Bill Kelly has hosted his final show on AM 900 CHML Hamilton and CFPL London, a casualty of last week’s restructuring in the audio division at Corus Entertainment.
With CHML for the last 17 years, the talk radio veteran had most recently been hosting the 9 a.m. – noon show, which since 2021 had been simulcast in both Hamilton and London.
Kelly devoted the last half hour of his final show Monday morning to talking about the state of media and journalism with The Bay Observer publisher John Best, the former VP of News at CHCH-TV from the early 1980s to mid-’90s, when the station boasted a 60-person news department.
“National news media will probably survive in some form. I’m actually concerned about what’s happening with local news,” Best told Kelly. “With your show gone…obviously some adjustments were made to include London, but for many, many years it was a local watering hole as the forum of our community and I just worry generally about local news. We’re already seeing news deserts. I look at Burlington as a city that really does not have the kind of coverage that a city of nearly 200,000 should have.”
“If we don’t have local news, what we’re going to have is all of these people cranking out press releases right now by the dozens. There will no longer be any kind of observant filter,” Best continued. “It will simply go from the PR people directly to the public and at some point will be taken as gospel and that’s really dangerous. That’s almost Orwellian for guys like me who have worked around the media for most of our adult lives, so it’s a concern and the answers are not readily at hand. I don’t think government funding is necessarily the answer either.”
Corporations part of the problem: Kelly
Kelly told listeners he’s not oblivious to the challenges facing media and corporate owners, but he questioned whether there needs to some acknowledgement of the role they’ve played in the decline of traditional journalism.
“I’m not oblivious to the challenges facing media and the corporations, the head offices and all this sort of stuff,” said Kelly. “I get that. And I get the fact that they have their hand out and I get the fact that they’re lobbying the federal government to give us help, give us financial aid, which was one of the reasons for the legislation which is so controversial these days. But what I don’t hear from any of them is the acknowledgement that ‘hey, maybe we’re part of the problem too. Maybe we’ve done enough to corrupt this business already, maybe subtracting and basically disarming journalists in the fashion that they have not just over the couple of years, but 10 to 20 years, has put them in the predicament they’re at.'”
“They’ve been part of the problem for the longest time,” he continued. “They’re concerned about the bottom line, so we’re going to make cuts whether it’s Lisa LaFlamme at CTV…Dan [McLean] and Connie [Smith] from CHCH some years ago, and on and on it goes. Then people stop listening or stop reading and all of a sudden revenues go down. They don’t seem to understand that for you or me, or Joe or Joanne Public, the conduit here and the connection with the media in this country is with the people who present it. It’s the authors, it’s the writers, the newscasters, the news anchors, that’s who you want and if you’re going to blow them out of the equation, you’ve lost the public. They’re going to go someplace else and that’s what they’ve done, they’ve gone to social media.”
“I don’t think I thought the practice of journalism would be this fragile in my time,” added Best. But there it is. It’s kind of a gloomy thing to say, but I don’t think we can ignore the fact that the news business is in trouble.”
Kelly signed off by thanking family, friends and supporters, who have flooded social media with a mix of well wishes and chagrin at the show’s departure from the CHML lineup. He made special mention of former Director of Business Operations & Program Director Jeff Storey, who was among those also caught up in last week’s job cuts, after nearly 30 years with the company.
The veteran talk host alluded in his final sign off to continuing the show on an alternate platform. Kelly’s more than four-decade broadcasting career has also included 13 seasons as a stadium announcer for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He additionally served nine years as a Hamilton City Councillor from 1997 – 2005.
Corus Entertainment says the Alex Pierson Show, which originates from 640 Toronto (CFIQ-AM), will now be simulcast in the 9 a.m. – noon time slot on CHML.
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