Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Jennifer McGuire, seen here on Aug. 1, 2017, was responsible for English-language news content and programming across the public broadcaster’s multiple platforms.

Fred Lum

Another week, another fuss about the CBC. In a confusing and ceaselessly changing world, it’s heart-warming that you can rely on a fuss about CBC coming at regular intervals.

On this occasion it’s the abrupt departure of Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News since 2009. McGuire was responsible for English-language news content and programming across the public broadcaster’s multiple platforms. The announcement came on Thursday and McGuire’s last day was Friday.

What’s that about? Probably the mess that has been the tinkering with The National. If only CBC-TV’s flagship news broadcast had as many viewers as there are Twitter warriors claiming Liberal bias on CBC’s part. But it doesn’t. The National is now a zombie newscast, half-dead and lurching along.

Story continues below advertisement

In the larger picture, I will assert here what I told a group of journalism students (I was a guest speaker, not a prof.) last month: CBC TV is at its weakest point in a generation. It also has the weakest leadership in a generation, in president Catherine Tait and in Barbara Williams, vice-president of English services in charge of English-language TV, radio and digital services. Look at the needless confusion over production deals with Netflix. Plus the frantic attempts to establish Family Feud Canada as a money-making hit. Look at the parking of CBC documentaries – the CBC’s jewels – in the worst possible time slots. And look at those endless adjustments to The National. All these factors suggest a leadership that is clueless.

Into the frame, of course, come the people with radical solutions for CBC. Writing in the Toronto Star, former CBC News executive Tony Burman quotes with approval a new book, The End of the CBC?, written by journalism professors David Taras and Christopher Waddell. The gist of the suggested radical makeover of CBC is this – get rid of sports, cancel drama and scrap advertising.

Now, I have a lot of time for Tony Burman and respect his achievements and views. But: No, no and no. The last thing this country needs is a CBC aiming to please journalism professors.

In the matter of sports CBC TV should have Olympics coverage and coverage of our national men’s and women’s teams. Canadian taxpayers fund a great deal of sports in Canada and the very idea that the public broadcaster can dodge coverage of what we fund is reprehensible. In particular the public broadcaster should be offering more, not less, women’s sports. That’s part of its public-service job.

Recently, CBC TV has a poor record in drama and a middling record in comedy. But throwing away the production of both genres is madness. A vast ecosystem, a workforce of creative people in Canada, depends on CBC TV production. The real issue with CBC TV drama and comedy is mediocrity. As I’ve often pointed out, what exactly has Canada contributed to this golden age of excellence on TV? Almost nothing.

The fact is, current CBC top management has no grasp of excellence. A less radical solution to what the two J-school professors suggest, is doing less drama but aiming for greatness. If that means quality over quantity, fine. Besides, I’m not sure Los Angeles has room enough to hold the vast army of bitter Canadian creatives who would assemble there if CBC TV cancelled scripted programming.

Getting rid of advertising on CBC TV sounds peachy. But the sudden loss of revenue would be catastrophic. There are other solutions. In Germany the public broadcaster ZDF has limited advertising and sponsorship but they still exist as additional sources of funding. Commercials are legally restricted to a maximum number of minutes per day on weekdays, and no commercials are broadcast after 8 p.m. or on Sundays and public holidays. How hard can it be to move toward that model with CBC TV?

Story continues below advertisement

Since the BBC was launched almost 100 years ago, and then other countries launched their own public-broadcasting services, politicians and public intellectuals have endeavored to diminish publicly funded broadcasters, or control them. It’s hard to know, in Canada, whether the politicians or the public intellectuals have done the most damage. Right now, with the fuss about the departure of CBC’s top news executive, one could say the damage is being done from within.

As a journalist, a citizen and a taxpayer I believe firmly in the importance of our public broadcaster. This country would be impoverished intellectually and culturally without it. It needs to be better and better-run. Do-better isn’t the most radical solution, but it’s the best, heart-warming hope.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies