Entertainment

Say goodbye to Speakers Corner

The long-running CityTV program Speakers Corner, featuring clips of passersby sounding off in an automated sidewalk video booth, is going off the air.

The long-running CityTV program Speakers Corner, featuring clips of passersby sounding off in an automated sidewalk video booth, is going off the air.

Its last airing will be Aug. 31.

"Speakers Corner was such a great, innovative program in the beginning," said Jamie Haggarty, an executive vice-president at Rogers Media, which now owns CityTV.

"It was one of the pioneers of user-generated content. It was one of those 'wow' kind of shows.

"Unfortunately, that market is now well-served online with MySpace, YouTube, Facebook. It's kind of sad because it was such a great brand."

Speakers Corner was born at the intersection of Queen Street West and John Street in Toronto in the late 1980s. The booth at that location was closed when CityTV and its building were sold two years ago.

In the past, it hosted such famous visitors as former prime minister Jean Chrétien, comedian Mike Myers and the band Barenaked Ladies.

The latter crammed into the booth two decades ago to belt out their tune Be My Yoko Ono.

Even pop star Prince, whose ex-wife is from Toronto, expressed a fondness for the concept.

"I love Speakers Corner!" he told the Canadian Press in 2004. "I just love the idea of it. I am so tempted when I go by to stop the car and go into the booth and say what I have to say."

In the heyday of Speakers Corner, there were over 22 booths across the country providing content to the show.

For the price of a loonie, members of the public used the streetside soapboxes to opine on everything from politics to lost love. Haggarty said there are now just a handful of booths left across the country. They will remain open, but it's not yet clear where the content will appear.

"We still may find a place for that in this new online world," he said.   

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