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

Sonny Assu, Montreal-based visual artist

I’m going to start off by saying: I heart the CBC! So much, in fact, that I bought a vintage CBC logo t-shirt a while back and proudly wear it from time to time. Ok, maybe I wear it a bit too much. So much, in fact, I get asked if I work for the CBC. I’ve even had some homeless folks shout at me, “Hey CBC MAN! I have something to say to you!” So maybe it’s time I retire the shirt?

Instead, here’s how would I re-imagine the CBC:

  • A separate indie music channel with world indie mixed in for depth.
  • Local community music programs, available for streaming on-line.
  • A return to local community programming. I’m not going to lie – this one is completely self-serving. I’d like to be the First Nations Bob Ross! Happy little Ovoid next to this happy little bitumen pipeline rupture...
  • Working with remote communities to create relevant content for those communities.
  • More efficient, competent, objective moderation on the CBC news website. Too much ignorance, bigotry and hate gets slipped in past the “moderators”.
  • Lengthening the arms reach of the government. Especially the current government. Not privatization, that would be disastrous.
  • Less American rebroadcasting and more original content. Broadcasters like HBO, Showcase and now Netflix are showcasing great Canadian content. If the CBC took some risks, unbuttoned its top collar a little, something other than hockey or curling could keep this important broadcaster relevant.

Partnering with a company like Netflix to create that innovative Canadian content.

Mina Shum, Vancouver-based filmmaker

There’s an unfortunate trend that’s been strangling cultural creation for too long. It’s known as “four quadrant programming.” Quadrants are the demographics of your audience broken down into four major groups: male, female, over 25 and under 25. The big tent pole franchise blockbuster movies try to serve at least three, if not four, of those quadrants. And those big studios are really good at it. I’m not sure that Canadian culture should model themselves entirely after big studios. Perhaps our private broadcasters can compete in this way, but clearly our public broadcaster cannot.

So my vision for the CBC: BE BOLD. Don’t chase the trend; start creating them. Start by specializing to hook the viewers. When asked who your audience is, don’t say “everybody.” Instead get really specific and fearless. Imagine your viewers as the smartest, funniest, emotionally aware, critically curious, deepest humans you know. And make cost-effective shows that serve them. Those specific audiences will join with others to make CBC a necessity in their lives because no other broadcaster will speak to them like you do. And if CBC becomes a necessity in more homes, that could create a wave of positive change not only for the CBC but for the country, as we become unified by the diverse yet visionary programming of our public broadcaster.

The CBC has reached the bottom of the second act in their survival tale. And like any compelling hero journey, in the bottom of the second act, in the pivotal “all is lost” moment (when all you hold dear is threatened), the hero musters up the courage to do, think, act like she’s never done before. And with this often painful but liberating change comes real transformation.

Andy Barrie, former host of Metro Morning on CBC Radio One in Toronto

Okay, this is going to be really boring. See, the fact is that every CBC I can imagine would be unimaginable unless one thing happened first: Every appointment to the CBC’s board of directors, from the president on down, must have a background in, or a passion for media, culture, technology and an understanding of how these three can combine to strengthen, educate, entertain and sustain this country. Until these patronage appointments become arms-length appointments, fuggedaboutit. Oh, yeah, you say, like Canada’s Chief Statistician and Electoral Officer? Well, at least these two men had the chance to speak truth to power while the government of the day was attempting to kneecap their institutions, and in the latter case could actually affect the electoral support of that government. Fact is, if any actually attempted to close down the CBC, they would get murderized. But reduce its presence in people’s lives incrementally, and some day those pesky people will be gone. I’m with those who believe CBC television should be like CBC radio – distinctly Canadian, commercial free, funded at a level above the pathetic crumbs it gets now (a fifth per capita of what Norway gets). But sadly, this will not happen because a former morning man wants it to. Which brings us back to the board. Imaginings are only as good as the minds that dream them. Fix the top and the rest just might follow.

Submissions have been condensed and edited.

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