazing chemistry that existed between Rand and “Tasso”. I could go on, but I urge any fans of classic Montreal radio to get a hold of some old recordings of that show - you won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BBC World Service Cuts

The BBC’s shortwave presence is going to all but disappear in the coming few years. Recently, BBC officials announced massive cutbacks and layoffs at the World Service. In making their decision, they argued the need for them to adapt to “new” media. In other words, shortwave is considered expendable. We faced the same issues with cutbacks in Canada at Montreal-based RCI a while ago.

It seems that running the World Service is extremely expensive, which isn’t really surprising. They are being forced to trim about £46 million out of their present budget of £237 million-a-year over the next three years. They estimate the cuts will cost them around 30 million listeners worldwide. Keep in mind, there is no financial profit to be made of that seemingly large amount of people, which of course makes them expendable in the eyes of the BBC.

And when you bring up the concept of new media, it can’t be overemphasised how most shortwave listeners that will be lost do not have access to Internet or cell phones. In many cases, these are extremely impoverished areas of the world. Some are war-torn or under dictatorships. The BBC feed was one of, if not their only sources of un-filtered news and information - sometimes about stuff that was going on in their own backyard. As we have seen in recent years, there are ways to censor TV and the Internet, or even cut off phone service. Shortwave, as old a concept as it might sound, is still one of the most viable ways to broadcast without being censored.

Many people travelling abroad from Europe in particular have also used the BBC service to keep informed when no other means were available. To assume that the Internet is already at the point where all people in all places have equal access is not a fair or accurate statement. But then again, I am not a U.K. tax payer who might have a different opinion as to the viability of spending so much money on a service that does not directly benefit them. In terms of England’s image around the world, the damage of the World Service’s absence might be more substantial.