The National News and The National had been used for
the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) English-language national
newscasts since the 1950s, in 1982 CBC management made a bold decision
in deciding to create a new, hour-long 10:00 P.M. national news
and current affairs bloc. A new program, The Journal, provided
a nightly current affairs component to the regular news report.
By the 1980s well over 80% of Canadian television households were
cabled, and through their cable systems Canadian viewers had direct
access to simultaneous transmission of the prime time schedules
of the U.S. networks. The CBC's decision to move The National
newscast from 11:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. along with the creation of
The Journal was controversial in that it was seen as both
an unnecessary disruption of decades old Canadian viewing habits,
and a risky counter-programming strategy in the face of the success
of U.S. prime time dramatic series in the Anglo-Canadian market.
the new bloc was introduced in January 1982 with veteran CBC journalist
Knowlton Nash as newsreader for the 22-minute The National
followed by The Journal, co-hosted by Barbara Frum and Mary
Lou Finlay. Within a very short time, however, the new bloc received
positive critical attention and the counter-programming strategy
seemed successful. There was a substantial improvement in ratings
over the old 11:00 P.M. newscast. While The National continued
to be produced by the same staff within CBC news, The Journal
was developed by a new unit with CBC Current Affairs, under
the direction of Executive Producer Mark Starowicz. Formally, The
Journal innovated within Canadian current affairs television
in its mixing of short and long-form documentaries and double-ender
interviews with politicians, experts, and commentators. It quickly
became the key outlet for political and social debate in Anglo-Canadian
media. The specific format varied from night to night, sometimes
focusing on several stories and issues, sometimes providing in-depth
coverage of single issues, or serving as the site of national policy
debates between the major federal political parties.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada
the 10:00 P.M. news and current affairs bloc remained successful
throughout the 1980s, there were recurrent tensions within the organization
over questions of news judgment and resource allocation between
the two separate production teams responsible for the programs.
In 1992, Ivan Fecan, then CBC programming executive introduced a
new prime time schedule to the CBC, recreating The National
and The Journal as the Prime-Time News. He also moved the
news and current affairs hour to 9:00 P.M. as part of a re-programming
of CBC prime time into a 7:00-9:00 P.M. "family" bloc and 10:00-12:00
P.M. "adult" bloc. The production of the new Prime-Time News was
reorganized into a single production unit, both to overcome previous
organization antagonisms, and to address budget constraints in a
period of increasing austerity at the CBC. The move to 9:00 P.M.
proved much less successful in ratings results and the initial reformatting
of news and current affairs within one program proved more difficult
than was foreseen. By 1995 the scheduling of CBC prime time into
"family" and "adult" blocs was abandoned and the news and current
affairs hour was returned to the 10:00-11:00 slot and renamed The
National, including the current-affairs coverage under the title
of The National Magazine. The return to 10:00 P.M. once again
proved successful as a counter-programming strategy for prime time
competition from U.S. networks.
Richard, editor. Beyond the Printed Word: The Evolution of Canada's
Broadcast Heritage. Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Quarry, 1991.
Knowlton. Microphone Wars: A History of Triumph and Betrayal.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stuart, 1994.
See also Canadian
Programming in English; Fecan,
Barbara; Nash, Knowlton;