Hard truths at the Empire Club

Mr. Rabinovitch gave a speech on Thursday at the Empire Club.

Internally, we were sent a memo telling us he would be speaking. Then we were sent a memo telling us he had spoken, and that we should read his words. He gives a lot of speeches, but the fact that we were emailed so many times about it suggested that this was to be a capital-S Speech.

He gave a lot of the same old jibberjabber about funding and programming and whatnot, but some of what he said was indeed notable:

“We need to break down the structure that slows down program decision-making, limits our access to the best talent available and limits our ability to innovate.”

Now, The Empire Club? Isn’t that for rich people? The fact that we were all notified multiple times to read a speech given to rich people shows me that they are grossly out of touch. He expects these rich people to save us?

He should’ve been speaking to us. He should’ve been booming from the loudspeakers across the corp and been webcast to every cubicle. Fly the pizza in the background and hammer the podium with your shoe and just speak directly to the people who really need to do the work. Maybe then they will listen.

Because I’m frustrated, just like everyone else. They spent a million dollars on a health study, and those doctors told you we’re all frustrated. And they want another million to fix it.

But I’ll tell you straight and for free.

We’re frustrated because every good idea is so hard to implement.

We’re frustrated because every problem is so hard to solve.

We’re frustrated because we feel far from where the decisions are being made.

We’re frustrated because to speak out means we might get whacked or stabbed in the back.

We’re frustrated because we see the place we love crumbling before our eyes.

We’re frustrated because we’ve got too many bosses and not enough leaders.

We’re frustrated because we see sycophants rise to the top.

We’re frustrated because there is so much ass-covering and proposal-writing and ego-massaging and study-commissioning and study-reviewing and committee-steering that has to happen before anything else happens.

We’re frustrated because we want to fix it, but it’s easier to say fuck it.

The politicians and the rich people aren’t going to save the CBC. Jack Layton picketed enough to get lockout pay in 2005, and even he couldn’t muster a few lies for us during the election. And he lost anyways.

And senior management aren’t going to save the CBC either. If they could, they would have already.

The best they can do is get out of the way, and let the creativity loose. Because it’s there, but it’s trampled at the bottom to the point of strangulation. We all know it’s there. We’re next to it every day. And there’s more smart, creative kids waiting to get in.

I swear to God, Bobby – clear out these old men, flattering fools, and ladder-climbers. Fire the consultants whispering in your ear, and let us work. The resulting innovation and creativity will save us.

Because right now it’s all you have left.

And best of all, you already own it.


  1. Allan
    Posted August 19, 2006 at 3:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Your litany of frustrations boils down to one thing – incompetence.

    Your call to:
    “clear out these old men, flattering fools, and ladder-climbers. Fire the consultants whispering in your ear, and let us work. The resulting innovation and creativity will save us.”
    shows a bias toward the elderly and male gender.
    You want everyone else fired except you, for you are the salvation of the CBC.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted March 30, 2006 at 10:03 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    i decided to say fuck it

  3. Dwight Williams
    Posted March 16, 2006 at 8:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    What got my attention was the rapid confirmation that there’s going to be a DVD, via Antonia Zerbisias’ blog. I never noticed the on-air adverts. I realize that it must’ve been in the works from the beginning, but it was pleasing to notice that the plan was there.

  4. Justin Beach
    Posted March 15, 2006 at 8:12 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I was contemplating what to say about the Rabinovich speech, it appears I don’t have to say much, just provide a link. I still have some things to say about the Feb 17 Stursburg speech though. (Coming Soon)

  5. Brian M. Carroll
    Posted March 15, 2006 at 4:22 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “We’re frustrated because we see the place we love crumbling before our eyes.”

    I think the Prairie Giant debacle is an example of this. The cast is a who’s who of Canadian talent. The subject is the most popular Canadian in history. Many of the 3000 extras thought the project was so important, they did it for free. And the Mother Corp sits on it for months because it’s too afraid to show it during an election. It’s ironic that the script includes the time that the CBC turned down Douglas’s request for air time on the public network because he was “too political”.

    Plus, when it finally gets airtime, there are accompanying ads saying: buy the DVD. Get the message? Ie. we ain’t going to show this baby again, even if it did cost us $8 million.

    So what happens when you look up the DVD? Not available till late May.

    As a listener, viewer, reader, and taxpayer, I share your frustration.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted March 13, 2006 at 11:42 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    You are fantastic!
    Your words certainly help me feel less crazy here – also some relief & gratitude that (perhaps even a few of) our managers are capable of being critical (in the best sense), insighful and gutsy. Speak truth to power and all that…

    As one of the younger bunch involved on the creative / production / current affairs side I’ve got to tell you that the info last week about counting keystrokes (“Type or Die”) is the last straw. I am now actively planning my exit strategy.

    You put it so well…
    “We’re frustrated because we see the place we love crumbling before our eyes…”

    “We’re frustrated because we want to fix it, but it’s easier to say fuck it…”

    Anyhow, I’m with you for now, fighting to do our best for this place and for our audiences.


  7. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 10:32 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    … and why we post anonymously..

  8. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 10:02 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t know how you were on the inside during the lockout Ouimet, because that was a front-liner’s speach.

    The whole problem of having a distant management is very common, unfortunately. Right now, the prevailing management mantras to get in touch with production are BPM, business performance management, in our case PMSD. Prior to that there was six-sigma, then there’s ISO 9000…

    At the end of the day these are all intended to do the same thing: where any company is run from top down (president, mid-management, production) and so $hit flows downhill, these managerial ‘aids’ are intended to make it go back uphill, to get feedback from the lower ranks.

    As you can imagine, they aren’t very enthusiastic about having their noses rubbed in the consequences of their decisions.

    If their were a way to elect them…

  9. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 6:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    >He should’ve been speaking to us

    Not only should he have been ‘speaking’ to us, he should be LISTENING to us!

    We’re ALL F.R.U.S.T.R.A.T.E.D with the top-down approach!

  10. hugh
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 12:51 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Very sad to read this as an increasingly-former CBC fan. You know I’ve listened to CBC radio twice in the last 3 weeks? both times it was my wife that turned it on. I used to listen every day.

    but I’m getting so much great media from podcasting that CBC has faded almost completely from my listening habits. the stuff I want is never on when I want it.

    CBC seems intent on shoveling garbage at me – and I don’t want garbage. I used to love CBC for its content, but I am increasingly losing interest in the institution. It’s very bad at doing what it should do: provide lots of good, accssible content to canadians. why should I support an institution that’s not doing that primary job?

    that doesn’t mean CBC doesn’t do good content: it’s just not accessible to me. lots of other stuff is.

    I heard nora young’s podcast, the sniffer, recently and thought: ahh. there she is! (tho she still does CBC stuff of course).

    Now imagine if creative types like nora & others said: lets set up a parallel podcasting service. screw CBC and their shitty decisions. lets set up another system, find ways to fund it and send the stuff out to the universe. wouldn’t that be more interesting than the crap direction CBC wants to go?

    I used to support CBC because they did the best job of providing me content i wanted – in face of the compettion of other media companies in Canada. The competition is now the world. Better than CBCRadio3, even, is aack! on CKUT, available on podcast. the media distribution networks are now my computer.

    Imagine for instance, if you could get say $5 out of the 30,000 listeners of CBCRadio3. That would be a yearly budget of $150,000. What’s the budget now? I don’t know but I bet if you stripped out CBC overhead it would be about 200k? (uneducated guess). If you could get your $5, then grant & CBCradio3 could tell the CBC to stick it up their arse, and go out and be an independent podcast without worry about cuts to funding.

    now how do you get $5 out of the 30k listeners? that’s a more tricky proposition, but I spend money on crappy shit I don’t like all the time (costs about $16 to go to one movie at paramount, for instance); I’d much prefer to support things I do like – eg. CBCRadio3. The structures aren’t there yet to make this happen, but they are coming.

    And CBC will mean nothing to anyone when we get there – especially to the loyal & passionate listeners that CBC waved a big fuck-you finger at for the past few years.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 10:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I agree with you Ouimet but CBC is no different than what is happening at any other large corporation in the Canada or the U.S. The bottom line seems to be how to make money without having to pay for people and their skills, talent, creativity. Outsourcing seems to be a big part of the answer right now. But in doing so we lose a big piece of what makes a company something vital, it’s soul.
    So maybe the answer for the CBC is to find ways to make money without robbing the resources of the people that work for them. Maybe chunking out bits of real estate or giving speeches to rich people is their plan for this. Who knows?
    Sadly the governement is not going to help with this anymore so the real creative minds at CBC now need to focus on this one thing–making money.

  12. cbcworkerbee
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 7:53 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry… I meant to say “particularly” inspired. :-)

  13. cbcworkerbee
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 7:52 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    That one was inspired.


  14. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2006 at 5:17 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s hard to add anything to your well thought out comments which reflect how so many of us feel. People should be sent a memo directing them to the text of your speech.

    You’re absolutely right. Why was Rabinovitch talking to rich people instead of us? Why has he never spoken to us?

    In his speech he also said “we need to to remove the bureaucracy that inhibits creativity” Let’s think about what that really means.

    In does not mean contracting everything out so that getting your computer fixed or a lightbulb changed seems to take all day.

    It does not mean a program development process that takes years in some cases.

    And it does not mean more talk about eliminating bureaucracy, while creating even more.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted March 10, 2006 at 9:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well done, Ouimet.

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