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Barbara Frum: Revolutionizing radio

Broadcaster Barbara Frum pioneered a tough interview style on CBC Radio's As it Happens and later on CBC Television's The Journal. Whether she was talking to Nelson Mandela, Harold Ballard or the grower of the world's biggest cabbage, Frum's unrelenting curiosity, her fearless search for the truth, and her empathy and humour made her one of Canada's most important broadcasters.

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If television gives Barbara Frum her initial -- if somewhat rocky -- start, radio nurtures her broadcasting skills.
When Frum signs on to host As It Happens in the fall of 1971 (as heard in this clip), CBC is in the midst of a radio revolution. CBC Radio, once the lifeline of the country, is struggling to hang on to its audience in the television age. In an effort to resuscitate itself, CBC Radio launches an innovative prime-time program called As It Happens.

It turns the familiar concept of a phone-in talk show on its head. At the time, the idea of initiating phone calls to the outside world from inside a studio is groundbreaking. Using rotary telephones, the hosts conduct five and a half hours of live conversation each night, bringing newsmakers, politicians and a colourful array of characters from around the world into the homes of Canadians. Frum takes on alternating hosting duties alongside William Ronald, Cy Strange and Harry Brown.

In 1971 the sound of a strong woman host discussing issues beyond childcare and housework is still a novelty. Her early radio days provide the perfect environment for Frum to fine-tune her journalistic skills.
• Barbara Frum's first As It Happens interview was on children's programming with an all women panel. She interviewed Monica Sims, head of children's programming for the BBC, and Dr. Vera Good, head of children's programming for the Ontario Educational Television Authority in Toronto.
As It Happens continues to be one of the longest running shows on the CBC. Frum was host for 11 years. It is currently (2007) hosted by Barbara Budd and Carol Off.

• By 1973 As it Happens took on its current format: a daily 90-minute show with two hosts under the leadership of a brilliant young executive producer Mark Starowicz. Although Starowicz and Frum initially hated each other, the two quickly became and remained the closest of friends.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Oct. 4, 1971
Guest(s): Vera Good, Monica Sims
Host: Harry Brown, Barbara Frum, William Ronald, Cy Strange
Duration: 15:29

Last updated: March 20, 2012

Page consulted on July 2, 2014

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