Go­ing ad-free could be good for CBC

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Bob Wake­ham

A fallout dis­cus­sion that emerged in re­cent weeks af­ter the CBC floated the idea of a com­mer­cial- free tele­vi­sion lineup cen­tred around the ques­tion of whether the cor­po­ra­tion is ac­tu­ally ful­fill­ing its man­date to sup­ply al­ter­na­tive pro­gram­ming to Cana­di­ans.

And it’s a per­fectly le­git­i­mate point of de­bate, one with which I grap­pled while in the em­ploy of Mother Corp, and con­tinue to con­tem­plate in re­tire­ment now and then (or here and now, if you will) — not nearly as much these days, mind you, what with sports fa­nati­cism, hunt­ing, fish­ing, read­ing, movies and other tax­ing, stress-filled av­o­ca­tions con­sum­ing the bulk of my re­tire­ment time.

There was a time, some of those CBC fans over the age of 40 might re­call, when most of the na­tional tele­vi­sion news and cur­rent af­fairs shows con­tained no com­mer­cial ad­ver­tis­ing — a quite sen­si­ble no­tion, and a prac­tice that al­lowed pro­duc­ers in the jour­nal­is­tic field to re­flect Canada to Cana­di­ans with­out the worry of ad­ver­tis­ing clog­ging up the in­for­ma­tion air­waves or hav­ing to ap­pease ad­ver­tis­ers by con­stantly play­ing the rat­ings game.

Lo­cally, the cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram “On Cam­era” ( now long gone) was also free of ad­ver­tis­ing from its in­cep­tion, but I can still re­call — vividly, in fact — when Jim Byrd, the boss of tele­vi­sion op­er­a­tions at the time, in­formed me the show would, from that sea­son for­ward, in­clude com­mer­cials, the need for more bucks su­per­sed­ing the laud­able, if not ide­al­is­tic, phi­los­o­phy to keep soap suds and mort­gage realty ads away from jour­nal­ism as much as pos­si­ble.

Byrd told me the or­ders had come down from Toronto and were not up for de­bate (CBC head­quar­ters was a place that had al­ways had, and con- tin­ues to have, an in­her­ent con­tempt for re­gional pro­gram­ming, view­ing the re­gions with, at best, con­de­scen­sion, or, at worse, as poor mon­grels who have to be tol­er­ated, who have to be thrown the odd moose bone or two to keep them from bark­ing too loudly).

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