Things must be getting tough at the Corus Radio flagship in Vancouver. They’ve long had a history of renting out blocks of weekend air time for commercial content vaguely disguised as news and information. However, hackneyed presentations have never been so pervasive. A list of NW infomercials:
- Money with Joe Bowen
- The Mortgage Show
- Money Talks
- Get Connected
- Talk to the Experts
- J.T. Foxx Show
- New Reality Show
- Muir on Money
- Home Discovery with Shell Busey
- Your Money Radio
- GuildHall Wealth Management
The strategy of mixing commercial content into regular programing is less obvious in prime time but commonly used. I have written before about quid pro quo elements of broadcasting and it has certainly been on show in BC recently. For example, Shell Oil launched a series promoting heavy oil, in partnership with Canwest Newspapers and Global TV. That TV news operation routinely runs press releases from the BC Liberals without naming the source, which might be reasonable if they reported that and had done independent verification. However, that would take effort and, to them, accuracy matters less than serving the commercial objective. The BC Liberal government, by coincidence of course, is one the province’s largest television advertisers.
Today, I spent moments tuned to Bill Good in what used to be the go-to slot for news and information. Of course that was under famous hosts Webster and Mair. Of those, one is spinning in his grave while the other still denounces those plundering the province. I monitor NW occasionally but the programs before and after noon only provide objective news by accident. Good spent the first half of the 11 o’clock hour hearing from Richard Oliver of Suisse Gold Corporation. Oliver discussed how consumers can purchase many goods, even Canadian ones, cheaper in the USA than here. One animal product, made in Ontario, is sold in the USA for $4 a unit. In Canada, it is sold for $18. Oliver also said he was purchasing gold and silver coins issued by the Canadian Mint. An American wholesaler provides these for 40% less than the Canadian distributor. He also brought in a truck from the USA, met all requirements and saved thousands. Callers added further examples, comparing pricing for cell phones, clothing, truck canopies etc.
Oliver supposed that high Canadian prices related to lack of competition at the distribution level. That is true but one little understood issue is that Canadian distributors carry on strict “price maintenance” programs. If a dealer cuts the suggested retail price too much, the distributor will find reasons to pull the product franchise. American distributors can be in big trouble for doing the same thing.
Bill Good seemed incredulous at what his guest was saying. (Maybe he was wondering who booked the guest?) He is the same broadcaster who has been promoting HST with assurances that consumer prices will fall, tax savings realized by business will be passed to consumers through lower prices. It is impossible to believe that Good is so ignorant that he was surprised at the scenario described by Richard Oliver. Of course, he was quick to end the segment and switch to a promo for Cactus Club, featuring founder Richard Jaffray.
The exciting news is that a Burnaby Cactus Club made the final as one of five finalists in the contest to select Canada’s best restroom, a highly esteemed award organized by Cyntas, the company that makes America’s best restroom happen. Jaffray was excited, “I found out about it while I was away on vacation and I didn’t even know we were up for it and here we got this big award…” Wow, breathtaking news, eh?
Jaffray was on message for other things too. Good didn’t ask him if Cactus Club was reducing its prices because of HST but he wondered if it had affected business. Jaffray said, “I haven’t really heard much about HST. . . Business has never been better.” Could he have said anything different since he is opening a 500 seat restaurant at the provincial government’s new convention centre? After all, one hand washes another, eh?
But why worry about prices to consumers or HST when someone is in the running for Canada’s Best Restroom award.