Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The CBC Survey on the future of the CBC

The CBC is conducting a survey of its viewers and listeners concerning the future of the CBC. You can find the survey here.

I suspect the CBC is paying lip service to the concept of soliciting the opinions of the viewers and listeners. I suspect they've made up their small, feeble little minds about what they intend to do already. But if you want to participate in the survey, go right ahead.

Just to give you some idea of what to expect, here are the survey questions:

Q1:  In your opinion, how important is it for Canada to have a national public broadcaster like CBC/Radio-Canada?

  • Very important
  • Important
  • Somewhat important
  • Not important at all

The broadcasting landscape has changed significantly over the last decade, with media convergence (merging media companies and merging media technologies), the proliferation of new technologies, the availability of more content choices than ever before, and more ways of having access to content.

Q2:  Considering these changes, in your view is it now more important or less important for Canada to have a national public broadcaster in the future?

  • Much more important
  • Somewhat more important
  • No more or less important
  • Somewhat less important
  • Much less important

Conventional television is changing. Across the industry advertising is moving from over-the-air television to specialty channels and digital. Finding a viable, economic model for local television is particularly challenging for all broadcasters.

Q3:  Looking towards 2020, what services do you think CBC/Radio-Canada should continue to provide in the regions?

  • CBC/Radio-Canada should continue to provide local television, online and radio services in the regions.
  • CBC/Radio-Canada should drop its local television service in some regions, but continue local radio and online coverage.
  • CBC/Radio-Canada should provide the services which are most appropriate to a region, whether they be online, radio, television, or a combination of all or some.

Many Canadians are consuming news online and on mobile devices now, and consumer trends suggest that by 2020, more will consume it that way, rather than via conventional television or radio.

Q4:  Looking towards 2020, would you prefer to receive news in the form of traditional long-form newscasts or online short-form content?

  • Traditional newscasts on conventional media.
  • Online short-form content.

Over 70% of music listening in Canada is currently via radio, but there is a downward trend in conventional radio and a move towards consuming music online.

Q5:  Looking towards 2020, if you had a choice about how you would consume music, would you prefer online distribution or traditional over-the-air radio?

  • Online music.
  • Music via radio.

Children are increasingly consuming television content online.

Q6:  Looking towards 2020, do you think that our children’s programming should remain on conventional television or be available online only?

  • Keep it on the conventional television service.
  • Move all children’s programming online.

Some consumers enjoy watching television that is delivered over the Internet (called Over-the-Top Television, or OTT).  Two examples of this are Netflix and ICI This “television” content can be viewed on a computer, smartphone, tablet, or an Internet-connected television set.

Q7:  In 2020, how would you like to receive your television content?

  • Online through services like Netflix or ICI
  • On conventional television channels as we have now.

Of 18 Western countries, Canada is the third-lowest in terms of per-capita public funding for their public broadcaster. Currently, Canadians pay just $29 for our combined services annually, while the average for the 18 countries is $82.

Q8:  As a taxpayer, would you be willing to pay

  • More than $29 a year?
  • Less than $29 a year?
  • The same amount: $29 a year?
The final question was a request for "any other comments". Here is the comment that I submitted:

It's commendable that the CBC is soliciting the opinions of viewers and listeners, but this initiative has come far, far too late. In 2007 the CBC constantly referred to the infamous "arts and culture" survey in justifying the decision to revamp the CBC Radio 2 programming, yet refused to release the results of the survey, holding on to it with a Kremlin-like grip that should have astonished members of the public. In the face of public opposition to these programming changes the CBC persisted in driving ahead with bull-dog like obstinacy, only to watch CBC Radio 2 listenership decline. So, having already destroyed CBC Radio 2, is it any wonder that we, the viewers and listeners of CBC radio and television, should have no confidence in the ability of CBC management to steer the CBC ship through choppy waters of future changes in the broadcasting ocean?

Note the use of leading descriptions prior to the actual question of the survey. Such as:

Of 18 Western countries, Canada is the third-lowest in terms of per-capita public funding for their public broadcaster. Currently, Canadians pay just $29 for our combined services annually, while the average for the 18 countries is $82.

After reading this little blurb, of course people are going to choose "More than $29 a year?"! Who wants to be a piker in the world of international broadcasting? But, the survey is what it is. Have fun!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Globe and Mail article on the CBC by Konrad Yakabuski April 21 2014

From The Globe and Mail, Monday April 21 2014 :

No, the CBC’s not cool. Nor should it be


The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Apr. 21 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

“Well, here we are again,” a wistful CBC president Hubert Lacroix began as he outlined the latest round of cuts – $130-million and 657 jobs in all – to afflict the national public broadcaster. And off we’ve gone again into another round of CBC-bashing and rehashing the network’s many failings.
It must be alternately infuriating and demoralizing to work for the CBC. The English-language television broadcaster gets zero public praise. Everyone’s a critic and the private media seem out to delegitimize your very existence. But that’s what you sign up for when you take a job at an institution Canadians not only own, but delight in “reimagining.”

It would all be easier if the broadcaster’s leaders, past and present, weren’t still stuck in some alternate reality, deluded by visions of grandeur and budget envy. They think that, if only Canadians funded their public network the way the British and French fund theirs, the CBC could be all things to all people and ne’er a disparaging word would be heard. In other words, it’s not their fault; it’s ours.
“The CBC, despite the fact that it faces arguably the largest cultural challenge, is the worst financed public broadcaster,” the network’s former head of English services, Richard Stursberg, told a Senate committee this month. “I don’t see any reason why a CBC that is properly focused and properly funded can’t compete.”

The first problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the circumstances in which overseas public broadcasters operate. The British Broadcasting Corp. and France Télévisions are empires under siege, but they are still empires. They have built up powerful political constituencies and set up countless sister networks, on multiple platforms, precisely to keep private competitors out of their space. They face nowhere near the same direct threat from American fare as the English CBC does, and have been able to shape and satisfy public expectations as a result.

The second problem with Mr. Stursberg’s analysis is that it assumes the CBC’s mission is to “compete.” He is hardly alone in thinking that the CBC must chase ratings. That mindset prevails all the way up the food chain. “It is declining viewership that is causing their challenges,” a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister Shelley Glover told Sun News. “It is up to the CBC to provide programming that Canadians actually want to watch.”

With Ottawa sending that message, it’s little wonder programmers fear that the failure to boost ratings will only give politicians further ammunition to cut their funding. So, next season, Canadians will be treated to Schitt’s Creek and Strange Empire as a CBC desperate to create any buzz it can risks taxpayer money on an “edgier” lineup designed to attract a younger demographic.

Hopeless. It’s not the occasional popular “hit” that is going to make the CBC viable and necessary. It does not have the means or the talent pool to deliver consistently high-quality dramas or comedies that can lure English Canadians back from their constantly improving American favourites.

The CBC claims a share of English TV ratings of about 8 per cent. Without pro hockey, which it will soon lose, the share may be half that. Its comparative advantages lie elsewhere, in public affairs programming that actually reflects the country we live in, not some programmer’s fantasy world.

Thankfully, someone at the CBC gets it.

The same day Mr. Lacroix announced his cuts, the CBC broadcast, in prime time, an in-house documentary that purported to solve the mystery of the Bell of Batoche, a 130-year-old symbol of Métis pride. It encapsulated the history of the North-West Rebellion, Louis Riel and the very reason 19,000 francophones still live in Saskatchewan. These are stories we should all know to appreciate the country we have become. It’s an illustration of the CBC actually fulfilling its mandate, for a change.

It may not be as “cool” as some self-anointed fixers would like. But I shudder at the thought of what a CBC that tries to be any cooler than George Stroumboulopoulos would look like. The ultimate arbiters of cool will never be impressed because cool, by definition, is ephemeral.

Ephemeral is the opposite of what the CBC needs. It needs stable funding, of course. But it also needs managers committed to public broadcasting, rather than imitating entertainment networks in the hopes of landing a better job at one of them. Frankly, it needs to gets serious.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday afternoon, once again ... and "Canada Live" is still being inflicted upon unwary Canadians

It still remains a mystery to me why the good folks at CBC would think we want to hear mediocre, whining performers on CBC Radio One at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. If we wanted to hear mediocre, whining performers then we would tune in to CBC Radio Two, wouldn't we?

It is now 2:42 PM on Friday, January 17 as I write this. And I wish something worth listening to was on CBC Radio One.