Friday, September 02, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 19

Ouimet , the locked-in manager under siege inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre, confirms anecdotal evidence I've been receiving from other sources: people like the lockout programming better!

I keep hearing about the positive audience feedback we're getting. I just assumed it was CBC propaganda. But I kept hearing it, so I did a bit of digging and saw some of the audience reaction reports myself.

Amazingly, they are true: most people are happy with what they are seeing on TV and hearing on the radio. There are very few complaints. Of course, good ratings for Star Wars are a no-brainer, but we really have to take the CFL ratings to heart and learn something from them.

CBC Unplugged confirms it with hard numbers:

An internal management memo yesterday reported that on Sunday night, the CBC TV News Bulletin attracted an audience of 955,000 -- more than 200,000 ahead of CTV's 11 pm newscast. On Monday night, CBC's 15-minute newscast pulled in more than half a million viewers. CBC Newsworld is also neck-and-neck with CTV's News Net, despite their elaborate relaunch. The memo read: "While we know that our efforts could never compare with those of our colleagues who usually produce CBC News, we send our thanks for a job well done."

The programs getting shelved from CBC-TV during the lockout and being replaced with decent movies and re-runs are mostly the programs no one but the chattering classes watch. Just on the strength of that alone, CBC ratings couldn't help but go up.

CBC News is also more watchable than it's been in a long time. The straightforward Canadian news reports from the managers--no editorializing disguised as news, no smug condescension or veiled insults, just no-nonsense reporting--are what CBC News used to be known for. The BBC's professionalism and style put the CBC regulars to shame with its international reporting.

To say nothing of watching a CFL game without the inane chatter of the announcers getting in the way, just the stadium announcer and ambient noise, and the feeling of being in the stadium it gives viewers!

What incentive does management have now to settle the lockout early? You could almost imagine them kicking themselves wondering why they didn't think of all this sooner.

This letter from an anonymous concerned CBCer gave me a hearty laugh:

Children across Canada are now without their favourite television host because of a public broadcaster unwilling to compromise, unwilling to listen to the public's demands. And, once again, the children are the innocent victims.

There is no way to explain this situation to a youngster. There is no way to ease the pain of their birthday card not being read on TV. No way to soften the disappointment that the winners of the contest they entered will not be announced on the date promised, or why the "new look" their friend promised does not come to pass. How do you tell them that their favourite kids' host is "locked out" and can't go to work? How?

Tell the little snots that life ain't fair, lady (I assume it's a lady, from the letter's maternal tone). TV isn't Mary Poppins in an electronic box, a comforting and amusing nanny. It's a cutthroat business run by cold-hearted bastards behind the smiling faces of Theodore Tugboat and the Friendly Giant.

Anyway, why are the kids inside watching TV on a nice sunny late summer's day? Shoo 'em outside to play ball hockey or skip rope. They could use the exercise.

You want to see kids that are innocent victims? Look at New Orleans. They'd kill to have Arthur being off the air as the greatest of their problems. Hell, they'd just kill, period.

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