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.

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