Speakers’ Corner was once a fixture of Canadian media. The booth at Queen and John let anyone with an opinion come in and talk for a minute, with messages airing on Citytv and MuchMusic.
It launched in 1990, long predating YouTube, and video platforms were a big factor in what killed it. By the time Citytv’s new owner Rogers cancelled the series in 2008, it had long been supplanted by social media. But it’s proliferated as nostalgia fodder online, with bits and pieces showing up on YouTube and Instagram.
On Wednesday, Rogers announced Speakers Corner (now apostrophe free) is coming back. That Queen West booth that once stood outside what was once the MuchMusic environment is long gone, but Canadians are encouraged to submit their own videos on the Speakers Corner website or on YouTube or Instagram. You can also post on social media with the hashtag #SpeakUp. Videos will air across Rogers’ radio and TV channels, including Citytv, City News, Sportsnet, OMNI TV and more (but sadly not Much, which is now owned by Bell Media).
Why bring it back now? According to Jordan Banks, president of Rogers Sports & Media, it’s a response to the protests and “social discord” that are sweeping across the country and the world against systemic racism and the police killings of Black people.
“With racial inequality, hatred and discrimination still so prevalent, we as a society must do better,” he says in a release. “We have a unique responsibility to engage Canadians in conversation through our media assets and help be a catalyst for positive change by amplifying voices that have not always been heard with equal measure. Canada has systemic inequalities, and we must firmly embrace inclusion and equality as it will lead to a stronger and more united society for future generations.”