Stompin on the CBC

Posted 07.03.06

News that the CBC rejected Stompin' Tom's music special has reignited my anger at the public broadcaster.

When I first came to Canada, in 1967, CBC radio was in its heyday. The show that later became "Morningside" had a succession of wonderful hosts, including Bruno Gerusi, Judy LaMarsh, and Donald Herron. Peter Gzowski, of course, refined that program into a wonder of daily information and interviews, peppered by occasional humor and his unique personality.

I was fortunate to be an occasional contributor to that program, and have pieces in two volumes of The Morningside Papers. Many freelance writers had a similar opportunity to reach a national audience.

Shelagh Rogers and Stuart Maclean both honed their skills on that program, but after Peter left, the program fell apart. The primary cause was, of course, CBC management, which cut its funding, as happened with so many other worthwhile radio and TV programs under its jurisdiction.

Government cutbacks further decimated the CBC, and it's now a pale shadow of the beacon it used to provide. There was a time when the CBC linked Canadians coast to coast with radio programs on the former AM network that featured primarily "talk," and an FM service that showcased music.

All that changed when top management decided they should try to attract a younger audience. At the same time, two distinct networks became a muddy mess, as both were now on the FM dial. Quality music declined, silly chatter rose.

Did the CBC capture the audience they longed for?


The younger demographic was too busy downloading favorite songs onto their I-Pods. The broadcaster began to sink, and further cuts to local and regional programming have made it almost irrelevant.

CBC TV irritates viewers by failing to promote quality shows well enough in advance for us to plan to watch. What's even more odd (and irritating) is that programs are promoted heavily as frequent commercial messages within other CBC programs. How many times do we have to see the same trailer for the drama to be shown next week?

Even worse is when widely-advertised programs are pulled at the last minute. And don't you just love the "to be announced" that appears besides the CBC channel in the primetime schedule grid?

Now we hear they are no longer interested in producing quality drama, and have even turned down independently-financed specials like the one Stompin' Tom created.

I have always deplored the fact that taxpayers funded so many different broadcast services. Not only did we have two English radio networks, but two in French, separate French and English TV networks, plus the Northern Service (radio), Radio Canada International, and Newsworld.

Why all this duplication? Why not promote bilingualism by offering some French programs on the English network and vice versa? Why gut the Northern Service and RCI, which allowed the CBC to reach beyond its normal boundaries, yet still retain four networks on the FM dial?

Like many government-run agencies, the CBC is top-heavy with bureaucrats while the lowest-level employees continue to be squeezed.

Should funding be increased? Definitely, but it needs to be targeted at the final product that reaches the listeners/viewers.

Spend money on programming, and the people who actually produce and deliver it.

And give us Stompin' Tom!

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/07.06