Here's something I keep forgetting to blog about: the CBC's decision to bump "The National" for several weeks this summer, in order to simulcast ABC's "The One: Making a Music Star".

In all the uproar over this, I first thought The National actually wouldn't be aired during this stupid so-called reality show broadcast. Now I've learned that the news show is only being moved from its timeslot in the Ontario and Quebec time zones. Apparently CBC is not as insane as I first thought.

In the practical sense, most fans of The National will be able to watch the show at another time. If you have digital cable, you can watch it at any time of the night anyway, by tuning in to a broadcast from another time zone.

But with or without The National, the decision to air an ABC "American Idol" wannabee is moronic. When public television imitates commercial television in order to (supposedly) appeal to a younger audience, it loses everything. The audience that tunes in for the brain candy doesn't stick around for the more serious shows, and the core audience walks away in disgust.

And why is the Canadian national broadcaster airing crap from the US? If it's determined to run crap, shouldn't it at least be Canadian crap?

Knowlton Nash, famous Canadian journalist and former anchor of The National, said of the move, "If the CBC really wants reality TV, let people get the reality of what's happening in the world by turning on The National at 10 p.m. every night." Nash's comments were read by his wife, Lorraine Thomson, while Nash was accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Journalism Foundation. (Thomson read the comments because Nash has Parkinson's disease.)

Around the same time, the Canadian Senate released its report on the state of Canadian media. (Emphasis mine.)
The CBC needs a full re-examination of itself to get back to its core mandate of public broadcaster, says the head of the Senate committee on transport and communications.

The committee released a report Wednesday afternoon recommending the CBC eliminate all commercials from its TV network.

It also recommends the CBC get out of the business of covering professional sports and the Olympics, leaving those areas to the private broadcasters.

At the same time, it wants Ottawa to have a "more coherent" system to refine the mandate of the public broadcaster, including a commitment to long-term planning.

"CBC-TV in particular is in danger of losing its way," Senator Joan Fraser, head of the committee, told CBC Radio.

"It's trying to be all things to all people. It's trying to compete head-on with the private sector, where such competition is neither necessary nor in the public interest."
I don't think CBC needs to stop broadcasting sports. Sports is a part of culture, too. But mindless fluff that people watch to tune out - and that is easily found everywhere else - should be left to commercial broadcasters.

The Senate committee also urged that Canada should take steps to limit media conglomeration and ensure diverse ownership of media.
However, in some areas of the country, the report says "the concentration of ownership has reached levels that few other countries would consider acceptable."

"An important element of a free press is that there be a variety of different sources of news and opinion," the report states.

It recommends beefing up the Competition Act to require an automatic review of media mergers whenever certain unspecified thresholds are exceeded.

"The country will be poorly served if as few as one, two or three groups control substantial portions of the news and information media in particular markets or within the country as a whole.

"In simple terms, there is a public interest in having a plurality of owners. There is also a public interest in complementing private-sector news organizations with a national public broadcaster."
This is good advice. However, if I understand it correctly, these recommendations are just that: recommendations. They have no teeth and the government has no obligation to implement any changes.


Scott M. said...

CBC Radio One, which every politican of any weight supports, does a superb job of it's mandate.

Sadly, CBC TV has pretty much outlived it's usefulness. Back before satellite TV it was the only broadcaster that was available in many rural areas of the country. Now there are other options, and they need to consider shutting down transmitters *immediately* to save money.

The other problem is CBC's programming. Other than it's newscast and occasional documentaries, there's very little of substance on the Mother Corpse any more.

Really, it's time to close up shop on CBC TV, and just concentrate on information programming on CBC Newsworld. Yes, you can put 22 minutes, Rick Mercer and Air Farce on Newsworld as well under the same mandate.

M@ said...

I agree with what you've said, but I would put your point about sports in stronger terms. The CBC can play a vital role in promoting and supporting Canadian athletes by showing national athletes in sporting events that might have low audience or TV sponsorship.

The paralympics is one example, and the stuff the CBC often shows on Saturday afternoons (speed skating, rowing, cycling) is another. The CBC is also a great supporter of the CFL. If we as a country are going to support our athletes, then our national broadcaster should as well.

L-girl said...

M@, I completely agree with your stronger terms. I don't think the world needs to be divided between pursuits of the mind and physical pursuits.

Saying the CBC shouldn't air sports is relegating sports to "low culture" - mere entertainment - and saying they are secondary to our lives, non-essential. I think sports is as essential as art.

Scott M. said...

I agree that Sports are important, but aren't Rogers Sportsnet and TSN offering a good selection already? I certainly don't think it's worth keeping CBC on a lifeline just so it can support the Paralympics every four years during overnight and odd weekend hours...

L-girl said...

I wasn't commenting on whether CBC TV should exist or not.

I'm saying that, since CBC TV does exist right now, I believe it should include sports in its programming.

I don't think commercial television does a good job of broadcasting non-money-making sports like curling, rowing, and others that M@ mentions above. I also agree with people who feel Hockey Night In Canada belongs on CBC for cultural value.

Whether or not CBC TV should be subsumed into CBC Newsworld, as you suggest above, I have no idea.

Radio, in my opinion, is a dead medium, serving a tiny fraction of the population. So how CBC Radio fares strikes me as irrelevant.

M@ said...

Rogers and TSN do a great job covering what they cover (Rogers, for example, provides stupendous soccer coverage). However, when you go outside the big-money sports, where a large audience already exists, their coverage is very poor. They use a lot of cheap filler material, like strongman competitions, or they cycle sports news shows ad infinitum. Meanwhile, when have you ever seen olympic athletes compete between olympic years, except of the CBC?

If they were willing and able to cover a wider range of sports, I'd agree, yes, let them do it. But they can't or won't. I'm glad we have the CBC to pick up the slack (even for sports that I don't enjoy watching).

MSS said...

I really miss "The National." We used to get it on Newsworld International, till Gore bought the channel and ruined it.

I can still get it on line of course, but I rarely get around to it (other than around election or confidence-vote time).

L-girl said...

I remember Niko (from Life Without Borders) saying the same thing. I never seemed to catch it on NWI, so I hadn't seen it before moving here. Now I love it.