I have always been amazed at the greed of the very rich. Occupy Wall Street and all the other occupy groups around the world are right to be more than a little upset at the folks they call the “1%” who now seem to own a large percentage of the world’s wealth and with a few exceptions, reject the idea of paying more taxes on their incomes even though our governments are building up huge debts.
What though, does this have to do with broadcasting?
In the past few days I was shocked to hear that the CBC has joined the people who pander to the ultra rich. You all know of, or have at least heard the stories about very rich performers, athletes and celebrities being wooed by television awards productions with amazing swag. The producers arrange to have a room on site that they fill with expensive gifts and toys for the ultra rich who have everything. The gifts are supplied by the manufacturers at no cost to the production just to get them into the right hands. The right hands means the Madonnas, Paris Hiltons, Brad Pitts, George Clooneys and the like. The theory is that if we rabble see Brad or Paris with a certain shirt or bag, we will want one too.
When a celebrity shows up for an appearance, he or she is led to the swag room where they can pick out anything that they want. Generally that amounts to just about one of everything on offer, whether they need the items or not.
These are people who can easily afford to buy the products. Why buy when you can get the swag for free?
Well it seems that the CBC now has a swag room. It was created, as I understand it, just for George Stroumboulopoulos’ guests. I can only jump to the conclusion that this was considered by George’s producers as a necessary way to keep the big stars coming to his program. I just don’t know why. Most if not all the A-list guests George gets come on his show to publicize something…a new movie, a new CD or DVD, a new tour, a new book. The guests need George as much as George needs the guests. I believe they will show up whether George bribes them with swag or not. Perhaps they think the swag will put the guest in a better frame of mind for the interview. I suspect not. These folks are so used to the idea of free stuff I am not even sure they notice it. Just one more swag room in their world of never ending swag, the Christmas list taken care of without ever having to shop.
Is it just me or does this practice look more than a little unseemly for a network owned by the people of Canada, in fact a network that cries poor at every opportunity and is looking at a ten percent cut in their endowment from the government?
I know the swag probably doesn’t cost them a penny, well other than maintaining the room, stocking the shelves, getting on the phone to arrange for the swag and then the replacement products when the room begins to look a little bare. There must be a staff who are paid to maintain the room and the flow of products. You wouldn’t want to have an embarrassing swag room that has too little on offer or products that no respectable celebrity would want to be seen wearing. So there must be some cost.
Worse though is the message it sends to the folks who pay the CBC’s bills. The millionaires and the billionaires are welcome to get all the free things on offer. The taxpayer gets the benefit of an interview with Sting.
I suppose it’s not relevant, but all of this is going on for a show that has never caught on with the CBC viewing public. The numbers remain miserable even after years of the program being on the air and getting some of the best promotional time and money from the corporation.
I think we would all be a lot more forgiving if the swag was given out Oprah style. That is, openly and to the audience rather than the wealthy guest. But alas it isn’t so. George and his team, as well as CBC brass have done everything they can to keep the swag room a secret. They had to know it would not play well to the masses.
Oh, and in case you think CBC management may not like the idea or have second thoughts, not a chance. It seems among the first people to inspect the swag room, and by the way, leave with one of everything on offer, was none other then the boss, Kirstine Stewart. Her significant other Zaib Shaikh joined her at the trough. They, unlike the rest of us, didn’t even have to be a guest on George’s show to get their gifts.