Dr. Dawg

What's the matter with the CBC?

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CBC weeping.jpgThe rot began long ago, with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointing far-right John Crispo to the CBC Board of Directors. It accelerated with the appointment of the ridiculous Richard Stursberg, who wanted to rescue the Mothercorp from the “elites” by coarsening and cheapening its content. And CEO Robert Rabinovich played his part in the decline, drowning the CBC in freelancers and firing capable journalists like Barbara Budd.

More recently, there was solid, gray, dependable Peter Mansbridge, whose end-of-year interviews with the previous Prime Minister consisted entirely of soft lobs. Whether he afflicted the afflicted may be up for debate, but he certainly comforted the comfortable. Matters proceeded to get worse, far worse, when he and the cranky noise machine Rex Murphy started shilling for Big Oil, making small fortunes on the speaking circuit, and when others sat on big stories, or even got caught in louche conflicts of interest.

More recently, the pace has picked up even further. In a classic example of news suppression, the CBC made no mention whatsoever about the Chrystia Freeland scandal. And the Power and Politics program, in particular, has disgraced itself. There was the interview with a racist who spewed false information about First Nations people without being challenged. A half-hearted apology from the CBC after a social media uproar was remarkable: “The show did have an expert on immediately following Mr. McInnes’s appearance who challenged what the group stands for, but a more comprehensive response would have included an Indigenous representative to critique Mr. McInnes’s views,” said spokesman Chuck Thompson. Gosh—ya think?

Then there was the interview with Layne Morris, a fraudster who was blinded in that infamous Afghanistan firefight at the Khadr compound, not by shrapnel, but by pebbles. He was airlifted out of the fray well before Omar Khadr allegedly threw his grenade. But there he is, having never met Khadr, and having never been close to him in battle, allowed to blather on about him to a complaisant Rosemary Barton. She might just as well have interviewed this guy: who needs anything but a low-information opinion these days to catch the eye of Power and Politics?

And of course there was Julie Van Dusen’s unforgiveable behaviour towards some Cree elders during the Canada Day tipi protest on Parliament Hill. She didn’t want to hear their stories: she wanted them, in effect, to tell hers. “Just answer the question!” she barked, at one point. It’s hard to imagine that level of unprofessional rudeness from a CBC journo at any other presser. She sounded like the mistress of a house interrogating her servants. Decolonization, anyone?

All of this is to say that the CBC has…changed. Has it caught the infection introduced to Canadian airwaves by Rebel Media? Is the Harper-appointed Board of Directors to blame? Or the dreary succession of lightweights put in charge of the operation over the past few years? Could it be budget cuts, forcing a move from in-depth reporting to sensational, one-sided, sound-bite journalism? Whatever the cause, we’ve seen the effects.

So do we put on the brakes—or just junk the rusty old car? In fairness, there is still some content worth saving: among other programs, As It Happens continues to chunder reliably along, although its glory days are long past; Terry O’Reilly’s series on the history of advertising is a gem; and The Current makes morning radio bearable. Regional programming, at least in my city (Ottawa), is superior in quality to the competition. So I’m not giving up on the corporation I help to pay for just yet. But—to extend the metaphor—it needs more than a lick of paint. Serious bodywork, new tires, realignment and a new engine are called for, not to mention a more capable driver. Do I hear a yes?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on July 12, 2017 12:25 PM.

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