Patrick Watson. The, Patrick Watson.

Patrick Watson’s is not the most important voice when it comes to discussing the CBC.
Yours is also important.
But for more than five decades he was one of the most talented, intelligent and principled people in the building.
And never afraid to think outside the box.

February 28, 2009 in The Globe

At a billion dollars a year of taxpayers’ money, there’s no obstacle whatsoever to the CBC’s turning itself into a genuine, distinctive service, winning loyal attention from a now-alienated group of citizens who wish they had a genuine public broadcaster instead of a money-gulping imitator of outmoded mainline commercial television (CBC Still In Limbo Over Federal Funding – Feb. 27).

If the Corp. would only address the new universe in which it lives, and limit itself to the kind of high-value drama (including classics), inventive children’s programs and in-depth documentaries of the kind with which it built its television reputation in the early days, added to what is still the best news service on the continent, recognizing that in the multichannel and Internet-swamped universe every major program can and should be repeated at least three times a week, it would have a full and enriching service and a constant and supportive audience.

Instead, it spends millions on infantile game shows we can find all across the map, and whines, embarrassingly, about its poverty. And unforgivably infringes on the commercial broadcasters’ advertising revenue. Shame. As I said in these pages four years ago, better to close ’em down and start again.

Patrick humbly signs it …

former chairman, CBC


  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Patrick Watson was a senior manager when many local CBC stations were shut down. ‘Nuff said about that.
    As for the culture of CBC..Seems things are better under Hubert…but most of not all regions are way way over managed. Too many managers collecting high pay cheques but have little respect of the workers..In fact it’s one meeting after another useless meeting to justify these managers.
    In Sask. people involved in daily programming (tv and radio) find that the place works a lot better and programming is a lot better when most of the managers are away at some all expenses conference or on holidays. is it that way elsewhere?
    Does a location like SK really need more than two managers? SAd because when the cuts come guess whose saggy asses will be saved?

  2. Allan
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 2:30 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    There’s no doubt in my mind that Patrick Watson is a brilliant man.
    From the first time I saw him perform on This Hour more than 40 years ago, I knew that I had encountered one of the smartest and most powerful broadcasters in this country.
    Like David Frost, he does it better than anyone.
    And I’ve never liked him.
    His personality just grates on me.
    But he is a masterful broadcaster.

    The CBC we have today is an immense structure of regulations, a government operation with a committee mentality that stifles passion and progress.
    Hubert is a $380,000 a year good-will ambassador and nothing more.
    He knows nothing about broadcasting.

    We’re told that the cost of production has gone up.
    You mean, by the 1.5 % in the new contract?

    We all know that the current CBC sucks.
    The CBC has gotten just plain weird with itself, and lost the support of the country.
    Not for its mandate, but for its execution of that mandate.
    And if you’re going to do something that badly for so long, how can you expect people to rally in your defense.
    The only redeeming aspect is that it keeps a lot of people employed, out of trouble and under control.
    It provides a place for carefully vetted, over-rated pencil-pushers who otherwise would be clogging up academic and other government institutions.
    It provides a place for Colin Mochrie and Shiela McCarthy and Jane Hawten to find work locally.
    Better than nothing but not good enough.
    It’s embarrassing to see how our national broadcaster has become so meaningless. And it’s not the fault of the internet.

    Can it be fixed, and how do you fix it?
    Of course it can be revived, and that starts by putting something on the air that’s worth watching and hearing.
    And using the web as a broadcaster, not as a vehicle for self-promotion and print journalism.
    And to dare to think of doing more with the opportunity that the internet affords than merely bouncing a pre-existeing signal.
    It could have become a whole new channel.

    But the CBC doesn’t think like that, and is not interested in any new ideas.
    I do like a lot of the people that work there, but I don’t like what the CBC has become.
    A compromise, going nowhere.
    And nothing says compromise and going nowhere more than The Hour and Newsworld..
    Dragons, Little Mosque and Mercer are the gems, the rest is shallow, forgettable fluff.
    Radio 2 and 3 are trivial luxuries that no one in Canada would miss or picket to keep in operation.

    The CBC is a closed shop that for too long has been holding the country back.
    Its management has no vision, and no real confidence.
    They justify themselves with costly surveys, instead of inspiring leadership in the field of public broadcasting.
    Impact and relevance, and even any entertainment value has been replaced with playing it safe and politically correct, and not offending the scary Stephen Harper who acts like he controls the pursestrings on what is acceptable behaviour. Consistently in his own interests, and not the country’s.
    But the fault lies more with the CBC in not standing up for itself.
    Spirited, creative, free thinking and innovation has been discouraged by smug, self-satisfied wimps, and that’s why we’ll always envy Americans and rather be working in New York and LA than this God-forsaken wasteland that puts a muzzle on all attempts at being dynamic and expressive.

    And I think Tom Green would agree.
    And that’s why a brilliant man like Patrick sits outside the CBC instead of on the air.
    While someone upstairs thinks Avi Lewis and Evan Solomon are interesting.
    And that Newsworld can be run by looping left-overs from The National instead of original live programming.

    Shame on the CBC.
    Yes, wipe it out and start again.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I agree with much of the sentiment, but “high-value” drama costs a lot more to produce now than it did in Patrick’s day.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:58 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “It may not show in programming; but it shows in people.”

    What people inside the Corpse don’t seem to get is that only the first matters. Canadians could care less how happy or sad you are as you collect your check. They just want better programming.

  5. Malachi Constant
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:03 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’d have thought that a former CBC insider would have something more insightful that ‘usual’ tired old blather about how we have to change but can’t because we are somehow shackled by institutional inertia; then list a bunch of things we SHOULD be doing but can’t because we are either too myopic, don’t really understand the business or our crayons all melted together and we can’t proceed.

    Mr. Watson’s credibility as a journalist is second to none; but talented journalists are usually really, really bad managers. It’s great to have all this institutionally-generated integrity that makes our journalists think their shit don’t smell because it was vetted; but who wants that in the boss’s chair?

    It’s a commonly held view that Watson sucked as chairman; so why should we listen to him now? We shouldn’t. For one thing, he seems to have napped through the gutting of the bureaucracy that happened in the 90’s. There is no central bureaucracy holding us back anymore. He and the others who parrot that tired theme are stuck in the previous century. That CBC exists no more.

    Hubert has taken the CBC a long, long way in just one year. It may not show in programming; but it shows in people. Out on the floor, people speak highly of Hubert. But more telling is within the union, where he is held in very high regard.

    All media outlets are struggling with technology, content delivery, content, people, money and how to keep the lights on when people can just download your content free off the internet.

    Meantime, if you have any actual ideas that could actually be useful to someone actually currently employed at the CBC you should go ahead post them here (actually). Those of us who remember you would rather remember the top-drawer journalist Patrick Watson than the cranky-ranty-old-guy Patrick Watson.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Patrick, Patrick…what you are stating is merely symptoms of the real problems. After all – you of all people should know that although a magic trick may look obvious in it's appearance, understanding it & accomplishing it effectively requires alot of hidden skill & knowledge in which so often the details are unknown to the many spectator (viewers).
    Patrick I will let you in on something :The CBC's internal culture has recently changed direction & for the better. Now in fact it's the political stage act affecting it that has to be re-written ….. after all Cdns know the ''Show must go On'' .
    So for those who do not support the public broadcaster…. well they can simply view the other ailing privates and but also should then put their money where their mouths are and go out & buy shares and RRSP funds to support these private networks in order to support their presently similar financially woes – I DOUBT IT ! You know For $34 a year a Canadian is getting not only a Free TV signal from CBC but also Cdn entertainment & Cdn content and on many many of it's platforms. I do not see the privates allowing other Canadians do the same as they soon plan to shut soon down their analogue transmitters and DO NOT Convert to digital Free TV as all Americans recently did and thus able to enjoy HD for free. These Cdn privates soon will force all Cdns to have to pay $ 50 /month just to be able to view from their own Parent owned satellite company. $$$$$$$
    As for me I like my CBC and I also enjoy having a choice of paying for private networks viewing if i so desire for something different than Cdn.

  7. Fake Ouimet
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 12:31 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Mm, sure ’“ and run wall-to-wall kids’™ soccer games, as he recommended last time.

    And by ’śclose down,’ťÂ does he mean sell all the buildings, fire every employee, strip all equipment, and relinquish all broadcast licences?

    Why are we listening to this crank? Because, before some of us were born, he was some kind of executive?

  8. Anonymous
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 9:43 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    He is correct. It is too big and unwieldy, with too many morons in senior management to change. It has to be shut down and built again from scratch.

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