CBC's new Canadian plan: more of the same?

Posted 12.30.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | CBC has proposed a new operating model -- semi-new, since the BBC & TeleSur have used it for years -- in which CBC no longer competes with private media for advertising dollars. Government funding (more) makes up for the missing advertising revenues. Sounds interesting, especially for the private media conglomerates who have long complained about competing with the national broadcaster.

However, since this plan comes from the management crew appointed by [former unbeloved prime minister] Harper with the directive to privatize or significantly downsize CBC, their suggestion demands careful study. Several candidates for the Conservative leadership have voiced their own plans to cut CBC off at the knees: Harper's goal lives!

Let me suggest that the CBC is less "a media company" than an instrument of nation-building, and, as such, deserves strong public support. Marketplace funding always comes with strings.

But the public also deserves minimal assurances in turn -- performance standards! Yes, the CBC ought to live up to professional performance standards, even though CBC'ers, I'm sure, feel the CBC somehow sets those very standards. If only it did.

Performance standards? Here are examples just in news reporting, common practises of CBC news (radio, TV, digital) which cry out for performance upgrades:

  • quotes of government officials and ministers with no fact-checking or edits;
  • repeating clear errors of fact (outright falsehoods) especially in foreign affairs (eg., reports on Venezuela, Ukraine, populations in Syrian cities);
  • items that affect very, very few people repoted as "news";
  • reliance on emotion-heavy language in newscasts;
  • "story-telling" as if human-interest stories are news;
  • constant repetition of facts or reports with no change, although hours have elapsed; repeating well-known background (the events of 9/11, the last election's results);
  • the notion that a percentage of all news reports must include human-interest topics of no news value;
  • extensive reports of funerals and memorials (a church service and the grief of mothers aren't news);
  • repeating official stats and numbers without question (eg., "CETA will mean $15 billion in trade to Canada!");
  • the failure to ask a single question of an official report;
  • CBC's journalists and editors seeing themselves as employees of a giant corporation and not as professional journalists first;
  • CBC's Euro-centric and national blinders (e.g., the only refugee problems are in Europe; the only violence/poverty/exploitation to report is elsewhere;
  • single-incident events (lone-wolf attacks) reported as huge emotional threats.
These are only a few. Bulletin readers will surely add more.

Would Director-General Lacroix, his board, and the unions agree to professional standards? And would they agree to redirect money spent on "community-building" (sports contests, cultural festivals, fund-raisers, sponsorships) to establish news desks in CBC's huge blind zone (all of Latin America, China, much of Africa)? And why duplicate what's already drowning us - - another blog channel, really?

Better use of money by management, and more professionalism by staff, are two clear routes to a better CBC. "More money" by itself is a proven non-starter.


Copyright © 2016 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.16