CBC rearranges the deck chairs on local TV newscasts

Debra Arbec opens the 6pm newscast

Debra Arbec opens the 6pm newscast

The CBC rolled out revamped — and by revamped I mean cut — newscasts across the country on Monday. Some markets were reduced to 60 minutes while others, including Montreal, get only 30 minutes during the supper hour to offer local news.

The new newscast has a somewhat different feel to it — including some different music — but most of the changes don’t seem to have much of a real purpose to them. For one, there’s more standing anchor wandering the set, and there’s a lot more use of monitors in the studio, and having the anchor look at them:

Debra Arbec looks at reporter Sean Henry

Debra Arbec looks at live video of reporter Sean Henry

Debra Arbec looks at live video of reporter Leah Hendry

Debra Arbec looks at live video of reporter Leah Hendry

Debra Arbec looks at live video of weather specialist Frank Cavallaro

Debra Arbec looks at live video of weather specialist Frank Cavallaro

Is this better than the classic split-screen double box? I’ll let you decide. Maybe it looks cooler, but I don’t feel any better informed because of it.

Debra Arbec looks at sports anchor Doug Gelevan in front of a big screen

Debra Arbec looks at sports anchor Doug Gelevan in front of a big screen

Otherwise, it was a half-hour newscast like any you’ve seen before, devoted entirely to local news. It had live hits from reporters in the field, packaged reports, a weather forecast and a sports segment. It included one investigative report, about Hungarian travellers being questioned before taking flights to Canada.

Debra Arbec chats with Rick Leckner about traffic.

Debra Arbec chats with Rick Leckner about traffic.

They had one short segment where Arbec did an interview on location. I’m not sure if this is something they’ll repeat.

cbc-weirdgraphic

And there was this completely unnecessary 3D animation between two weather graphics at the end of the newscast that kind of struck me. Otherwise, the weather segment looks the same as it’s been for years.

That’s about all I noticed.

Technically, the newscast was a bit of a trainwreck, especially on the audio side, with B-roll being cued at full volume, in one case replacing an anchor’s audio completely. It makes you wonder what it would have been like had they not rehearsed it in the week or two leading up to it. But it’s the kind of thing that should get better over time.

You can watch the full half-hour newscast online here.

Debra Arbec presents the first hourly update on Monday.

Debra Arbec presents the first hourly update on Monday.

Probably the more interesting change is the introduction of one-minute hourly updates through the afternoon and evening. Airing at 2:59, 3:59, 4:59, 7:59, 8:59 and 9:59 pm, these mini-newscasts give the three top headlines of the hour and a couple of seconds of current weather before announcing what’s next on TV, telling us she’ll be “back in 60” and showing a logo reminding us that they’re “always on mobile”.

It feels pretty up-to-the-minute, though that can work against it. The third such update replaced its main story with “breaking news” of a truck colliding with a train overpass downtown that briefly affected service on AMT lines. It felt more like this was done because it was fresh rather than because it was important. That story wasn’t mentioned at all on the 6pm news.

You’ll also notice from the screencap above that there’s a small graphic showing current weather, as well as a countdown clock in the corner. The weather is fine, but I’m not sure what purpose the clock is supposed to serve. On French TV networks, we see 30-second countdowns at the top of the hour as an ad runs before a show starts, but that countdown feels more like a reminder that you can sit tight because this ad will be over soon. “It’ll be over soon” isn’t the kind of mentality you want viewers to have watching the news, is it?

Salimah Shivji and Doug Gelevan at 11pm

Salimah Shivji and Doug Gelevan at 11pm

The 11pm newscast hasn’t changed at all in look and feel. The anchor (Salimah Shivji filling in for Nancy Wood while the latter is working for the national network during the election campaign) doesn’t wander, and the graphics and music are the same as before.

One thing that has changed is that Doug Gelevan is there live with a sports report.

Sabrina Marandola with the "Web Refresh"

Sabrina Marandola with the “Web Refresh”

Also new is this “Web Refresh” segment from Sabrina Marandola. It basically just promotes what’s on their website, and I’m not sure why you need a separate reporter for that.

Changes online as well

When these changes were announced, the CBC said it was part of a push toward mobile, which is increasingly where the audience is. There have been no major announcements on that part recently, and it looks like a new mobile website and local news alerts for smartphone apps are only going to arrive at the end of the month. Shifting resources to digital media makes sense if that’s really what’s going on, but I’m not sure if that shift is larger than the cuts.

In short, the hourly updates are welcome, albeit limited, the 6pm newscast isn’t nearly as different as has been hyped, and cutting it from 90 to 30 minutes does, in fact, mean we lose a lot, only some of which we’ll get back in an increased online presence.

If you don’t like it, well, the government that hands the CBC its appropriation and appoints people to its board is up for re-election in two weeks.

Further reading

8 thoughts on “CBC rearranges the deck chairs on local TV newscasts

  1. Dilbert

    I think that more modern looks and ways of presenting the news sometimes are hard to handle if you are more comfortable with the “anchor behind desk, small graphic over shoulder” style presentation. While I agree in general terms that the new format may not leave you informed (the news is the same) perhaps some of the banter might by chance work out a little better. Certainly the two heads in sde by side boxes thing has be done to death, so perhaps a more physical presence stand up thing may work a little better.

    Cutting back the news is never easy. At least the CBC has “buried the lead” by coming with a style update at the same time.

    Reply
  2. Jack Nathanson

    It sounds like just another step in the never ending series of cutbacks to the CBC that began 30 years ago in the Mulrony era. The Conservative Party has never liked the CBC, and cutting back on it little by little is less likely to result in public protests than eliminating it all at once.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It sounds like just another step in the never ending series of cutbacks to the CBC that began 30 years ago in the Mulrony era. The Conservative Party has never liked the CBC

      Neither did the Chrétien/Martin Liberals.

      Reply
    2. Dilbert

      It’s more a case of the typical “solution” at the CBC is to cut back on news, as it’s easy to do and does certainly “save” money. It’s not the first time they have done it, and unlikely to be the last.

      Too bad that the CBC seems to be so poorly managed as to be unable to get it’s priorities right.

      Reply
  3. MBR

    The “CBC Calgary News” is also doing the whole “stand up and curate the news” deal. However, there weren’t that many 30-second voiceovers in the show; CBC had one of their reporters present a story in studio with the anchor, a live interview with the mayor, and another feature near the end of the show. Also, there is no sports segment on CBC Calgary News (as it has been for the last few years), and the weather is presented as simple graphics with music behind it – no presenter or anchor v/o’ing the weather forecast.

    As for the hourly updates, they could be a bit tighter. The anchors can do without the “Hello I’m so and so from the CBC studios…” and all the other pleasantries. The Calgary updates had about 3 stories in them… they could have easily fit 4 or 5 headlines and a quick weather summary.

    Reply
  4. mortemer

    Too bad there are no more local news before 6:00pm.
    I used to watch CBC between 5:00pm to 6:00pm then switch to CTV from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. Now I will only tune to CTV for local news. Not interested in the online version, much prefer to watch news on my HDTV.
    This is not a good move and CBC will loose even more viewers during this time slot.

    Reply

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