Elizabeth Hay: “Don’t Touch That Dial. Reasons to Love Radio” (Spring 2024 Talk #4 Summary)

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Elizabeth Hay

Sheila McCook, who knew her from the CBC in Winnipeg, introduced Elizabeth Hay. Elizabeth was born in Owen Sound, as a teenager spent a year in England, then returned to Canada to go to UofT. In 1974 she moved to Yellowknife NWT. For the next 10 years she worked as a CBC radio broadcaster in Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto and Mexico, then New York in 1986. She returned to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Ottawa. Since age 15 she has written 15 books and received a number of awards, including the Giller prize for “Late Nights on Air.” “Snow Road Station,” her most recent novel, was named one of the best books of 2023 by The New Yorker. Her memoir about her parents, “All Things Consoled,” won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Some of her books are related to her CBC career.

Her talk began with an entertaining quiz – eight audio clips of CBC music or voices – to see what we recognized.

The talk focussed on Radio Then and Radio Now.

Radio Then

She discussed people like Max Ferguson  (Rawhide and The Max Ferguson Show), Nathan Cohen and Glenn Gould. She loved Newfoundland and talked about how popular radio was there. She gave a brief history of the founding of CBC Radio and its evolution, through the early 1970s, into the future.

Radio Now

She discussed many of the current issues regarding the future of radio (in particular the CBC): the need to attract a younger audience, budget issues, the desire on the part of some politicians to cut funding, privatization, the impact of competition from the internet (social media), TV and podcasts. Some (often rural) people still rely on the CBC.

The talk generated interesting comments and questions from the large audience.

Many who came to Canada a while ago were impressed with CBC compared to their home country.

Some Academy members currently listen to The Morning Show, Under the Influence (Terry O’Reilly), Quirks and Quarks (Bob McDonald) and Tom Allen.

Does CBC care about older people? Consensus seems to be No! A few do listen to the CBC App and podcasts.

Final comment: Don’t get rid of CBC Radio, reform it.

Julia Matthews thanked Elizabeth and pointed out that she gave us lots to think about.

By John Weatherburn