The King Is Gone At CBC TV; Long Live A Bunch Of People
A camel is a horse designed by a committee. And a four-person cluster to replace Peter Mansbridge as the face of CBC’s The National is committee work at its most tortured.
CBC has known that Mansbridge was leaving his post for almost a year. The 29-year host was given the privilege of an extended farewell as the face of the public broadcaster’s television franchise program. Fair enough. He earned it. Out of respect, you could see the suits who constitute CBC’s English language brain trust giving him room.
But the replacement drama dragged and dragged. With just over a month to go till the fall TV season begins CBC has finally gotten around to naming its succession plan. Mansbridge will be followed by a quartet of Andrew Chang in Vancouver, Rosie Barton in Ottawa and Adrienne Arsenault plus Ian Hanomansing in Toronto.
Such a belated, unwieldy announcement is an embarrassment when you compare it to what happened at CTV when they were faced with the retirement of legend Lloyd Robertson.
They named Lias LaFlamme as Robertson;’s successor well in advance of the transition, giving the audience a chance to prepare for Lloyd’s departure. And they focussed on a single name as the face of the CTV news operation. That’s how TV works. Stars. Identifiable personalities.
The message of four people to replace Mansbridge is clear: the people paid to make this decision punted. They whiffed. They kicked the can down the road to someone with the cojones to make a decision. Spreading the four around the country to placate regionalism is a weasel move that smacks of political expedience, not accountable broadcasting.
Instead of choosing one dish, they chose a Cobb salad. This is not a condemnation of the people chosen to take this work. I’ve known almost all of them and they are professional and very competent. They will do their best and try to make an unworkable situation work.
But the four-person cabal shows that no one in the entitled public broadcaster wanted to give a single person the platform as leader of the franchise. There was a feeling in the latter part of his tenure that Mansbridge was an impediment to the progressives at CBC who consider the publicly funded channel a think tank, not a broadcaster.
Mansbridge had the temerity to support conservative causes such as the military and sports. He kept adults on the show. He didn’t seem to swoon enough at the cause du jour proposed by the eager young things on the reporting and production staff. So he had to go.
No surprise, CBC is now a captive of the people behind the scenes at its headquarters, a building riven with palace intrigues and groupthink. None of these people— who brought you the disastrous Jian Ghomeshi mess— want to share power. So spread it among a quartet of hosts so that none can exercise the influence enjoyed by Mansbridge and previous hosts like Knowlton Nash or Robertson.
These zealots refuse to acknowledge that viewers associate their channel choices by the people in front of the camera. They live in a fantasy where their choices of set colours, font styles and bizarre editorial decisions are the reason people tune in. Like the faceless bureaucrats who run the government they wield unaccountable power in the shadows.
Were any of the upper echelon fired for mishandling the Ghomeshi case? No, they chose loyal underlings to carry the can for the screw-up surrounding their precious radio host. And fell in line for Trudeau’s agenda after a cold, dark decade of Stephen Harper’s indifference to their charms.
They are more obsessed with the engineered dynamics of Trudeau’s Diversity Inc. to worry about what issues the audience might want. And why not? Having conducted a shadow campaign to win the funding for CBC promised by Trudeau during the election you have to know where your loyalties lie.
Indigenous issues? Check. Diversity? Check. LGBT? Check.
The emasculation of its most influential journalist position tells you that journalistic balance will no longer be an issue. No check.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)