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Devion's Views #186

REACH FOR THE BOTTOM (posted June 8, 2019)

                                          Part One

On June 4th, in a Globe and Mail opinion piece, Konrad Yakabuski, informed readers:

"The CBC is launching a Canadian version of the U.S. game show 'Family Feud' in a bid to boost its advertising revenues by further dumbing down its schedule".

The new CBC-Radio Canada president, Catherine Tait, told advertising industry executives in Toronto, the CBC is making "a renewed commitment to growing commercial revenue" in order to become "masters of our own destiny". 

To a Montreal business audience, she was even more explicit "We want to keep our diversified funding revenue model because we don't want to be vulnerable to shifts in the marketplace and government".

CBC's new head of English services, Barbara Williams, referred to the 4 X weekly scheduled 'Family Feud' show as follows:

"The factual fun format stuff is engaging, and it draws a big audience, and it brings people into our schedule, and from there you promote them into the other things they might not have known about - that's how TV programming still works".

Comments like that, to promote a new show, is expected if it came from an executive representing a private sector commercial TV company whose objective is chasing more eyeballs to make money for their shareholders.

But coming from the head of CBC English services is stunning, and may suggest that Ms.Williams either has zero comprehension of the primary role and responsibility of a public broadcaster or that, from her perspective, CBC's core mandate is irrelevant, unimportant and out of date.

This, coming from the most senior English services executive, along with the comments expressed by the CBC president "to focus on chasing more ad dollars" is foolhardy, ill-advised and "signals" that CBC television is heading in the wrong direction - down a rat-hole to oblivion.

Taking such a path will further endanger the very existence of the public broadcaster, especially at this critical time when all media is under threat and journalists are being referred to by some politicians and others as "the enemy and purveyors of fake news".

There's more than enough 'fake news' garbage on social media, influencing young and uninformed minds, to make it crystal-clear that legitimate journalistic organizations should be strenghthened not destroyed.

Democracy itself is threatened without independent competing media companies, staffed with qualified journalists, keeping citizens informed and providing a check on those controlling the levers of power.

Many hoped that those who replaced the previous CBC board of directors and president would have the foresight to present a plan to deal with the following question: What's "wrong" with CBC television?

Ironically, the answer Is staring the overseers in the face: Everything that's "right" about CBC Radio.

The formula is there, just copy it!

CBC Radio provides relevant content to listeners, without advertising interruption.

This makes CBC Radio "unique and distinctive" from all other radio providers in Canada and therefore worth subsidizing from the public purse.

Whereas, CBC television content is interrupted every ten minutes with several commercial ads, which galls viewers watching news, current affairs and drama programs.

This makes CBC-TV look and feel like every other TV provider in Canada and is the main reason many taxpayers resent paying even a "measly" $34 annually to support the services provided by CBC-Radio Canada.

Following is Devion's "$34 worth of advice" offered to the CBC-Radio Canada board, president and management:

1) The recently released 3-year strategic plan is "uninspiring"; will not solve the aformentioned TV problem, and from a practical standpoint, CBC doesn't have enough money to pull it off, and you know it. Best to shelve this "DOA" plan now.

2) Past 5-year strategic plans kept changing and shifting priorities, especially in television. The result; constant confusion for the whiplashed, bewildered troops and shareholders wondering "where the hell are they going with TV now?" 

3) The ill-advised strategic money problem "solution" - chase more advertising dollars -  comes with a warning, "He who pays the piper calls the tune". Do you really want to risk losing further editorial control over parts of your schedule? Like what happened with the "disastrous" Rogers/CBC hockey arrangement (negotiated?) by your predecessors before their exit.  

If you need reminding what happened, read Toronto sports journalist David Shoalts' book "Hockey Fight In Canada". 

4) Best to go back to the drawing board before the fall election, and present taxpayers, candidates running for office and your staff a bold, daring, aspirational three-year goal.

Consider pitching the stakeholders something like this:

For an additional $20 per year, per capita from taxpayers, guaranteed for three years, CBC-Radio Canada promises to provide, relevant commercial-free content delivered as a "public service".

Obtaining support for this goal from stakeholders would also benefit the private sector commercial broadcasters (who are also hurting) because all commercial broadcast revenue would then be available to them.

5) Get this critical subject onto the October election agenda. Reporters from all media companies can ask candidates "what is your position is on this issue".

6) Communications: Your predecessors used a disrespectful/dishonest communication tactic: "Keep them in the dark and never complain, never explain". Do the opposite. Be upfront with stakeholders who pay the bills. Use the powerful media at your disposal to regularly keep the public informed. 

Footnote: Forgotten what a Philistine is? Here's a refresher.

Philistine: A person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.

                                                                            Part Two

We began with CBC's upcoming "intellectually-challenging?" new quiz show. To test your skill let's try a question from a "better" quiz show called 'Jeopardy':

Alex Trebek: Readers, your category is People.

Alex: He lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtelty, no sensitivity, no self awareness, no humility, no honour, and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, his predecessor was generously blessed with.

He never once said something wry, witty or even faintly amusing - not once, ever.

For us to lack humour is almost inhuman. He doesn't even seem to understand what a joke is - his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

And worse he is that most unforgivable of all things, a bully. That is except when he is amongst bullies, then he transforms into a snivelling sidekick.

He punches downward and every blow is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless - and he kicks them when they are down.

It's impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring into the abyss.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

We can only imagine what the Queen was thinking, standing next to a cowardly draft-dodger, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of  D-Day. A pompous embarrassment on full display in his ill-fitting penguin costume, posturing like an infamous Italian fascist dictator he admires.

On D-Day America sent their best...on the 75th, their worst.

Alex: Readers, over to you.

Any reader who answers incorrectly must immediately check their pulse.

Ron Devion, No Guts, No Glory