While I am one of the dwindling number of Canadians who believes the CBC should not only exist but it should be helped to prosper, I must admit I was shocked by the recent spate of CBC’s self-congratulating PR missives patting themselves on the back for the massive amounts of dollars the national broadcaster generates for the Canadian economy. The study, paid for by the CBC and done by Deloitte and Touche LLP, claims that for your billion dollar investment, the Corp creates 3.7 billion dollars in economic activity.
I have no idea whether this is a reasonable figure but like all numbers and statistics I find it questionable. Two facts jump out at me. First that CBC paid for the study, and second that the BBC paid Deloitte Touche for the very same kind of study in the United Kingdom and came up with almost the exact same results. The BBC it seems generates just over three times its taxpayer supported subsidy. Coincidence? Would the CBC have paid for such a study if the BBC’s results were different, say if the Beeb wasted one third of the money it gets? I suspect not. I also wonder what is the norm for a corporation that employs over six thousand people and buys product and materials from other Canadian businesses. I suspect every company that is not going bankrupt generates at least similar, and in most cases far more dollars for the economy of the country.
The real story, and it is one the CBC is not talking about, is the cultural benefits that are accrued to the country. These you see, are priceless. How do you put a dollar value on the understanding Canadians have for each other from coast-to-coast? How much is Opera Atelier or The Royal Winnipeg Ballet worth to the Canadian soul? What about the value of k.d. lang or Leonard Cohen?
The reason the CBC is not talking about all this is because culture has just about disappeared from the CBC channels. In fact, in the rush for great ratings, high quality drama and comedy have all but disappeared for CBC viewers. Today, in the post Stursberg CBC the Stursberg philosophy lives on: go light, get numbers, avoid depth and at all costs don’t allow serious culture anywhere near the line-up.
As if to prove my point both InSecurity which may be the worst comedy on North American Television and Little Mosque on the Prairie, which specializes in comedy that would have been passé in the early sixties are returning to the CBC schedule. There’s more reality and double episodes of that all Canadian soap opera, Coronation Street. You want Canadiana, how about Camelot? To be fair, there is a new series called Arctic Air and the historical series John A: Birth of a Country…on the other side, there’s also a sequel to the Don Cherry biopic that ran a couple of years ago.
From this perch it looks to me like there is no serious planning going on at the CBC, just a bunch of folks guessing at what will bring in the numbers. That’s okay for a private network, but I question whether that’s the way a national network should work. I would love to see some leadership from the top at CBC. The President, Hubert Lacroix may be the most invisible president the CBC has ever had. Do you know what his vision for the CBC is? I’ve never seen it, heard it or read it. Kirstine Stewart, once Stursberg’s leading yes woman, is surprise, surprise carrying on as if Stursberg were still telling her what is what.
You know the CBC did an internal survey this spring. They have managed to keep the results relatively quiet. Perhaps it wasn’t difficult because there were few surprises in the poll results. Little that was really newsworthy.
Let me sum up a few things about the survey. There were 65 questions in 12 categories. They organized them by favorable scores. As an example, employee engagement got 85%, while Leadership and Direction got only 31% approval. That last score is pretty amazing, by far the lowest of any category. Essentially, more than two-thirds of employees believe CBC management is incompetent.
Operating efficiency approval was at 33%. What does this say about the vast amounts of money the CBC is generating? Perhaps the CBC needs that money to overcome the internal waste and inefficiency. Keep in mind, these are figures for the CBC as a whole. Apparently, they are considerably lower for News and Current Affairs. For example, Leadership and Direction for all of CBC is at 31% approval, while for News and Current Affairs it was around 20%.
The CBC does need more dollars to do the job it is mandated to do properly. But I for one am not in favor of giving them one extra penny until they begin to serve all Canadians, to show leadership in culture and Canadian affairs and until the corporation hires leaders with a vision for the future that is based on more than numbers as well as leaders who can be trusted to do their jobs by more than fifty percent of their workforce.
Call me when you can give me a reason to care.