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How would you reimagine the CBC? Add to ...

Judy Maddren, radio news host

It’s about acknowledging and celebrating our Canadian-ness. It’s about valuing our country’s story and our own individual stories. It’s about Canada’s place in the wider world. But it is not about competing for viewers, listeners and readers.

Working in CBC Radio News and now as an audio biographer, I know that we learn from stories, and we change behaviour when we hear stories that move us or shock us, or entertain us.

I also know the CBC makes us a community. No matter where you go in Canada, you are in the neighbourhood, connected during the day by the same CBC radio programs, Web pages, and to a degree, by television. If you are in Squamish, B.C., you can tune in to the same programs as the folks in Antigonish, N.S. We all become part of the Canadian story. Our neighbours in the United States don’t have that.

So my list for a re-imagined CBC would include funding for a strong news-gathering team, an emphasis on radio nationally and in our communities (radio is relatively cheap), and if there is some room in the budget, a Canadian-told and crafted array of visual news and stories on television. The CBC should be reflecting Canadians to Canadians. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” The CBC should be helping to tell all Canadians what we’ve got

Peter Klein, director of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, U.S. current affairs TV producer and documentary filmmaker

Imagine for a moment that Canada has no national broadcaster, and the government has decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build a network for the 21st century and beyond. What an exciting prospect, but where to start?

First and foremost, we’ll need some great journalists – reporters who are hungry for important stories, and can tell those stories well through a variety of media – so they should know how to report, capture video and audio, present, write and engage thoughtfully with the audience.

Let’s blanket the country with these 21st-century reporters, so they can develop local sources and find those hidden stories that mainstream news organizations are missing. Let’s package their stories by theme, location and other relevant organizing principles and present them through the medium of choice for the audience of the future – the Internet.

There will likely be good audio in many of these reports, so why not pull together some programs that can be broadcast through traditional radio waves for Canadians stuck in rush hour traffic? And “talk radio” is so popular on commercial broadcasts – what if we did a smarter version of talk radio, with cutting-edge, creative hosts. (I hear that guy from Moxy Früvous is a great interviewer – let’s check him out.)

There’s surely going to be some compelling video too, so let’s find ways of delivering video packages through streaming mobile apps and TV. And perhaps most important, let’s be careful not to replicate what everyone else is doing. This is public money, after all, so let’s spend it in the most efficient way possible.

Rudy Buttignol, president and CEO of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network Corporation; president of BBC Kids

The CBC losing NHL hockey was inevitable. In my opinion, however, the CBC’s crisis is not about money – it’s about mandate and governance.

Three public policy proposals hold the most promise for fundamental, structural change. The most essential is the elimination of all advertising. It distorts the public service mission and treats viewers as consumers to be captured and measured for the benefit of advertisers. With the elimination of advertising all other decisions will follow. That’s the job of the talented professionals; to interpret the public interest and design a relevant strategy that connects the public broadcaster to its public.

Secondly, the CBC’s president is currently a political appointment made by the federal cabinet. Instead, following best practices in contemporary governance, the CBC’s board of directors needs to be empowered to hire its chief executive. This would establish a true arm’s-length relationship between the CBC and government.

Finally, over the last three decades, it has made little difference whether the party in power is red or blue. It is clear there is no new money forthcoming from government. Instead, the CBC’s public service mandate needs to be fundamentally restructured in order to match its resources to its most important priorities.

The CBC needs to regain the trust and loyalty of all Canadians. Critics spend too much time on operational issues best left to professional management, and too little time explaining how to convince the CBC’s major stakeholder, the federal government, to make fundamental changes to its governance and mandate.

Tony Burman, former head of CBC News and Al Jazeera English. Teaches journalism at Ryerson University

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