Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Here's Hoping the Surprise at CBC/Radio Canada Means Pleasant Surprises in Programming

The CBC/Radio-Canada got a new president and CEO yesterday, Hubert Lacroix. A Montreal corporate lawyer, he is an “unknown,” in The Globe and Mail’s opinion: certainly his appointment was a surprise since the betting money had been on Sylvain Lafrance, head of Radio-Canada’s television section. Lacroix’s media experience appears limited to serving on the boards of a couple of media companies, commenting on basketball for Radio-Canada during three Olympic games as well as appearing occasionally on a weekly radio sports show.

He professes great commitment to the public broadcaster: "I listen to it, I watch it, I use its services,” he told the Globe and Mail. “It has had relevancy in my life since I was a kid, and I really believe in it becoming a stronger independent presence in the country. It's the only place where we can protect our culture. It has a role. It has a purpose."

That is an encouraging statement. Under the Richard Rabinovitch, the last president, much programming was dumbed down in a mis-guided effort to cut costs and to appeal to wider audience. Not only was that an insult to the intelligence of Canadians, it has not proved very effective as ratings have not improved as they were expected to do.

Under Lacroix’s watch, what is needed is a recognition that the CBC/Radio Canada is a national treasure and one of the things that makes Canada different from its neighbor to the South. Will that recognition come about? Given the commitment of the Stephen Harper government to greater integration with the US, I’m not counting on it. Would that Lacroix, the surprise appointment, give us pleasant surprises when it comes to quality too!

Note: it is just possible that listeners can make a difference in CBC programming. Earlier this fall I railed against the changes which appeared to be taking place at Saturday Afternoon at the Opera—and is seems that many others did too. The format of the program has been restored more or less, and Bill Richardson—whose talents are many—now has a rather good classical music program on Sunday afternoons. Check it out.

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