Definitely Not the Opera

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Definitely Not the Opera
Genre Pop culture
Running time 1 hour
Country Canada Canada
Language(s) English
Home station CBC Radio One
Starring Nora Young (1994–2002)
Sook-Yin Lee (2002–2016)
Creator(s) Bill Smith
Exec. producer(s) Iris Uday
Air dates September 1994 to May 14, 2016

Definitely Not the Opera (or simply DNTO) was a magazine-style radio program focusing on aspects of pop culture and storytelling, broadcast over CBC Radio One on Saturday afternoons from 1994 until 2016. The show's running time varied over the years, though it ran for a full hour (3:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern time) in its final year. An abridged version of each weekly program is available for download as a weekly podcast, with an abbreviated sister edition, called Your DNTO, airing on Tuesday afternoons and featuring listener-submitted content.

DNTO is also syndicated to some public radio stations in the United States.


In 1993, the CBC launched Brand X as a Saturday afternoon replacement for Canada Live,[1] which itself was a short-lived successor to Jack Farr's The Radio Show. Brand X also took over the youth and pop culture mandate from the network's recently cancelled Prime Time.[2] Initially airing with a stable of regular contributors but no single host,[1] Brand X premiered on June 26, 1993.[1] The show was created by Bill Smith.

The program lasted only a single year under the Brand X title and format before being revamped by Bill Smith to create Definitely Not the Opera in September 1994.[3] The new name was chosen because the program aired opposite Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Stereo. Nora Young, who had been one of the contributors to Brand X,[4] was named as the host of the program.[5] Young held the DNTO host position until September 2002, when musician and former MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee took over.[6]

DNTO would vary in length over the course of its run, initially running four hours in length before being reduced to two hours by the late 2000s. For its final season (2015-2016), the show had a one-hour running time.

On May 2, 2016, CBC announced that DNTO would be discontinued after 22 seasons.[6] The show's final episode, which was recorded before a live audience at CBC Radio's Winnipeg studios and aired on May 14, 2016, included special guests and highlights from the series' 22-year run.[7] Lee will continue with the CBC as host of the new program Sleepover,[8] while DNTO's Winnipeg-based production staff will move on to a separate show for the broadcaster.[6]


When Young was its host, DNTO was a magazine-style show focusing on popular entertainment, containing more- or (usually) less-serious features on pop-culture phenomena, movie, video and music reviews,[5] as well as music and concert segments, comedy sketches by Radio Free Vestibule, and biographical features on entertainment and pop culture figures. Contributors during this era included Ross Porter (who sometimes filled in as host), Rex Murphy, Mary Walsh, Laurie Brown and Guy Maddin.[6]

With Lee in the host chair, DNTO would gradually evolve in scope, transitioning by the second half of the 2000s from pop culture/entertainment focus to one that emphasized light documentary and storytelling. Each episode's wide-ranging focus would also evolve so that the segments would pertain to a specific aspect of modern life. For example, an episode might have a thematic focus on etiquette, fear, listening, interpersonal conflict, food or small talk. On-location profiles would also be among the episode themes, including a post-Hurricane Katrina visit to New Orleans in 2006[6] and a 2015 visit to the northern Manitoba community of Pukatawagan.[9] Celebrity and expert interviews would remain, as would the music segments, but they would also focus on the episode's theme rather than being strictly promotional in nature. Remote segments and on-the-street interviews tying to the episode theme would also be included, along with first-person audio essays. A rotating stable of regular contributors – including comedian Candy Palmater, journalist Kaj Hasselriis and CBC Radio personalities Jane Farrow and Grant Lawrence – would also contribute their own themed segments.

In part to allow listeners to share their own related stories, a weekday offshoot of DNTO would be later established. Titled Your DNTO, the show aired on Tuesday afternoons and would repeat some content from a weekend show. However, the weekday show's emphasis was dedicated to airing stories submitted by listeners, who could record and upload their own contributions for possible broadcast to the DNTO website.


  1. ^ a b c "Brand X targets youth". The Globe and Mail, June 26, 1993.
  2. ^ "Prime cut". The Globe and Mail, June 16, 1993.
  3. ^ "CBC revamps radio lineup". The Globe and Mail, June 29, 1994.
  4. ^ "Pop culture finds a Saturday niche on the airwaves". The Globe and Mail, February 11, 1995.
  5. ^ a b "Media Stars: Avi Lewis, Nora Young and Ruby Bhatia". U of T Magazine, Summer 2001.
  6. ^ a b c d e "DNTO, long-running CBC Radio show, ending in May". CBC News, May 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Audio of DNTO final episode from
  8. ^ "CBC Radio One to Launch ‘Social Experiment’ Radio Show". Broadcaster, June 21, 2016.
  9. ^ DNTO Pukatawagan episode from

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