Welcome voice from the North

The longest running radio broadcast in Florida originates from a log home on the shores of Clear Lake.

For thousands of hibernating Canadians shielded in the Sunshine State from winter’s mighty blows, Prior Smith is their window “back home.”

Each winter morning Smith rises before the sun to scan Canadian news happenings and writes, produces, reads and transmits and five minute newscast fitted especially for snowbirds in the deep south.

Tommorow “Canada Calling” begins its 20th season on air under Smith’s wing. It began in 1954 before Smith’s broadcast usurped the slot in 1977 and continued on.

The daily news clippings from the north are broadcast during prime time air slots on 27 Florida stations and one in Arizona and originate on a 1950 Underwood manual typewriter in Smith’s studio.

A former CFRB newsman in Toronto, Smith had 17 years in the industry before striking out on his own.

With a potential audience of two million and countless Americans interested in Canadian events, the broadcast has become a staple, he said.

Beamed into homes across the Sunshine State by the Florida Radio Network, Smith’s newscast begins on his beloved typewriter where every word he speaks over the radio waves is born.

Surrounded by lap top and desktop computers with state of the art programs so he can edit his submissions, and digital technology linked to satellites, the primative word processor is the centerpiece.

It’s a “ma and pa” operation with Smith and his wife, Allana, at the helm. Both left the “comfort and security” of their regular jobs to dig in full time after about nine years. Together they look after every aspect of the business which has grown in leaps and bounds.

“I have to sell every cent of my advertising myself,” said Smith, who guesses he’s made over 200 trips to Florida in the last two decades….

And Smith’s advertisers read like a list of “who’s who” in both the States and Canada….

But broadcasting a daily newscast does tend to put a few crimps in your life.

Other than brief trips to Florida to produce live shows on location at big events throughout the winter, Smith is essentially tied to his home and the microphone from November to April.

By the time his winter programming winds down, Smith admits cabin fever has set in and it’s time for a vacation – but not in Florida. “Florida is strictly business to me,” he chuckled…

In 20 years he’s never missed a newscast.

And when Smith isn’t reminding snowbirds exactly how cold -30C (-28F) feels, he pens weekly Florida travel columns for major Canadian newspapers.

The highly portable enterprise was a home-based business before it was fashionable and in 20 years it has transmitted broadcasts from outside Toronto, Cavan and from Clear Lake the last five years.

“Home can be anywhere as long as I can gain access to phone lines,” he said.

Stephanie Walsh – The Peterborough Examiner