Saturday, February 28, 2009

Whither CBC?

The CBC is in trouble. Again.
There's all this muttering about the end of the CBC as the Corp battles the downsizing of advertising revenues. And yet when I visited Toronto headquarters on Front St. recently I saw floors of bureaucrats moving around much as they'd always done. Insiders tell me the place is awash with middle managers who have nothing to do with actual programming.
Like every federal government bureaucracy CBC's middle managers keep growing as the Corp keeps canceling programs like Blue Jays baseball and the ratings success Royal Canadian Air Farce. 
CBC president Hubert Lacroix can holler all he wants. He can bluster, he can posture but it's not in the national interest for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his neoconservatives to
add to the bulging national deficit with more cash for the CBC.
The threat is being made that CBC may have to start buying --gasp!-- American programming to shore up its schedule. Well, what's wrong with that? For its first 30years CBC-TV used U.S. imports in an often creative fashion.
If CBC had some U.S. TV blockbusters running at 9 p.m. the flaccid ratings for The National with Peter Mansbridge would surely perk right up. Look at the way CTV cagily uses such 10p.m. American simulcasts as its CSI imports which provide huge audience flows into Lloyd Robertson's top-rated 11 p.m. CTV news.
CBC used to import such favorites as Mary Tyler Moore and Laugh-In (snatched away from CTV) to bolster local grown product. These days it could be showing quality cable fare from Mad Men to The Wire and still get bang for its bucks. 
It was CBC President Pierre Juneau who invented the "all Canadian" programming format but trouble is CBC has never had the resources.
And can anybody show me a public network other than CBC which is all locally made series? PBS imports its Masterpiece Theater fare from Britain. BBC regularly shows quality U.S. series. Already, most of CBC's movie acquisitions are American hits (which lure in top advertising dollars).
I'm hearing from my CBC moles that such respected series as The Nature Of Things (about to celebrate its 50th season) and even the fifth estate may have to be scaled back.
I'm arguing a few genuine American cable hits might actually perk up CBC's image. How to pay for them? All those middle managers might be pared down for starters.

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