CJAD News Time could soon be a thing of the past as the station, looking to cut costs ahead of its parent company’s acquisition by Bell Media, considers dumping the time zone and adopting Eastern Standard Time and Eastern Daylight Time, in line with its audience.
CJAD News Time was invented in 1985 by the station’s management. Nobody I spoke to was entirely sure who came up with the idea exactly, but it was originally a crazy marketing idea: CJAD News Time would ensure it was always ahead of the competition by being exactly 0.800 seconds ahead of everyone else. When the clock struck midnight, CJAD News Time would already be at 12:00:00.800. The idea gained traction because the difference in time was about the same as the lag time between when something was said in the studio and when it reached listeners’ radios at home. “So in a sense, CJAD News Time was more accurate than any other time,” said Guillaume “Gully” Bulle, a long-time technician who worked on CJAD’s transmission system for 20 years before his retirement last fall.
A few years after coming into effect, CJAD News Time was added to the official list of world time zones. (“We’re not sure who managed to do that,” Bulle said.) It was officially defined as CJADST/UTC -4:59:59.2 and CJADDT/UTC -3:59:59.2, until 1995 when a bureaucrat at the International Telecommunication Union pulled the item from its listing. No explanation was given.
Nevertheless, CJAD News Time has continued, being used in on-air newscasts, mostly for branding purposes. Most news readers at the station, I’m told, don’t know the difference and even use clocks set to Eastern Time thinking they’re the same.
And really, they are mostly the same. A 0.800-second difference might be annoying when timing something accurately, but otherwise it doesn’t really mean much. Technical changes in the way the CJAD studio operates has reduced the lag time between when something is said and when it airs, while the lag time is much longer when the station is listened to online.
The cost of keeping CJAD News Time isn’t extremely high, but it is very annoying to maintain, Bulle said. The beeps that air on the hour and half-hour marks are on CJAD time, which requires a computer with an altered clock to keep that 0.800-second advance in place. “Considering on-air hosts can’t even finish their segments before those beeps go off at the top of the hour, it seems kind of silly to spend so much effort on 0.8 seconds,” Bulle said.
A final decision is expected in the next month. It’s unclear if the “CJAD News Time” branding would continue to be used or if on-air staff would switch to referring to it as “Eastern Time” or just “the time”.