Going ad-free could be good for CBC
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).