Wednesday, August 31, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 17

One invaluable benefit of the CBC lockout during Hurricane Katrina is that we don't have to hear reporters blame the Americans for bringing the disaster on themselves.

For those who believe that George Bush ordered the Pentagon to deploy their top-secret weather control satellites to take the media's attention off Cindy Sheehan, or as an excuse to exercise vast new dictatorial powers under the Patriot Act, or to take the heat off for not ratifying Kyoto, there's always these guys, these guys, or if you absolutely positively need a 100% Canadian perspective, these guys.

In more directly related news, CBC and CMG are holding their first talks since the lockout began. One wonders whether the upcoming fall season and the return of Hockey Night in Canada is forcing management back to the table.

Maclean's Steve Maich points out the real problem behind the CBC lockout: even if it were settled tomorrow, it would do nothing to resolve CBC's inability to decide whether it's a nonprofit public interest broadcaster or a commercial network.

His recommendation: reorganize CBC along the lines of TVO or PBS:

It's time for the CBC to finally resolve the identity crisis that Rabinovitch identified five years ago. Dump the big money-makers and the biggest money-losers, and focus on the vast public service elements in-between. That's the recipe that turned CBC Radio from a relic into the thriving operation it is today. There would still be room, and money, to produce specials like Trudeau, A People's History and even a few topical shows like Rick Mercer's Report. But there would be no more pouring money into failed commercial projects, and no more pre-empting the news for months to accommodate the NHL playoffs. At last, the CBC would be focused, stable and respected.

I don't know about respected, but at least its biases will be more tolerable if the taxpayers aren't footing most of the bill.

As for focused and stable? There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth once CBC is weaned off the taxpayer teat from the usual suspects, but CBC will survive, perhaps even thrive, as a 100% Canadian public interest broadcaster.

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