Credibility Shot, Ratings Plummeting, It’s Time For CBC To Get Out Of News
It’s hard to say which demise was more predictable: Andrew Scheer fumbling away the Conservatives’ polling lead going into the fall election or CBC’s reworked The National frittering away the audience ratings left them by Peter Mansbridge.
The National has made a strong argument for its demise. Its four-person electric hedgehog is bumping along, often at about half the audience former host Mansbridge drew in his final years on the network’s flagship TV news show. While some of this might be attributed to the general bleed of viewers everywhere, you don’t see the same carnage at CTV’s flagship news show The CTV National News.
Despite brave chirps from the suits on Front Street in Toronto about the format working out, the show’s average ratings recently dropped another 59,000 or 13 percent, according to CBC. The audience abhors this new format— and its progressive bent. CTV National News has kept much of its audience, however, by playing it straight.
It’s a fate we predicted 18 months ago in a piece called The King Is Gone At CBC; Long Live A Bunch Of People
“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.”
As predicted, the woke journalists at The National bought into the extreme anti-Trump bias that has seen CNN plummet in the U.S. ratings, miles behind FOX and MSNBC. (Most nights the CNN Orange Man Bad Obsession sees them rated below Tiny Houses and cooking shows on the rival cable channels.)
What’s most galling about The National’s collapse is that, during the 2016 federal election, CBC executives begged Justin Trudeau for $1.5 billion to restore the publicly funded radio/TV behemoth to its former status. If they had the money radio and TV would soar once more. When the PM complied, the Corp instead poured the money into bigfooting private outlets in the new digital/ social media field.
Now a day rarely goes by without the formerly cash-strapped CBC hiring a former newspaper reporter to bloat its massive profile on the web. It has squeezed the oxygen out of the opposition, positioning itself as the heavyweight in digital. Hardly a fair fight— and using public funds.
Which brings us to Scheer, whose tepid profile— added to Doug Ford antipathy in Ontario— is threatening to give Trudeau a second mandate. A conservative in name only, Scheer needs to grab some policy fire that will free him from his miasma or mediocrity.
Proposal: Get CBC out of the news-gathering business. Return it to supplying Canadian content— not Canadian opinion— on radio, TV and the internet. With Trudeau dangling money at CBC again, the credibility of The National and its brethren in the news departments is fini. Listening to its newscasts and editorial slants is like thumbing the policy book of Happy Ways.
The news department is an extremely costly operation, and excising it will save taxpayers a fortune. Let the privates collect and distribute news. Remove the paid advertising that bleeds the public market for funds. Show movies, TV entertainment shows and do morning radio with weather, traffic, culture and sports. Reflect some international content if needed.
It’s a natural for Scheer. Which is to say he won’t go anywhere near it.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor 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 a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.