CKNW Dumps Program Director Tom Plasteras

When CKNW announced in March it was firing Dan Russell  …..  Canada’s longest-running and highly popular sports talk show  when his contract ends in August … the station’s Program Director Tom Plasteras said the station would be heading “in a new direction”.

Guess he didn’t know he too would NOT be part of that NEW direction.

A memo to NW staff Wednesday said Plasteras had just been let go by Corus Radio.

“Tom is a good friend to many people in this building and across Corus,” wrote Brad Phillips, Corus’ General Manager. “We want to thank him for his contributions these past many years and wish him much success in the future.”

Now get out.

For 20 years, Plasteras had been a major part of the behind-the-scenes team that made NW such a success in the Vancouver AM radio market.

But in late March, a BC media watchdog site  reported NW had slipped to THIRD  place in the ratings.  I wrote about that on this blog “CKNW Looking at Shakeup to Stop Sliding Ratings” .

“One recent posting there revealed that, according to People Meter ratings, the Top Dog is not only no longer Top in adult listeners (old news) BUT  has now slipped to THIRD spot in the Vancouver ratings … BEHIND CHQM-FM the new TOP DOG, and CBU-AM , the next favorite Pooch … leaving NW in the Doghouse, licking its wounds,”I wrote.

“Among NW flaws others have pointed out was dropping Canucks games; the decision to part ways with popular evening sportscaster Dan Russell, while sticking stubbornly with Bill Good and Philip Till, criticised quite often as “boring” by readers of this blog and others.”

Well, Plasteras may not have been listening or swayed by all the negative comments on this blog by listeners and former listeners about NW’s current fare, but perhaps Corus was.

The Corus announcement said Ian Koeningsfest, NW’s News Director, will oversee “all aspects of CKNW programming on an interim basis until we can announce a permanent replacement.”

Fall is a popular time for media organizations to shake up their programming as a major push for improved ratings…. so stand by: the On Air /Off Air button may be pushed again at NW … soon.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: If you are interested in BC media and provincial/federal politics, you can get FIRST ALERT of all new postings on this blog by following me on Twitter @HarveyOberfeld .  No cost, no ads, no spam. )

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19 Responses to CKNW Dumps Program Director Tom Plasteras

  1. Peter Vogel says:

    (word missing in opening sentence … “running” as in longest-running). Not an unexpected development given the changes in positions above that of Tom Plasteras. Had the station not returned to #2 in the most recent “book”? I’ve noticed some programming tweaks this week. Sports coverage has been drastically reduced in the 5-8:30 am period.

    (Response: Would love to see the later ratings figures…if you or NW want to provide them. Change is sometimes difficult, esp when we know or like the people affected: time will tell whether it works or not. I know at BCTV/Global I was skeptical when they laid off 50 people, slashed operations and began their do-more-with-less operating style. Seems I was right …hard to believe we used to CONSIUSTENTLY draw 650,000 viewers a night … now I’d be surprised if they’re getting any more than half that! Despite the huge growth in population. And numbers mean advertising dollars …but I doubt the top management geniuses back East blame themselves or their own incompetence. h.o)

  2. frosty says:

    To the best of my knowledge…Tom has been the messenger boy of the corus pinheads in Toronto. Tom’s been beaten up by many over the past few years for all the firings, cuts, ratings…in large part, the ratings are a result of the cuts and firings…which have come from Toronto. Tom’s been given the orders…and tried his best to keep things running despite the Peter Principled eastern crowd. It’s possible this new boss-Brad guy from ASTRAL is pulling the recent triggers…and bringing some of his crowd in but…the Golden Era is over…turn out the lights, the bar’s closed. Tom was one of my favorite people and good friend there….and one of the rare extremely capable, bright and popular execs.

    (Response: As one of the BEST and most successful NW ever had on air, Frosty no doubt knows a lot about what has been going on there behind the scenes. If Toronto is running the show so much …and the station has slipped to THIRD, we can only imagine what could befall them now with whatever “new” direction they plan to go. Especially if they try to unload “Toronto” community cheerleader style radio on Vancouver. h.o)

  3. Vancouver Sports Fan says:


    I haven’t been following the ratings, but how is Dan Russell still popular? I stopped listening to him years ago and have found his programming to be duller than dishwater. When I have listened, I’ve heard a lot of reminiscing about the past, but unfortunately, what I did hear wasn’t entertaining or engaging. There was also just too much Canucks talk all the time. Other sports just didn’t get any coverage, and I can only take so much hockey insanity. All that said, I do wish DR well in whatever he does. He seems like an eminently decent fellow who has done a solid job for many years.

    On a related note, I was selected to be a panel member for some sort of online survey for CKNW…I filled it out just recently and ripped the news coverage and the banality of Phillip Till, Bill Good, and Jon McComb. Decent people, but too much old white guy chat. Thank goodness for Simi Sara!

    (Response: NW does not release its detailed show by show ratings…so I have no idea how any host is actually doing. But it is a business, so if the keep people on air year after year, I would presume the individual ratings are good; but seems to me a lot today passes as just “acceptable”. Maybe Corus wants to get back to FIRST .. not happy with THIRD place. Stand by! h.o)

  4. Larry Bennett says:

    You know Harvey, there are no guarantees in life, and comes a time to move on. You can say that he had no union protecting him, but I really think a company should have the right to (reasonably) let people go. I’m sure, though I don’t know his age, that Tom has the wherewithal to find another job if he really wants one. Will it be at the same wage and prestige of the old one? Probably not. I recall Plasteras coming to the aid of Peter Warren when I made a complaint to some media watchdog a few years back when he said the “cut” button, or whatever, wasn’t working when some jerk told a bishop, on air, to F–k off. Warren later turned around and gave me an award, along with some fellow from Winnipeg for best limerick contest. (I still think Warren let it go through on purpose, but being a ex-boxer I wasn’t going to challenge him personally on it) It’s like the trucker I saw today picking up a waste bin, and he had to do the hook-up and the lock-up and reset the construction fence, by himself. I asked him where his swamper was, and he said the company won’t pay a young fella (or gal) to do it anymore, too costly. Maybe you can thank the unions in part for some of that? Same as apprentices for tradesmen and journeymen, no longer happening. Knew a guy at another site, an electrician at a data center, over six foot and had to crawl around under the raised floor doing hook-ups for computers and cooling systems. Could have used a young, lithe fella to do that work while he taught him how to do the hook-ups and etc.. Too expensive, I guess.
    By the way, whatever happened to Peter, is he still with the living?

    (Response; Peter is alive … in Victoria area. As for the right of companies to just let people go …sure they can, especially management types who have missed performance and profit goals etc. As for general staff … yes, IF it’s for good reason…but I wouldn’t let companies that are doing VERY well financially just throw people out because after 30 years doing well on the job, their wages are pretty decent and the company bean counters just think a young kid could do lesser but adequate work for a lot less. People are NOT toilet paper …to be used and then tossed away. h.o)

  5. e.a.f. says:

    If they are keeping Good and Till they will still be third place. If they continue to act as the p.r. dept. for the lieberals, a lot of people aren’t going to be listening.

    Talk radio has had its day, especially with people who have had their day. There isn’t anything of interest on this station so people prefer to listen to somethign else or just silence.

    The guy may simply have been fired because they want to hire lower paid staff.

    (Response: I don’t believe talk radio has had its day: I enjoy it from time to time. But have to admit, I’d listen more often if the hosts had a little more fire, raised a lot more hell about the inequalities all around us (cost of housing, even renting, child poverty, seniors just getting by or missing meds or meals, political corruption/payoffs by big business/lobbyists how awful buses are in Vancouver…so many being passed by EVERY day , while the rich get richer and richer. Talk radio would still do well with hosts who look at life from such “comfortable” personal or “corporate” points of view. h.o)

  6. 13 says:

    Harvey, it might be a demographic change that is hurting NWs ratings. If Im at work (trucking) I listen to NW if the signal is available. No signal then its CBC on the fm dial. I imagine the other large audience is seniors. The other place that I hear NW is as background at the dentist , repair shop etc.
    Truckers that listen to an English radio station are becoming a rare breed. Although they are a captive audience as the company I work at the days average 10 plus hours (no OT thanks union) or the many Teamster companies that work long hours with no OT till the tenth hour. Hows that for non generalization?
    Seniors and buisness must be the two groups that are moving the dial on their radios from 98 to new places. No doubt the loss of hockey and football hit these two groups. The loss of on air personalities must have hurt them as well. The use of paid advertising to fill long spots on the weekend must have caused many people to move the dial. I know mortgage brokers and dentists just arent that interesting. Mr Plasteras must have had a hand in that bit of stupidity.
    I dont know how the nuts and bolts work at NW but it seems that the bottom line has become the way they do buisness and as always if you pay peanuts you get what you deserve. Third place.

    (Response: Well, there’s no doubt that the ethnic changes can affect which stations are being listened to … BUT even among English listeners, NW slipped. No long Top Dog. Why? I’m no expert..but can say that, after 5 p.m., if I’m still somewhere listening to radio, it’s seldom ever NW… I’m over to CISL for music or News 1130 for news… and I don’t go back to NW till only 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. for news … then gone to News 1130 till AFTER 8:30 a.m., once Michael Campbell is gone….and I do listen to Good and sometimes Simi (unless she’s onto women’s or family topics). And I almost NEVER listen to NW weekends. Quite a change from when my dial was on NW… almost all the time. h.o)

  7. radiofan says:


    In the spring book, NW rebounded to the number two spot in the BBM 2+ PPM results. Full Vancouver results here :

    These 2+ numbers are all BBM provides for publication and to non-subscribers. While NW is a number 2, the real story goes much deeper. In cume, the number of listeners who tune in each week, NW is #16 out of 19 stations in the market! Even sister station All Traffic AM 730 has more listeners, but a market share of less than 1%! The only stations NW beats cumewise is CISL, CFTE (Team 1410) and Praise FM from Lynden, WA.

    Somewher I saw a breakdown of 25 – 54 shares and NW was #10 or 11.

    A little sanding and touchup paint will do nothing to being the old Top Dog back to life. A major overhaul is required.

    As for Tom, a twenty year run as PD of ANY station is remarkable. As frosty pointed out, the biggest thing working against him was head office. Unfortunately, they don’t understand and can’t relate to NW’s uniqueness in this market.

    (Response: Great info! A very welcome contribution to our discussion. I know the key demo advertisers supposedly like is the 25-54 group …but for the life of me, I don’t know why! Most of those are broke or struggling to pay off mortgages… It’s us OLD FARTS that have a huge portion of disposable income …and dispose we do: maybe not on home furnishings etc like the younger ones, but MUCH MORE on travel, hotels, car rentals, mid or high end vehicles, cruises, dining out … and, of course, billions on medications and health supplies. h.o)

  8. 13 says:

    How about
    530am to 830am They get on bended knee and open the vault and get Frosty back

    830am till noon Mr. Smyth

    Noon till 3pm Christy was okay but Simi will do

    3pm till 7pm Till and Macomb or just Macomb

    7 till 11 Berner or Faux

    11till 1 am network replay

    1am to 5am Coast to Coast I need to know where the alliens have landed

    Weekends lots of talk and lots of sports talk and Canucks games and Lions games

    There problem solved.

    (Response: I’d listen to that! h.o)

  9. Lee Powell says:

    Frosty has a point, Tom was likely villainized for some things that filtered their way West from Toronto. Tom and I didn’t always see things the same way, (to put it nicely), but in retrospect it’s fair to say we were both right at times and wrong at others on various issues. He had a long tenure there, and made a lot of good contributions, and I don’t think he ever made decisions based on any personal bias, it was as they say in the “Godfather”, just business. He’s really a decent guy, and a smart one, he’ll land on his feet, and emerge again.

    (Response: I don’t think anyone here is saying he did not do well ror NW…on the contrary judging by their ratings for most of his tenure there. But clearly something is awry there now and has been for some time: exactly why is something we mere listeners and former regular listeners may never know…but would love to hear from Tom about it …if he wants to tell us. h.o)

  10. Ess says:

    Another reason I turn off ‘NW are the incessant commercials. The host will talk for maybe 10 minutes and then come what seems to be a dozen ads. I always listen to Rick Cluff on CBC till 8:30. That’s a good show with great chemistry between the regulars.
    Does commercial radio have no control over the ads they inflict upon us? Some of them are so annoying. ‘NW are running one right now that repeats a phone number over and over again. I have to tune out as that drives me crazy.

  11. r says:

    Maybe theyll go to agt radio 98.7 fm(CKPM)

  12. Norman says:

    Personally, I used to leave my radio dial permanently parked at 980 am, but now find Phillip Till boring and Bill Good is just a lacky for the B. C. Liberals. I think he must be bucking for a post ‘NW job with Christy just like his buddy Pamela. I do listen to Jon McComb and Gord McDonal when he’s on because at least they have fire in their bellies about an issue.

  13. OldIslander says:

    It seems like a decade since I last heard Frosty refer to the upper echelon of ‘NW as ‘pinheads’. It’s going take a few hours to wipe the grin off my face. 🙂

    (Response: And think about all the jokes he used to say about ME!!! Okay..stop laughing!! And we BOTH laughed all the way to the bank: his no doubt bigger than mine! h.o)

  14. morry says:

    I have never understood what people get from “Talk-Radio”

    I did listen to Rafe Mair on occasion when he was on the airwaves but only for his interviews of politicians … i did’t think of his show as talk-radio,,, but it may have been so designated .

    (Response: Actually, if well done, it’s much like the blogosphere: the host spouting an opinion or revealing some info; hopefully in some entertaining fashion; and then, lots of comment …pro and con …and even more new info creating a buzz and drawing attention from lots of others, including those with power to make decisions. It CAN be a great forum for public discussion, dissent and fun exchanges …and if done well, can draw a million listeners, making the station a lot of advertising money and paying staff good salaries. h.o)

  15. Mike Cleaver says:

    The pr0blem with talk radio is the ability to stack the deck on the call in portion of the shows. This is especially true when the guests are politicians. Back in the day, talk shows had a producer, a board operator and a call screener to sift out the obvious “plants” who were there to support the guest’s viewpoints and offer praise. Nowadays, under the corpse spell of cheapdom, it’s just one person trying to juggle all these duties and all are done haphazardly. It’s the same on those call in informercials where often the callers are the sponsor’s employees or friends who ask questions designed to allow the “guest” to push or promote their specific product. Radio and TV stations and newspapers and magazines used to have ethics. Those have gone out the window along with most of the professionals who used to work there and uphold those ethics.

    (Response: I think they still try to weed out fixed calls because they know it sounds bad on air and turns listeners off. But it’s very hard if they don’t recognize the voice or name. What worries me more is the stacking of guests …those pro-business special interviews one after the other… even an entire series , while poverty activists, union types, environmentalists get only an occasional spot every few months … or less. h.o)

  16. Larry Bennett says:

    On the other hand, should Tom have any experience in citrus orchards, there is a whole new industry sprouting up in areas once thought unproductive.

    Sour Lemons

    “Orchards bloom on vacant lots”,
    Or so the papers claim;
    And were we to connect the dots,
    We’d know just who to blame.

    We know that fruit-flies shall appear,
    (Not just the Nobel winner);
    And someone, (and I guess and fear),
    Must be proclaimed the sinner.

    For Tides and Soros have no doubt,
    That summers will grow hotter,
    And if they don’t, they’ll stomp and shout,
    And rue your son and daughter!

    And they shall sip their lemonade,
    With clever sounding quips;
    While you and I must call it paid,
    With only rinds and pips.

    The viaducts will have to go,
    for lemons and for limes;
    So don’t be selfish, don’t you know,
    All things must change, betimes.

    And vexed are they with you and me,
    And all our indecision;
    It’s obvious, and plain to see,
    We only lack their Vision!


  17. Lee Powell says:

    Oh, I guess I meant villified, Villainized is a word I tried to make up.

  18. Larry Bennett says:

    I quite like “villainized”, in this age of computer-speak I consider it quite elegant, if not proper English. You don’t mind if I borrow it sometime?

  19. Peter Vogel says:

    Tom P. started at ‘NW as an operator and producer, right? Might he have balked at an order from higher up to revamp the lineup, especially 5 am to noon? That might have meant firing people for whom he’d been a producer. If there is anything to this then presumably Ian K. might have a similar reaction. Did he not start as a producer on the TWT when it was a joint McComb/Till afternoon-evening program? This is all speculation of course. Even more interesting is the whole sports programming universe in Vancouver, especially the suggestion that Bro Jake may leave the tower for the silver building and take a slot at Team 1040.

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