Report Card Of The Under-Performing Coming Due

What can we now, suddenly, live without?

It’s day two of the head honchos meeting behind closed doors to resolve the CBC budget shortfall, and hardly an hour goes by without yet another news article about the good and bad and ugly of our taxpayer-subsidized national broadcaster.

There’s lots of griping, but discussing real solutions is largely avoided.
Seems no one really wants to contemplate the heretofore unthinkable; unpleasant and major changes to a Canadian Institution.
Changes that the Board thought they had a decade to affect now have to be done in just months, and an outline announced within weeks.
Regardless of what opinion one has about the content of all the CBC divisions (and the CBC will tell you that each and every division is performing outstandingly, and is very successful!, if it just weren’t for the darn economy), the only real issue on the table is how to cut between $60 to $100 million from the budget “going forward”.
The obvious options, when added up, are still inadequate.
There’s simply no easy way out.

Let’s drop Radio 3. What would that save?
$3 million?
Let’s drop Radio 2.
$10 million?
Let’s shut down the internet arm.
$50 million?

Of course I’m guessing at the numbers without referring to the annual report (which I’m convinced is always suspect anyways), but does anyone have better estimates?
Even with these broadcasts and the web connection gone there’s still a huge amount to trim.
Shut down Newsworld? But that at least brings in subscription fees.
TV broadcasts only during prime-time? Of Sophie and Being Erica?
Metro Morning Zoo? Not a chance.
Sell off real estate? Isn’t that real estate already being used by the CBC for a worthwhile purpose?
And real estate is a finite commodity, while the severity and length of the recession is still unknown.

It’s easy to say that speculating like this, when only the executives have the hard numbers, is a trivial pursuit.
But it does begin to reveal the magnitude of the task they are faced with.

14 comments:

  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:23 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    When most media outlets are racing towards mediocrity and brainless programming, the time is most appropriate for the CBC to truly distinguish itself from the pack (pact?)

    However, if the people who make the decisions are motivated by their ability to eventually re-enter the private broadcasting scene, then the future of CBC is dire, indeed.

    Having Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy air on CBC was a thought-out decision, you know?

    Some are talking sabotage…

  2. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    LeonT here, the Trotsky-inspired staffer who likes to comment on the comments. ;-)

    Some marvelous ideas here: some realistic, others ridiculous but it’s inspiring to know that people are thinking about solutions. I would say that as far as the brass are concerned, they’re not listening. And this non-response will be to their detriment as leaders.

    Here’s my rant (thanks for reading it)

    It’s time to stop chasing ratings and chase ideas.

    It’s time to let go of the old model called “broadcasting” and start serving individuals. The term for this is “narrowcasting”.

    It’s time for the management silos to come down and for all of us to participate in our future: managers, directors and staffers.

    It’s time to stop playing it safe and to take some real risks in programming and financial allocation. We are all in this together so check your ego at the door and be prepared to give up your fiefdom. (It’s not yours anyway.)

    God Bless and Good Luck!

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    First thing we do, let’s get rid of some of these managers. The manager-to-worker-bee ratio is still too high. And let’s face it, a lot of these people were made managers to get them out of the union.

    Now that we’re all getting along a bit better, we should get them back into the union, and back into programming. This will probably mean a reduction in pay. But otherwise they’re going to be managing a scrap heap.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:23 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of all the clueless baby-boomer seat-warmers. They’ll fight and kick and scream, but then a month from now they’ll all be at their cottages happy as clams.

    Young people are cheap and actually understand the new media environment. Instead of looking at this as a crisis, it should really be seen as a wonderful opportunity to get rid of a bunch of useless hangers-on all at once instead of waiting the years it would take them to leave on their own.

    Also — cutting daytime TV is a great idea. They should try just switching it off between 9 and 5 every day and see how many people even notice. My bet, is about 10.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:02 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Did anybody notice that Mansbridge is getting a new, Larger office?

    SHEESH!

  6. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 10:36 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    re: Inside the CBC, any website that can’t figure out how to change the name of its author in an RSS feed deserves to be cut. Good riddance, idiots.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 9:37 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Calling the team of journalists who work online “web geeks” is insulting and demeaning. The Internet is the future, whether you like it or not.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 9:01 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    We already tried ads on CBC Radio, we stopped in the mid-70s.

    Part of the reason we stopped was the costs associated with it: the radio sales infrastructure ate up a good chunk of the revenue, so the net gain was not enough to make it a worthwhile policy.

    And that was when CBC was well staffed. Just imagine what would happen if we tried it now.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 8:38 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    So Tod Maffin posts this on Inside the CBC yeterday and today Inside the CBC was cut!:

    by Tod Maffin (tod@insidethecbc.com) at March 16, 2009 11:15 PM

    The CBC board is meeting in Toronto today and tomorrow to figure out a strategy to deal with the CBCs revenue shortfall.

    I havent seen a single update on whats being discussed at the meetings but there are some interesting clues out there. First off the CBC is likely looking down the barrel of a massive shortfall. Dealing with it will likely involve a combination of cuts and trying to find additional revenue.

    Last week Denise Donlon, executive director of CBC Radio, made some abstract reference to monetizing CBC Radio at Canadian Music Week. This follows indications from Heritage Minister James Moore that he might be open to considering ads on CBC Radio. But even if CBC Radio opens the door to advertising in some form, it likely wont be enough to cover the shortfall.

    So expect more cuts on the way.

    What will be cut? I dont know. But it might be useful to look at some of the shows that have been axed so far: Air Farce, Sunday, Steven and Chris, Fashion File. Not that it means anything but its worth noting that all of those shows were CBC in-house productions.

  10. Farmpunk
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 6:49 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Everyone making over 150 grand takes a 20% pay cut. Everyone who makes over 100 grand takes a 15% paycut. Everyone making between 50 and 70 takes a five percent cut. Roll back the latest collective bargaining agreement for zero percent increases.

    Attempt to maintain content on radio and tv. Get the web geeks to put ALL newsgathering material online, as rewrites of the actual material gathered by journalists instead of CP re-writes.

    Sounds idiotic, but start a campaign to keep ads off radio by soliciting donations from listeners. I’d glad pay five to seven bucks a month to keep ads off the radio. Account for every dollar donated a la the World Wildlife Fund. I’ll still bitch about the programming but at least I won’t have to complain about Diet Pill ads at the same time.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 6:05 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I have to agree with the "fire the geezers" comment – but I also have to note that as part of the tv-watching general public, I wouldn't watch CBC unless it was covering a special event or "Flashpoint" was on. There's just no interest in daily programming – not to mention that pandering to housewives is, as amanda stated, very 1970s.

    If they updated instead of being stuck in the past, maybe they wouldn't be so unpopular.

    As a side note, it's interesting that this meeting is today when I saw an expensive Catering & Events company's truck pull up this morning as I was on my way to work.

  12. amanda
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 5:27 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Real Estate has a VP, while radio – part of the core mandate – doesn’t. So I’d cut that VP right away. Add a couple more senior positions in Real Estate and that’s at least half a million right there. Let the HR VP or somebody else handle it.

    Cut managers and ancillary staff before cutting people who do the actual programming and journalism. We have more accountants and HR people than we need. There’s lots of room for cost-cutting improvements: why am I still filling out time cards on paper? It’s the fucking 21st century.

    Other, less crowd pleasing ideas:

    Cut daytime TV. It’s abysmal programming anyway, there’s much to be embarrassed about. There are still channels in this country that sign on at 5:00 in the afternoon. Let’s try that. Put the savings into programming when people are actually watching, or put it into radio, where the cuts have greatly affected quality of programming.

    Or, if you’re really attached to daytime programming, we can adopt the model that used to be used in Iceland: take the entire month of July off, switch everything off and go on holiday. (And up until 1986, they only had 6 days of TV a week, Thursdays there was nothing.)

    Whatever happens with daytime, I beg the programmers to have a look at some demographics sometime. Stop aiming everything at housewives. The 70s ended a long time ago.

    Amputate failing services. Sell or abandon Sirius, Country Canada, The Documentary Channel.

    Greatly cut back any online services not immediately tied to the broadcasting mandate. Why do we employ people full time to write online news, people who don’t contribute to radio or TV? We’re not a fucking newspaper. Most of them are simply re-writing press releases anyhow.

    Cut Ron MacLean’s salary. Yeah, we tried this before. But I just don’t buy the line that ratings will go down without him. His predecessor quit without anyone noticing. The situation is less clear for Don Cherry. You could do a first class, year-round daily radio show for the price of one Ron MacLean.

    Early retirement packages. Older staff cost more (and do less). (not quite “fire the geezers”, but it’s a similar sentiment.)

    Is it really “sickening” that the minister should call for self-amputation? Yeah, this government has no time (or $) for the CBC, but most of the damage was done before they ever came around.

    We could be doing better with the resources we have. But I’ve never, ever heard a manager talk about how to do better programming. Never. All I hear is talk about “rebranding”, “repurposing”, “repositioning”, and other empty-headed powerpoint nonsense. There’s a very serious lack of leadership at this company, and it’s damaging morale and ultimately wasting money.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 4:33 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The combined salary of Don Cherry and Ron MacLean is close to $2 million. Add to that some of the salaries of other geezers who are past their prime, and you could make up the budget shortfall. That’s right. Fire the Geezers. We all know the youngins work for far less. A generational shift at the CBC can and will save the budget crisis and the identity crisis. Eject the entrenched elite and let a new crew get their hands dirty.

  14. Dwight Williams
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 2:38 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    This call for further self-amputation from the Heritage Minister makes me sick.


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