CBC & The Arts: They’re really not that into it

For all the pretensions the CBC makes about being into “the arts”, you really have to turn anywhere else to find out what’s going on.
You can walk into HMV and see new Canadian artists, new movies and new video games being released every week.
Over to the World’s Biggest Book Store and you’ll see a dozen new titles and nearly a hundred magazines. New books about Canadian politics and culture, new come-ons on the covers of Maclean’s, Hello and Walrus.

But for a TV and radio broadcaster that’s on the air 24 hrs. a day, how much of any of these items and news about them do you ever hear or see on the CBC?
Almost the entire arts coverage of the CBC has to do with what falls into their lap, and absolutely nothing about going out and getting stories and keeping viewers up to date.
If a business wants to sell something, and issues a formal press release or invites reporters to a rented venue for tuna sandwiches and champagne, the CBC, along with the other lazy media sheep, is happy to oblige and report/promote the product with a mention on the air.
It gives them easy, digestible content, and at the end of the day, they feel they’ve done everyone a favour.

What if all journalists and reporters went about their duties in such a way?

I open up iTunes on my computer and see a section titled “Canadiana.”
Click on it, and a whole world of new releases appears.

But 99% of what’s out there will never make it to air, because the CBC doesn’t care. It’s too much work.
For all the varied products and entertainments that comprise my leisure life and the interest of most of the adults I know, they might as well not even exist from what I see and hear reflected by the CBC.
For a channel called Newsworld, it seems to live in a very narrow world.
Will they tell me what the top selling songs in Canada are, let alone play short clips from each?
Does any reporter ever go into a bookstore and just randomly discuss the many new titles on display?
Is there a regular technology feature that previews and explains new and current products? What’s selling big this week?
The strategy of the CBC seems to be that if I want to know about new books then I should listen to Radio 1.
If I want to know what that “Propaghandi” CD is all about I guess I’m supposed to listen to Radio 2 or 3.

By fragmenting into so many different platforms, the CBC has taken the approach that human beings are one-dimensional, and obsessed with only one thing, to the exclusion of all others.
How is that any kind of realistic approach to a real world and real people?


  1. Paul Sham
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 10:51 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I understand what you’re saying about being fully informed. But when you say “fully informed” where would that actually end? At what point will programming become too encompassing, and lack too much depth?

    Also, unfortunately, when I read “Do Radio 2 audiences have no interest in public affairs?” my initial reaction was “No. They don’t.”

    I don’t think audiences are like that. Everybody has their favourite section of the newspaper, or the few specialty cable channels that they enjoy watching. It’s an unfortunate thing, but that’s what I think audiences are these days.

    Hurray niches and fragmentation! (/sarcasm)

    I understand that people should care about public affairs, and the CBC should try to get people more informed. It is the role of media, right?

    The only solution for me is to subscribe to a variety of programming and media.

  2. Allan
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Seriously, do you get the impression that Newsworld jumps out of bed each morning looking forward to all the exciting and surprising news that each new day holds?

    If a reader is confused then I’ve already failed.
    But I hope it’s not that bad.

    That’s the thing about media. You don’t think of what you’re missing. You only think about what’s right in front of you. (when I say you I mean we).
    We hear a radio show or watch a telecast (news) and we don’t think about the parts that were left out. Human nature, I guess.

    I don’t consider Q an even remotely adequate “arts coverage” program.
    More like a moment that’s an extension of art.
    There’s more to a day in art than an hour with Burton Cummings or with David Foster or a 15 min. interview with an obscure author, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s more like a “special” than arts coverage.
    And “Q” seems better suited to Radio 2.

    And the musical interludes on Metro Morning are just a joke to me. Someone is really kidding themselves that this is either desired or useful.
    I think we all know that the real purpose is the give a moment for the many announcers to catch their breath. They work so hard, you know.

    There’s a place on CBC that keeps you fully informed? Or do you not find yourself learning about creative expression from other sources?

    Do Radio 2 audiences have no interest in public affairs?
    Isn’t The Point more suited to Radio 2 as well?
    And without a public affairs component isn’t Radio 2 just celebrity muzak?

    So where do you go if you’re into the New York Times bestseller list and the shelves of Indigo?
    To the CBC?
    Oh right. As long as it’s a Canadian book that’s part of a contest you’ll be totally and fully informed. For a month, about a handful of books! Because that’s all that matters to the we-want-to-connect-with-as-many-Canadians-as-possible CBC.
    And because they have plenty of money, they’ll use entire platforms to serve each genre.
    Instead of one service that reflects as much diversity and as many interests and as much news as possible.

  3. Paul Sham
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 6:26 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m confused as to what issue you’re trying to highlight. Are you unhappy with CBC’s arts coverage? Or are you unhappy that the CBC is offering a fragmented platform?

    If you’re looking for arts coverage, I think Q is a good arts program. I listen to it in podcast format.

    In terms of a fragmented platform, I think audiences are fragmented these days. How would you suggest they approach it?

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