Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Put CBC News Network out of its misery

I am under self-imposed house arrest. I got back to Ottawa from London about three weeks ago. Technically I should be working on my dissertation, with its rapidly approaching September due date, but I've always been a procrastinator and the graduate Shiner is no different than the undergraduate Shiner.

While I was in London there was never a dull moment, nowhere better to put off school work. Not so much in Ottawa. After getting reacquainted with poutine and Hintonburger, and after taking a couple quick walks downtown, I've pretty much exhausted the activities on offer in Bytown.

So television it is. Unfortunately daytime tv blows. So I'm stuck flipping back and forth between CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, and the odd assortment of shows they have of BBC Canada. The only benefit of this horrible lineup is that I stay about as up-to-date as is possible. Or you would have thought so. Yet there I was on Friday morning, tuning into CBC News Network after reading on twitter that there had been a serious explosion in Oslo, and I was watching a segment on sweat. Don't get too excited, nothing interesting or even new has been discovered about sweat. The gist of the story was that sweat keeps you cool when you're hot. This was explained over beach shots and plenty of close-up video footage of moisture on skin.

I'd become resigned to the fact that CBCNN was dull on weekday afternoons but assumed that if something important happened they would snap out of it and, y'know, report stuff. But nope, CBC doesn't do that anymore. I spotted a vague headline about an explosion roll across the bottom of the screen, but it would be about half an hour before any sort of actual story showed up on channel 26. This is the state of our public broadcaster.

As a supporter of public broadcasting, and more specifically the CBC, a pretty professional news organisation was always a big plus (even if it didn't convince the more dedicated in the anti-public broadcasting crowd). It's sad to watch the News Network now. The still fairly new "conversation" style of it all is just plain horrible. The forced interest that the generally untalented anchors have to show in every subject (while maintaining a fake smile) is pathetic. The unwatchable banter that goes on comes across like small chat between particularly dim people at a particularly boring cocktail party. You feel like everyone on screen should be wearing a name tag. Maybe you could look past this silliness if you could still count on actual news and above average analysis, but it's just not there. Most reports involve reading news releases or asking the new intern what yokels on twitter are saying about Amy Winehouse, Norway, or debt default. At this very moment News Network is showing a youtube clip of a raccoon in a swimming pool. The anchor, whose name I don't know and will almost certainly never learn, has just failed, with a bad stutter, to deliver a lame scripted joke about a "raccoon stroke".

This isn't an attack on public broadcasting though, because the CBC simply can't be considered a public broadcaster anymore. The reason for the poor quality is the screwed up incentive the Corp has. Tasked with providing a pan-national service that gives Canadians something they don't receive from commercial broadcasters, the CBC is still required to attract advertisers to make up the funding shortfall from the government. The CBC is screwed up because it awkwardly operates in the market. Again, it is required to provide a service that the market can't provide by attracting money from the market.

Anyways, rant over. Nothing new above, and plenty of other folks said the same things when the changes to the CBC news format was made awhile ago. I just have a bad case of cabin fever and daytime television overload.