Three times a day, throughout this province, we are able to listen to and participate (if we so desire) in what is referred to as the "Open Line" radio programs. There are those who call on a regular basis and have an opinion on every subject under the moon and then there are those who only call in occasionally. There have been many hosts of the Open Line, Back Talk and Night Line programs, including the late Bas Jamieson, Linda Swain, Randy Simms, Bill Rowe, Tim Powers, Pete Soucy and Paddy Daly. All have a unique style to their personal approach on the topics of the day.
I must say I am impressed on their knowledge of current issues. They have the ability to present the subject and create an atmosphere where people want to call in. Some would even go so far as to say they have the gift of gab. The shows can be very entertaining and offer important public information. The programs are well known and often perform quite high in ratings.
For those who are old enough to recall, we can remember the lady who always used to call in and start off her statement by asking, "Is that you Bas?" And who could forget the "Moon Man" who monopolized the program during the Premier Tobin/Grimes era. I still listen to open line every now and then and I am amazed with the program's popularity. But what, exactly, is the public infatuation with the open line shows?
These shows provide an excellent opportunity to the people of the province to call in and express their personal feelings on all kinds of ongoing current/topical issues of the day. In addition to calling in, individuals can also use social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook to send a message to the hosts and have it read on air. Many times, people use the open line to vent their frustrations about politicians and/or government.
These shows are generally considered to be "non-partisan" and are not supposed to be driven by the host's past or present political involvement but as we know, many of the shows current and past hosts are known to be of one stripe or another. Case in point: Bill Rowe was the former leader of the provincial Liberal party; Randy Simms is the long-standing mayor of Mount Pearl; and Tim Powers is a well-known federal Progressive Conservative party organizer. It's even known that political parties and government have their staffers call in posed as "regular citizens" to open line shows to promote and bolster certain government initiatives or praise a certain elected official. This is a common practice, especially during an election or rating times.
Sitting MHA's, MP's, municipal leaders and elected representatives of Aboriginal Governments and groups also utilize radio open line shows as a way to increase their own popularity and get their points across about certain issues. All of the aforementioned closely monitor what is being said on open line shows.
So whether you listen to open line shows purely for the entertainment value, or as a medium to receive important information, one thing is for sure: we can always count on open line to hear what matters to the average citizen.
- Stan Oliver writes from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and can be reached at email@example.com