A Fulford Fix

Having just turned 77, Robert Fulford is so behind the times, he still has an email address at the U of T.
But you’d be hard pressed to find a more rational view of the CBC these days than his recent blog Post.
Here it is in full, because you won’t want to miss a word.
And here’s a brief excerpt:

Canada’s public broadcaster is an on-air bureaucracy

For now, at least, change will have to come from inside. That’s just as well, because that’s where the problems lie. The most profound failures, in style and attitude and ambition, can be found among CBC employees, both junior and senior, and the corporate culture they have jointly created. It’s true the government sometimes interferes and has always burdened the corporation with far more tasks than it can be expected to accomplish. But that’s nothing beside the self-created atmosphere in which CBC employees work.

They are over-managed and over-manipulated, wretched servants of focus groups and demography charts. So far as a viewer and a listener can tell, they are not excited about their work and do not expect that we will be. Many crucial figures among them are pure managers who could work anywhere with equal satisfaction. They lack the animation that comes from a belief that what you are doing is unique and valuable.

In mass communications, which demands spontaneity and imagination, they show little originality and barely a hint of daring. This comes through when they acknowledge, condescendingly, that they are appealing to the young. The melancholy results usually appear to be the work of 30-year-olds instructed by 45-year-olds on how to appeal to 20-year-olds.

Broadcasters who came to the CBC with dreams of making great programs instead find themselves conscripted into a nightmare of sclerotic bureaucracy in which everything matters more than broadcasting. What counts most is the endless, baffling shuffle of titles and responsibilities, a byzantine turf warfare.

To work at the CBC is to live in a world of memos, usually concocted by bosses whose insecurity dictates that they write in incomprehensible gibberish. Memos explain that the bosses want to “Ensure that all managers have development plans based on leadership competencies according to identified timelines,” which are “part of ongoing efforts to better align resources and workflow with evolving needs.” (I’ve lifted two sentences from two different — but both actual — CBC memos.) The tone is deadening, joyless, self-defeating.

We can see the results on The National, the news flagship of CBC television, an emblem of all that’s wrong. The journalists delivering the news are afflicted with an emotional flatness that seems to be built into the regulations. Feeling has been so carefully banished that every story is delivered in the same tone, right down to the sing-song ending. Journalists manage a thin smile when there’s an item intended to be amusing and pull a long face when describing death. That’s their emotional range, A to B. They apparently imitate the sternest and dullest of the U.S. network journalists. They look as if they’re terrified that something bad will happen — not in the news, but to them.

Richard Stursberg, the vice-president of English-language services, knows the CBC culture has to change and hopes to lead the revival. Despite his curious habit of declaring programming triumphs that nobody else has noticed, he’s emerged as an average executive with average plans whose results will be average, if that. The only hope of those dreaming about a resurrected CBC is that there are fresh and largely unknown talents sprouting inside the corporation and that their up-from-below pressure will eventually work serious changes. No one else is going to do it.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 9:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Dimensions?

    “Marshall Delaney” the persona that he used for media (movie critic) was always out with the small Toronto literate circles, because he never attended university, entering the sports ring of the Globe from high school.
    He did teach a few courses at Rye High when it was a lowly tech ‘institute’
    And the UofT association is the usual rescue of the down and out (Preston Manning, Margaret Atwood, etc.) between jobs at Massey College, loosely attached to UofT, and giving fake prestige to the wanker John Fraser.

    And the Clay Shirky article has been generally demolished within a week though it did generate a lot of noise on the East coast of America.

  2. Ouimet
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Here’s an artifact from the archives:
    http://teamakers.blogspot.com/2006/09/home-sweet-deconstructivist-home.html

    Ouimet on Fulford, with a cameo by fake Ouimet.

  3. Allan
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 7:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I though it was a remarkable piece. Everything else I read is usually in large part flag waving.
    I agree that this pressure from below is a kind of wishful thinking.
    Isn’t that like hoping Clinton would legalize marijuana? By the time the current generation gets into power they’ve ben so condition to conform that they just duplicate what they replaced.
    Still, this was hitting closer to the target than most.
    The CBC desperately needs new voices and a new attitude. Not necessarily as a replacement, as much as an extension.
    The Corps looks to a new generation to take over, but look what they’ve relegated that generation to doing.
    Call a national meeting for all who want to start CBC Version 2.

  4. Ouimet
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    This is a scathing piece. He’s generally right.

    “The only hope of those dreaming about a resurrected CBC is that there are fresh and largely unknown talents sprouting inside the corporation and that their up-from-below pressure will eventually work serious changes.”

    This is where he falters. The CBC has always had plenty of fresh and unknown talent. And it was in spite of the bureaucracy that you ever heard of them. That’s how the CBC has always worked. This tension between the bureaucracy and creativity has been the hallmark of its existence.

    To hope that some kind of mysterious “upward pressure” will knock over a system that took decades and millions of dollars to build is a little optimistic.

    Believe me. I tried.

  5. Vigilante
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 3:09 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    @ Anon 4:45…

    Whatever works for you, Fucktwaddle.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    … may I infer that one who attempts to insult should pay more attention to their own non-verbal amplitude?

    No, you can’t. But you can imply it.

  7. Allan
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    U of T addresses just remind me of the internet pre-1995.
    Consider it a very misguided attempt to say that you don’t have to Twitter your day away to be considered in touch with the times, as he proves by directing his remarks at the very target that consumes much of the discussion here at Tea Makers.
    I scan a lot of articles about the CBC, getting a sense of what the vocal hordes are saying in the nooks and crannies of the web.
    at the CBC web …
    Managers must post departmental priorities and related performance indicators in the appropriate section of the portal.
    at the CBC blog …
    Why do I keep hoping Ill have a meaningful career with this company? Caring deeply about strong journalism and reporting seems more and more stupid, with each day that goes by.
    So it’s old man Fulford, and none of the three talking heads on the At Issue panel, that speaks more in tandem with my own sense of what ails the CBC.
    He even lays its troubles at the feet of Strursberg, exactly where it belongs.

    (fun AND fiesty, Vig!)

  8. Dwight Williams
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anon.: Some of us who’ve never been to university know full well what “emeritus” means.

    Hoping we can get back on track re: discussing Fulford’s actual comments, particularly whether or not he’s right to believe what he’s said here.

  9. Vigilante
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, well, well. The “invalid apostrophe” ilk will suffice since I’m looking to pick a fight.

    Dear Anon 2:59,

    You stupid twat. Of course he knows Robert would be considered “emeritus”. Is there a passage that says “former guy who once was at U of T”? NO. If Allan had chosen to use the word “emeritus” then I suggest that he would have done so.

    With regards to your high and mighty-ness, may I infer that one who attempts to insult should pay more attention to their own non-verbal amplitude?

    “Ahem” should have received the same starry treatment.

    Fucktwaddle.

    Then again, what should one expect from a guy when his Mother couldn’t afford to add a second consonant to her child’s name?

  10. Anonymous
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Having just turned 77, Robert Fulford is so behind the times, he still has an email address at the U of T.

    *Sigh*

    It’s called “emeritus”. If you, ahem, had an actual university education you would be familiar with the concept. And perhaps have a better understanding of apostrophes.

  11. Vigilante
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey, now. Robert Fulford is not BEHIND the times. He’s waiting for history to repeat itself. Which it inevitably does, therefore he’s in the future. Somewhere. Depends on which demention you’re looking at.

    (Aww, come on now, Allan! You’re making me hate on Robert. And I LOVE Robert. He’s all fuzzy ‘n shit, he’s awesome!)

    Where was I? Oh, yeah. Did I mention Robert was a fan of The Hour?

    Should I highlight the “was”?

    (And should I put “demention” in quotes? You never know with the ilk that reads this nowadays. I can’t be bothered with those emails, you know the ones, “You suck because you can’t spell”. The ones that have missed the boat and roll with water-wings…)


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