Why 2015 federal election better for talk radio ratings than 2011

On The Kowch blog looks at the 2015 election campaign impact on radio ratingsFrom where I sit On The Kowch, this year’s 78 day federal election campaign will be better for talk radio ratings than the last 37 day election campaign in 2011. Why? Because by the time the PPM ratings started on August 31st in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver and in the smaller diary markets on Labour Day, almost half the campaign took place during the hot lazy days of summer when more Canadians traditionally listen to FM music than talk radio. So there was no talk radio election fatigue at the start of the most important rating period of the year for radio stations in Canada.

Another reason is because of what happened 48 hours into the PPM ratings, when Canadians woke up to the photo of a lifeless three-year-old Alan Kurdi whose body washed up on the shores of a beach in Turkey.

It was all people were talking about on the radio. The little boy, his brother and mother drowned when their small boat capsized while attempting to reach Greece from Turkey to escape the horrors of the Syrian civil war. The father survived. He is the brother of a British Columbia woman who says Canada rejected her request to provide other family members refugee status because they didn’t have the proper documentation.

“It reminds us all that Canada, over the past years, has failed to be the country that we like to imagine it to be.”      Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Forget the Mike Duffy trial revealing the PMO hid details from the Prime Minister of how the senator paid off $90,000 in expenses, forget the economy, lack of jobs and whether or not Canada is in a recession. The photo of Alan Kurdi washed up on the beach in Turkey shifted the focus of the election campaign.

It forced Canadians to look in the mirror and do some soul searching about how little Canada is doing to take in refugees fleeing for their lives from Syria and Iraq. This is an emotional issue that has griped all Canadians who turned to talk radio to express their sadness, embarassement and anger about how the Harper government was handling the refugee crises. The immigration file is something that will stick around for a while. Each day the topic is discussed, a lot of people will tune in to talk radio. There is a lot of anger out there and talk radio offers a platform for the angry.

Click here for results of Summer 2015 PPM Ratings in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver now available at kowchmedia

The more people tune in and call in, the better for talk radio ratings during the election of 2015.

And when the anger subsides, politics will weigh in with supporters of the three political parties exchanging opinions on talk radio about who has the right approach to solve the refugee problem. This is not a bread and butter issue that we’ve all heard before during election campaigns. This is an issue of the heart that creates emotion and the need for a platform for voters to have their say. Talk radio feeds on emotion and strong opinions. It is the perfect platform for Canadians to weigh in on before election day October 19th.

Of course we won’t know if I’m right about this election generating higher ratings than the 2011 election until results are released on December 3rd for the diary markets and December 10th for the PPM markets. But I do have other reasons why this time round talk radio will have better ratings across the five PPM markets.

What happened in ratings during the 2011 federal election

During the 2011 federal election, Edmonton talk stations had the lowest ratings of all five PPM markets during the election campaign dropping 13%. Vancouver talk radio ratings dropped nine per cent and Toronto ratings fell by eight per cent. By the time election day came around, Edmonton and Anglo Montrealers were the least interested in radio election results.

What is different this time round 

Edmonton talk radio had a great lead into the federal election when residents voted in an NDP government and the price of oil dropped on the world markets hitting Alberta’s oil patch very hard with a lot of people losing their jobs. Right wingers are big talk radio listeners and with the NDP leading in the polls, it gives the right wing a reason to participate in the talk shows. For those Albertans who voted in a majority NDP government, it gives them a reason to counter the right wing on talk radio. The same can probably be said about talk radio in Calgary. There is also the fact that the Liberal leader is the son of the most hated politician in Alberta because Pierre Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program giving Ottawa more control over Alberta’s oil resource. Another reason for people to flock to talk radio to rail against Justin Trudeau.

Montreal anglos have more choice than last time

In Quebec, Montreal anglos have to decide between home boy Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair. No one likes Stephen Harper in Quebec. The Tories may think Justin just isn’t ready but most Montrealers think Harper’s time has come to an end and new blood is needed in Ottawa. For the first time since Justin’s dad was Prime Minister, Montreal anglos have a choice and when there is a choice it means there is a yin and yang and that generates good talk radio.

French Quebecers are like Americans when it comes to politics. They are political junkies. In the last federal election they maintained their listener base during the campaign. With Bloq Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe trying to make a comeback, it gives francophone listeners something to talk about. The separatist have no time for Justin because his dad fought them in the first Sovereignty Referendum and Trudeau junior doesn’t agree that independence can be decided by a slim majority of 51 per cent. NDP Leader Mulcair, on the other hand, supports Quebec’s right to separate with a 51 per cent vote in the next referendum. The NDP remains more popular than the Bloq Quebecois so that gives French talk radio listeners another reason to discuss the election on the radio.

Good day for talk radio in Ontario

In vote rich Ontario, people still remember NDP Premier Bob Rae so Mulcair has an uphill battle. Ontario’s Liberal premier is doing what she can to get Trudeau elected. Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown just won a seat at Queens Park. I suspect, Like Kathleen Wynne, Brown will do what he can to get the vote out for his Conservative cousins and former political colleagues in Ottawa.

All this is great talk radio fodder and with summer over, the election will heat up in Ontario and that will generate more interest to get the phones ringing and generate ratings for the talk radio stations in Toronto, London, St. Catharines and Ottawa.

Calling listeners stupid is ratings’ suicide

From where I sit On The Kowch, an election campaign is just like any other event. Sometimes there is nothing new. If that is the case, ignore the election campaign and talk about something else. But when politicians say stupid things or make controversial campaign promises open the lines and discuss that aspect of the election campaign.

While opinions are necessary for good talk radio, listeners have a low threshold of tolerance of hosts shilling for one political party over another on a daily basis. Listeners start tuning out if hosts constantly push their candidate, political leader or a party’s platform on air.

Hosts who push their political agendas on listeners often get carried away and start labeling callers stupid, idiots or morons for whom they plan to vote for. Why would anyone want to listen to a host calling them names? I wasn’t surprised those hosts saw their ratings drop in the last election campaign.

Don’t make the same mistake of calling people names. I always tell hosts to attack the argument, not the individual. Better to say that is a stupid argument than calling the person stupid.

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He was National Director of NewsTalk Radio Programming for Astral Media. He was a professor at two of Toronto’s leading broadcast schools and is the author of   99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media   Today Steve is Canada’s leading media coach at kowchmedia helping emerging radio talent chase their dream to become great broadcasters.

Contact Steve at 647-521-6397 or email steve@kowchmedia.com