Wade Rowland has worked in senior editorial and management positions at both the CBC and CTV network news divisions, and in CBC television current affairs. He is a former Maclean Hunter Chair of Ethics in Media at Ryerson University, and is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at York University in Toronto. He is author of a dozen non-fiction books, including Spirit of the Web, Ockham's Razor, Galileo's Mistake, Greed, Inc., and Saving the CBC: Balancing Profit and Public Service. HIs latest book, Canada Lives Here: The Case for Public Broadcasting will be released in August 2015 .
The television surrogate in its current form is a new phenomenon. These individuals are not so much supporters of their respective candidates as paid avatars: their job is not to simply express support, but to represent, verbatim if possible, the position of the candidate and the campaign managers.
My advice to CBC brass is to not pick a replacement for Mansbridge just yet, but go back to the drawing board and see if they can design a new way to report the news that will address real journalistic concerns facing the nation, rather than simply reapplying lipstick to a format that needs to be retired along with its icon.
The "reality" of public broadcasting, in principle at least, is that it exists precisely in order to provide a service that is not a commercial, for-profit undertaking. It is intended to be distinctive, to be free from the influence of vested interests either commercial or governmental, and to serve its audiences as citizens rather than as consumers.
The CBC's decision to air the Tragically Hip's farewell concert Saturday was a stroke of public broadcasting genius. Better than almost any event one could imagine, it demonstrated the power of a national public broadcaster to bring a nation together to celebrate its shared values, to honour its prodigies, to connect.
Bell Media's brusque announcement that it is killing Canada AM represents more than the loss of a morning news and current affairs program with a 40-year legacy. It is further evidence that private television, now in the hands of a clutch of corporate behemoths, is no longer in the business of serving the public interest.
It is a sad coincidence that Maurice Strong has died on the eve of another ambitious attempt, this time in Paris, to come to grips with global environmental crises that have become ever more grave. We can only hope that a reinvigorated diplomatic corps inspired by fresh political leadership will once again do our country proud.
Canadians of all political stripes have voiced their overwhelming support for the public broadcaster. But the voices of advocates are all but absent from mainstream media. Unless the parties themselves and their leaders are prepared to engage in open, competitive debate on the future of our public broadcaster -- our single most important cultural institution -- there is no hope of anything more than the minimal measures of support being offered in the Liberal and NDP platforms from being realized. And the Conservatives will continue to dream of dismantling the institution which has for generations appealed to our better angels, and done so much to make us who we are.
In an election campaign that is extraordinary in so many ways, one of the more noteworthy changes is that there could be as many as five English-language leadership debates. More surprising and perplexing still is the way the CBC has abdicated its obligation as our public broadcaster to provide coverage of these events. The CBC, with its unparalleled household penetration, was not among the motley assemblage of television and web outlets that carried the initial Rogers-produced debate last week, nor will it be involved in the Globe and Mail/Google/YouTube effort next month.
It's time to end this perverse nonsense, to put CBC television back on the rails producing objectively high-quality programs to serve audiences both as citizens and consumers, enriching rather than impoverishing their lives. We know how to accomplish this: the senate committee archives are stuffed with sane, solid suggestions, almost none of which showed up in the report released last week. Yes, it will cost some money, but what price do we put on the maintenance of democratic values, the spread of education, and the promotion of cultural literacy?
Integrity in this context means that what you see is what you get. In the immediate aftermath of Evan Solomon's dismissal by CBC, lots of people wanted to know why him, and not Amanda Lang or Peter Mansbridge? If there is an answer to this (and I'm not sure there is) then it lies in issues of transparency.
The CBC brass, apparently stung by criticism of its plans to pull out of production and focus on digital, mobile media, has taken to lashing out at its critics in an unseemly way. The latest example was posted Thursday night on the corporate website, and it is highly revealing.
Mr. Lacroix and his senior management team, and the Board of Directors -- each in law and precedent charged with defending public broadcasting in this country -- should resign, and call for an immediate and complete rethinking of CBC/Radio-Canada's untenable financing and governance. Then maybe, this problem can be sorted out.
In assessing the health of both public and private broadcasters based on several criteria including revenues and program quality the health of the private sector was found to be directly correlated with the health of the public broadcaster.
As the CBC and its supporters search with growing urgency for solutions to the public broadcaster's critical funding problems, an idea gaining some traction is that CBC television be dismantled, and spun off into a clutch of subscription-based cable specialty channels.
Given that, in poll after poll, Canadians have expressed the view that the CBC/Radio-Canada is a public good that is both desirable and necessary, the solution to the market failure ought to be obvious: it is to provide the money necessary for the CBC. To do that will mean eliminating advertising on all CBC services, and boosting the public subsidies.
Aside from the bogus gesture toward maintaining "a Canadian cultural icon," the emphasis throughout the list of "benefits" emanating from the Rogers-NHL deal is focused entirely on protection of advertising revenue. But at what cost? The fact is that the only strategy that can save CBC television is one that makes it distinctive and relevant.
As predicted in this space several months ago, the CBC has lost the rights to NHL hockey to Rogers media. Without hockey and the 320+ hours of Canadian content it provides, CBC will now have to go back to square one and figure out what it is supposed to be. It has the opportunity, now, to become what it should have been all along: a publicly-subsidized broadcaster serving its audience as citizens rather than as consumers. With the CRTC currently in the process of re-thinking the entire broadcast regulation environment and seeking public input, this may be the best opportunity in a generation to finally do something to rescue the CBC from oblivion, on both television and radio.
Given basic agreement on the unfair competition and market interference issues, all that remains to be settled is how, exactly, our admittedly "important" public broadcaster should be funded. Here's how. Remove all advertising from CBC radio and television and hand the entire market in commercials over to the private broadcasters.
There is more to be said about Andrew Coyne's suggestion that CBC television ought to be dismantled, and spun off into a constellation of self-supporting cable specialty channels so that viewers could select what they wanted to subscribe to, rather than paying for the public broadcaster as a monolithic institution. In suggesting that CBC become a collection of subscription-based channels, Coyne fails to see that the same market dynamic is at work there as in advertising-supported TV -- i.e. the need to maximize audiences as a way of achieving peak profits.