What we’re really losing

This comes to us from Circles Around the Square, with the caveat that “the source of this video prefers to remain anonymous.”

But I think we all know where this came from. Just look at it. Not only is it very good technically, it also makes a pretty strong case for keeping the CBC Design Department.

Too late of course. They will all be gone by the end of the month.

The “philosophical differences” they allude to in the video are the views held by a senior management team that is hell-bent on making money by renting out space in the Toronto building. By shutting down the design department, they free up a lot more space to rent.

But the differences go deeper than that. It’s a senior management team that is taking what should be a creative organization and trying to turn it further into a business one. I don’t blame them. Creativity is messy, and hard to understand. It can be non-linear and at times irrational. So can employees, for that matter. Both are expensive.

Best to get out of them altogether. Tenants and rent and hired help are much more easier for money people to understand.

There’s no doubt the design department is unique and valuable. Something we’ve spent decades building. Something we understand and care about more than anyone else. It would make sense to try to make money from something that no one else has and that we know best. Yet we’re selling it out for something everyone else has. Office space.

And look at these people. They’re explaining their case the only way they know how. By making a TV show.

The CBC has endured many slings and arrows in its history, but the harshest today are coming from within. This is hard to comprehend. But even if you don’t believe that the CBC, Canadian productions, and Canada will suffer from shutting down the Design Department, then believe me when I say we will lose money on this. I guarantee it.

It’s going to be one hell of a garage sale, though.


  1. Allan
    Posted June 19, 2007 at 3:02 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    June 19, 2007 12:00 P.M.

    Hello, I wonder if I may be allowed to see the design dept.
    I understand there’s a sale going on.

    Sure, but we’re at lunch right now.
    Call back at 1.


    (At security signing in, escorted up, allowed to look around.
    So drab, and silent. And smaller than I had thought.
    A few CBC staffers on break are drifting through, and furniture is being rolled out to a waiting truck.
    Lively caretaker, a wonderful man.

    How long have you been here?

    Ten years.
    But I wish it was thirty.


    ‘Cause then I could retire.

    We’re closing at the end of the month.
    I still sell to production companies.

    That’s just like Sam The Record Man.

    Oh yeah?
    Them too?

    It’s not open to the public.

    You’ve been very kind.
    I have to tell you that I’m a member of the public.

    Oh. Well, you’re here now …

    Thank you.
    I’d like to impose on you for one more thing, and ask if I may take a picture.



  2. Justin Beach
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 7:12 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Glad you’re enjoying the show Allan, I’ve missed your insightful and thought provoking commentary. xoxo

  3. CBC Frank
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 6:36 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Good to see you back, Ouimet.

    I bitched about this some time ago, but I can’t be bothered rummageing through your archives to find it.

    I’d point out that this is a continuation of the divesting of broadcasting talent that began with the disbanding of Montreal Engineering Headquarters (EHQ).

    When that decision had been made, the corp similarly dismissed any co-operative corp ideas, eventhough some of those employed by EHQ offered to continue running at least parts of it. They were one of the world’s best labs for audio and broadcasting research. It was a pitiful sight when their test gear came to Toronto for ‘use’.

    Now when we do installations for HD, what’s left of engineering is left to experiment to find out what equipment will work with what, and so they end up rewiring these installation a rediculous number of times. Engineering used to maintain standards and practices (ES&P), they would evaluate potential equipment, then oversee the installations. Now all they do is the last one.

    As for the pernicious nature of entertainment, we must remember that when you surf the channel in the evening, you’re probably looking for one of two things; either information (reality), or entertainment (escapeism). The CBC does a very conscientious job of producing the news, but on the the escapeist front, we ain’t so hot, though there are some notable exceptions.

    Design by necessity is all about escapeism; where else are you going to go to simulate a landing craft on the Normandy beach, or the inside of an aircraft?

    If the leadership of the corp could figure out how to make money renting out the TBC, how is it they can’t figure out how to capitalize on other profit centres like pimping out Design, and any other skills we have?

    With Global shooting Deal or No Deal Canada on the 10th floor of the TBC, we’re clearly not competing with the private studios when massive production facilities are required. If this is true for our studios, by extension, shouldn’t it be true for the support mechanisms like Design?

    Can they be so sure that letting Design go isn’t another example of eating the cash cow?

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 6:05 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece


    I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. But the CBC will not be making its own shows in the future. If it is lucky, and a Harper majority doesn’t wind up the television network, it will only exhibit programs. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s the plan. That’s what an MBA would do.

  5. Allan
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 12:57 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    – Can’t just now.
    Too busy watching Justin Beach Controls The Universe.
    Has Parliament acted on your recommendations yet?

  6. Saskboy
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 12:13 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    That’s sick that they’d sell off 50 years of living archives.

    Anon1, even though those shows may not use the props in a year or two, what about movies or shows of the future? And the schools in Toronto they mentioned?

  7. Justin Beach
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 8:15 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry for going off topic but it’s good to hear from you again – drop me a line sometime and let me know how things are going.


  8. Dwight Williams
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 7:19 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Not able to view the video at the moment, but the more I think it over, the worse the decision to close Design down becomes in my eyes.

  9. Paul
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 10:56 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    anonymous: The CMG pitched the idea for a co-op use of the space, but it was rejected

    leon: Some say this was the plan a decade ago

  10. LeonT
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 8:04 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    When referring to “senior management”, I find it hard to believe that the decision to close the Design department and the Communications department in 2005 was made by a team.It always comes down to one person to make the call. Who was that person? The President? The Vice-President of English Television? I’m fed up with these generalities and pseudo-annonymous managers. Watching the sober video proves to me that we need to expose the culprits and hold them accountable. It’s our duty as CBC employees.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 7:45 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Last week Richard Stursberg told the Parliamentary Committee examining CBC’s future that he had given the Design Dept. nine months to come up with a plan to keep the Dept. together as a separate company and that the staff were unable to develop a plan. Is this the case and were all options really examined?

  12. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2007 at 6:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Not to defend the current management regime but … Air Farce is well past the end of its natural life and Mercer has morphed into “On The Road Again” and so doesn’t use that many sets. As for the news, perhaps fewer flashy backdrops and more trenchant analysis might be a good think (sic).

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