Doug Ackhurst


00:00:01 Speaker 1 

This is an interview with Doug Akhurst, who began his broadcasting career in 1962 at Sea Fox in Montreal. 

00:00:08 Speaker 1 

I’m Phil stone. Doug Akhurst moved to North Bay in 1973 as supervisor of its stations for Northern Broadcasting, and he worked out of station CFCH. In 1983, he joined C JCL in Toronto. 

00:00:21 Speaker 1 

And today he’s there as the station manager. 

00:00:26 Speaker 1 

I understand that you went through the ranks. 

00:00:28 Speaker 1 

How different was what you were doing. 

00:00:30 Speaker 1 

Then from what you’re doing now with radio changed that much. 

00:00:34 Speaker 2 

Yeah, just a little bit, Phil. 

00:00:36 Speaker 2 

I went in to see Fox, as everybody does, fell in the back door. 

00:00:41 Speaker 2 

As a student out of high school, my last year of high school. 

00:00:45 Speaker 2 

And I tried, as everybody does try, how do you get in? 

00:00:49 Speaker 2 

How do you get into business? 

00:00:51 Speaker 2 

And after having written many, many letters to many, many stations? 

00:00:56 Speaker 2 

Gord Sinclair Junior of course, was running it in Montreal and one Sunday afternoon. 

00:01:03 Speaker 2 

Of course, the news man was sick, had an appendix operation or something other and they phoned me at home and said, come on in. 

00:01:10 Speaker 2 

And of course, the the Sunday shift I did for a long, long time started at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, went to midnight. 

00:01:18 Speaker 2 

You know, a short shift. 

00:01:19 Speaker 2 

And of course, it was a buck and 1/4 and yes, yes. And there was nobody in the station, just myself and just Rocky. 

00:01:29 Speaker 2 

And that was it. 

00:01:30 Speaker 2 

That was the beginning. 

00:01:31 Speaker 2 

And to get in there and read, right, rip and read. 

00:01:34 Speaker 2 

And that’s how the business began. 

00:01:36 Speaker 2 

And it was fascinating. 

00:01:37 Speaker 1 

Could that happen today? 

00:01:39 Speaker 2 

I think it does to a degree. 

00:01:40 Speaker 2 

I think that still how young people can enter many, many of them come into stations and if they are, you know, if they’re around the station, the groupies, the hangers on, if they’re in the studios watching if they’re in production, if they’re. 

00:01:59 Speaker 2 

Helping out if they’re office boys, if they’re in The Newsroom, we get a lot of students now who come in on placement into the newsrooms. 

00:02:06 Speaker 2 

And that’s right. 

00:02:08 Speaker 2 

When the occasion arises, the all night man is sick. 

00:02:12 Speaker 2 

Who you going to call? 

00:02:12 Speaker 2 

You’re going to call the guys who are who are here. 

00:02:14 Speaker 2 

And I think that’s how people sneak in. 

00:02:16 Speaker 1 

Are you, as a station manager and you wear it back then to more particular now about who you bring in? 

00:02:24 Speaker 2 

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. 

00:02:25 Speaker 2 

I think also the the the fact that we have the Community colleges. 

00:02:29 Speaker 2 

Helps tremendously. 

00:02:31 Speaker 2 

They they play a big role and of course in those days there weren’t any. 

00:02:35 Speaker 2 

I mean the Ryerson was there but I don’t think to the extent that it is today. 

00:02:38 Speaker 2 

So I’m a big believer in the community colleges and the system as all of most broadcasters do we work with these schools very closely and I think they do give. 

00:02:49 Speaker 2 

The young people, some fundamentals before they get into the radio station and of course the on the job training situations, the work weeks that they have coming in, it’s a great opportunity for them. 

00:02:59 Speaker 1 

I was wondering when I asked that question too, Doug. 

00:03:02 Speaker 1 

You were alone for 10 hours practically. 

00:03:04 Speaker 1 

Would somebody be alone today in a major market? 

00:03:08 Speaker 2 

I don’t think so. 

00:03:10 Speaker 2 

I don’t think so. 

00:03:12 Speaker 2 

No, I don’t think that would happen. 

00:03:14 Speaker 1 

You’d be more particular about that too. 

00:03:15 Speaker 2 

Absolutely, absolutely. 

00:03:18 Speaker 2 

But it was a great opportunity, I think I. 

00:03:20 Speaker 2 

Think this is what? 

00:03:22 Speaker 2 

More people need to do. 

00:03:23 Speaker 2 

I had the opportunity in those days and as I went through university. 

00:03:28 Speaker 2 

So I spent four years filling in that cfox. 

00:03:32 Speaker 2 

And I had the the opportunity of working in all of the departments in a radio station and I think that’s very key to people. 

00:03:39 Speaker 2 

So often when people come into a station, they only work in one department and they don’t know they don’t have the have the knowledge of how everything interconnects. 

00:03:47 Speaker 2 

And I think that was a great experience for me and it it as as I grew up for the ranks and became a general manager, I had a better idea of how everything functioned together. 

00:03:55 Speaker 2 

And I think that’s. 

00:03:56 Speaker 1 

What people should be working towards, but back in 1962, three full, whatever there was more opportunity to do that. Can’t it be done today? Isn’t it more specialized today? 

00:04:05 Speaker 2 

Yes, but I I think I encourage every time I interview somebody and bring them into a station. 

00:04:10 Speaker 2 

I say to them one thing you should do. 

00:04:13 Speaker 2 

Yeah, you may be a news man, but take the time. 

00:04:16 Speaker 2 

It may be in your extra hours or lunch hours or whatever. 

00:04:18 Speaker 2 

Get out and spend some time in the other departments. 

00:04:22 Speaker 2 

Know how everybody fits together because it’ll make your job a lot. 

00:04:25 Speaker 2 

Easier and I’ll help you move up through the. 

00:04:27 Speaker 1 

Did you say that back? 

00:04:28 Speaker 1 

Then too, yes, absolutely. 

00:04:30 Speaker 1 

And it could work. 

00:04:31 Speaker 1 

Could it? 

00:04:32 Speaker 1 

You see what I’m getting? 

00:04:33 Speaker 1 

I want to know the history. 

00:04:34 Speaker 1 

So the students listening to this tape will know what it was like in your early days as. 

00:04:37 Speaker 1 

Compared to this time, absolutely, I think. 

00:04:42 Speaker 2 

You’re right, there was a little more opportunity. 

00:04:45 Speaker 2 

To do what I’m speaking about, I think yeah, you’re right. 

00:04:48 Speaker 2 

People are a little more particular today, but I still say that I say, look, if you’ve got the opportunity, you’ve got your hours. 

00:04:54 Speaker 2 

Get out there. 

00:04:55 Speaker 2 

Spend some time. 

00:04:56 Speaker 2 

I mean, there’s lunch hours. 

00:04:56 Speaker 2 

Go talk to the PD. 

00:04:57 Speaker 2 

The news, or say, let’s go to lunch. 

00:04:59 Speaker 2 

I want to know about these things. 

00:05:00 Speaker 2 

Take the sales manager, sales people, let’s. 

00:05:02 Speaker 2 

Get out and learn what the station is all about. 

00:05:04 Speaker 2 

You went through the ranks too as a program. 

00:05:06 Speaker 1 

Yeah, programming back in your early your first job and programming. 

00:05:09 Speaker 1 

Now how different, Doug? 

00:05:12 Speaker 2 

I think there’s quite quite similar, Phil. 

00:05:17 Speaker 2 

But you have your you. 

00:05:18 Speaker 2 

Have your air as back in the 60s. It was an interesting time. We really brought rock’n’roll to Montreal back in those days. The French stations really weren’t. 

00:05:31 Speaker 2 

That aware they just had the the hit. 

00:05:33 Speaker 2 

Parade American you know they. 

00:05:34 Speaker 2 

They they knew about that, but they didn’t know how to program it. 

00:05:39 Speaker 2 

As everything does flow from the United States, we just went and of course, in those days you could hire a lot of American jocks and we just brought them across the border. 

00:05:48 Speaker 2 

There weren’t any problems with the government and and that’s how we we brought rock’n’roll to Montreal and it was a fun time because you were back with The Beatles and. 

00:05:58 Speaker 2 

The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, and in Montreal in those days with Expo 67, everybody came to Montreal. 

00:06:06 Speaker 2 

The famous John Lennon Yoko Ono bed routine up at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. 

00:06:14 Speaker 2 

Every radio station in town was on on remote. 



00:06:16 Speaker 1 

From the bedroom. 

00:06:17 Speaker 2 

You know, so it was a lot of fun, but I I think. 

00:06:22 Speaker 2 

No, there’s great similarities in radio. 

00:06:24 Speaker 2 

I don’t think it changes that much because it’s a creative medium, you know and. 

00:06:28 Speaker 1 

But the way it operates, for example, let’s say you were disciplining somebody in 62 and at 87, how different would that be? 

00:06:36 Speaker 2 

Well, that’s an interesting question. 

00:06:38 Speaker 2 

I was at a seminar recently and somebody said you. 

00:06:41 Speaker 2 

Well, there is a great difference. 

00:06:42 Speaker 2 

They say there is a difference in the in the generations I am. 

00:06:46 Speaker 2 

I’m a little skeptical about that, but I understand that what motivated people in those days and what motivates them today may be a little bit different. 

00:06:56 Speaker 2 

I’m not totally convinced about that. 

00:07:00 Speaker 2 

I I like to think that. 

00:07:04 Speaker 2 

I think the work ethic maybe was a bit better in those days and I’m just. 

00:07:08 Speaker 2 

I’m not. 

00:07:09 Speaker 2 

I would like to hope that it was. 

00:07:10 Speaker 2 

It’s as good today, but maybe it was a little better, but we if we get people in and if they have that desire to work to me what we need, we need the creativity because radio is a creative. 

00:07:21 Speaker 2 

And I think anybody who’s coming in, you gotta understand that and some of them come in and. 

00:07:26 Speaker 2 

They’re not, you know. 

00:07:27 Speaker 2 

But it’s true. 

00:07:28 Speaker 2 

You know that. 

00:07:29 Speaker 2 

And I know that it’s the creativity. 

00:07:30 Speaker 2 

It’s how you see it. 

00:07:31 Speaker 2 

It’s how how you interpret the stories, how you interpret what’s happening in your community and then how you how you communicate that. 

00:07:38 Speaker 1 

With increased competition, Toronto has what some 19 stations has that changed the way you discipline? 

00:07:44 Speaker 2 

Oh yes. 

00:07:48 Speaker 1 

Have you said we can’t afford to have you make mistakes to come in late? 

00:07:52 Speaker 2 

Well, it happens because people are human, but I think what the specialization has done that’s changed. 

00:08:00 Speaker 2 

In some stations, that’s changed the creativity. 

00:08:03 Speaker 2 

I think it’s it’s put a. 

00:08:06 Speaker 2 

It’s put some some constraints in some people’s minds. I guess I’m a different type of person. I like to say, hey, it doesn’t matter what format you’re in. If you’ve got that ability. 

00:08:19 Speaker 2 

You know, we all have two pairs of eyes, 2 pairs of eyes. 

00:08:22 Speaker 2 

We all have two eyes, but everybody sees differently. 

00:08:25 Speaker 2 

You know, you and I can go out in the street. 

00:08:26 Speaker 2 

You look out the window and it’s amazing how everybody sees something differently. 

00:08:30 Speaker 2 

And it’s the people with the wide eyes who don’t have the blinders that we want to talk to because they are fascinated with life. 

00:08:37 Speaker 2 

And those are the people we want. 

00:08:38 Speaker 1 

In the business, do you look to your people to be more lucid or more intelligent or more aware than you did back in the beginning? 

00:08:45 Speaker 2 

Oh, it’s absolutely. 

00:08:46 Speaker 2 

I think the day of the of the Hard Rock jock screaming at the collars and the the name and the artist. 

00:08:55 Speaker 2 

That’s that those days are. 

00:08:56 Speaker 1 

What about the golden voice? 

00:09:00 Speaker 1 

Is that important? 

00:09:01 Speaker 1 

Still very, very much so. 

00:09:03 Speaker 2 

Although there’s a, there’s. 

00:09:05 Speaker 2 

A little bit of you know, here we’re getting into some characters in this business as well. 

00:09:08 Speaker 2 

And I think if a person has the ability in the way with words and the creativity, sometimes the voice doesn’t always number one. 

00:09:18 Speaker 2 

It’s important, but I don’t think. 

00:09:20 Speaker 2 

I think there there are. 

00:09:21 Speaker 2 

There’s there’s ways. 

00:09:22 Speaker 1 

Well, the Hard Rock guy was told get the music on the air. 

00:09:25 Speaker 1 

I remember that so well. 

00:09:27 Speaker 1 

Do you take that attitude with your jokes? 

00:09:29 Speaker 2 

Not anymore. 

00:09:29 Speaker 2 

Oh, no, no, no. 

00:09:30 Speaker 2 

You’re looking at guys who? 

00:09:31 Speaker 2 

Are creative and. 

00:09:33 Speaker 2 

Who can inform and communicate with the people? 

00:09:36 Speaker 2 

That’s a big difference. 

00:09:38 Speaker 1 

What about if we ask you to talk to our student body and you said this was the way radio it was when I came into it? 

00:09:45 Speaker 1 

This is the way it is now and this is the way. 

00:09:46 Speaker 2 

It’s going to be. 

00:09:47 Speaker 2 

How would you? 

00:09:48 Speaker 2 

Well to me that I’m thinking back that the difference of course is the technology. 

00:09:56 Speaker 2 

In 1960s, if you went into control, and of course there were no cartridges. 

00:10:03 Speaker 2 

Commercials were on tapes. 

00:10:05 Speaker 2 

I mean, I remember operating remote broadcasts and and and shows and. 

00:10:11 Speaker 2 

You know you to queue up a commercial, you had to real, you know, shoot Fast forward through whole real commercials and find find that one commercial which wasn’t as easy as a queuing up a cart. 

00:10:22 Speaker 2 

And of course you had transcriptions. 

00:10:24 Speaker 2 

I’m not that old Phil. 

00:10:27 Speaker 2 

So to me it’s the technology that has has changed and it’s of course it’s. 

00:10:32 Speaker 2 

Made it easier for everybody. 

00:10:35 Speaker 2 

So to me, that’s the big change. 

00:10:38 Speaker 2 

Is in how we execute things. 

00:10:41 Speaker 1 

This has been an interview with Doug Akhurst, recorded in Toronto December 1987.