The CBC has just received another 115 million dollar budget cut in the latest federal government budget. Faced with this significant shortfall in funding the CBC is now in a position where it has to trim another 650 jobs.
I think former CBC president Robert Rabinovitch put it best, “This is a death by a thousand cuts. At what point does the CBC become totally irrelevant? A back door way of destroying public broadcasting.”
The conservative party doesn’t want to be seen axing the CBC so they chip away at it slowly. It is interesting to watch the public reaction because it is very mixed. Some people cite the CBC’s “liberal bias” as their reason for rejection, while others feel that makes it worth saving. Funny thing is, I think if you counted the number of Conservative articles and the number of Liberal articles they are probably even. Some people want to gut it, and others think it is a notional treasure.
Love it or hate it, the truth about the CBC probably lies somewhere in between.
The Toronto star has even built an entire website to the CBC. However, the message from it is very mixed just like the response from the public. On one hand they have a page that notes the CBC receives less funding than public broadcast in other countries (Italy, Australia, Japan, Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Sweden, U.K., Finland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Norway) but a little more than New Zealand and U.S. They also note that 86% of Canadians say they regularly watch CBC, 42% regularly listen to CBC radio and 40% visit the website. Which would seem they are in favour of Mother Corp.
Yet in the same breath Torstar has confusingly hired Kai Nagata to mimic Rick Mercer’s style in a segment called “Canadian Broadcasting Consultancy” where he basically attempts to poke fun at the CBC with titles “CBC, meet the internet” completely ignoring the fact the CBC has been on the internet for over 15 years, has millions of pages, thousands of audio and video streams and hundreds of micro-sites, instead focusing on trying to find a single clip from the National in the archives from 1993.
First he is upset he needs a plugin to view it on the archives site, and then, unable to play it he looks in the internal search, where he gets exasperated and finally goes over to Youtube as if to show how poorly CBC does it’s job. However if he had simply searched “peter mansbridge internet in 1993″ in Google, like everyone else on the planet, it was the first result. I would like to provide Mr. Nagata with a little education of his own.
Or Another webisode entitled “Keep it Cool”, about how the CBC should be open with it’s information about how it spends the funding. What is lost on some people, is that Torstar wants to use this information as a commercial and tactical business advantage, not because they really care about how the money is being spent.
For example, Mr. Nagata specifically mentions Peter Mansbridge’s salary. Explain to me why anyone would need to know how much Peter Mansbridge is getting paid. It might not be a matter of National security, but that is Mr. Mansbridge’s personal information and I think he has the right to his privacy like everyone else. They could say they spend a certain amount making the National, or this is what is spent on programming but what Peter Mansbridge actually get’s paid is nobody’s business. It doesn’t affect the CBC’s budget, it doesn’t affect how they program their shows and it doesn’t affect how much we pay in taxes.
As an tangential observation I noticed that in the videos Kai Nagata is wearing the same clothes in every segment. I realized that he just set a camera up on a rooftop and filmed all the clips on a single day, I feel a little cheated by that, it makes it seem cheap for some reason. A good producer would have had him change shirts to at least maintain the illusion they were making an effort. Instead they come off as short, pointless rants from a bitter ex-employee.
Speaking of former employees, the Toronto Star also provides a friendly plug to Richard Stursberg, former VP of English services and his new book. Stursberg did try to shake things up, I will give him that, but there is no shortage of people bitter with the CBC, or former employees who can point out what is wrong with the place. They even have their own website, the tea makers, although it seems all but abandoned now. The website name comes from a Clash song, but for some reason it seems properly Canadian to me.
Who knows, one day I might even join them. But rather than looking at what is wrong with the CBC, (and there is no shortage of those) I try to look at what is right with it.
1) CBC is Canadian television. Look at the programming on CBC: 22 minutes, Arctic Air, Canada’s Smartest Person, Hockey Night in Canada, Heartland… the list goes on. Look at the programming on CTV: Hot in Cleveland, American Idol, CSI New York… One is Canadian Television, the other is American Television in Canada.
2) CBC Radio. CBC radio is extremely important in the rural areas. It helps connect those communities with the major centres both culturally and in terms of current events. Many times when I was tree-planting the only station that was available was CBC, and let me tell you it was a God-send.
3) CBC Kids programming. I don’t know anyone my age who doesn’t get a little misty eyed when talking about how much they love Mr. Dressup and the Friendly Giant. While the kids programming has changed it still evokes that strong sense of attachment.
4) CBC people. Some people are devoted CBCers. They drank the kool-aid, and I envy them for it. You will find people at the corp who have been there for 25+ years, worked in a variety of roles in almost every department. People who remember when CBC.ca first launched, when the first digital stream went out, when vinyl was retired. I even think there might be some who remember when the Leafs won a cup. You don’t get that kind of devotion unless you have a pretty compelling mission.
CBC is worth protecting, and funding. In my humble opinion, if we want to make it better, do away with advertising all together fund it completely. Get rid of the ads, and focus on top quality content. Don’t try to do everything for everyone, make the tough content choices that help bind the country together.
CBC radio and television is at it’s best when it is bringing culturally relevant programming to Canadians. It may not be the most marketable, or the most popular, but that is not what the CBC should be. It should never pander to the lowest common denominator.