Where’s Bobby? (part III)

I said before that the president was creatively bankrupt. Talk of “flexibility” and the “changng media environment” is more than just heehaw to be mailed out on glossy paper – there is a lot of truth to it.

So why has our business model remained essentially unchanged for 75 years?

Oh sure, there have been tweaks here and there. But for 75 years we have been funded by Canadians and topped up with ad revenue. This predates Tv and the CBC itself: it was how the CRBC was run.

This made a lot of sense at the time, when we were the only Canadian game in town. Later the private networks started up, and we helped them out a lot. The gov’t helped them out a lot, too.

They made out like bandits.

They made millions of dollars.

On the public airwaves. No euphemism, the Canadian people paid the bill on that, and they got rich.

Now, I don’t begrudge the private networks. It’s all history, and I’m happy for their success. But 75 years later we need a new deal.

First off, broadcast licences are too cheap. They are the cheapest in western civilization. So that needs to be cranked up, and we’ll take that extra money. We’re going to gouge you guys on this, but you can afford it.

In return we’re going to get out of the advertising game. That’s about $400 million worth of ads we won’t be running, and those clients will be coming to you. Play your cards right, and you’ll do well.

The taxpayers paid for the airwaves on which you made your millions, so you owe them a little something back: we’re going to take less government funding, and you can chip in for the difference.

At the same time we’re going to demand a long-term funding commitment from Parliament. This waiting around for CTF scraps is bullshit. The CBC built this goddamn country, and you know it. We’ll give you a discount, but we want a long, long-term guarantee. That’s only fair.

And we’ll give you sports. For a price.

75 years ago, sports needed the CBC. Now there are entire sports channels. The writing is already on the wall for sports – it’s getting too expensive and risky for a public broadcaster, especially since others are willing to take the risk for us.

So we sell it to them with the stipulation that they carry the amateur stuff, too. We gouge them on the price and demand a percentage of the annual profits. They will gladly pay it, and they will make millions from it.

Now I’m not suggesting we squash the private broadcasters. I’m saying we should let them do what they do best – sell soap. Let them make the money. They are better at it than we are.

Let us do the public broadcasting.

Because with a few quick chops we’re suddenly in Graham Spry territory, after all these years.

Let the privates run “Lord of the Rings” in prime time. We’ll run real Canadian programs made by real Canadians. And I do mean “real.” Real enough to make some people “real” uncomfortable.

We’ll nurture talent and take chances. We’ll probably get clobbered in the ratings, but who cares?

We’ll do the local stuff again, like everyone wants us to do, and like our mandate says we’re supposed to do.

We’ll pour money into new areas that the privates can’t do because there is no money in it. We’ll lead in HDTV. We’ll own the internet in Canada. And in a few years down the the road, they will follow, and get rich, just like they did before. that’s cool.

Every second of 75 years of programming will be available for download. For free. Without a single ad. Anywhere.

Let’s face it – we can’t follow the industry, and we can’t follow the private broadcasters. The CBC was not built for that. We will be squashed. Our only possibility for survival on that track is on the backs of employees and by renting space to Movenpick.

So when they zig, the only thing we can do is zag.

Let the privates treat Canadians like customers; we’ll treat them like citizens.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 8:33 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Actually some of the Corp’s negotiating team are old dogs from the Redekop days. They’re just negotiating buffer decoys and never in past negotiations had any authority. The strategy is to tire out & demoralize the union’s decision makers who actually sit on the negotiating table while the Corp’s true decision makers hide (Bobby, George and Dickie )- that is until they get ordered by the powers above to sit at the table to finally really negotiate and resolve a deal. Stay tuned !
    Suggestion for the new collective agreement :Putting a clause that stipulates the Corp’s Vp’s have to sit at the table in future negotiations at all times. Hell we’ll even give our CMG negotiators a new title of VP too so that we can maybe avoid hurting some management egos.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 6:00 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    duh. it was an offer. go back and read the cbc’s offer. it has more concessions in it than the guild’s offer has benefits. it’s called negotiating strategy and normally it’s kept behind closed doors. but, because we are in the business of transparency, so are our negotiations. just chill out and let the process happen. our negotiators have a ton of experience. curiously, the cbc’s negotiators are all first timers.
    which is why they have to call the boss with every move they are making.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 4:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Has anyone read CMG’s proposal? CMG (and any member that believes in them) deserves to a good spanking!

    What a joke!

    Taxpayers, audiences and advertisers alike are probably grateful for the lockout – seeing how “piggy” the union is.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 12:09 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Atom Egoyan is a weenie anyways…trim those freakin eyebrows dude

  5. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 9:54 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    speaking of the Toronto Star, check out the article on Wayne Clarkson and his vision for Telefilm. According to the article, Richard Stursberg left the agency in quite a mess. Quote:”Disastrous” said director Atom Egoyan, describing the regime under Clarksons predecessor, Richard Stursberg. Sunday Sept25 section C6

  6. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 8:14 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Don’t worry anonymous above: This weekend’s Toronto Star has just informed taxpayers that Bobby is getting spanked more than once this week – Fontana meeting AND now an audit and probe from parliament on the $110 Million saved by this orchestrated unprofessionnal LockOut. Trust me there is more to come for Bobby’s behaviour (just can’t say yet)
    Maybe protesters on the Hill this week will be able to hear Bobby and the boys crying behind Parliament’s closed doors. Somebody got caught playing dirty in the sandbox !

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 6:42 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The global strike in winnipeg lasted nine months, and that local was savaged by the Aspers. You guys are mere pups in broadcast labour strife. Check the history.
    The longer it goes, the more you lose, and I’m not talking about money. You guys are lucky management isn’t held accountable, or you’d have a contract six months from now with a back to work agreement that eliminated half of your jobs. Nobody in business (farmers, lumbermen, fishermen) has the politicians clamouring to get on the right side of this after only five weeks. If you guys go much longer, say goodbye to the federal goons, and say hello to private enterprise.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 6:21 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    to ‘get your head out of the sand’ anonymous….buddy….first of all if you think this is take away, talk to the staff from the privates who flocked to cbc when the can con rules changed and all guys like izzy asper had to do was throw money into a pot without actually producing anything, or hiring….talk to the former craig empolyees who now walk the halls of cbc….the former CH employees who freelance for you now…you think this is a big takeaway by the boogey man feds and not business? the feds have nothing on business sharks….
    as far as getting paid more…most recent private job i saw was at A channel, news director, fifty grand in winnipeg…what did jane chalmers make there a decade ago when marv terhoch was casting on the couch?….you need to get a grip on reality and come to terms with the fact that you work at a place run by idiots who don’t know how to run a business, but let you get your shit on the air….don’t talk to me or the thousands of other former privates about how tough you’ve got it.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 3:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “First off, broadcast licences are too cheap. They are the cheapest in western civilization. So that needs to be cranked up, and we’ll take that extra money. We’re going to gouge you guys on this, but you can afford it.”

    I don’t think this works. Technology is passing it by…the only way the private broadcasters will survive is by simulcasting American programming. More and more viewers (especially younger viewers) are going to say “nuts to this,” why the hell should I watch them, when I can get it off the Internet. And if they stop watching the private networks, the ad revenue plummets, and how do you fund your public broadcaster?

    There are only two ways I can see to fund public broadcasting, you either get the government to step up to the plate and foot the bill or you move to a PBS/NPR “You donate, you pay the bills, you call the shots” type model. Otherwise, you’re just shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 7:58 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To anonymous above – get your head out of the sand (or your cubicle) – this is not business negotiations. Its a “TAKEAWAY AGAIN” bullying exercise with federally appointed goons who would not be able to get a similar business position in the private sector where there is accountability . I have been in many good business negotiations – this is not a good one.
    Maybe you should get a job in the private sector and see the difference (not limiting to the fact that the private will pay you more for the same position if you are qualified – brown nose not an accepted asset)

  11. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 7:21 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    hey…stop all of this we can lead the broadcasting/journalistic/entertainment world into an new era crap….full of ourselves or what? yeah, we do good work, but where else could we do it? global? A chan? Chum? a Guy Madden film?….it doesn’t matter how stupid management is, we still get good work on the air….get over the hatred that festers in labour disputes and recognize this is a business negotiation, and this is a business, not our god given right….cut a deal and stop the narcississm…or go work for a private and see how you like that.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 7:04 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Like, dude, this could have been done 16 months ago! Pissing contest all the way. It has always been about compromise and negotiating. Management has been the hold out. No doubt about it. Quit trying to spin. It is too late for that kind of crap.

  13. Noiseman
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 6:42 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Agreed Wristshooter’¦. Both sides have been icing the puck too much. After seven weeks of this nonsense its time to end this game and throw in some new rules. In case anyone hasn’™t noticed, we are in overtime and unlike last season, we don’™t have unlimited time to figure out what works for the CBC and its workers. The public is growing impatient, the staff is tired of picketing, negotiators on both sides are fed up and CBC/CMG leaders are skating on thin ice. So ’¦ time for an overtime shootout. Lay your best arguments on the table, state your case and see where the puck drops. After it’™s all said and done, both sides will get some of what they want ’“ but not everything. An old fashioned compromise. Most importantly, the game will be over and we can prepare for the real stuff in October. Lets hope referee Fontana has his Wheaties on Monday morning, something tells me he’™s going to need it.

  14. WristShooter
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 6:16 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Here’s a Bobby Hull slapshot through all this optimism about the meeting on Monday. Where do we get this idea — expressed in blogs in other rinksides — that Joe “Tiger Williams” Fontana’s punch or “wrath” will mostly land on Rabinovitch? It’s nice to have Sam Bulte on our side, but who’s to say Fontana won’t tell Arnold that the new “offer” on Thursday wasn’t all that new? And that it’s the union doing the stalling? The idea of the offer was great strategically, but wouldn’t it have been better if it contained actual concessions — however tiny — that would have embarrassed management? I haven’t seen anything in the Liberals’ record in 12 years that would make me think they’ll favour us.

    Don’t be suprised if Arnold gets 2 minutes for delay of the game. Or a major for diving under the new rules. Let’s just not get a match penalty.

    Hope I’m wrong and the ref gives us a break for all his other bad calls in the past.

  15. Laurence
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 6:11 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I entirely disagree that we shouldn’t make shows ‘for us’.
    It is completely impossible to ‘second guess’ anyone else’s feelings for anything. I think you should try to please yourself. I know I can only make shows that I want to hear. And, it appears. that seems to work more often than not.
    I think try to ‘please others’ by making shows that are similar to other ‘hits’ or are deemed to be good by survey points is a recipe for disaster. And it’s a recipe that’s followed far too often.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 3:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    CBC never “owned” the internet. The current version is even paler than previous versions, but the simple fact is that it takes money and balls to make something new.

    Every time something new and interesting is made for CBC.ca it’s killed. It has areas that are interesting, but for the most part zzzzzzz.

    The comment about decoupling it from television killing it? Claptrap. CBC is more than television. It has a chance to go somewhere cool in new media, with an audience CBC does not have.

    Spend some money on it, and give it some leadership who thinks it’s more than a poor magazine.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 3:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t know where Bobby is right now, but I can tell you where he’ll be Monday morning. Word on the street in Ottawa is that Rabinovitch will get his knuckles wrapped and told to get a settlement within 48 hours. Apparently, the Board of Directors has been heating up the phone lines, slamming him. Also, MP’s of all parties (maybe not the bloc so much) have been getting inundated with emails and calls. While I’m sure Fontana will dish out some harsh words to both Amber and Rabinovitch, the latter will get most of his wrath. Even Conservative MP’s have been bitching that since the CBC has not been covering their events, the local media isn’t bothering to show up either. They’re all seeing the writing on the wall. If CBC doesn’t cover politics, private broadcasters won’t bother. A senior Cabinet Minister says they’re REALLY pissed that the CBC did not get this resolved in time for GG installation. And the ongoing threat of a picket line is making them really worried, so watch for some kind of assurance from both parties that won’t happen. So, what of Rabinovitch’s long term fate? Same senior Cabinet Minister says now is not the time to deal with that, but it will be dealt with.

    Sam Bulte committed on the line today that the government is committed to “build up” the CBC again. That sounds to me like there will be some money promises at the Fontana/Rabinovitch meeting. Whoever is the next CBC President, when Rabinovitch makes his face-saving exit, had better hold them to it. The real problem here is not that we don’t have a flexible and creative workforce. Rabinovitch has been sitting on his hands for nearly six years and we’ve been left patching this corporation together.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 12:56 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    One of the reasons state broadcasting (public broadcasting keeps reminding me of PBS) in Europe is as popular as it is, is due in part to it’s entertainment value. If CBC staff and managers think we can capture the hearts of the public by making them uncomfortable, then get out of your ivory tower and have a talk with the public.

    Sure Joe and Jane Average want news and sports. But after a long day they want a laugh or a good fable. In short they, like humans everywhere, want escapist entertainment.

    CBC has a duty to make sure that said entertainment is not all made in the USA. Yeah, CBC does the best news and current affairs in the world. OK, our Sports coverage is also highly regarded. But lets not make every show some informative, hard hitting, gritty, realist docudrama. Let’s entertain. like we used to, back in the day. When we were popular.

    In TV, the largest ratings around the world are for entertainment programming. CBC needs to be relevant to Canadians by showing Canadian situations in both comedy and drama, as well as news and sports. And not just 2 or three shows wih 6 new episiodes a season. People want variety too. That’s why Hollywood cranks out multiple movies a month. They are responding to their audience. We need to do the same.

    As long as we keep making shows for us and not for the audience. Or we make too many shows that are “good for you” (think “broccoli” Yum?) the public will remain uninterested in our existance.

  19. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 4:44 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    anonymous said:
    We USED to own the internet in Canada – just a few short years ago. Now CBC.ca looks like something from 1997 thanks to the (ahem) “visionaries” in their management. It’s embarassing.

    When did CBC.ca “own” the internet? CBC originally thought the internet was “just for kids”. It was only a few years ago that the web site was taken seriously enough by management to become a respected news site.

    The CBC website is as popular as it is because the CBC itself is respected. Decouple it from CBC Television, force it to stand alone, and it would die quickly and quietly.

    Management recognizes the need to keep things current and make things better. It’s why they keep changing things. The problem is that they (1) are not journalists, and (2) don’t understand the technical requirements of running a large web site. So the result (to be launched later this year, we’re told) will undoubtedly fail to address critical requirements, and difficult and awkward to use and to administer. (Administrate? Geeks have such fun words.)

    I won’t envy CBC.ca “operations” people in the coming months.

    If my own job search goes well, I’ll be free of these frustrations soon, and won’t have to vent my disgust on blogs.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 8:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “We USED to own the internet in Canada”

    -amen to that. sad state of affairs now (even before the lockout)

  21. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 8:26 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ouimet – Hello from Neutron. So please tell me: is this what Bobby discussed in a Brown noser meeting or is this your vision.
    It deserves merit. BUT certainly NOT by being initiated on employee’s backs from a Lock Out in order to get the needed Start-up capital. A respectful creative management would of negotiated the necessary capital directly from the so-called Privates instead – after all aren’t the Privates suppose to make $$$ millions from this vision ?
    “Gee I can’t believe father Paul didn’t give little Bobby any spending money for his project”

  22. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 8:12 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sue Anderson.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 7:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “We’ll pour money into new areas that the privates can’t do because there is no money in it. We’ll lead in HDTV. We’ll own the internet in Canada. And in a few years down the the road, they will follow, and get rich, just like they did before. that’s cool.”

    We USED to own the internet in Canada – just a few short years ago. Now CBC.ca looks like something from 1997 thanks to the (ahem) “visionaries” in their management. It’s embarassing. Virtually every broadcaster in the world, public and private, is WAY ahead of us now. Sigh.

  24. WristShooter
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 6:54 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    That’s all very nice, Ouimet, but what does it have to do with our getting back into that Big Building where you’ve been spending a lot of time lately? Or are you writing this from home, Patrick Watson?

  25. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 12:54 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I just heard Arnold Amber. He said the negotiations are going very frustratingly.

    The corp has unleashed their Industrial Relations wonks on the negotiations and are getting stuck on every contract weasel word. It looks like the process will take forever.

    Given that, I know I will have to move to Plan B. I will have to start looking for a job, and I may have to relinquish my permanent CBC job if a new one looks promising.

    Tough shit for the corp or tough shit for me. Don’t know, don’t care.

    Thanks Ouimet for trying. I’ll thank all those who made an honest effort. The rest are cordially invited to go f_ck themselves.

  26. Anton
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 9:40 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Where have I heard all this before? Still it’s good to hear again. Makes you believe there is a vision. All we need now is a leader to implement it. Except for the sports. I agree with anonymous on that. But not with that other anonymous.

  27. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 7:38 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Let’s add this one to the list of proposals for CBC’s future where sports is written off. It’s becoming tiresome…

    There are few areas of interest that bind Canadians and define our common culture more powerfully than sports. And that includes pro sports.

    CBC’s top-rated programs ever, particularly on TV and online, have been sports programs: Olympic hockey, the Grey Cup, Perdita Felicien’s fall in Athens, the Brier, how many Stanley Cup games?

    And this all airs on a tier-1 channel, accessible to virtually everyone. Who else offers that? TSN? Sportsnet? OLN? Not even CTV would do that. Sacrificing a prime-time schedule stacked with shows like CSI, Law & Order, and American & Canadian Idol, is just not going to happen.

    So from a mandate point of view, sports fits in at least as well as many of our other pursuits. Take it away and it’s like admitting that sports isn’t part of Canada’s culture. Or that only sports played in local arenas is what we care about. Which is nonsense.

    As for risky and expensive, sure it is. But so is producing great comedy, drama, and truly groundbreaking news. Our competitors are, as you say, willing to take on those risks too, but that’s no reason to cede that ground to them.

    So a little respect, please, for the cultural role sports plays in most Canadians’ lives, and the importance that is has, and should always have, for CBC.

  28. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 7:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Thank you, Ouimet. It is soo refreshing seeing a genuine vision that reverberates. I don’t doubt there will be many pratfalls if we were to go the way you mention, but they will be noble ones, not like this lock-out.

    I would only add that we also need a mechanism to cultivate our ‘farm teams,’ the future talents. We should offer mentoring within the local cable tv studios to bring out more Jim Careys, Dan Ackroyds, Peter Mansbridges, etc, as well as the writers, directors and other talents that should look to the CBC as the final proving ground.

  29. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 7:05 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Some nice ideas, but a few problems:
    1) We are not in control of our mandate – the federal government is – and it remains an ‘all things for all people’ mission;
    2) If you take out sports and big-ticket movies, that’s a big chunk of our popular viewership gone out the window, leaving comedy and news to pick up the slack (let’s not talk about drama or ‘high-impact’);
    3) With changes like this, we look less like a national network and more like a niche service or ‘specialty channel’ that would end up with half the budget (or less) and maybe employ half the staff (or less) than we have now;
    4) This inevitably leads to the question “Why should we *all* pay for CBC when we could just give CBC Radio a small (i.e. same size or smaller) parliamentary appropriation and turn CBC Television into a subscription service?”

    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be fundamental changes to the way the Corporation works or how it serves Canadians–but since public broadcasting in the U.S. is in a shambles, we should try looking to BBC, ABC Australia and beyond to see what programming and services they provide to their nations and how well their work is received. Someone out there must be succeeding…

  30. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 6:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’ll be honest, I don’t know if all those ideas would work or not (what the hell they sound good to me). But I have to say it’s nice to hear actual new ideas coming from inside the CBC building that would help change things in a way that doesn’t make CBC employees feel like they are the problem.

    This was what we needed from the CBC Board yesterday. New and innovative thinking that would help prevent this type of situation from happening in the future. Instead they just went along with a course of action that is clearly not working. All of us, inside and out, deserved more.

    Best post yet Ouimet.

  31. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 4:50 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    So-finally a vision-but is all this pain just to make people notice the CBC plight? All on the backs of people who should be there beside you, not trodden on. This makes me sick.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted September 21, 2005 at 9:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I Think you are on the right track.
    Let’s rent the Movenpick space, but management in there so that they can not do anymore damage (out of sight out of mind). Then bring back the people who actually have the know how, insight, creativity and ability to provide Canadians with the programming they want to watch.

  33. Anonymous
    Posted September 21, 2005 at 8:50 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Leadership? Now there is a refreshing concept. If we could only get the CBC some of that.

  34. Laurence
    Posted September 21, 2005 at 8:47 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Works for me.
    And where does ‘flexibility’ fit in this.
    We can do this standing on our heads as we are configured at present.
    And it has always bugged me that hockey seems to be a higher priority for us than covering stories like Hurricane Katrina/Rita/whatever the next one is..
    This would do the trick for me.

  35. Anonymous
    Posted September 21, 2005 at 8:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    You are so right. We can not follow the industry, but we can lead it. Just as we have done for over 75 years.

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