News director of two BC radio stations resigns after editorial staff asked to sell ads

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By H.G. Watson,

Associate Editor

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December the 8th, 2015

.The news director of two BC radio stations has resigned over allegations that management asked staff—including editorial staff—to participate in a voluntary one day ad-sales blitz. Sean Eckford was the news director at Coast FM, in Nanaimo and Sechelt, for nine years, and Juice FM, in Duncan, for about a year and half.

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Sean Eckford

In late November, he found out that management had approached employees with their proposal. Eckford immediately started trying to find out what was going on, hoping he could “head it off at the pass.” “I went to [management] and said, ‘I am aware you are asking. I have concerns—here are my concerns. Can we talk about it?’” said Eckford. “I went to them before they had come to me about it.” Coast FM and Juice FM are part of the Vista Radio chain, which operates 41 stations across the country and has over 300 employees, according to its website. –

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Bravo Sean.
    Standing up for principles can be costly.
    But if journalists don’t stand up for their trade, no one will.
    How long before advertisers will decide what gets on the news, how it is written, what it says, even who reads it?
    When the lines get fuzzy it is important to draw them in again.

  2. Right on, Sean!
    News staff should never do or sell ads… not now… not ever…
    They must always retain their journalistic independence, integrity, and objectivity, and that includes not being linked in any way, shape, or form, to those who pay for the air time.
    Anyone now in Radio or TV management who does not understand why that is so… has no place being there.

  3. What John said above.
    I’m proud to have been the one who hired Sean at CKAY in the first place. Sean, you’re a class act.

  4. I never met Sean face to face to encountered him in other ways in my career. I’d like to add to the applause. You’re an ethical inspiration!

    But, it sucks you had to fall on your sword. I sincerely hope you can stay in news if that’s what you want.

  5. Unfortunately, Mr. Eckford broke two cardinal rules in today’s business atmosphere:

    1. do as your told
    2. make money otherwise known as ‘asset’, or cost money otherwise known as ‘liability.’

    While Mr. Eckford may take some personal satisfaction in standing up for what he believes is right, in the bigger scheme of radio today, he is but a mere sacrificial lamb.

    Radio people have to stop navel-gazing and thinking inward of their self-importance.

    Connect the money dots, which point straight to shareholder-satisfaction, no matter your ‘journalistic pride’, and your chance of survival is minimally increased.

    Big companies, despite their beautifully-penned memos and self-congratulatory pronouncements of being ‘family’ could care less about you as an employee.

    The vast majority of people in the media are so self-absorbed, they actually believe what management is telling them, whether out of fear or stupidity.

    There is only one person in the world whose words you actually have to listen to: your doctor.

  6. I don’t understand the conflict, but then again I am not in the radio business.

    What is wrong with approaching “Bert’s Autobody” to sponsor the traffic segment and “Wendy’s Umbrella Shop” to sponsor the weather and “Tom Morton’s Coffee Shop” to sponsor the “news”.

    The only conflict might come when “Tom Morton’s Coffee Shop” poisons a few people if they did not clean their equipment properly, as an extreme example – but you would still report it – you might end up losing the sponsor.

    But if you ignore the story, the competition (including the Internet) will report it and you would look pretty stupid.

    Is there a suggestion that management will actually quash the story to avoid losing the sponsor? Surely the CRTC would have something to say about that? Surely the audience will notice!

  7. As a long time broadcast journalist who has also done very well at sales, I don’t have a problem with Vista asking me to do part time sales or attending a sales seminar, while I do the news for them.

    While I applaud Mr Eckford’s decision to a certain point, but I also think that he is making big deal over nothing and his resignation will do absolutely nothing to further the interests of other journalists.

    People who run radio stations couldn’t care less about the current state of journalism, so who is he trying to impress ?

    There’s a sucker born every minute and they (at Vista) will get 10 more suckers to replace Eckford in a heartbeat.

    Mr. Eckford (and others) doesn’t grasp the current reality that the radio business has changed, unequivocally, since back in the 1970’s and 60’s and there really isn’t a conflict of interest by radio news people selling ads, as long as it’s understood by every advertiser that they cannot meddle with the radio station’s news department or its editorial freedom, nor can they dictate programming. You put that in writing, actually, so it’s a contract.

    Meanwhile, sales is a very important part of the radio station. If you don’t bring in revenue, the radio station will fold.

    How can you even have a news department, if there are no sales.

    Therefore, its time for the old coggers like Biro and Kendrick to look at the new reality of broadcasting and that reality is that it’s harder to get revenue, these days, and everyone at the radio station needs to help out.

  8. Ditto! ‘not a penny pincher’
    Lets face it, this is Reality Check time. What with the massive layoffs in the industry this year alone, although Mr. Eckford’s stand and principals are noted with respect, fact is Sir, I doubt if you will ever darken the door of a radio or tv station again, and that is sad for someone with your talents but let’s face it, things are obviously tough for Vista here on the Island, what with a downturn in the economoy. I see in the latest Nanaimo Dairy Vista appears to have backed out. Personally I see no harm in any of the staff being asked to sell advertising. One might even like it because he’s connecting face to face with his listener and they’re probably mesmerized by having this personally selling them advertising. Vista just might be onto something. Good on them! Let’s face it, Money is tight all around. Its time to use some common sense here.

  9. Many of the smaller Vista stations have their morning and afternoon hosts reading news as well. So, that line between on air personality and news person has been breached. And Why?
    To paraphrase Justin Trudeau…”Because it’s 2015″ (or what’s left of it)

  10. If I am not mistaken I believe one of the news readers at CKNW , the guy who sounds like an old time BBC newscaster, is currently reading a spot for Mercedes Benz. .

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