The UCP government has purchased ads on the Corus radio network in Alberta to promote a new weekly hour-long call-in show hosted by Premier Jason Kenney, which will begin airing this Saturday at 10 a.m.
The show, “Your Province. Your Premier with Jason Kenney ” will air on 630CHED in Edmonton and 770CHQR in Calgary, co-hosted by former 770 anchor Wayne Nelson.
A news release from Corus states the topics and calls will be chosen by a team of producers — with no subject is off limits.
“This is an important item for Albertans,” said Corus Radio regional program director John Vos. “They have many questions for their leaders about the future and direction of our province. People want to know how their government intends to deal with the immense challenges that lie ahead whether it be the global pandemic, future of our economy, or affordability for their families.”
Kenney’s press secretary Justin Brattinga confirmed public funds will go toward helping promote the show in the form of ads. The money will come from the government’s pre-existing advertising budget.
“While there is no cost to taxpayers for the show to air (i.e.: this is not paid programming), the Government of Alberta has purchased ads in both the Edmonton and Calgary markets to promote the program and inform Albertans on how they can participate,” he said in an email to AB Today.
The government will not control content, choose discussion topics or screen callers, per Brattinga.
NDP MLA Shannon Phillips said the radio show will not reduce Albertans’ distrust of the premier and that he would be better off spending his Saturday mornings talking to Albertans struggling to pay their bills.
“It smacks of desperation,” Phillips said.
Phillip said the NDP was not offered the opportunity for such a show, either in government or opposition. She added her party would leave Kenney to go off on his “little adventure” while it reached out to Albertans in other ways.
“We don’t need to seek out this curation of a call-in show to pump up our leader’s tires, because the fact is, is that she is not so deeply distrusted and unpopular and does not need to avail herself of the kinds of desperate tactics that Jason Kenney needs,” Phillips said.
It all comes down to the leadership review: expert
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt told AB Today he has more questions than answers about the show but said “everything is related to April 9” — the date of Kenney’s leadership review.
A spokesperson for Corus said the radio network had been entertaining the idea of the show for some time. Corus would reconsider the show if Kenney loses the leadership vote next month, and it will not continue through the general election campaign period in 2023.
Bratt noted while Kenney has previously done media blitzes involving interviews with multiple news outlets, the premier opted to pick a specific outlet this time to conduct regular political messaging.
Bratt said the radio show marks a new approach for Kenney, who has previously been critical of mainstream media and opted to reach audiences through semi-regular Facebook Live Q&A sessions.
“You’ve had the chat scroll, that seems to be almost completely separate from what he is talking about,” Bratt said. “So when he talks, everything is rosy, but then you read through the chats, and it’s just one criticism after the other. Well, you don’t have that function on the radio.”
Unlike the lead-up to elections, where there are limits, or “red zones,” on government advertising, Bratt said such rules do not apply to leadership votes.
Premiers hosting radio shows is not without precedent in Alberta. Social Credit Premier Bill Aberhart and his successor Ernest Manning hosted a religious-themed radio show every Sunday, which lasted decades.
Ralph Klein, who was a broadcast journalist prior to his time in politics, also for a time had a monthly call-in show, Talk to the Premier, which aired on 630CHED and QR77.