Sunday, 27 January 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture

My apologies for being absent over the last few weeks. I've been teaching two courses, one of which is full of much smarter people than me, so I've had to do a lot of homework. It's taken me way outside my comfort zone, but that's not a bad thing.

I had to comment briefly on this:

Peter Mansbridge looking thoughtful is pretty normal. "Powered by" (another word for sponsored maybe?)  Chevrolet Malibu is something else again. 

In my 30 years working at CBC we went through several stages of what we as reporters were allowed to do in our spare time, and the amount of commercialization on CBC television.  There were moments when we were supposed to go home and climb into a closet and not talk to anyone until we went back to work the next day.   There were moments when we were encouraged to join every service club we could to spread the word about what good citizens we were.  Through the '80's and '90's I was forced to step away from a handful of organizations doing things I cared about (domestic violence, animal cruelty), and eventually I stopped asking or telling  because I knew it would be no. Then there was a thaw about a decade ago when the CBC realized that you could be an objective reporter and a  "active citizen" at the same time. I think it was something CBC had to wrestle with. It does matter what listeners and viewers think of reporters, and their fairness and objectivity.  Trust is something that's hard won, and easily lost.

Commercial considerations are something else again, and it was always a privilege to work for an organization that didn't depend solely on advertising revenue to stay on the air. Yes we always had advertising on Compass, but I can't think of a time when we were prevented from doing a story because it involved a sponsor.  That was the CBC then. Now, with government support shrinking, CBC strikes commercial deals all the time for its programming. I'd always wanted to think  "The National" would be treated differently, that as the flagship news program it would be hived off and protected from the appearance at least of any kind of commercial involvement.  Apparently that's not the case.  I don't know what the deal is that gets "powered by Malibu" linked with Peter Mansbridge, I don't know what "powered by" means anyway. I can say I don't like it.

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