Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CBC Once Again Faces The Axe

My CBC sources have been busy all day phoning me with stories of impending doom.
So what else is new?
I've been writing about CBC-TV's death by a thousand cuts for decades. And still nobody at CBC will get out there and simply state it has all gone too far.
Look, I interviewed CBC president Hubert Lacroix the very day he was appointed to the job in 2007.
He said at that time his biggest problem was money.
And guess what? Seven years later it's still the same problem.
CBC on Thursday is supposed to be facing new cuts and staff reductions to paper over the loss of all that lush advertising revenue from Hockey Night In Canada which has been grabbed away by Rogers TV.
The revenue gap CBC is facing is as much as $100 million for the next year.
When I started out as TV critic for The Hamilton Spectator in 1971 CBC was at the zenith of its power.
The public network actually telecast operas live in those days. One was especially commissioned by CBC.
Then there were Norman Campbell's impeccably staged ballets starring Karen Kain and Veronica Tennant.
Harry Rasky's documentaries won international Emmys and great prestige for CBC.
Every year we'd get to see superb live productions from Stratford and the Shaw Festival.
One by one these glittering diamonds disappeared.
One year it would be the cancellation of the popular nature series This Land.
Then Elwood Glover's live interview show Luncheon Date went.
Rasky once phoned me mightily upset CBC had sold off some of his best work (on Tennessee Williams and Bernard Shaw) to BBC Video without even telling him.
Soon because of contnuing cuts CBC was no longer able to afford to make such mammoth TV epics as Pierre Berton's The National Dream.
One by one the dominoes toppled: The Journal was melded into CBC National News to save a few bucks. Then Midday disappeared.
A lot of CBC departments like variety and schools simply vanished. CBC Schools had once made a 1962 TV special adaptation of Macbeth starring then unknown Sean Connery that was sensational.
Another time Eric Till's sparkling adaptation of Pale Horse Pale Rider with Keir Dullea won awards everywhere.
The uniqueness of CBC crumbled long before the Harper Tories got their claws on the ailing Corp.
All along we were always told that private broadcasters would take up the slack.
But when was the last time you saw a Canadian ballet or opera or TV movie on Shaw or Bell or Rogers?
Lacroix has weapons to use against the Tories.
To save money he could simply cancel all the local newscasts actoss the country.
CBC did it once before and Tory backbenchers heard back from their constituents and reinstated the cuts immediately.
CBC should simply refuse to any more cuts until there's been a full investigation of the incredibly shrinkage of public television.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello James, enjoyed your writing for many, many years. I must say though, you have it incorrect regarding the financials of the NHL on CBC. The CBC lost money on their NHL license with the $100 million US licensing fee, the production costs, the promo and ad buys and the sales team needed to generate the $100 million CDN revenue. It was a loss. I believe the senior leadership team is using the loss of the NHL contract to Rogers as a cover for their mis-management poor negotiating/decisions and what seems to be endless middle management layers. Rogers truly did a number on them with the four year deal to use the CBC's airtime for hockey with full creative control and Rogers keeps 100% of the revenue, while the CBC is paying some expenses (like staffing). This horrible deal for us taxpayers was done to keep CBC staff jobs - unbelievable. Now Rogers has taken over a floor at the CBC Broadcast Centre to build a $13 million hockey set. Rogers just took advantage of the CBC so they can have 4 years to build CityTV into a national network and we the taxpayer give over 1,200 hours of CBC airtime to a private corporation for free - actually we have to pays some expenses as well. There should be an inquiry into that deal. All the best, Bill