CBC Daybreak on TV: Slightly enhanced radio makes for awful television

Host Mike Finnerty, right, with sports reporter Andie Bennett in the Daybreak studio.

Host Mike Finnerty, right, in the Daybreak studio.

For almost two weeks now, CBC has been broadcasting an hour of Montreal radio morning show Daybreak on television, with cameras installed in the radio studio. Managing Director Shelagh Kinch explains a bit how it works on her blog. But basically, a handful of cameras are set up in the studio that allow us to see the people on the air as they’re speaking. Because the cameras are voice-activated, the switching happens without the need for human intervention (i.e. without needing to hire someone for it).

Kristy Snell reading the news.

Kristy Snell reading the news.

Like before, when CBC Television simulcasted CBC News Network from 6-7am, the program is surrounded by graphical elements:

  • A logo, the name of the program “Daybreak Montreal” or “World Report” and the time
  • Two lines of local headlines
  • The name of the city and frequency of CBC Radio One (only the main 88.5 frequency is listed)
  • The date
  • Weather, cycling between one-day and three-day forecasts for Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke
  • A static skyline
  • Promos at the bottom of the screen for CBC’s website, CBC News Network and other things you could be looking at instead of this
Sports reporter Andie Bennett.

Sports reporter Andie Bennett.

In case it’s not clear how local this is, the word “Montreal” appears a lot. In this image above, the word appears in whole or in part 20 times.

World Report host Marcia Young in Toronto.

World Report host Marcia Young in Toronto.

The show is broadcast commercial-free from 6-7am, even though Daybreak runs from 5:30am to just after 8:30am. It starts, as the tops of the hours do on CBC Radio, with the national World Report newscast, where a camera picks up the host reading headlines.

The control room at World Report.

The control room at World Report.

When World Report cues packaged reports or remotes, the feed switches to a control room camera. This is about as “behind the scenes” as we get with this show. And you can only see, not hear, what goes on outside of the radio broadcast.


At 6:10, we turn to Montreal, and for the next 50 minutes we get a rotation of local news headlines, traffic reports, weather, sports headlines and interviews.

The broadcast ends kind of abruptly, usually cutting off Mike Finnerty mid-sentence as he gives the weather just before 7am. As far as I can tell, the TV broadcast is about five seconds behind real-time.

The Montreal studio has six camera angles that I’ve seen so far:


1. Wide studio view


2. Medium shot of host


3. Medium shot of far chair, where the news headlines are read


4. Medium shot of guest, with camera programmed to pan to whichever seat’s microphone is active (this can be problematic when more than one is in use)


5. Wide control-room shot


Jennifer Allen at the traffic desk.

6. Close-up of traffic reporter’s desk in the control room


The guest camera takes a second or two to pan to the right chair.

Most of these camera angles are high, coming from the ceiling or close to it. That makes sense if you want to avoid people walking in front of them, though they still do:


But it also accentuates the main problem with this show, which is that so much of it is just watching people looking down and reading things, or listening to things, or waiting for things. It’s incredibly boring television.


There are interviews, but we only get about one or two in-studio interviews a day. And even then they’re really just talking heads, though there have been some attempts at introducing visuals (being careful not to piss off the radio audience by referring to things they can’t see).


So why are they doing this? Well, the CBC likes to talk about being innovative and local and stuff, but one big reason is probably that when CBC drops its evening newscast from 90 to 30 minutes, it needs to make up that time to meet its 14 hours a week requirement for local programming. Having an hour of Daybreak on TV fulfils that requirement, and without needing to commit additional resources.

Like Global and City, CBC is finding ways to game the system as far as local programming, in part by reusing content. And as if to underscore that further, one interview captured though the Daybreak cameras has already been reused on the weekend clip show Our Montreal.


Mike Finnerty tries showing the card with Daybreak’s contact information to to the camera.

There are other minor issues with the show:

  • White balance is awful, probably because of the lighting
  • Shots are often poorly framed, because the cameras are automated
  • A large portion of the screen is devoted to a useless static skyline image
  • Quebecers outside Montreal get this instead of the Quebec City-based morning show which caters to the whole province

A guest gets instructed on the use of the microphone before an in-studio interview.

But all those could be overlooked if there was some redeeming value to this broadcast. And I’m having a hard time finding it. Beyond knowing what the radio personalities look like (at least from the waist up), and getting some idea of what goes on in a studio during a broadcast, the usefulness is kind of limited to the graphics and the audio.

And getting a “behind the scenes” look isn’t always a good thing.

Snell and Finnerty.

Here’s Kristy Snell and Mike Finnerty laughing while a report about a shooting is playing on the air. They’re obviously not laughing about the shooting, but to the viewer it’s kind of a jarring image when paired with the audio.


How you judge this kind of show depends on what you’re comparing it too. Radio on the TV wasn’t CBC’s idea. Both TSN and Sportsnet have radio shows simulcast on TV, though those shows have fewer interruptions for weather, traffic and news.

If you compare it to radio, there are definitely advantages. You can see people talking, and you can get at-a-glance information on weather and news. The radio show hasn’t changed, so there’s no quality loss there. Mike Finnerty refers to it as “radiovision” (and I kind of want to jeer it just for that ridiculous term), and on that level it offers a bit of added value.


But if you compare it to television, and particularly the hour of the evening news we’re losing, it’s kind of awful. At best it’s talking heads. At worst it’s listening heads. As one listener wrote to the show (and to their credit Daybreak read it on air twice), it’s like watching paint dry grass grow. You could close your eyes and get the same amount of useful information, which makes sense because that’s called radio.


A couple of additional things to consider, though. For one thing, this is a morning show, and people watch television differently in the morning. They’re getting ready for work or school, they’re usually far from relaxed, and they probably only tune in for a few minutes at a time. So this might not be an awful thing to put the TV on in that context. People can listen to the show and glance at the TV when they want a quick look at the weather.


And, of course, the CBC is short on money. You can’t complain about the broadcaster’s cuts to programming without acknowledging the cuts to its parliamentary appropriation.

But viewers aren’t going to watch out of a sense of obligation if there’s something better out there. And Montreal has a local morning show, a national morning show and a Frankenstein-like hybrid of the two that are all designed specifically for television.

In short: CBC Daybreak on TV is better than nothing, but it adds almost nothing to pure radio.

Daybreak airs 6-7am weekdays on CBC Montreal.

13 thoughts on “CBC Daybreak on TV: Slightly enhanced radio makes for awful television

  1. Don

    Old is new again.
    Here in Toronto, CBC television first went with televised live station breaks in the early 1960s. One black & white vidicon camera mounted on the ceiling in a tiny one person announce booth. Yet the live promos and breaks became the home to at least one popular country western radio show, simulcast live on CBC Radio and TV from that booth. Staffer Bill Bessey introduced recordings ( film footage loop of roaming, chomping cattle during song). After the music, a live chat with up to 3 guests squashed into the booth, standing around Bill leaning into one another to be seen by that one camera. Great fun.
    For a few months now CBC Toronto has telecast Metro Morning from 6 to 7AM.
    Fascinating at first. Watching tense moments from the control room. The interaction of the host and news/ traffic reporters. Understanding how the show comes together with guests brought in, etc.
    The real problem is voice-activated cameras. Too often, really annoying when person not talking remains up for so long.
    Back to the radio I went.

  2. Bert

    CBC Moncton has done this for a long while, with some shots cycling through regional sites (Shediac, St-John, etc.) The graphics are similar to those of Montreal, if not a bit simpler / less intrusive.

    I can barely stand Finerty on the radio and I don’t need to see him doing his “work”, whinging about how long-johny it is or how he had to wear a toque for his Bixi ride. My day is made when i hear Andie or Sonali or Shawn.

    I have not watched the CBC-Daybreak stuff, but can you see the Magic 8-Ball that the traffic reporters use?

    1. CD

      Probably the most successful radio on tv shows out there probably was Howard Stern’s show, it was a dedicated studio for the cameras.

  3. Dilbert

    This isn’t a new concept or anything. Imus in the Morning is perhaps one of the most famous (or infamous depending on your opinion) of this type of show. It’s an incredibly effective way to add listeners to a radio show, gain exposure, and to fill airtime on TV on the very, very, very cheap.

    Expecting it to be something much more than what it is sort of misses the point.

    Compared to what was there before, this is at minimum maintaining, if not better. If it encourages more people to turn into the radio at the 7AM hour, then even better.

  4. NaBUru38

    In South American countries, Fox Sports has a radiovision show. They use headphones and big microphones, and cameras are placed a bit too high.

    But there’s a properly decorated set, and the host actually looks at the camera. Not to mention they interview current football players and coaches.

  5. Marilyn Aitken

    Sorry guys, a total waste of money, no matter how little money the cameras
    cost to install, we do not need to see you in the morning, that’s why radio is radio!

  6. Tony Q King

    Spurious thoughts-
    The CBC FM 88.5 reception in the Chateauguay Valley is abysmal. I barely get it at the best of times with an external antenna on my radio.
    And reception in “downtown” Huntingdon on a car radio is actually non-existent.
    CBC Ottawa and Cornwall are so much more clearer, not to mention the high availability of NPR and NCPR anywhere south of Lac St-Francois.
    I’ve complained frequently to the CBC and even the CRTC, but to little avail.

    BUT! Now that I know Mike Finnerty is simulcast on TV, at least between 6 and 7AM, I’ll use my TV to listen to @cbcdaybreak
    Beside my bed I have two devices- an FM radio, and a TV remote. At 6AM (if I’m awake) I’ll switch the static-filled FM radio off and turn on the TV (excellent Chan-6 reception!) before I go back to sleep.
    And put the TV timer on for 60 minutes, lest my sleep is interrupted by Miss Helene, or whatever the current7AM kiddie stuff is…

    1. Fagstein Post author

      And reception in “downtown” Huntingdon on a car radio is actually non-existent.

      Huntingdon is outside CBC Montreal’s broadcast area, so it’s unsurprising. The best solution might be for CBC to set up a relay transmitter somewhere in the Châteauguay valley, maybe on Covey Hill. But the amount of frequencies available in the area is limited.

      1. Tony Q

        Addendum – CBC-Radio-(English) Montreal has all kinds of repeaters across La Belle Province. Just as an example, try Mont Laurier.
        How much ya wanna bet there are more English folk in Huntingdon (and many even actually commute daily to Mtl!) than in Mont Laurier? But I’m sure the English folks in Mont Laurier just hang with anticipation off of every Montreal tidbit that Mike Finnity says on @cbcdaybreak.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          CBC-Radio-(English) Montreal has all kinds of repeaters across La Belle Province. Just as an example, try Mont Laurier.

          There are no CBC transmitters in Mont-Laurier, just French ones. And the two closest Radio One transmitters — Ottawa and St-Jovite — don’t carry Daybreak.

          But it’s true that CBC has retransmitters across the province. In many of those places, CBC is the only thing in English on the radio.

  7. Tony Q

    Bah! Mont Laurier. Ste-Jovite. Whatever. Same place. You drive north on this lonely highway surrounded by nothing but fir trees and hot-dog stands. Now it’s poutine shacks, I suppose. Progress.
    So I was off by 80K or so.
    Anyhow, we have more mosquitoes here. Guaranteed.

  8. Margaret Sjoholm-Franks

    This format is as new as new as the wheel, we had the same type of radios shows on TV in Sweden in the 70’s, Sveriges Radio and SVT would combine signals in the morning before the regular TV programming started at noon


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