Tuesday, October 04, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 51

The CMG will begin voting to ratify the agreement reached early Monday with CBC. Barring any last minute fit of insanity from the union members, the vote should pass by a wide margin.

CBC's regular broadcasting is expected to resume completely just after the Thanksgiving long weekend, providing us with another source of leftover turkeys.

Now the question becomes: whither the CBC?

The Globe and Mail , like most news outlets and CBC fans, wants Robert Rabinovitch canned for having failed to explain where he was planning to take CBC and why he needed a lockout to take it there.

It also takes a Bell Globemedia shot at CBC with which, even considering the source, I can hardly disagree (except for the shot at George Bush):

A piece of conventional wisdom has sprung up about the CBC in the wake of this lockout that is both true and false. The true part is that the CBC is not nearly as relevant as it should be in a world of endless media choice. Smugness and pomposity run rampant at the corporation, and this is not just a management issue. The CBC is impervious to new ideas and fair criticism. It would be uncomfortable with the comparison, but its puffed-up sense of certainty is not out of keeping with the guy currently running the United States.


CBC Radio is not without its problems either. It tends to be shrill and narrow. Although some local programming is doing well in the face of the relentless babble of the private alternatives, too much of CBC Radio is living off a legacy handed down by programmers a generation ago.

The National Post takes up the call for meaningful CBC reform, which we hope doesn't fall on deaf ears:

The CBC now risks remaining as hidebound and parochial as it was before the dispute, as any organization gets when it cannot inject fresh enthusiasm and ideas into its ranks. Management's ability to reduce costs will be severely restricted, too. If it had held fast to its original demand for the right to contract out more work, it not only might have saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, it might also have broadened the staff's ideological spectrum. Canadians might finally have heard some new voices on a project-by-project basis.

But that is water under the bridge. One thing the lockout proved is that the CBC no longer holds the central place it once did in our broadcast world: At one point during the lockout, nearly nine of 10 Canadians told pollsters they weren't even aware it was going on. If nothing else, the result should be a full-scale review of the Corporation's mandate. Does it need to keep its television operations given the advent of dozens of private news, current affairs, sports, documentary and culture channels? If it does retain a TV service, should it be converted to a pledge-based funding model such as PBS in the United States? And what of its two English-language radio networks with the advent of 100-channel satellite radio?

Bill Brioux of the Toronto Sun offers a few suggestions:
- Haul network president Robert Rabinovitch before the heritage committee, as planned, and fire his ass. This dork just doesn't have a plan beyond screwing with unions.

- Stop appointing political hacks to run the place. The CBC desperately needs a savvy TV programmer with vision, not another Liberal bag man. This is no place for on-the-job training.

- Lose the army of middle managers. You don't see any of those folks getting outsourced.

- Order a thorough, independent audit. It's the only way to win back public trust. Did they really lavish millions on some American firm just to see if they could jazz up their exploding pizza logo? Does Gomery know about this?

- Move the news back to 11 p.m. That older audience, earlier newscast hustle? C'mon. If we can stay up for Lloyd, we can stay up for Peter.

- With the five new hours, buy some ratings-grabbing American shows. Back when CBC was Canada's No. 1 network, it had Dallas on its schedule. The country didn't seem any less unified. Big American hits (several star Canadians, like 24, Lost or Boston Legal) could help launch new Canadian fare.

- Lose all the British stuff. If your big boast is a full nightly hour of Coronation Street (as proudly declared on Toronto streetcars) you need to drop the all-Canadian schedule charade.

- Find out how other public networks do it. BBC has thrown open its libraries to young filmmakers who reinvent the stuff and send it back. Al Gore is trying to get young web heads to submit their webcasts to his new U.S. news diginet. CBC should be on the cutting edge of all of this stuff.

- Stick with advertising. TV is an expensive business, dammit. Stay in the marketplace and turn the dollars into more shows.

But perhaps the best suggestions offered came from a self-styled independent conservative in Calgary, who passed along his ideas to Stephen Harper and Ouimet the tea lady.

Read the whole thing; he's clearly thought it through, and perhaps just as only Nixon could go to China, only the Conservatives could make public broadcasting viable and relevant again.

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