CBC North Country, the Thompson-based radio show that was last on the air March 31, 2017, former host Mark Szyszlo’s last day on the job after more than 30 years behind the microphone, will soon return to the airwaves.
The new host is Ramraajh Sharvendiran, a Toronto born and raised Sri Lankan Tamil who first got involved in radio broadcasting in university and also had a five-year career in public health.
The new North Country, which will also see CBC concentrate on producing more digital content from Northern Manitoba, is expected to be back on listeners’ radios in September, shortly after Sharvendiran, who became an associate producer with CBC Radio in Toronto in 2017 and is currently working with the public broadcaster in Winnipeg, makes his move up to Thompson.
CBC Radio has not had a regional presence in more than 16 months and in the past few years, listeners have been used to not hearing local programming much of the time, since the former host also took a sabbatical from the job for much of 2015.
Sharvendiran got into radio broadcasting while studying communications at York University, where he produced and hosted a weekly show called Queer Currents on the college radio station CHRY 105.5 FM. He then created and hosted a daily morning show called Morning Mixtape on CJRU 1280 AM and got involved on the news side as the producer of a weekly current affairs show on CKHC 96.9 FM.
He was named one of the most influential Tamils of 2015 by Tamil Culture.com and previously served as the men's health co-ordinator at the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, which provides HIV/AIDS, sexual health and support services for South Asian communities in the greater Toronto area.
That there is a show for the new host to take over at all is thanks to a public outcry back in 2009 when the CBC announced that its Thompson operation as well as its one-person bureau in La Ronge, Sask. were among 800 positions being cut in an effort to save $171 million. That prompted Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton to spearhead a campaign to save the northern stations, bringing the issue up in the House of Commons and presenting a petition with 1,300 signatures just days before the CBC’s May 15, 2009 announcement that the programs were no longer on the chopping block.
Szyszlo came to Northern Manitoba from Ottawa and started out as a freelance radio journalist before being named host of the noon-hour North Country show and later taking over the regional morning show as well. He was – and Sharvendiran will be – the only CBC journalist in Northern Manitoba, which at one time had as many as 12 public broadcasting staff, including a TV reporter and a radio reporter based in The Pas.