CBC plan demands guarantees
CBC has proposed a new operating model – semi-new, since the BBC & TeleSur have used it for decades – in which CBC no longer competes with private media for advertising dollars. Government funding will make up the missing advertising revenues. Private media conglomerates have long complained about competing with the national broadcaster.
However, since this plan comes from the very management crew appointed by Harper to privatize or 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 goals live on!
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 for this support, the public deserves minimal assurances – 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? Yes, needed in news reporting! Common practices of CBC news (radio, TV, digital) which cry out for performance upgrades: quotes of government officials and ministers with no fact-checking; repeating errors of fact (outright falsehoods) especially in foreign affairs (e.g., Venezuela, Ukraine, populations in Syrian cities); items that affect very, very few people reported as “news”; 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 backgrounds (the events of 9/11, the last election 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 (church services and the grief of mothers aren’t news); repeating official stats and numbers without question (“CETA will mean $13 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, first, professional journalists; CBC’s Euro-centric and national blinkers (e.g., the only refugee problems are in Europe; racism is elsewhere; single-incident events (lone-wolf attacks) reported as huge emotional threats. Finally, there’s the trumpeting of foreign policy myths – Saddam’s weapons, non-existent massacres in Syria, phoney threats from blacklisted nations, etc. Bulletin readers will surely add more.
Besides professional standards, the public deserves an ombudsman/woman to guarantee their application, especially in news reporting.
Would Director-General Lacroix, his board, and the unions agree to professional standards? And would they also agree to redirect money spent on “community-building” (sports contests, cultural festivals, fund-raisers, sponsorships) to establish real news desks in CBC’s huge blind zones (all of Latin America, China, much of Africa)? And why duplicate the trivia that’s already drowning us—another blog channel, really?
Better use of money by management, a content-ombudsman, and more professionalism by staff, are clear routes to a better CBC. Just “more money” is a non-starter.