Back in October of 2009, I wrote about CBCs rescheduling of Land and Sea, from Monday evenings at 7:00 pm to Sundays at 12:30 PM (noon in Labrador).
At the time, more than a few people cautioned that CBC was trying to nudge the show into oblivion. Bob Wakeham was one of those voices, through his column in The Saturday Telegram.
On Saturday past, Wakeham spoke out again, offering proof that the move to Sunday is hurting the program.
So heres the ugly news, Wakeham wrote (his column is not available online). Land and Sea has plummeted from 51,000 viewers in the fall of 2008 to 23,000 viewers in the fall of 2009.
He tore into CBC management for its treatment of Land and Sea, charging that the Mother Corp wants the show to die a quiet death. And he fired a volley at local managers for allowing these events to come to pass.
He wrote that Land and Sea has earned the label of icon, thats part of our heritage, and certainly deserved to have had local managers angrily banging the desks in Toronto (the show has been saved in the past by both subtle and raucous protestations; Ive been there).
I fear though, theres a beaten down acquiescence at CBC Television these days, Wakeham continued. The orders from Toronto are simple enough: just take the bone thats thrown your way and munch away quietly.
Strong words. And certainly, the prediction that ratings would nosedive on Sunday has been proven correct (as Wakeham noted, it didnt take a genius to foresee this outcome). But is it fair to lay the blame at the feet of local management?
I sent a note to Denise Wilson, Managing Director of CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, to ask why the show was moved to Sunday (this has never been explained, that I know of) and get their reaction to Wakehams comments.
Wilson said the show was moved to increase advertising revenue.
If you recall this past year, we were faced with significant financial challenges we looked at the schedule to find ways in which to increase our revenue opportunities beginning in early prime time, Wilson said, in an email. That resulted in a move of the Land and Sea time slot from Monday night to Sunday at 12:30 NT. We recognize the importance of Land and Sea to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and there's no conspiracy afoot to cancel it. Land and Sea will continue to tell our stories, reflect our people and our region for many years to come.
Coronation Street is the intended revenue generator that replaced Land and Sea, and I can see the reasoning, purely from a commercial point of view. Coronation Street is enormously popular here, and perhaps a consistent five-day block of programming with a loyal audience is an easier sell.
But there is tremendous irony here. In its move to generate revenue, presumably to continue with quality programming, CBC is moving Land and Sea - one of its best shows - to a time slot that will ensure its demise. It was not a good decision, as shown by the plummeting ratings.
If the local managers are as committed to Land and Sea as they claim and I give them the benefit of the doubt on this then they are going to have to work harder. They have to rescue Land and Sea from its Sunday ghetto and return it to the weekday evening schedule.
How they do it is up to them. But failure to do so will result in the eventual death of Land and Sea. I, and many others, are watching to see what happens next