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The return of Rafe - THE COMMENTARY

By Joseph Planta

ABOVE THE FOLD: As he has previously announced on his website, later this week I will be joining Michael Kwan's Now That's Entertainment . . . for a limited six-week run. My colleague Michael Kwan, has agreed to allow me to make contributions to his website as a guest commentator to compliment his already witty and acerbic writing.

Throughout the next six weeks, I will continue to file The Commentary column here, and I would suggest you have a look at the pieces I write at Now That's Entertainment. . . as they will be exclusively available there, and only there. I look forward to the challenge of writing for Mike's diverse audience on his website. I am excited and delighted as well, to undertake the challenge of writing for a vibrant and youthful publication. Do check the website out at: «».

VANCOUVER – Rafe Mair, the highly-rated talk-show host who was unceremoniously dumped off of the airwaves of CKNW, nearly two months ago, promised when news of his sacking hit the fan, that he would resurface. Though 71, there is yet much vigour and vitality in the voice of the former lawyer turned cabinet minister, turned open mouth on Vancouver's busy radio dials. This Thursday, look for an announcement of sorts to be made, as to where Mair will end up, bellowing and bellyaching about fish farms and Canada's continual constitutional constipation. That heads up was provided by Mair himself on his website «», where he continues to write daily editorials for the perusal of paid subscribers, of which I am one. For fans of the Mair editorial, once delivered live on CKNW, to an audience of some hundred thousand British Columbians, you haven't missed much. He's mused about Canadian politics, how he's a scratch golfer and of course on his love of buying books. Some interesting pieces have been written as of late, as to his wife Wendy and dog Chauncey's suffering, thanks to his constant presence in their Lions Bay home. No doubt, Mair's new employment, to be announced this Thursday, will be most welcome by wife and dog.

Many scenarios have come up as to where Mair would resurface on the radio dial. Though competitive, is this market, talk radio's leader is, as it's always been, CKNW. There's a sports talk radio station at 1040 on the AM dial called The Team, but it's been an exercise in mixed success. It's getting ratings, and so was mentioned by observers as a possible home to Rafe Mair. The CBC at 690 AM was also mentioned, but considering Rafe's detestation of the public broadcaster, it would have been ironic in the extreme had Mair pulled up anchor there. It's been interesting though, as Mair has been doing some radio work for the local CBC station as of late, though I'm sure a program for him would not have been offered considering their schedule is already taken up by national programming.

CFUN at 1410 on the AM dial, near where dogs are known to howl, was mentioned as a possibility, however it's programming, though mostly talk radio fare, is geared to women. Mair, who was fired from CKNW for ordering his female producer to get his coffee and ferry his shoes, and CFUN, would not have been a good fit. And CFUN hasn't been all that much of a competitor on radio, these last few years. The only other real possibility was Mair appearing on the Jimmy Pattison owned, 600 AM. The former CJOR, once a formidable competitor to CKNW in talk radio, has been spinning old Frank Sinatra records as of late, but word had it that the station was looking to add a big name like Mair in between Johnny Mathis and Sarah Vaughn records. And the music aside, many a CKNW personality from yesteryear, happens to be part of the station already. Dave Abbott, does travel dialogues on the station, and Dave McCormick has gone from sports to spinning those Ella records mornings on 600 AM. And don't forget that Joy Metcalfe, when she was unceremoniously dumped by CKNW, also reappeared there for a time, as did Rick Honey, who did mornings at 600 AM until his untimely death a couple of years ago. Not to mention the audience is right up Mair's alley considering he was attracting a demographic of 55 year-old plus at CKNW.

Well, from what I've heard from sources within the radio business, and their of unimpeachable quality I must add, is that Mair has inked a deal with Jimmy Pattison, and will be fronting a talk show on 600 AM beginning in September. Red Robinson, an equally legendary personality in this town, whom I've gotten in his hair last year, was instrumental in reaching the deal, acting as Mair's agent. This is not the first time that Mair has worked for Pattison, as it was Pattison who lured Mair from politics back in 1981 and into the broadcasting booth at the then CJOR. 600 AM's overhead is very little, as it plays records all the live long day, thus the deal Mair has signed is reportedly with the Pattison company and not with the station directly. It'll be good to have Rafe Mair back, and it'll be interesting to see if he can make a dent into the ratings of CKNW. I highly doubt he will, but it's worth a shot. 600 AM, as of late, has been feeling an upswing in their ratings, so Mair will only allow them to crest further.


Speculation has been rampant as to the successor of Rafe Mair in the CKNW morning show time slot, a slot that throughout ‘NW's history has had occupants such as Jack Webster, Ed Murphy, Gray Bannerman, and most recently Rafe Mair. Since Mair's departure from the 8.36 to 11.00 a.m. timeslot, it has been filled by Peter Warren, CKNW's bombastic fill-in host and the host of Corus's national weekend call-in program. Warren, from the onset of Mair's departure, has declared that he doesn't want the job, which I suspect Corus would have given him gladly. Jennifer Mather, the former news reader at BCTV, Global and CKVU, and the wife to Vancouver Canucks General Manager Brian Burke, has also been filling in, as has Sterling Faux, another of Corus's back up hosts.

Names bandied about to succeed Mair have included the above three, as has that of Terry Moore, the talk show host from Vancouver Island, as well as former premier Mike Harcourt, and soon-to-be departing NDP leader Joy MacPhail. Philip Till, the erudite and accomplished afternoon broadcaster on CKNW has been mentioned, as has Jon McComb, Till's broadcasting partner. Till, is reportedly content with his international flavoured, afternoon broadcast, and is likely to stay there. Even David Berner the laughable and often humorous talk show host, who once held court in the late night's, who left CKNW in a big stink a couple of years ago, only to resurface as an evening fill-in, has also been mentioned. However I suspect he's not adept to the hard grit of morning radio, which after all is prime time in the medium.

Here's another scoop. Sources inform me that the mid-morning, afternoon host, Bill Good, who has followed Mair since 1988, will succeed Mair in the 8.36 a.m. time slot. This will add to his already burgeoning list of duties, as he anchors the news at 6.00 on the CTV affiliate here in Vancouver already. Word has it that Good will follow Frosty Forst's huge numbers, as well as the large audience that tunes into the 8.00 a.m. news on CKNW. Jennifer Mather is reportedly being courted by Corus to take over the current Bill Good show at 11.00, with the rest of the schedule status quo.

If all pans out, as rumour has it, then it will be a most curious choice that CKNW and its parent company Corus has made. Good, though an accomplished broadcaster is not known for his deep and probing editorial style. Good, first and foremost is a news anchor, pulling in respectable numbers for the last year or so as one half of the anchor team at CTV 9 on television. With Pamela Martin as his co-anchor, the team of Bill and Pamela has practically saved the station and made its newscast competitive against that of Tony Parsons at Global BCTV. Why CKNW would install Good, who is a masterful talker, who does very good chatting with guests, pulling questions that teeter on both sides of the fence, is beyond me. Talk radio needs commanding personalities who come down hard on an issue, rather than those who seek consensus or who dither on the side of caution when it comes time to revealing their stripes politically and editorially. Good will do very well, there's no doubt about that, however he's got very little personality, that I'm afraid CKNW is dearly losing its teeth when it asks the tough questions and when it holds governments's feet to the fire.


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