Although the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, has undergone vast changes in the past few years, these changes don’t seem to be adequately reflected in the way the CBC promotes itself and, in turn, in what most Canadians think of the CBC. For the visually minded, the picture that is shown to us, and what we see when we think of the CBC, should better match the current reality.
For example, in an article in the June 6th issue of Maclean’s magazine, Maclean’s staffer, Colby Cosh, discussed CBC’s recent refusal to accept advertising from the National Post newspaper for the CBC website, on the grounds that the CBC website is in competition with the National Post for news readers. As Cosh pointed out, it’s not part of the CBC’s original mandate to compete with newspapers; but now that both the CBC’s news services and Canada’s various newspapers have gone digital, the CBC is indeed competing in this area–although Cosh apparently had never before given this much thought. I, too, hadn’t really thought much about this before, even though I have the CBCNews app on my phone, and opening it up, and doing a little browsing, is part of my regular morning routine, along with opening the apps for the Globe and Mail and the Vancouver Sun.
Cosh goes on to argue that the CBC should get out of the ‘newspaper’ business and, furthermore, that in the current digital media environment, other services provided by the CBC that formerly set it apart (like its remote broadcasting services, serving Canada’s far north) are available from other providers. Thus, in his opinion–which is by no means unique among Canadians today–the CBC should no longer receive taxpayer support. I beg to differ.
If we think of the CBC just as it was twenty or more years ago, yes, it is probably true that, in today’s economy, the CBC should not be receiving substantial taxpayer support–and perhaps should be receiving no taxpayer support whatsoever. But broadcasting, in any conventional sense, is only a very small part of what the CBC does these days. The CBC is no longer just producing shows (or purchasing shows produced elsewhere), be it news shows, or sports, or entertainment, for television or radio, that it then disseminates, through the magic of broadcasting (something to do with air and waves) throughout this vast land, in a unidirectional, black and white, grainy, form of communication. This old image just doesn’t fit anymore.Producing and disseminating shows is still a large part of what the CBC does; but, thanks to the Internet, the CBC is now not only communicating with Canadians to a much greater extent than it has ever done in the past, but also is facilitating communications among Canadians in general, which also was never its traditional role. The current CBC is far more interactive than the traditional broadcasting model would suggest, and this aspect of its operations should, I believe, be highlighted in the picture that the CBC presents of itself, and in the picture, or pictures, that we see.
Maybe the CBC could now even use a somewhat modified name. Instead of Canadian ‘Broadcasting’ Corporation, how about Canadian ‘Broadband‘ Corporation? At least the initials would remain the same. (Of course, I’m now considering only the English part of the CBC.) A possible slogan could be “Broadband for a Broad Land.” (It’s just a preliminary idea.)
Since I’ve been thinking about this over the past few weeks, I’ve come up with some basic ideas about how the CBC’s ‘interactivity’ could be further expanded, in various ways, making the CBC increasingly unique, and increasingly valuable to Canadians. I’m saving those ideas for the time being, perhaps for a separate blog post–or perhaps until someone at the CBC grants me an interview for one of those communications jobs I’ve tried over the years to get at the CBC.
But back to Cosh’s article in Maclean’s, if we think about it, it seems that it’s actually a good thing that the CBC is now providing on-line news services that are, at least with respect to on-line news, in competition with Canadian newspapers. Also in that issue of Maclean’s, there was an excellent piece of critical commentary by Barbara Amiel, about the feature article concerning Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, and his family that had run in the May 25th issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper, and which I had read, in its entirety. (I do often buy the Saturday hard-copy edition of the Globe.) Amiel, herself, did not suggest possible motives for the Globe printing this wretched piece of journalism; but I, myself, had to conclude that the Globe must now be dealing with some serious financial pressure, despite now being owned by the big media conglomerate, Bell Media, to have risked its reputation with that unsubstantiated, largely irrelevant, nonsense.
In an era when newspapers in general are experiencing severe financial pressure due particularly to declining advertising revenues, and stories abound of full-time newspaper staff being laid off, I would think it’s a great thing that we Canadians have a national news service that is, in large part, taxpayer-funded, and that therefore is unlikely to ever get too desperate. I appreciate, too, that we have at least one provider of reputable on-line Canadian news without a firewall.