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CBC Needs To Get Rid Of 'Q,' Not Hire A New Host

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Last week, the CBC announced a new host for its arts and culture show "q," in an attempt to keep the flailing program alive. Tom Power, who already has multiple shows on CBC Radio 2, will be the second person in less than 16 months tasked with an impossible mission: to make Canadians forget that the show was hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

In case you need a reminder, the program's ratings are in the toilet after founding host Ghomeshi was fired from the show, accused of punching, choking and harassing multiple women and then prosecuted unsuccessfully for sex assault.

Last year, the Canadian rapper Shadrach Kabango (Shad) was tapped to fill the very hot seat, and -- surprise surprise -- ratings have since dropped by almost 25 per cent. Some critics have blamed his lacklustre interview style and, admittedly, Shad did stick too closely to a script. But CBC doesn't need a more experienced and dynamic host. It needs a new show. Regardless of who takes the reins, "q" will always be a reminder of Ghomeshi's downfall.

The network's attempt to "rebrand" after Ghomeshi were a joke. The original "Q" changed case to "q" -- which I like to think nods at the fact the old host was an uppercase egomaniac. The theme music changed, the characteristic opening essays were scrapped and Ghomeshi's signature "Happy [insert day of the week]" was replaced with "Hey what's up, I'm Shad."

But the time slot, format and line-up of celebrity guests on promotional tours stayed the same. In other words, the Mother Corp figured it could slap a new face on "q" and listeners would just forget about those sexual assault and workplace harassment allegations.

"Q" lowercase is the literal embodiment of how CBC management tried to minimize its Ghomeshi problem, but for listeners the show and its original host are inextricably linked.

No one can excel at hosting a show that was tailored to a man many associate with allegations of violence against women.

What made "Q" successful, beyond its amazing team of producers, was that it perfectly catered to Ghomeshi's skill set and interests. "Q" was created in 2007 to make Ghomeshi a radio star and evolved over the years according to his strengths and desires. By the time women began to publicly accuse him of sexual assault, almost two years ago, it was impossible to separate the show from the man.

Ghomeshi's legacy doesn't mean CBC can't have another successful arts and culture show. But the network needs to create a different program, with a new name, free of its predecessor's nightmarish shadow. If "The Cosby Show" were still running today, entertainment execs wouldn't hire another lead actor, call it "The Crosby Show" and hope the theme song didn't make people think of quaaludes and rape. They would call it quits.

What CBC must do for Power -- and should have done for Shad -- is what it did for Ghomeshi almost a decade a ago. The producers could work with Power to find which formats best showcase his vast musical knowledge and wicked Newfoundland sense of humour. To come across as natural, Power will need the freedom to geek out about the topics he loves rather than rely on old segments and longtime guests. Belatedly, CBC seems to be headed in this direction with Shad, who is set to develop a new program "that plays to his strengths and passion for music," albeit not in a primetime slot.

CBC is too focused on recapturing "q"'s past success. No one can excel at hosting a show that was tailored to a man many associate with allegations of violence against women. The network may consider it overly risky to deviate from a once-popular formula, but the bigger risk is to alienate listeners with a program that should have left the building along with its host.

This column previously appeared in the Ottawa Citizen

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