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Networks take to the road for campaign 2004

(PoliticsWatch posted May 21, 2004) OTTAWA - Canadian television networks are preparing to take to the road this election campaign and buses are playing a major role.

"I think people like buses," says CTV News Ottawa bureau chief Craig Oliver, who will hop aboard the CTV Election Express when the campaign is expected to kick off this weekend. 

CTV's Election Express is a specially designed 45-foot long coach bus equipped with seven work stations, portable satellite links, a built-in studio and wi-fi connections so CTV can cover the campaign on the fly. It was previously used on the tours of recording artists Cher and Justin Timberlake. 

But the Election Express won't be following the party leaders around on the campaign trail, instead it will be going on its own tour of the country focusing on the races in local ridings and stopping at coffee shops and other gathering places along the way to find out what Canadian voters think. 

Oliver, who submitted a proposal on the idea to the network brass in January, said the bus will allow the network to "break away from the confines" of the leaders' tour and get away from the stump speeches and "hot air" of politicians. 

Oliver, whose first covered a federal election campaign as a radio reporter following former prime minister John Diefenbaker around B.C. in 1957, will be among nine CTV reporters who will spend part of the campaign on the bus, including anchor Lloyd Robertson, who will periodically give special commentary from the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, CPAC is going further, with three buses - one for Western Canada, one for Ontario and another for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Like CTV, CPAC also plans on giving attention to the election on the ground and not at the leadership level. 

The daily coverage from the campaign trail from six CPAC production teams will be used to present a special two-hour program beginning at 9 p.m. nightly called Campaign Politics. The network, which has enjoyed its best ratings ever with coverage of the Public Accounts committee, is hoping this program will also attract attention. They are billing it as "reality TV politics CPAC-style."

"Our coverage is going to be grassroots up, as opposed to leaders down," said Nancy Bickford, CPAC's director of communications. "We really want to focus on the campaign as it is happening everywhere in the country."

She said CPAC viewers will be able to get a view of the "national scene" and the leaders in its regular nightly programs hosted by Pierre Donais and Peter Van Dusen. 

CPAC plans to have five-hours of election programming each evening with the addition of Campaign Politics and a special program at 6 p.m. consisting of scrums and speeches from the leaders' tour called, not surprisingly, Leaders' Tour. 

And on the weekend, CPAC keeps things going with a special Sunday night phone-in show at 8 p.m., Goldhawk Live, which will mark the return to network television of former CTV reporter Dale Goldhawk. Following Goldhawk at 9 p.m. will be the Rockburn Files, where CPAC host Ken Rockburn will present a weekly documentary. And CPAC adds a special program focusing on youth voters Sundays at 10 p.m. called the X-Factor

And if that wasn't enough, CPAC is also breaking new ground in Canadian political coverage by having nightly "tracking" polling results from the polling firm SES Research. 

Each evening SES will contact 200 voters creating daily tracking figures based on a three-day rolling sample comprised of 600 interviews. To update the tracking, a new day of interviewing is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of accuracy is ±4.1%, 19 times out of 20. 

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