Correct. For their greed, mismanagement, badly outdated mandate, second-rate products and terminal arrogance.
Sadly, it didn’t take Hubert long to get back into whine mode. Speaking at an international public broadcaster’s convention in Munich, Lacroix belly-ached that budget cuts could threaten the continued existence of outfits like the CBC.
For most of its life, the CBC has operated on a bloated budget, hovering just under or just over, a billion-dollar yearly grant from Canadian taxpayers. Now Lacroix is whining for $400 million more if the CBC is not allowed to sell ads.
For starters, Lacroix should check out the BBC. The British public broadcaster doesn’t subject its home-grown viewers to advertisements or sponsorships.
Lacroix should also have a chat with Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS south of the border. Real public broadcasters don’t sell ads, Hubert. They sell subscriptions and fundraise. That way they don’t put other, unsubsidized media platforms at a huge disadvantage. That way they don’t skew the market. That way they don’t kill competition.
True, there is also a grant in the U.S. for public broadcasters – albeit a much smaller one. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives a federal grant of $445 million annually. In some cases, that accounts for roughly half of the operational budget of both PBS, and National Public Radio. That is half of what Lacroix gets – and will be even less than half, if the Trudeau Liberals pour more cash into the money-pit that is the CBC.
Now with the CBC’s umpteenth “makeover”, unveiled this week with the usual cringe-worthy narcissism, another thing is becoming crystal-clear: this moribund bureaucracy will never re-invent itself, no matter how many self-congratulatory infomercials it airs about its “edgy” new format.
For the week of July 10, the CBC’s flagship newscast sat dead last in the Big Three TV Ratings behind CTV National News (976,000) and Global National (686,000). The National had 621,000 viewers. I know Hubert, I know. As you told the guy who appointed you, the problem isn’t low ratings, it’s low budgets.
Or maybe it’s just low blows to the viewing audience, giving hate-mongers like Ann Coulter and bigots like Gavin McInnes the run of its shows? Can someone explain to me why the Proud Boys, a group of guys straight out of a Mussolini documentary, got their story told with nary a whimper from the CBC host or producer until an apology had to be issued?
And why did Power & Politics suck up to the Harper government for so many years, putting up “commentators” like Stockwell Day and grooming all those Tory cabinet ministers like they were prize poodles?
Were the journalists making the decisions at CBC or were the crony-Conservative board of directors appointed by Stephen Harper? Most nights it was hard to tell.
These latest face plants by CBC management are enough on their own to justify a new broom sweeping the national broadcaster clean.
Then add in the stupefying star system run amok that gave the CBC the Jian Ghomeshi and Amanda Lang fiascoes; the banning of veteran reporter Linden MacIntyre from the airwaves because he spoke out against the CBC’s poor management practices; and the removal of host Evan Solomon for allegedly “brokering” art sales to clients (Jim Balsillie and Mark Carney) with whom he also had dealings as a journalist.
You’ll also recall how CBC Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire had to be taken to the woodshed by journalist Andrew Mitrovica to stop the practice of CBC journalists like Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy taking hefty speaking fees from the people they were reporting on despite the gross conflict of interest. When you remember all that, it is time for a new editor-in-chief.
And the beat goes on. McGuire recently sent Steve Ladurantaye, managing editor of The National, to re-education school after his “unacceptable” tweet about cultural appropriation upset First Nations artists and a lot of other people.
My take on this latest iteration? It looks to be four times as boring as the Mansbridge mumble-hour. Canada’s communications star chamber merely shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic. The shop is as closed as ever. Same old faces, ratings dropping faster than Donald Trump’s sincerity index, and still scarfing down enough tax dollars to buy eight F-35s.
It would also have been nice if the CBC had taken its nose out of its navel long enough to check a map to see where their gaggle of anchors will be deployed.
Far to the east is a little town called Montreal in a mysterious province named Quebec. Even further to the east, shrouded in fog, abutting an ocean harvested by horny-handed fisherfolk, is a legendary region called Atlantic Canada. The only anchors there are attached to Cape Islander fishing boats.
Vancouver gets a dedicated anchor, Ottawa gets another and Toronto (Hogtown to the end), gets two. Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s apparently get guest-visits from Wendy Mesley.
I can picture them. Lady Wendy’s junkets will be restricted to quaint local holidays, really bad snow snowstorms and any sighting of a Royal. The Big Stuff. Turns out the CBC has the same view of Atlantic Canada as the man they so effectively protected for eight years, Stephen Harper.
Here are some things I would like to know. First, how much will this four-headed anchor creature be paid? No, seriously.
Former MP Brent Rathgeber, my colleague here at iPolitics, once tried to find out what the former airport PA announcer Peter Mansbridge was paid to host all those Santa Claus parades for the CBC. It was like trying to figure out the DaVinci Code. You would almost think Rathgeber had asked about the paycheque of Warren Buffett, not some stiff who spent his entire life living off the public dime.
Rathgeber was low-bridged by his own CPC buddies in committee, acting on word from the PMO. They dutifully gutted his private member’s bill beyond recognition and Rath never did get the public information he was seeking.
But maverick journalist Jesse Brown did. Petey was pulling down a cool $1.1 million. Poor boy is now reduced to a pension between $400 and $500 grand a year. Here’s hoping he can make ends meet.
So Ms. McGuire. Do the newbies get a million each? Or do they quarter Petey’s pornographic pecuniary pie? Since it’s not likely that ABC, NBC, or CBS will be swooping in to scoop up Rosemary Barton or the ubiquitous Ian Hanomansing for their prime time newscasts, do you still feel obliged to ladle out the moola as you did with Petey?
I am also curious about something else. Would you release a list of the people you approached to interview for these positions that all went to company people? Was there a single blessed one of them that didn’t already have CBC stamped on their daintiest? I would have thought that Jesse Brown, for example, would have been a must-interview. He once walked amongst you, Jennifer, and he has sent so many scoops your way.
About the only thing that can fix the corporation at this stage is a lot of “For Sale” signs, massive creativity and engagement from independent producers, and emptying the executive suite at that Frankenstein on Front Street known as CBC HQ.
Not even Old Petey himself would ride this camel.
Author: Michael Harris