Prior captures hearts and minds of snowbirds

He’s the most popular Florida radio personality you’ve never heard of: The snowbird’s version of Paul Harvey. Prior Smith’s Canada’s Calling program reaches 2 million listeners.

In fact, Canada Calling is the most widely syndicated radio show originating in Canada. Distributed by the Maitland-based Florida News Network, the 5 1/2-minute feature-filled newscast on what’s new in Canada runs Monday through Saturday from Nov. through April, on 27 stations with a 15-minute recap each Sunday. Its target audience: the 2 million-plus Canadians enjoying Florida’s mild winter.

The show is “structured like a weekly phone call home,” says Smith. “There are no pronouncements about politics. It’s, ‘What’s the weather like?’ and ‘How did the Toronto Stock Exchange do today?’ “

The program is pure high concept and one easily understood by advertisers like Publix Super Markets, whose marketing director signed on as Smith’s first sponsor with this pithy explanation: “There are a million Canadians here, and they all gotta eat.”

Smith still ad-libs the company’s 30-second commercials live each Thursday and Friday, typical grocery buying days. When he’s not broadcasting from his log home on Clear Lake in Peterborough, Ontario, Smith is traveling throughout Florida. His favorite spot? Mount Dora, where he visits annually.

One way to do it. It’s noteworthy that, down south where The Tribune Co. operates South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Publisher Bob Gremillion has been named boss of WBZL-TV, Channel 39, a WB affiliate owned by The Tribune Co.

He’s among the first in the country to assume the dual responsibilities — a move based on a new FCC decision in August.

Based on that federal rule, if The Tribune Co. acquired an Orlando television station — let’s say Hearst-Argyle-owned WESH-TV — Orlando Sentinel Publisher Kathleen Waltz could conceivably replace WESH General Manager Bill Bauman.

Did so! The new ad agency for the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, WestWayne, mentioned its extensive tourism industry experience in the announcement press release.

However, only two tourism accounts are noted in the company’s list of clients: a botanical garden in Atlanta and the new Industrial Science Museum in Tampa.

There is more, says Adrian Marrullier, the general manager for WestWayne’s Florida operation. He points out that WestWayne’s nine years of working for Miami-based Celebrity Cruises goes a long way toward making them qualified for the $6 million account.

As for the controversy over not hiring a local firm, Marrullier says, “We’re just glad they picked a Florida agency.”

Bull Gator. Somehow the death Aug. 28 of Otis Boggs slid by me. The 82-year-old had long since given up play-by-play radio commentary for the University of Florida.

Many Florida fans threw things at the radio when Boggs was broadcasting — either because the team fouled up or because Boggs could sometimes mix his syntax so badly that no one knew what had happened.

Hundreds of broadcasters, including myself, crossed paths with Otis in his daily chores at WRUF radio, at that time housed in the bowels of Florida Field. Otis, Southern gentleman that he was, always had a kind word and a polite phrase for all of us — even if we had just stolen his wire copy or cut his show short by 30 seconds.

He mentored many, and he is missed.

Bob Mervine – Orlando Business Journal