Go Fuchs yourself

Richard Stursberg is regularly vilified in the newspaper, in the hallways of the CBC, and in the government. They call him an oaf, a bully, and an idiot. They say he is directionless. Some say he will stop at nothing short of the destruction of the CBC.

But when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of Richard Stursberg. Outside of this little world no one even knows who he is. All that matters is when Johnny Canuck turns on the TV, will he watch the CBC?

Richard is not going anywhere. The lockout is over, and he was never fired, despite the demands of the CBC Drone. Since then, the Drone has gone into hiding. But Stursberg is still here.

So what does Richard want, anyways?

He wants CBC-TV to be #1.

This is not insider information. He keeps saying it, but no one seems to believe him.

The idea is so foreign to us, it seems naïve. When was the last time we even considered this possibility? When was the last time we tried to be popular? We are getting hammered by CTV, and not just with American TV. Their Canadian stuff is better, and more people watch their news than ours. The news!

Richard is asking: “would it kill us to have a hit?”

English CBC TV is in last place. Last. Global sucks eggs and even they beat us.

So Richard wants more better TV.

150 more hours of drama and comedy. That’s an astronomical number. He says he doesn’t know how he will pay for it, but I think he has some ideas.

Why is his name at the bottom of these “TBC for sale or rent” memos? Why not the President, or the prolific Net Pub Eng, or the hated Real Estate division? Because the rent will be Richard’s drama money, or at least part of it.

Now, this real estate plan is silly, but if that money made goes directly to the screen, I have a hard time begrudging it. Good TV or a bigger office? Drama and comedy for millions, or a staff cafeteria? Myself, I’ll take the TV. Every time. Who wouldn’t?

There are better ways to make or save money, and Richard knows them, too. But renting out space in the TBC, as weird as it sounds, is a quick, easy hit. If it sounds like a desperate ploy, that’s because it is. Time is running out, and CBC-TV is on the verge of irrelevance.

Most people assume that to turn this around the CBC will have to run crass crap. But he never said that. He said that he wants to run intelligent, bold, original Canadian shows. He wants good TV that people will want to watch.

In essence, the Holy Grail of TV production. Often attempted and rarely achieved.

He has no idea what this TV should be or will be. But he doesn’t make TV shows. We do. If he knew how to make that kind of TV, he would have made 1000 hours of it already. Is it so hard to believe, with all the talent in this place and in this country, that we can’t come up with some good, Canadian TV that won’t insult the audience?

New hire Fred Fuchs is right on it. He has a lot of experience and smarts and plenty of enthusiasm. It will take some years to beat that out of him, but in the meantime this fellow might just be the shot in the arm we need. There is a lot of cautious optimism about this guy and the other changes Richard has made, all of it coming from producers, writers, and actors outside the building.

Inside? Not so much.

Maybe Richard is planning to destroy the CBC, but at least he’s starting with some of the bad parts. Some jobs will be lost and some shows will be cancelled and the phones will ring off the hook with people complaining.

And the CMG did a good job of crucifying him during the lockout, to the point that we all have a hard time trusting him. And he he doesn’t help his cause by signing unpopular memos.

But what he’s doing is very similar to what I’ve been writing about for the last 8 months.

And if he’s right, and CBC-TV comes out on top, will we still hate him?


  1. Grondzilla
    Posted April 10, 2006 at 8:38 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    He said:
    “CBC-TV’s entertainment programs have tended to attract people who watch television largely to be informed …that is news and information viewers. And of course we need to hold onto those loyal audiences. However, Canadians who watch TV primarily to be entertained are currently less likely to watch anything on CBC-TV. That means there is a significant portion of the Canadian television viewing public that is not currently being fully served by our programming.”

    You said: Broad strokes, to be sure. But there is a lot of truth to it.

    As someone whose just out here in TV land with a tiny tenuous connection to life inside the CBC all I hear from Stursberg is placating corporate BS. It sounds like someone talking to Toronto and acting as if that was their audience. I get the distinct sense that the Urban market is pretty much a lost cause as far as the CBC is concerned and the ‘loyal’ viewers that he talks about are regional and rural television watchers. He then goes on to gut the network by pretty much saying that nothing on the network is worthy of the term ‘entertainment’.

    Oddly enough, I (again as a relatively ordinary joe) watch CBC specifically for intelligent entertainment, be it Rick Mercer’s uniquely Canadian socio-political commentary or damned fine historical drama like ‘Prairie Giant’ or ‘Trudeau’ or something as wonderfully loopy as ‘This is Wonderland’. Judging from the few comments I’ve heard from Stursberg he would cancel everything under the sun in the name of ‘good management’ buy a bunch of crap from his coroprate buddies and then try to smooth it all over with a verbal pat on the heads to those people who don’t like it. Like me…the taxpayer.

    I’ll give you a simple concrete example of what I’m talking about…whoever cancelled ‘Wonderland’ and put something as pointedly unwatchable as ‘The Hotel’ on needs to have their head examined. For some strange reason I get the sense that it’s a Stursberg-like move. I could be wrong but it’s the sense that someone like me ‘out here’ in the world gets.

  2. Ouimet
    Posted April 6, 2006 at 7:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m glad you appreciate the website, Anon. I don’t say it often enough, but I am thankful for all the encouragement readers have given me, in the comments section and by e-mail.

    I never hoped or expected everyone to agree with me all the time. In fact, I’ve learned a lot from the people who disagree with me on this site.

    Now, are these guys lying to our faces, planning an all-acquisitions CBC? Maybe. You make a lot of interesting points.

    But I think they have a better sense of who the audience is than you guys give them credit for. In the same speech that Justin links to, Stursberg says:

    “CBC-TV’s entertainment programs have tended to attract people who watch television largely to be informed …that is news and information viewers. And of course we need to hold onto those loyal audiences. However, Canadians who watch TV primarily to be entertained are currently less likely to watch anything on CBC-TV. That means there is a significant portion of the Canadian television viewing public that is not currently being fully served by our programming.”

    Broad strokes, to be sure. But there is a lot of truth to it.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted April 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry, I dont buy the idea that Stursberg is trying to raise money to produce great programming. Stursberg is sending CBC into the acquisitions game. Otherwise, why get rid of your production staff?? And look who they hired as Executive Director of Network Programming someone from Allias Atlantis, a major distribution house. I know the justification is to save money by hiring independent crews, but as someone who works on a CBC program, I can tell you that we are not benefiting from these money-making schemes. Our budget remains minimal. And in-house production is dwindling, not increasing.

    I base my opinions on comments made to our staff by Rabinovitch in a meeting, where he told us he doesnt know programming, has never bothered to watch our show, and made some of the most out-dated comments about audiences I have ever heard.

    We cannot compete in the acquisitions game. Thats why we lost the Olympics. Money thats the bottom line. They offered more $$$ than we did. In theory, it sounds great to buy programming rather than pay staff and benefits and pension. But they are going to have to compete with networks with big bucks to get the good shows. Thats the reality.

    I completely agree with Justin Beach when he says that we dont expect Stursberg to create and write programs, but that he should know who his customer is and know who is watching what on television and why before he makes drastic changes.

    Rabinovitch and Stursberg have failed to establish an identity for CBC. When you dont know who you are, dont know who your audience is, you cant build an effective programming plan. You continue to flounder, trying to find good programming and get the numbers. And thats what were doing floundering. And suffering the effects of panicky, knee-jerk reactions when it doesnt work.

    So I just dont buy these machinations. I honestly believe we are going down the acquisition road after all, you can honestly say you are raising money for programming, even if you have no intention of actually producing it.

    CBC has a glorious past. We are always and legitimately bragging about that. What will we have to brag about in 10 years time?

    I really appreciate your blog, Tea Maker. I dont agree with you on this one, but I am glad you have carried on with it.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted April 6, 2006 at 2:03 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    From Richard, Jane, and Real Estate dated March 30th

    Yesterday, the City of Torontos Committee of Adjustment rejected our application for a minor variance to the citys zoning by-law so that we can accommodate future tenants in the Broadcast Centre.

    This initiative is important to the corporations ability to fulfill its cultural mandate. Not only would it allow us to generate significant revenue from unused and underused space – revenue that will be pumped directly back into programming – it would also allow us to improve the workspace our employees are using. Throughout the process any decisions about space changes will include consultation with employees.

    Because of the importance of this initiative, the corporation will take one of two possible next steps: appealing the decision of the Committee of Adjustment to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB); or applying to the City of Toronto for rezoning that would allow the necessary revitalization.

    We are in the process of evaluating both possibilities and will keep you informed of next steps.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted April 5, 2006 at 2:51 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    From the CMG website dated March 30th

    City says no to more leasing at Toronto Broadcast Centre

    The City of Torontos Committee of Adjustment has denied the CBCs application to lease up to 30% of the Toronto Broadcast Centre to outside businesses. In making their decision, committee members spoke passionately about the value of the CBC and urged the Corporation to seek necessary funding on Parliament Hill and not on Torontos commercial real estate market.

    The Guilds national president Lise Lareau and CBC branch president Arnold Amber presented the Guilds concerns to the committee.

    We understand the funding problem at the CBC, but we dont think that turning the CBC into a commercial landlord is a reasonable long-term solution to that challenge, Lareau said. Once you lose the capacity to do the full range of broadcasting activities in the building, you never get it back.

    The Guild pointed out that the CBC application was contrary to the by-law passed in 1988, which established the primacy of public broadcasting activities in the building. Under the CBC proposal, approximately 30% of useable space in the building could have been rented out. The CBC had already listed the building, indicating that the entire sixth and seventh floors were available, as well as parts of two underground floors.

    Also speaking to the importance of retaining the building for broadcast activities were renowned radio producer Max Allen, a retired CBC employee, and actor Karl Pruner, the president of ACTRAs Toronto Council.

    The options now open to the CBC include appealing the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board or seeking a by-law amendment, a move the committee members suggested was most appropriate in order to ensure a full public debate about the fate of the building.

    The Guild would be happy to sit down with CBC management to discuss both the funding challenge and appropriate use of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre.

  6. Justin Beach
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 7:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t know much about Fuchs, I mean I’ve seen his resume, but I don’t know what he has in mind.

    That said, my concerns about Stursberg did not come from the CMG. They principally came from the now infamous “future of the CBC” memo, the complaints I’ve heard from telefilm about the wreckage Stursberg left there and comments he made in a Feb 17 speech. That indicate, to me at least, that he’s not really sure what he’s doing or why he’s doing it.

    I don’t expect him to create, and write programs but as VP of English Television I do think that he should know who his customer is, and know “who is watching what on television and why” preferably before he takes the job, but certainly before he begins drastic changes.

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