Saturday, March 15, 2008

Inside the mind of the CBC

Over lunch recently, a CBC television journalist outlined to me some of the stories she has put together for upcoming broadcasts. A segment of which she was particularly proud included an interview with the Chief Exorcist at the Vatican, and the increased frequency of demonic possession around the world. What excited her most about this segment was the date it was then scheduled to air: "I told my producer -- we have to do it on Easter Sunday!"

I have not seen the interview in question. That said, I suggested to her that, on a day when millions of Canadians revere Christ's triumph over death, it seems insensitive to broadcast an update on the devil's progress.

"All right, then," she answered with annoyance, "What would be on your approved list for CBC Sunday?"

Interesting, that. Always, we are told that the CBC is the people's broadcaster, owned by all Canadians. Yet when I, a Canadian taxpayer, posit that a segment about demonic possession is inappropriate programming on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, the reflexive response is a who-do-you-think-you-are, sarcastic rejoinder, as though I should have no say in the matter.

I suggested a church service, or even something with no religious connection at all. For Heaven's sake, they could just replay Chicken Run, which is shown on CBC half a dozen times on any given weekend (see what a billion taxpayer dollars buys you?).

But then, this is the network that marked the fifth anniversary of 9/11 with a special investigation into whether the terrorist attacks were an inside job by the U.S. government (CBC gave "both sides" of the story -- note to our national broadcaster: both sides of bollocks is still bollocks). They will do as they please with our tax dollars.

From our testy discussion of religion, my lunch companion and I moved on to even more dangerous ground -- CBC's role and its responsiveness to Canadians.

I proposed that a publicly financed broadcaster ought to restrict itself to programming that private broadcasters, for reasons of profit and loss, cannot or will not produce. On this point, my CBC interlocutor seemed to feel we had some common ground, and began to enthuse on the topic of CBC's drama and comedy series.
What I had in mind, I replied, was more on the order of public hearings and service announcements, not shows that are unprofitable by virtue of being breathtakingly bad. Sadly, the CBC's perceived responsibility to produce fictional series has had taxpayers footing the bill for unbearable, politically correct harangues from King of Kensington to Little Mosque on the Prairie.

"Well," my companion mused, a slyness slipping into her voice as though rhetorical checkmate were a few words away, "don't you think it's important that Canadians watch Canadian shows?"

"No," I replied. Programming that excites the mind, affirms the human spirit and earns the approbation of the audience is the ideal, and country of origin is secondary. In fact, in the case of some Canadian shows, I think she has it exactly backward. For example, I believe it is important that Canadians not watch a single episode of The Border (this is CBC's tax-payer-funded offering in the age of terror, wherein Canadian intelligence officers do battle with our age-old, dastardly foe: the United States of America).

As a Canadian taxpayer, the most I expect from the CBC is a bill. But is it too much to ask for a little courtesy, even on Easter?