Is CBC radio out of the news business?

Posted 9.12.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Radio-heads will answer that there's a news minute or two at the top of every hour on our national broadcaster, and they're right. But if the fans call those few minutes "news reporting," are they actually listening?

An accurate response would be that CBC radio's hourly report does appear in a news format, and compared to what commercial radio presents, the answer must be that our tax-funded broadcaster is indeed giving us news. (Incidentally, this comparison is a perfect rebuttal to those who believe private enterprise can do anything and everything better than can government.)

In reality, news broadcasting in the CBC has slowly been replaced with "story telling". This is no secret, no conspiracy. In May of this year, during the national dust-up on cultural appropriation, the CBC's News Editor in Chief, commenting on the demotion of one of her editors for his inappropriate public remarks on the debate around Joseph Boyden's novels, told the Vancouver Sun that the offending man has been reassigned to "help evolve our story-telling strategies." Story-telling strategies? This is promoted as "telling our stories that matter."

So instead of hard news we get soft news, once called fluff, now called story-telling. Instead of details of the forest fires out west -- contributions of other provinces, economic costs, atmospheric damage, new techniques in fire-fighting, comparisons with other nations, etc. -- we get stories. Families forced to move with little notice. Pets gone missing. Mothers weeping, fathers angry, aunts in the dark … just stories.

There's nothing wrong with stories, but is it correct to call them news? CBC loves funerals, another example - - more weeping mothers. Immigrants fleeing to Canada? We get stories (weeping mothers, especially).

For those of us who like stories, who want to hear the news through the stories of those affected, I ask them to consider what "stories" mean. Do we not all recall being scolded as children for "telling stories"? Don't stories have a lot of similarities to "fake news", one of today's big concerns? If facts are replaced by personal reactions, are we getting real news? Who is tell if every mother's story is true? Does truth matter in this context? Story-telling paved the road for President Trump.

Aren't programs between the hourly news-blatts a better place for story-telling?

And don't get started on local news, which the national media weirdly promotes as its bailiwick. CBC-Ottawa's "news" seems often merely the day's police report, and usually it's one or two items repeated on an endless loop all day. Obviously CBC Ottawa believes few people listen to their broadcasts consistently, otherwise why repeat these items, clips, and interviews over and over?

It's cheaper. We're told this is the result of Harper's budget cuts. Maybe so. But "the Beast" still has resources, so rather than chase down weeping relatives, how about a real news-cast? One that's researched, fact-checked and edited? That's what news is, unless the CBC sees its role as just more social media noise.


Copyright © 2017 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/9.17