connect

Toronto, Canada

Listen Up! Making a Business Case for Diversity

CBC Metro Morning, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

December 17, 2010

Public broadcasting that reflects the sights, sounds and interests of the city

Whether it’s in their cars, offices or homes, from 5:30 – 8:30 am, all over the city, people in Toronto start each day listening to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Nearly a million listeners tune in each week, to hear host Matt Galloway and Metro Morning’s unique mix of news, views, city events, music, traffic, weather, and local community stories.

Metro Morning is the number one morning radio show in Toronto and it has been, for the past eight years.

But that wasn’t always true.

In 2001, when Susan Marjetti became the new manager of CBC radio 99.1 Toronto, Metro Morning was number 4 in Toronto. The audience was largely older, audience growth was stagnant, and new and younger listeners were not coming to the station.

Susan correctly diagnosed the issue. Toronto had changed. But CBC had not.

A call to action

Today, more than half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada. However, things looked very different in 1961 when Toronto’s population had a diversity mix of only 3%.

Thirty years later, that trend was taking off and marketing intelligence was sounding a clear warning: update your product brand and messages or get left behind.

Metro Morning was at risk of becoming irrelevant. The former Vice-President of CBC Radio, at that time, summed it up this way: “If we don’t get this right, we’ll be a precious emblem to a dying elite.”

In February 2002, Susan and her team set out to contemporize the program.

Moving Forward

Susan’s mission then and now was to “connect and reflect the city”. The goal was to be more relevant to more people and grow audience for Canada’s public broadcaster in Canada’s largest city.

Armed with audience and market research, she put together a multi-disciplinary “transformation team” to re-design the local program concepts and formats starting with morning and afternoon drive.

She galvanized her team by launching the change process with a single question: “Do we look and sound like Toronto today in all its richness and diversity? ”

The answer was “no”.

Across the city, Susan and her team organized a series of speaker events and staged editorial panels were organized to bring community leaders and speakers together to inform and educate theie thinking. Not everyone was a fan of the public broadcaster. One female respondent said, “I don’t listen to the CBC – you’re old, you’re white, you’re male and you’re worried.”

Over the course of the next six months, the Toronto “Transformation team” met on and off, to completely re-imagine the morning show’s mandate, and programming.

Success… But Not Overnight

In September 2002 the CBC launched a new version of Metro Morning with one over-arching goal: to be more relevant to more Torontonians by looking and sounding like the city it represented –in all its diversity.

It did sound diverse.

Reaction was swift and not all of it was positive. Within a few months, Metro Morning dropped in the (BBM) ratings (Dec 2002).

One year later, Metro Morning would go to number one for the first time in its history (Dec 2003). Metro Morning has been the top rated morning show in Toronto 26 times since then. (Both BBM and PPM audience results)

Looking back at this challenging transition period, Marjetti advises, “You need to be clear about the vision and values. You need be confident and stay the course. And you need to build a great team”.

Business Case for Success

“Radio is ultimately an ideas business,” says Susan. “If you want to change the ideas at the story meeting table, you have to expand the range of perspectives at that table”.

The transformation team strategy really took off when it moved inside the broadcasting organization to look at CBC hiring and recruitment practices. In 2001, the CBC Toronto team had a 2% diversity rate. Today, CBC Toronto, locally, is 25-percent diverse.

CBC Toronto is an industry leader in Canada. It is recognized internationally for its success in addressing diversity issues across the country and the institutional spectrum.

Four out of the five local Toronto radio program hosts are themselves from diverse backgrounds. More importantly, half of the CBC’s local Toronto station leaders reflect the diversity of the communities they represent. Metro Morning has doubled its audience reach in the coveted 35-49 year old demographic that drives the city’s economic growth and vitality.

Good Ideas travel

What CBC learned with its local morning radio show in Toronto, informed the national strategy as well.

The CBC’s business case for diversity continues to drive audience ratings and market reach – a classic success story that has become a business case taught by the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.

CBC Toronto is now expanding its highly successful audience growth strategy in local radio to the local Toronto supper hour news, as well.

Update

In May 2011, the show won two Radio and Television News Director Awards (RTNDA) for Best Information program and the Diversity Award for a radio townhall (“Turning point: Talking about Violence in the South Asian community“). Metro Morning has now been the top rated morning show in Toronto 31 times since the change (PPM audience results).

The local supper hour newscast on CBC Television hired Dwight Drummond and Anne-Marie Mediwake, who are described as “Canada’s first and only diverse anchor team,” in October 2010. Both come form immigrant families and CBC audience research says that the 25-54 audience has increased by 57% since they started.

Related Ideas:

Making it Work for You:

  • Be strategic: Know your audience and market demographics.
  • Sell the vision. Celebrate the successes.
  • Build the team and ensure the team plays a critical part in the change Involve the community and stakeholders.
  • Create a culture of inclusion Plan for setbacks and stay focused on your long-term goals.
  • Diversity in the newsroom is about diverse points of view, and not just diverse newsroom faces.
  • Management support for diversity and informed hiring practices results in institutions responsive to the audiences and markets they serve.


For this Good Idea contact:

Susan Marjetti, Managing Director
CBC Toronto
CBC Toronto PO Box 500 Station
Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
M5W 3G7
416-205-5791
Susan.Marjetti(at)CBC.CA
http://www.cbc.ca


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