Sunday, May 6, 2007

Found: A CBC Blog Site!

If you have been following this blog until this point, you will have seen that I have been requesting a CBC Radio Two web site where listeners can post their feedback on the new CBC Radio Two evening programming. I have made this request in my feedback via the "Tell Us What You Think" link on the CBC Radio Two web site and in my letters to Ms. Jennifer McGuire and Ms. Jane Chalmers (and in subsequent letters to Mr. Robert Rabinovitch, which I promised to describe on Monday). Well, lo and behold, there is such as site! I only found it today through some obscure combination of search terms on Google which I neglected to record - however, the site is called "Inside the CBC". It claims to be "The official blog of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation". And yet there is also the following disclaimer:

Inside the CBC is penned by the CBC's technology columnist Tod Maffin. Content here is neither reviewed nor approved by CBC management prior to posting.

And in the "About this Blog" section we may read the following:

Is this really the CBC's official blog?


Yes, this is the official blog for the English media side of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It's meant primarily as a blog for employees, but it's open to the world and you're welcome to join our discussions!

Well, Jesus Murphy! Is it or is it not the "Official Blog of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation"? There's no link to it (that I can find - it may be cleverly hidden) from the cbc.ca web site, and as I mentioned above, I only stumbled upon it through an unlikely search in Google. It seems CBC wants to have a blog which they can, at any time, disavow any knowledge of. "Plausible denial", indeed!

Now, I would not want any of the above to be construed as criticism or a personal attack on Mr. Tod Maffin. I applaud Mr. Maffin's activities in apparently creating and maintaining this web site. What I find immensely irritating is that a web site can be created to solicit the opinion of CBC listeners, and yet it has to be done by the CBC through what appears to be a "skunk works" project initiated by the CBC's technology columnist - thus proving that it can be done, and should be done, if only the CBC would permit it. Now, I come to the most interesting point.

Mr. Maffin also asks the following question in the "About this Blog" page:


Why would the CBC want to put a blog about itself up?

I think they listened to the many employees who said communication could be more direct. And the public, I always felt, wanted the CBC to have more of a human tone. We're not a big faceless corporation, we're a creative group of cool people and maybe this will help showcase some of what they do and what you're doing too.

As well, there aren't really any real-time mechanism for executives to hear directly from the audience on specific topics, shy of weekly audience-reaction reports or focus groups. Now, they can click onto a posting and read your comments any time they like. Er, maybe with a brandy or something. They might need it.


Well, Mr. Maffin sure has hit the nail on the head. There are no real-time mechanisms for executives to hear directly from the audience - except from this hidden web site, that only the dedicated - or outraged - CBC Radio listener can find. And if they don't like what they read, they can say that they haven't read it! Because they didn't know about it! Plausible denial just became that much more plausible.

On this web site Mr. Tod Maffin asked the question: "The new CBC Radio 2 evening schedule: what do you think?" Apparently, the question was posed to those few who were aware of this web site's existence on March 20th, 2007. And did the responses come in! By April 10th, there were 76 posts in response to Mr. Tod Maffin's question. I tallied the results, classifying the comments as either "Positive", "Negative", "Neutral" or "Confused" (where I was unable to discern any meaningful comment). Here are the results:


Positive: 10
Negative: 56
Neutral: 8
Confused: 1


You will notice that the above results do not add up to 76 - this is because one contributor made a follow-up clarification to a comment that I am not including in the above totals.

When I found this (today, May 6, 2007) I thought: Great! Now I have a forum to voice my opinions! And yet I was once again thwarted in my attempts to voice an opinion to the CBC when I found that posting in response to this question is now closed. "What the hell is this?" I thought. Here is a web site soliciting opinions, but is there a statute of limitations on opinions? Did the CBC management finally crack down on Mr. Tod Maffin, telling him that freedom of expression was just fine, as long as there was not too much of it and as long as it agrees with the CBC's already-implemented policies?

When I started reading these posts I thought many of the responses would lament the demise of "Music for Awhile" and "In Performance", just as I had. But I was surprised at the number of comments that mentioned "After Hours", "Brave New Waves" , "Two New Hours" and "Northern Lights". It appears that CBC Radio has been very democratic in implementing these programming changes - everyone has been made equally unhappy, no matter their race, creed, colour, ethnic origin or taste in music. Bravo, CBC!

Have a look at the comments. My favourite is from John on March 21st:

You didn’t know I was out there.
I’ve sent cards, letters and emails since the 60’s. I told you often the things I liked, the things you produced with excellence and on occasion shows that missed your generally high standards.
But you didn’t know I was out there.
Now you’ve taken the Public money, and with your best navel gazing, have decided that I need a tonic, a remedy, to drug me into a world class media mediocracy.
I am leaving.
I will write my cards, letters and emails to my elected representatives. They know I am here.
At first you won’t miss me…you didn’t even know I was out there.


Poetry, John. Pure poetry.

7 comments:

Linda Rogers said...

While the program Two New Hours was still on the air, CBC management closed down their discussion list as it was a focal point for discussion of the changes at CBC. The MoreNewHours list was born as a result. You can sign up or read ther archives at: http://www.mailman.srv.ualberta.ca/mailman/listinfo/morenewhours

Allan said...

insidecbc is heavily censored, and not representative of public opinion.

Mr. Maffin employs his own idea of ethics in what the public may be exposed to and not.

It's now August.
What happened to your promise to tell us about your correspondence with the President of the CBC?

Allan said...

Why did you not take your concerns and ignored letters to the Ombudsman?

Allan said...

There are, incidentally, other CBC blog sites.

If insidecbc is the official site, then Tea Makers is the unofficial site.

Many more are listed at planet cbc.

James Wooten said...

Hi Allan,

Thanks for your comments.

I was aware of the Tea Makers site - the site author was kind enough to mention my blog in May. I should return the favour.

As for planet CBC, I'll check it out and add links on my blog, if they're appropriate.

James

James Wooten said...

Hi Allan,

As you may see, I am responding to your comments in the reverse order that you left them.

Your comment about the CBC Ombudsman is an interesting one, and I had planned to write to the Ombudsman. However, when you go to the page on the Ombudsman's site to make a comment, you are presented with the following information:

"The CBC's Office of the Ombudsman deals with complaints about information programming.

If your complaint involves Sports, Arts, Entertainment or Children's programming, or if you have comments to make or questions to ask about CBC programming in general, please visit the CBC Contact page at www.cbc.ca/contact.

Complaints should be in writing. Please indicate the name of the program and whether it was on CBC Radio, CBC Television, CBC Newsworld or the CBC web site. Please be specific. If you feel a program or report was unfair or biased, for example, please indicate how it was unfair or biased. When we receive your complaint we will ask the relevant programmers to respond. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you can contact the Office of the Ombudsman again to request an independent review."

So, in the end, I did not write to the Ombudsman. But I may still do so at some point in the future.

Now, why should the Ombudsman be restricted only to complaints concerning information programming? Beats me. But apparently this is the case.

James

James Wooten said...

Hi Allan,

I can not comment on the "Inside the CBC" web site any further than I have done already. Perhaps you know more about this site than I.

However, I can comment on my correspondence with the President of the CBC, Mr. Robert Rabinovitch. The reason that I have not described Mr. Rabinovitch's reply to my letter is because ... there was no reply from Mr. Rabinovitch. It has been nearly five months since I wrote my original letter to Mr. Rabinovitch (March 28) and there has been no reply. I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Rabinovitch will never reply to my letter.

However, Ms. Jennifer McGuire was kind enough to send a reply to my letter. You can read her response in my June 21 blog entry entitled "A reply from Ms. Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming". You can read my reply to her response in my June 29 blog entry entitled "A reply to Ms. Jennifer McGuire's letter of June 4 2007".

James