Nobody wants to appear to be profiting from the anxieties of the post-Sept. 11 world. But there is no question that for the TV news business, the heightened attention on world affairs has been a ratings boon. And perhaps surprisingly, the Canadian network best positioned to win converts may be . . . CPAC.
No, seriously. The perennial dowdy bridesmaid of cable news-known for its staid, stationary camera broadcasts of parliamentary committees and worthy speeches-happened to be trying out a new and, for CPAC at least, star-driven format this fall.
Two new shows with personalities
poached from CBC, smoothy Peter Van Dusen’s Primetime Politics and the edgier Ken Rockburn’s Talk Politics, now anchor CPAC’s weekday evening lineup. Launched in a news season bound anyway to broaden the channel’s audience beyond information junkies, Van Düsen and Rockburn interviews helped hold the attention of enough channel surfers to boost CPAC’s overall Sep-
tember ratings by 50 per cent over the same month a year earlier. Political heavyweights popping up on the shows included rising-star Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley and embattled Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day. And Rockburn reached beyond CPAC’s staple political fare, interviewing the likes of rocker Matthew Good and author Jane Urquhart.
Colette Watson, CPAC’s general manager, is cautious about whether the bigger ratings—3.1 million viewers in September-can be sustained. “After Sept. 11, Canadians wanted information, and we were there,” she says. “The trick will be to see if they stick around.” For now, though, the mood around the channel is giddy. A recent news release boasted: CPAC is “the most watched, most-talked about network for news and public affairs in Canada.” Well, maybe not during the Senate committee hearings, which still air weekday mornings. Good to see CPAC isn’t succumbing entirely to glamour. John Geddes
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.