News went out to CTV Montreal staffers early Wednesday morning that evening news anchor Debra Arbec has been poached by CBC Montreal to co-anchor its 5pm newscast, replacing the departing Jennifer Hall as Andrew Chang’s co-anchor.
Hall is leaving for personal reasons, returning with her family to southern Ontario.
“It’s been an amazing ride at CTV,” Arbec told me on the phone today, describing the job at CBC as “a great opportunity.” She says her contract there begins July 1 (though she suspects she’ll get that first day off).
Though this is hardly the first change of stations for a local TV newscaster (CTV recently picked Kai Nagata from CBC to fill its Quebec City bureau, weatherman Frank Cavallaro was hired by CBC after his contract at CTV expired, and Global’s evening news anchor Jamie Orchard worked for CTV before she got the bigger job at the smaller station many years ago). But it’s a bit odd to see someone of Arbec’s profile quitting the highest-rated station in the city to go to the No. 2.
For Arbec, who said she’s “not really a numbers person,” the issue was more her placement on the schedule than her placement on the dial. “It’s obvious that a supper-hour show wasn’t in the cards at CTV. Mutsumi (Takahashi) is very much loved in Montreal and will be for a very long time,” she said, with no apparent hard feelings for the city’s most veteran English-language TV news anchor.
Arbec has been hosting CFCF’s 11:30pm newscast since 2003. Though it’s 35 minutes long, only about 15 of that is news, which is a very small amount of daily airtime. CBMT’s supper-hour newscast, meanwhile, is 90 minutes from 5pm to 6:30pm (even if it is a bit repetitive).
Still, ratings are an issue, and Arbec said she knows “a challenge will be to continue to grow CBC’s numbers,” which have just about doubled since the expanded newscast started but are still not even in the same ballpark as CFCF.
“I didn’t make the decision lightly,” Arbec said. She’s been working there for 13 years, and “I love the people there.”
That would obviously include Brian Wilde, who she met at CTV and has been married to for five years. She said it would be different not working together at the same station (they worked the late newscast together last week, which she said was fun), but she doesn’t expect any major changes in their personal lives, except for the fact that she can now spend her late evenings at home.