SLAMMING THE CBC has become a too-easy sport for many Canadians (second only, perhaps, to slamming the CRTC). That harsh, hot criticism should be expected, however.
The CBC gets more than a billion dollars a year from Canadians (an amount that is likely to take a hit, come the March 29th federal budget), has to be made available to all of us everywhere and serve a mandate written into law – to be all things to all Canadians. Satisfying that mandate has been nearly impossible to fulfill for most of the CBC’s lifetime. So coast-to-coast-criticism, as those who work at the CBC or who have worked at the CBC acknowledge, just comes with the territory there.
(Some at the Corp. are hyper-sensitive to those critics, a limitation we will also explore later in our series.)
CBC, especially CBC-TV it seems, makes everyone and no one happy. It draws millions of viewers for some high-end programming like NHL hockey, a few of its prime time shows and some events coverage, and tiny audiences for a lot of the rest of the schedule (not unlike other broadcasters...).
But because it is owned by government and funded by all of us, it faces political pressure like none other. Canadians (including Ministers of Parliament) complain when it doesn’t air enough shows which find high ratings. “Why should the CBC get so much money from Canadians when no one watches?” is the question oft-heard through the years. And of course, MPs of every stripe also ask why the CBC isn’t harder on the federal government – or when it comes to the MPs of whatever party is in power, why it is so hard on the government.
Still others complain when the CBC doesn’t air enough programming that appeals to niche audiences, be those niches cultural, artistic or regional. “Why should the CBC get so much money from Canadians when it doesn’t show programming I like, such as (fill in your niche here)?”
No matter what it does. No matter what programming it puts on TV or radio, in English, French or any of our Aboriginal languages, criticism has always followed because it has always been so hard to fit everything the CBC wanted or needed to do and be in just 24 hours of airtime. That, thankfully, is changing.
While on balance, we think the Corp. has done an admirable job reflecting Canada and Canadians back to ourselves (and in many cases, projecting it outwards, too) over the past 75-plus years, our thesis with this month-long look at the CBC is that the advent of multiplatform media the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation can, at long last, fulfill its mandate.
As you’ll read, it is starting (somewhat late, many believe) to deploy new platforms and explore new media so that it can slice, dice and splice its content so that any Canadian using any device anywhere can find something they like or need or want from the CBC.
And it’s doing all of this for just about $33 bucks a year from each of us. We think it’s a bargain, but that’s just us. What do you think? Let us know, because it was rather difficult to find people in the broadcast industry to speak on record about the CBC. Some said they didn’t want to pile on negatively. Others were worried they might come off as self-interested. Some don’t want to be seen praising the Corp. and even others worried about future job prospects if they said what they really think.
Let us know your opinion by dropping us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep it confidential if you like or publish it if you want, but any and all feedback is appreciated. This week we begin with a look at what the CBC is up against when it comes to public opinion versus the law and next week, we explore what the broadcaster has planned for its all-digital, 100% online installation in Hamilton.