Move over CNN, BNN; CBC Newsworld rebrands all-news channel as CBC NN

By Cassandra Szklarski | October 2009
The Canadian Press

Newshounds already get their headlines from CNN, while business junkies learn the latest from BNN. Now, Canadians can get ready for CBC NN.

As of Monday, CBC Newsworld will be rebranded CBC News Network, and feature a revamped schedule, new onscreen graphics and new personalities to go along with a new look and name.

Richard Stursberg, the broadcaster's head of English services, says it's all part of a massive news overhaul meant to modernize and integrate coverage, with changes also in store for CBC-TV's flagship news show "The National."

"It was partly to make it a little bit clearer to people," Stursberg said of Newsworld's new name.

"(Newsworld) has been around for a long time, over 20 years, and still people were unclear as to what the nature of the offering was."

The Newsworld changes include a new set, more onscreen data, and new anchors including morning host Anne-Marie Mediwake, formerly of Global. Business experts Amanda Lang and Kevin O'Leary team up for the half-hour "Lang and O'Leary Exchange" each weekday afternoon while Evan Solomon heads up the day's political news from Ottawa and Mark Kelley helms an evening news talk show.

Meanwhile, "The National" will run seven days a week and boast a new set, an expanded roster of correspondents and bring Peter Mansbridge out from behind the desk to deliver the news while standing.

The changes follow a particularly difficult year for the CBC, which has been struggling with a $171-million budget shortfall and has shaved 800 jobs. The news division cut about 100 positions as it amalgamated assignment desks to serve all its news platforms - television, radio and online.

Ian Morrison of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said those cuts left news bureaus across the country struggling to maintain the quality of local coverage and he complained that the new initiatives do little to address that.

He accused senior CBC management of "a slavish copying of private sector behaviour."

"They're trying to package things as something other than cuts," Morrison said from Calgary, where he says he met with CBC News staff on Tuesday.

"I don't think people really care whether Peter Mansbridge can stand or not, that's just kind of a style thing but it shows something - it shows a preoccupation with style or appearance or brand issues over content."

Morrison also derided Newsworld's name change to CBC NN, saying it reminded him of CTV's 24-hour news channel, formerly known as CTV Newsnet, now called CTV News Channel.

"This tendency to ape, mimic the private sector, both in the content of what they're doing but also in the way that they are changing, for example, Newsworld's brand, that is 'private sector think' and it has thoroughly infused the CBC."

Branding expert Scott Piergrossi said there's an inherent risk in abandoning a long-used name for a new one, but that the move can go a long way to establishing a new identity.

"The acronym in the news world is something that's used fairly often across the board in many countries so there's a rationale behind that strategy," Piergrossi, VP of creative development at the Brand Institute, said from the company's head office in Miami.

"(There's) some kind of level of integrity and confidence that is projected with an acronym, perhaps more so than another name like a hybrid or a real word."

Stursberg said Wednesday that the latest overhaul is the result of extensive consultations with CBC audiences, and that the Newsworld name change in particular was geared towards putting the focus on CBC News.

He dismissed any suggestions that the similarity to that other all-news channel, CNN, might send a message to viewers that CBC was trying to emulate a more U.S.-style approach to packaging news.

"Guaranteed, when you turn it on you'll know where you are," he said.

"Nobody was confused at all by it, nobody in the focus groups thought that we were being like CNN or any of that."

Other changes to "The National" include a new segment several times a week featuring Wendy Mesley and a slightly shortened show that ends five minutes early to provide a 10-minute local news segment leading into "The Hour."

Online initiatives include a new political portal featuring blogging by Kady O'Malley and veteran Ottawa journalist Don Newman.

Previously announced changes include a new format for CBC Radio's "World Report," which will be hosted by veteran foreign affairs reporter Peter Armstrong, and 90-minute supper hour newscasts, expanded from 30 minutes.

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