Saturday, August 7, 2010
Richard Stursberg Leaves CBC
The fact that Richard Stursberg kept his job as head of CBC's English services for six years is most surprising.
When he came to speak to The Toronto Star's editorial board early on in his tenure I found him arrogant beyond belief.
And the CBC he reinvented is chock full of American-style programming with all the high end cultural stuff shredded from the schedule.
Stursberg left the CBC on Friday after a six year reign of error. My CBC sources say his leave taking was acrimonious.
He was an appointee of the previous LIberal government and finally had to go. CBC president Hubert T. Lacroix announced his departure on Friday.
However, Stursberg's schedule is very much the one CBC will be using this fall --it's too late to change much. For six to nine months his protege Kirstine Stewart will be taking over and may even get the job full time.
That means a reliance on hour long dramas patterned after American series will continue on the new CBC schedule. It takes at least a year to program new TV series.
It means the revamped CBC News will have to continue that way for some time --the wacky setting finds anchor Peter Mansbridge standing in what looks like a wine bar and relies on masses of trivia to disguise the fact the news staff has been shrinking.
One of Stursberg's first moves at CBC was to axe Opening Night, the low rated series of cultural events. Without that commitment to the arts CBC lost some of its major supporters who turned their attention and their pocket books to PBS.
Some CBC insiders are saying CBC should have picked Slawyko Klymkiw as the new head of English services six years ago --Klimkiw was committed to a high end version of the CBC that would have retained the loyalty of more Canadian viewers.
Instead Stursberg reversed a long standing CBC commitment (made decades ago by then president Pierre Juneau) not to stack the schedule with American imports.
Stursberg bought the Canadian TV rights to Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy as well as rerun rights to Ghost Whisperer all at considerable cost. And he dropped CBC's late night commitment to showing Canadian independent movies.
He dumped such quality Canadian dramas as This Is Wonderland and Intelligence as well as the long running and still popular Royal Canadian Air Farce. He wanted a pop schedule geared to younger viewers.
On CBC Radio 2 he ditched classical music mostly for a more pop oriented approach.
TV series favored by Stursberg included Little Mosque On The Prairie (ratings hit) and Wild Roses (flop). Reality shows he developed included Dragon's Den and Battle Of The Blades as well as Garth Drabinsky's talent show Triple Sensation which tanked in the ratings..
CBC President Hubert Lacroix was said to be increasingly doubtful of the Stursberg approach which alienated wide swaths of viewers.Lacroix's statement about Stursberg's departure is doubtful; that "Six years later the institution is better off than it was. I want to acknowledge his success in turning CBC Television around."
In fact CBC has lost its identity as the repository of all that is excellent on Canadian TV.