Guest blogger: To Sir With Love

Sent by Allan.

That’s with respect, sir, as I’m sure you’d want me to refer to you by first name since you allowed Jesse Brown to do so. And he’s like a nobody. A good writer though, sharp, and a lot of fun at NON-FICTION.
So, anyway.
I feel obligated to bring attention to a concomitant aspect of your duties and responsibilities.
And that would be your duty as the head of a broadcasting enterprise that is considered to be a distinctive public trust.
To put it another way, you work not only on behalf of the employees at the CBC, you work for me.
You know what I mean.
The quality of programs produced and how well they serve the Canadian public is also one part of your concerns.
N’est-il pas ?

Labour issues are important. And frustrating.
My rights. My entitlements. My security.
(holy crap, why do I somehow resent and envy that guy who said he’s a 23 year veteran of the CBC. God, if I could just have lived my adult life in the comfort of CBC’s ample bosom, but then what happens to all the broadcasting graduates that went looking for jobs in each of those 23 years? there’d be at least one job they couldn’t get – mine! Hmmm)
That’s definitely half of the two issues I have with the CBC.
The other of course is about it’s programming, the content.
To speak of what constitutes worthwhile and honorable and entertaining content is to begin an endless debate. The fact is that hardly any of us know how to create great programs, we just know them when we see them.

As I write this, there’s a sense of futility. But it has nothing to do with you. So far, you’ve shown that you’re a good listener, sir, and that’s a good first step in any situation.
And I’m guessing that you’re not about to interfere with programming any time soon, if ever. You’ll let the ratings drive the changes. Smart.
No, the reason for the futility has to do with something Amber MacArthur said, beginning to bring voice to the growing sense that localized media is losing ground to global media – the internet. And I ask myself if trying to prick the conscience of the king is really all that important any more.
To be clearer, why look to reform the CBC when it’s a model that is increasingly irrelevant. Why focus on a government dinosaur when the real audience and power is on the unregulated world wide web, just waiting for the next DRUDGE/PEREZ/TMZ page, a new and daring television channel on the internet that we can watch on our big screen TV’s, live and on demand.

On the other hand, the CBC isn’t going anywhere in our lifetimes, Hubert, so we can still throw some things back and forth about how well the old horse is “living up to it’s mandate.”

And that’s where I have issues.
Newsworld for example.
When you hold that iPod in your hand, Hubert, you are looking at an artifact of current popular culture. You’re looking at the beginnings of tomorrow, and not a fad.
Yet the culture of youth, of technology, is just not a subject of any special significance for Newsworld.
Neither is there much evidence of a passion for journalism.
The days of daring public affairs programs, of presenting provocative views, of Man Alive and Take 30 and FPC are so much ones for the history books.
It seems absurd to have such a measured and predictable attitude toward news. How can anyone keen on reporting not look at the world today and be enthused about the possibilities, not just in covering stories from all parts of the world but using more and more incredible ways to deliver that news.
Newsworld looks lame, and makes all of us look lame. When we’re not.
Where are the opportunities for young people, those who are excited and in awe of life, to express themselves and their generations fascinations on Newsworld?
Where are the workshops that prepare tomorrow’s brave new journalists? Are you leaving it to Carlton and Mcgill to set them on the right path, and then when you hire them mold them into standard issue CBC mouthpieces?
Where is there evidence that the CBC can tolerate being critiqued, or heaven forbid being disagreed with? Why so insular and insecure?
And, please, no, don’t point to the so-called open forums run by the CBC on That’s more of a facade, since my experience is that management makes a statement, switches on the “Open for comments” permission, and then walks away. Done (let them vent all they want, I have other things on my plate besides their petty and ill-informed opinions, but they can’t say we didn’t “value your feedback” – Ha!)

Like you, sir, I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the CBC TV (I’m leaving radio for another time), and these days, the more I sat passively watching and letting people do their thing, the more I came to realize that it’s not the performer that’s wrong, it’s the broadcaster, the one who sanctioned this content, and controls it’s behaviour.

OK then. That’s at least an indication of what I wanted to share with you if the opportunity ever came up.
And here it has!
So perhaps we’ll talk again, or others will, along these same lines or whatever they want to get off their chest. I hope they do. If only to say that the CBC means something to people who don’t work for it as well, and for whatever reason.
We all like you Hubert. We have no issue with you personally. The world can always use more decency and civility, and we’re grateful for your contribution in that regard. And we’ll always be proud of you for trying.

May I encourage you to … put more energy into Newsworld, more resources, more innovation, more variety of views, and maybe just an ounce of fun. Or terabyte.
And could I entreat you, sir, to begin thinking about this today … and doing it tomorrow.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 23, 2008 at 11:30 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Lordy, lordy, Allan – hire an editor, will ya? This blablablabla post could have named that tune in about 1/3 the # of words. We know you love the sound of your own fingers typing, but gah! You give me a headache. If there’s something useful or insightful in your post, don’t buried it so! gah

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 4:22 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I didn’t really understand this one. Is the basic point that Newsworld needs to be more daring and open itself up to user-generated content?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 12:29 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    what a wanker

  4. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 6:35 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Great post Allan! I totally agree with your insight. Newsworld is like the neglected step-child that nobody wants to acknowledge yet has a clear role within the family.

    Oh, and Ouimet, it seems there’s something wrong with the ratings plugin. I can’t see the stars clearly, as if they’ve all gone white. Five stars for Allan! And five stars for his steal this show comment on another post…

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