The Janeway Telethon is changing its host broadcaster, from CBC to NTV.
This news broke Friday on NTV News, and I’ve been trying to get at the story all weekend long, by email. (I’m suffering from laryngitis, and can’t talk on the phone.)
“The Janeway Foundation has decided to go to another broadcaster for the Telethon starting this year,” said Denise Wilson, Managing Director for CBC Newfoundland & Labrador. “CBC did offer airtime to the Janeway but the foundation decided it was not enough for their needs… We did offer air time on Sunday and for a number of reasons, we couldn't offer the time they wanted on Saturday.”
Wilson wouldn’t elaborate any further on the point of airtime. However, I have learned that CBC was making no airtime available at all on Saturday, and this was the deal breaker for the Janeway Foundation. The Foundation obviously insists on a fairly seamless, continuous two-day telecast, so they are moving the show over to NTV.
This was confirmed in a message from Lynn Sparkes, Executive Director of the Janeway Foundation.
“The Telethon is not only the Foundation's largest fund raising event it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and thank our donors," Sparkes wrote. "In order to accomplish this we require significant air time. This year CBC were unable to accommodate our request for Saturday air time therefore the Foundation looked into other options… There was no air time available on Saturday at all.”
I asked Wilson if CBC will continue to make its human resources – its on-air personalities – available to perform during the telethon.
“If and when an invitation to participate comes our way we will assess it as we do with all requests for staff engagement… If the Foundation asks for our folks, we’d consider the request. We wouldn’t automatically say yes, the same as we haven’t automatically said yes to their requests in the past.”
On Friday’s NTV item, Lynn Sparkes said the foundation was “thrilled... ecstatic, over the moon” about the switch to NTV.
However, moving the telethon after more than 25 years at CBC is a big decision, one the Foundation couldn’t have taken lightly. For CBC, the telethon was a big commitment, and a tremendous drain on resources (especially after it went to a 90-minute suppertime format, and added the live Late Night segment). There was the telethon itself, which ran 48 hours straight – requiring technical staff from CBC, in addition to its on-air people – and there was the advance work, the gathering and editing of those emotional stories about children and families whose lives were changed at the Janeway. All of these mini-documentaries were exceptionally well-produced and must have required substantial effort and time. I am wondering if NTV, with its smaller, leaner operation, has the resources needed to pull this off, to the same quality benchmark established by CBC.
To this point, Lynn Sparkes said: “The Foundation has every confidence in NTV’s ability.”
NTV certainly has reporters and personalities capable of doing the work. The question is, do they have enough? It’s an enormous commitment. I expect NTV can pull it off, but they’re going to be stretched to the max, at times.
NTV’s production and operations manager did not respond to my emailed interview request.
Denise Wilson said the parting of ways with the Janeway Foundation was amicable and respectful.
“CBC NL has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the Foundation for the past 26 years and we will continue to support the Foundation in any way we can in the future,” she said. “We wish them much success with this year’s telethon.”
This sentiment was echoed as well by Lynn Sparkes.
“We have enjoyed a wonderful 26 year relationship with CBC and we are now looking forward to working with our new media partner, NTV.”
This year’s telethon will air June 2 and 3, on NTV.