Hotline radio provides avenue for involvement
As diverse as Vancouver itself, talk radio gives listeners a chance to speak their views on a wide variety of topics and issues. No other media forum offers the same opportunity
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Hotline radio in Vancouver is as diverse as the city. Traditional hotliners dominate the airwaves at CKNW, but there are also hotliners serving the Chinese and Indo-Canadian communities, in their own languages. The foundation of most every hotline radio show is picking up on the news of the day and running with it. But the diverse voices in local hotline also pick topics that specifically cater to their own communities.
Harjinder Thind is a popular hotliner and news director at Red-FM, an Indo-Canadian station at 93.1 FM. "Most of my topics are based on current affairs, what's happening locally, provincially and federally and how it's going to impact our community, South Asian people," he says. "[But] sometimes I choose topics which are very entertaining [or] belong to the cultural part of our Indian history, or history from Punjab. I choose those topics once in a while -- people get bored, they start complaining the [news] stuff you're feeding us is too heavy."
That said, Thind isn't afraid to be provocative. "I have pissed off many politicians in our community, I guess," he notes. "One of our elected politicians never knew how to sing O Canada. I asked him on the air, 'Sing O Canada for me.' He said 'I don't know it.' I said, 'How come you're an elected official and you don't know O Canada?' He was pissed off."
Who was it?
"I don't want to tell you, he'd be after my ass," he laughs.
Wallace Chan is a hotliner at AM 1470, Fairchild Radio. "We talk about the B.C. tax cuts, that one was quite popular," says Chan, who broadcasts in Cantonese. "We talk about Fei-Fei Day, a Hong Kong celebrity who passed away recently, and whether we should have a Fei-Fei Day to recognize her. We talk about the income disparity between men and women. We talk about TransLink getting the revenue from property tax. As you can see, there are a large variety of [topics]." The hot-button issue in the Chinese community at the moment is whether Canada should boycott the Beijing Olympics. "Some people are quite emotional," Chan says. "I would say the majority of listeners do not support the idea of boycotting the Bejing Olympics. There are a number of reasons. Some think the government in China has done nothing wrong to restore the order in Tibet. But I would say one or two people have supported the idea of partially boycotting, for example not attending the opening ceremony." Like Thind, Chan looks for "controversial topics, discussable topics" that will light up the phone lines. But he doesn't want his show to turn nasty, like those of some American radio hotliners. "One of the most important things we keep reminding our listeners is not to conduct any personal attacks," he says. "Also we don't want people to finger-point [at] other listeners' ideas, [we want them] to focus on what they think instead of criticizing other people."
CKNW's Christy Clark loves the way people can express themselves through hotline radio. "I think it helps people clarify what they're thinking about," she says. "I think that's one of the things that people find appealing about open-line radio. And also that you get to be a part of it, in a way you don't get to be a part of any other media. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can make your views public, and feel like you're having an impact on other people's opinion, because other people are listening, and forming their own opinions based on what they hear. "You can be one of those 10 or 20 people who are influencing public debate. I don't think there's any other forum where citizens get a hearing the way they do in talk radio." When you get the right topic, it can take off into a life all its own. This recently happened when Clark decided to do a series on bullying. "The bullying stuff I knew was of interest to people, because I hear so many people talking about it," she says. "That was a good example of something that has affected almost everybody, everybody's got a story about it. [But the response] floored me, honestly. I knew bullying was something people are concerned about, but I didn't really know that it had personally affected so many people. And I underestimated how resonant the memories of being bullied were for people.
"What really surprised me were the calls [from people like] the little old lady who is 80 years old and said, 'The only thing I remember about my childhood was the time when I was eight years old and these kids shoved my head in a snow bank and held my head under so long I felt like I was going to suffocate.'
"The memories of being bullied are so resonant for people. So that surprised me, how affecting the experience is. And if it's your children, people feel it almost as keenly. Especially if it's a regular event, which is what it is, unfortunately, for many kids."
Thind's topics are often very Indo-Canadian specific, and pointed. "We have done a show on how some of our people are abusing the system and as a result, the whole community is tarnished," he says. "I have done [a show on] courtesy on the road. All these people have been driving in India and they don't really respect other drivers here, and how we can improve that. ... If a guy with a turban doesn't give way or butts in or something, they will tarnish the whole community, that guys with turbans are bad drivers, so you should be careful." His big issue at present is the lack of Indo-Canadian representation in the upper echelons of the Surrey RCMP. "The population of Surrey is almost 40 per cent Punjabi-speaking, and we don't even have a single police officer at the senior or inspector level that happens to speak Punjabi," he states. "I talked to [RCMP superintendent Gordon] McRae, then I talked to the solicitor-general, then I spoke to the attorney-general on air on this issue.
"I told them, 'If this was a 40-per-cent French-speaking area, guess who [would] be the police chief? The police chief [would] be a French-speaking person.' And here 40 per cent of the population, which owns 51 per cent of the properties in Surrey, we don't have a single inspector-level Punjabi-speaking officer.
"They agree, all of them agree. McRae, the solicitor-general, and the attorney-general agreed with me, 'You have a point.' But nobody has done anything."
Radio hosts taking up political campaigns like this have a long history in B.C. -- most notably Rafe Mair and his many causes (Meech Lake, farmed salmon, etc.). But all three hosts say you've got to balance the serious stuff with something a little lighter. "We try and mix the newsy stuff with things that are interesting, so sometimes we end up with some quirky kind of segments," Clark says. "And lots of times we just do things we're interested in, or hear other people talking about. We'll spend time talking to our friends and relatives and co-workers or whatever. 'What got your book club going last week, what was your big topic?'
"Maybe that topic was 'What do you do when your spouse snores really heavily and keeps you awake at night?' Some people say they don't do anything, they just stay in bed and suffer through it, because they consider that the sign of a devoted spouse.
"We actually did this one. Somebody phoned up and said, 'I came to the conclusion I was going to smother my husband dead in the middle of the night. So instead [of killing him] we got twin beds, and I got a ski pole.' When he starts to snore in the middle of the night, she picks up the ski pole and gives him a good poke with it.
"And that's how she solved her problems."
05 aprile 2008
Vancouver, la Babele delle "hotline radio"
Un bell'articolo del Vancouver Sun sulle cosiddette hotline radio su una delle città più etnicamente variegate del Canada. Per hotline radio si intende ovviamente una talk station che apre continuamente le proprie linee telefoniche agli ascoltatori. E quando ci sono di mezzo comunità e lingue così diverse, la partecipazione è assicurata. Tra gli intervistati c'è il conduttore di uno show in lingua cantonese della stazione Fairchild Radio 1470, una delle due della West Coast ascoltata (anche se tentativamente) in Italia.