Monday, 17 October 2005
Rafe retreats, for now
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - The Rafe Mair Show is no more. Rafe Mair, the famed broadcaster ended a two year run on radio station 600 AM on Friday, the station he went to after he was let go by CKNW after incredible allegations of political incorrectness from a producer.
There's been much talk as to the reason why he's not on the air anymore. Mair's ratings have been the reason blamed for his ouster. Sure, his ratings weren't spectacular, but what could have been expected when he was the only talk show weekdays, on a music radio station. The quality of the broadcast was the tops, and he was influencing public policy as best as he could right to the end.
Don't feel sorry for Rafe though. He's collecting a salary until next year, and after he returns from a holiday in Britain, he'll be looking for work. Retire Rafe will not, so expect him to pop up somewhere sometime. I actually got a note from Rafe Friday afternoon, and he would like it known that he's on Omni Television (that's channel 10 in the Lower Mainland) three times-a-week offering commentary on their very fine current affairs program, The Standard, he's got pieces running on The Tyee's website, as well as in the Metro Valley newspapers, not to mention his new book, Hard Talk, which is out now from Harbour Publishing. The man is feeling no pain.
However, the loss of Rafe Mair from the airwaves is significant. He is from the tradition of the great broadcasters of the past, people like Pat Burns, Jack Webster, and Gary Bannerman. They did more than take calls and bleat on the air. Rafe Mair, thanks to his prodigious mind not to mention experience in government, brought to bear extensive knowledge on important issues of the day. He made talk about constitutional matters interesting, and inspiring. Many during the Charlottetown Accord referendum campaign were inspired to join the No campaign because of his vociferous opposition to the constitutional reforms. And I suspect there were those inspired because of his opposition to take the other side.
His most recent advocacy on the issue of farmed salmon has been courageous and necessary. This idea of sea lice affecting wild stocks has been made an important issue thanks to his dogged determination. No one else in the broadcast business today has the gonads to take on this issue like Rafe Mair.
All broadcast outlets today are governed by the bottom line. Ingenious or advocacy broadcasting takes a backseat for raking in money. There's nothing wrong with that, but those conditions make a program like Rafe Mair's seemingly unnecessary. 600 AM though, is to be complimented for allowing Mair these past two years of very fine broadcasts, as well as offering Rafe the opportunity to sign off, something CKNW didn't allow.
For me, Rafe Mair has always been an influence. He made radio more than just something to turn on to listen to music and commercials. He made his program a forum for discussion and thought-about the mundane things in life, sure, but importantly, the bigger things. Though Mair is in his 70s, there's no one on the radio today that thinks about the future more than he. His forward thinking has been inspiring really, and remarkable, considering that I came to know him as a crusty old conservative curmudgeon. Rafe didn't change politically, as many have speculated as the reason for his demise from the airwaves. The world around him changed significantly these last few years.
I remember well those ominous ads that CKNW used to run for the Rafe Mair show on television. They belied the man himself, whom I've been lucky enough to get to know just a bit these past few years. They were black and white, and the music was a tad forbidding. There were shots of Rafe in his studio wearing a white beard that did not at all evoke Santa Claus, but abject seriousness, if not menace. The portentous voiceover stated that this was the man that made politicians cower. Others thought he was a prick, I thought he was cool. I never thought then, that he was as nice a man as he is.
Rafe Mair is not only a nice guy, but he's good. The best. Let's hope there's more.
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