Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is The CBC Finished?

Like all old line networks the venerable CBC is in deep trouble these days.
The TV network was created in 1952 when other options were scarce or nonexistent.  CBC's first batch of stars like Juliette regularly garnered weekly audiences of 3 million or more precisely because of that lack of competition.
Today CBC faces a formidable array of competitors from several hundred networks on cable to DVD to Blue Ray. I can download series and movies from my Apple store so why would I want to watch something on CBC with the same regularity as in the old days?
Add to the mix the continuing hostility of the federal government --both prime ministers Mulroney and Chretien severely cut CBC's annual budget --and you have a recipe for disaster. CBC just isn't getting enough federal money or making money from its own ads to pay all the bills.
Advertising is down in these recessionary times despite the penchant of CBC programmers to make shows appealing to young women. But the young women I know positively hated Sophie. CBC's chasing of the youth market has meant the departure of RCAF which garnered 1.5 million viewers in its last New Year's Eve special.  That's far above the numbers for any new CBC show.
CBC has withdrawn from high arts programming like Opening Night stranding cultural viewers. Without CBC to service them what else is there? Answer: these viewers have switched allegiance and now support PBS in Buffalo to the tune of millions in donations.
Now it seems CBC is gradually withdrawing from sports. The web simply hasn't the dollars to buy TV rights to Blue Jays games anymore. And so another audience base is lost.
Years ago as TV critic for the Toronto Star I warned CBC faced death by a thousand cuts. At the time the Corp was canceling the vastly popular series This Land because it couldn't afford to finance another season.
What's next con the hit list? My sources on The Nature Of Things say the next season which will be their 50th year on TV may be their last.
CBC does have some current hits including the very good drama series The Border. Its sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie hasn't fared as well this year in the ratings war but deserves another pick up.  A fine drama series that should have continued was Intelligence but two seasons of poor ratings caused its cancellation.
I think I was right 20 years ago in warning that CBC would get to the point it had to cancel audience favorites because of the cost. But thinking the federal Tories will be pouring money into a public institution to keep it going isn't realistic in these days of fiscal restraint.