Cross Country Checkup

About Cross Country Checkup

Cross Country Checkup is Canada's only weekly national open-line radio program.

Your voice, Canada's voice, for 55 years

Cross Country Checkup is Canada's only national phone-in show, broadcasting live from coast to coast to coast. 

Checkup is Canada's weekly town hall — a place for raw, honest perspectives on the most pressing issues of the week. For over 55 years, it's where Canadians gather to listen to each other every Sunday afternoon.

Ian Hanomansing is the interim host of Cross Country Checkup. As co-host of CBC's The National, Ian knows how to connect callers to listeners to the country's biggest newsmakers and experts. Checkup is where people most affected by the issues can get answers straight from the top.

Checkup isn't just for listening, it's also a place where you can be heard. You can reach thousands of listeners just by picking up your phone. Or, you can connect with us by email, on social media or by leaving a voicemail message anytime after hours. The number is 1-888-416-8333.

Whether you're a listener, a caller or one of our esteemed guests, we have one promise for you: Checkup is the meeting place for all Canadians to reflect, share and discover the richness in our diversity and differences.

How to listen

Listen on ​CBC Radio One or from wherever you are on CBC Listen.

Sundays at 1 p.m. PT, 2 p.m. MT, 3 p.m. CT, 4 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. AT and 5:30 p.m. NT.

Our host

Ian Hanomansing is the interim host of Cross Country Checkup. (CBC)

Ian Hanomansing is the interim host of Cross Country Checkup, taking Canadians' calls live from Vancouver, and a co-host of Canada's flagship TV newscast, The National. The veteran host and reporter began his broadcasting career at CKDH Radio in Amherst, N.S., before joining CBC in 1986. His assignments took him to Toronto the following year and eventually to Vancouver, where he was a national reporter for 14 years.

He has won a Canadian Journalism Award in 2014 and shared a Canadian Screen Award in 2015, both for breaking news coverage. Other national awards include the 2008 Gemini for Best News Anchor and the 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best National News Anchor.

Hanomansing was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and grew up in Sackville, N.B. He graduated with an honours B.A. in political science and sociology from Mount Allison University, where he was valedictorian. He also has a law degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax. While in university, Hanomansing won six national university debating and public speaking championships.


Birth of Cross Country Checkup

By Andrew Simon, founding producer of Cross Country Checkup

The CBC context

In the 1960s, the people's voice was not part of CBC network programming in the belief that, being uttered by people without recognized expertise, it would just confuse or mislead — rather than enlighten — the listener. The series that came closest to exposing such opinion was Citizens' Forum, a long-established weekly 45-minute program on the national (Trans-Canada) radio network and later also simulcast on television. Its first half-hour consisted of a panel discussion of experts on a current controversy, followed by an announcer's reading of a 15-minute distillation of opinions on the previous week's subject.

Andrew Simon, the founding producer of Cross Country Checkup, auditions an unidentified announcer.

The dawn of phone-in shows

In the early 1960s, many privately-owned radio stations across the country launched so-called "open-line" programs, some with high-profile moderators. CBC programmers had a dilemma: our policy and practice of airing only the delicately balanced opinions of selected expert commentators was in conflict with a highly popular new radio style.

Program organizer Christina McDougall resolved the problem by transforming the old Citizens' Forum format into a tape montage of opinions phoned in by listeners to CBC's local affiliates. Three weeks in advance of the broadcast, McDougall identified a national controversy, selected four geographically-diverse affiliated stations and asked that their local open-line programs invite callers' views on the selected topic. Those four local programs were then edited down into one half-hour national version.

Cross Country Checkup became a permanent addition to the CBC Radio lineup in October 1965. Pictured, from left to right, are founding producer Andrew Simon, host Brad Crandall and producer Moses Znaimer.

Inspiration for a new CBC program

It was during one of these marathon tape-editing sessions that the idea occurred to me: given that we had overcome misgivings about airing the opinions of ordinary people, and given that the seven-second delay had been conceived, why don't we simply put on our own national open-line show? We could certainly do it to a higher standard, it would be much more topical being done live to air and would be fulfilling the key CBC mandate of bringing Canadians together.

My immediate boss Margaret Howes, then-supervisor of current affairs for Quebec region, was not just supportive but outright enthusiastic — partly because I was proposing it as a Montreal show and partly because she saw it as a format genuinely suited to the radio medium. Howes assisted in preparing the proposal, which was sent in early 1965 to senior network officers in Toronto. Many meetings and memos transpired in the coming months, culminating in approval for a one-time pilot program in May.

The seven-second delay

To maintain editorial control, we needed to delay the calls by a few seconds (we chose seven seconds) to allow the producer to cut illegal, unfair or distasteful content. There being no off-the-shelf component available for this purpose, our technician, Jean-Guy Filiatrault, came up with the solution. He put one Ampex tape deck by the right wall of the control room, another deck by the left wall, with the first machine recording the entire program seven seconds ahead of airtime, and the second machine playing it back to air.

It took exactly seven seconds for a point on the tape to travel from the first (recording) machine to the second (playback) machine. Before each week's broadcast, Filiatrault prepared a precisely measured tape loop, as well as a couple of spares which were miraculously never needed. We also had to devise what "sound" to send out during any such deliberate editorial interruption. It was a loop containing some beeps. Happily we never had to use these facilities, but their existence complied with the CRTC policy of not relinquishing editorial control.

Elizabeth Gray, pictured circa 1978, hosted Cross Country Checkup from 1976 to 1978. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Eric Hayes)

The pilot topic and title

The topic that dominated public and political discussion in the spring of 1965 was the report of the Hall Royal Commission, from which was born Canada's present public health insurance scheme. It was a natural fit for a show dedicated to providing a forum for Canadians to discuss the most debatable subject of the week. We were lucky to have as our studio guest Dr. Victor Goldbloom, then-president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Inspired by the topic, we thought the word "checkup" would be good. To this we wanted to add an element suggesting this was different from existing phone-in shows in being national, thus Cross Country Checkup. When the program returned in the fall on a weekly basis, we just could not think of a better title. We thus convinced ourselves that the same title would work even when the topic was not related to medicine.

Reaction

The pilot program was favourably reviewed in several newspapers across the country. In the late summer, CBC brass scheduled it as a weekly Sunday feature. 

It began Oct. 24, 1965 at 6:30 p.m. ET with callers across the country phoning collect to a single Montreal phone number. Later, Bill Armstrong, then-vice president of CBC English radio, declared publicly that a national topical open-line show was, like newscasts, an essential element of a CBC radio schedule.

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