Ian Morrison calls for closure of CBC Television

That’s exactly what he did – without even knowing it (or himself, apparently) – in ritually and reflexively decrying the fait-accompli revamp of CBC Radio 2.

“It’s good for CBC radio to be playing a variety of musical genres,” [Morrison] said, “but this is a radical change. It is moving away from something only the public broadcaster can do to something many private broadcasters already do.[”]

This has been the Privates’ and the Conservatives’ argument all along: The minute the CBC does something private broadcasters are doing, it isn’t a public broadcaster anymore and is no better than or different from the privates.

I am not clear why nobody calls bullshit on this line of reasoning. If taken to its logical end, all the Privates would have to do is duplicate every program category and format on CBC Television, then argue for its closure. The Privates can copy the CBC as much as they want and use it as a cudgel to attack the CBC for its lack of distinctiveness. When the CBC copies the Privates, the same argument applies.

It would be easy for CTV, Corus, and CanWest to conspire to air enough CBC-style programming to make a plausible case to a Conservative majority government to completely defund CBC Television. Remember: Under Kim Campbell’s régime, it was explicitly bruited that only CBC Radio and Newsworld were distinctive, an implicit declaration that only those two should exist. (By that reasoning, Newsworld should have been shut down the day CTV Newsnet went to air.)

This line of argumentation reaches ad absurdum status quickly, as there really are not that many possible television genres to choose from; over time, CBC must inevitably overlap the Privates and vice-versa.

At any rate, Morrison’s specific charge is false: While Moses does run a classical station, there are no private broadcasters running CBC Radio 2’s genres of music, previous, current, or upcoming.

The Radio Two makeover is also a departure from CBC’s mandate as defined by the Canadian Broadcasting Act, said Mr. Morrison.

“The Canadian public broadcaster has a responsibility to transmit world classical culture to new generations of Canadians,” he said. “They are substantially moving away from that responsibility. They falsely assume that world classical culture is not something that can be marketed to appeal to younger audiences.”

“World classical culture”? Where are my three-hours-a-weeknight shows that air nothing but tabla and Chinese pentatonics?

Anyway, Morrison is quite wrong about the requirements of the Broadcasting Act, which state that “the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains.” There is no mention of “world culture.” CBC is not required by statute to be some kind of cross-Canada WOMAD Festival.

On this count, Stursburg is right: You can’t very well be a public broadcaster without being popular. A steady diet of “world culture” didn’t even work for Bravo, let alone the Corpse.

With Friends like these, who needs frenetories?


  1. Dwight Williams
    Posted August 22, 2008 at 11:05 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Johnny: Maybe you’ve not noticed the comments I already posted elsewhere on that last subject you mentioned?

    My current feeling on that subject, diversion from the topic at hand that it is, is that it’s perhaps not the best choice CBC could’ve made. I’d heard something about a Reach For the Top revival, which might work out better than these imports.

    As to what I watch…mostly it’s News at Six – all praise to Lucy van Oldenbarneveld and the field reporters attached to her anchor desk – and Newsworld, along with The Border, Little Mosque, and the equally maligned for being imported Doctor Who. At least for the moment.

    Hoping to add more as we go.

  2. Johnny Happypants
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 6:27 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece


    Have you watched CBC TV lately? Maybe you’ve seen the 5th Estate’s monthly update on the lottery scandal or the hard-hitting documentaries about chocolate or high heels? Maybe you’ll be excited to learn Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune will be joining the schedule soon?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 3:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It can be argued that Stursburg himself is trying to shut down the CBC by dismantling everything it used to be good at thereby making the CBC increasingly irrelevant. It’s only a matter of time before the CBC is dismantled or privatized. Thanks Dick. Nicely done.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 3:17 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’ve no tears to shed about less classical on the CBC. There was too much.

    But whether or not Radio 2 is playing classical is a red herring that’s disguised the real problem with the changes so far: they’re sacrificing quality for popularity.

    And no, quality isn’t a synonym for “classical”, far from it. And quality and popularity aren’t necessarily incompatible either. But I don’t expect the team that brought you “Freestyle” to be able to navigate between them.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 3:04 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    If “popularity” could be equated with significance then “Dancing with the Stars” is Canada’s most important program.

  6. Dwight Williams
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m wondering if the obviousness of the BS-hood of such an argument for the end of CBC’s TV arm is so clear to most of CBC’S defenders that raising the counter-arguments seems a waste of energy.

    And yeah, once the private networks dedicate themselves full-time to making a profit by doing CBC’s work better than CBC does it, maybe then we can consider the idea. Provided we were absolutely certain that the private networks would keep up such behaviour once the shutdown took effect, of course.

    I don’t think either you or I has much confidence in such dedication so far, though. So long as CBC continues to find ways to outperform everyone else on the TV and radio dials and enough of the Internet, I think we ought to stick with them.

    No disrespect from me, Mr. Morrison, but – like “Fake Ouimet” – I’m convinced you’re wrong on this point.

    Stick around, though. We will need you for other stuff down the line.

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