Reimagine CBC

Canadians: there’s a national campaign launching today called “Reimagine CBC” that I hope you have 5 minutes to check out. As a former employee, and a true believer in public broadcasting, it warms the cockles of my wizened heart to know the teams at Openmedia and Leadnow have spent so many sleepless nights crafting a public brainstorming tool purely to make the CBC more awesome.

With the addition of Vancouver-based Gen Why Media on event-planning duties, what you’re looking at is basically three giant lasers converging to create a single green super-beam capable of destroying planets. Except in this case the energy is being channeled into a positive, constructive response to impending budget cuts at CBC/Radio-Canada. (The Toronto headquarters of which are known internally as “the Death Star,” now that I think of it. A slightly melodramatic exaggeration.)

Working independently from the Corp, the Reimagine team explains the project this way:

Together, we hope to be able to answer some essential questions:

How can the CBC be more interactive, accountable and community-based?
How can the CBC play a role in ushering us into a new age of participation?
How can the CBC become a launch pad for a new era of citizen-powered culture, innovation, creativity and collaboration?

We’ll bring the best ideas to the CBC, and together we’ll work with decision-makers to turn your ideas into reality. More specifically, we will use the ideas and other input from Canadians to put together a crowdsourced set of recommendations that we will submit to both the CBC and regulators at the CRTC.

It’s an elegant, powerful way to rethink the creation of public policy – and of course when I heard about it I wanted to get involved.

We shot this video (old pals Evan CroweCaitlin Dodd and I) in the alley behind 1000 Parker in Vancouver. I’ve submitted it to the Reimagine CBC campaign here, along with a little blurb for context:

The way we watch is changing. Mobile technology and social media have shifted our priorities. Word of mouth means more than a network schedule.

The CBC creates all sorts of compelling, well-produced visual content – and then fires it off into the ether. For all the hard work and resources that go into programming, CBC’s prime time TV audience share sits at 9.3% – and that’s the highest it’s been in a decade. The only way to pull in more eyeballs, it seems, is with more reality TV, flashy graphics, and fluff.

The television market is in a race to the bottom. Right now, TV manufacturers are slashing prices as decades of steady sales are finally stalling and starting to drop. Meanwhile, takeovers and mergers have left a handful of big companies fighting over this shrinking audience.

Aside from watching out for its big private competitors, the CBC is now planning for budget cuts. And with the Corp’s budget still not balanced, another recession denting ad revenues would spell serious trouble. It costs a lot to keep a TV network running.

Across Canada, media companies are fiddling with their revenue models, trying to monetize online content. But nobody can afford to go first – to take the initiative on a game-changing shift like walking away from television. That’s where the CBC is different. Its competitors have a mandate: generate ever-growing profits for shareholders. That’s nowhere in the CBC’s mandate, and that’s a good thing.

The Broadcasting Act says the CBC is there to “actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,” “contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,” and “be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose”.

Those words were written back in 1991. As far as “resources becoming available,” the last two decades are unrivaled in human history. I think it’s time for the CBC to look again at television and ask if that’s the most “appropriate and efficient means” to serve Canadians.

Whether you think this is the best idea since sliced bread, or tantamount to treason, you can click to rate the suggestion and it will slide up and down accordingly. And if you, too, still love the CBC, submitting your own idea is straightforward and easy.

I’ll be volunteering with the campaign in between my other projects – they’re planning big public events this spring in Vancouver and Toronto, and they need sponsors, panellists and performers to get these shows off the ground. If you think of anyone that would be a good fit, shoot me an email and I’ll put you in touch with campaign staff.

Happy brainstorming.

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12 comments
  1. Andrew said:

    It’s a terrifying suggestion but I’ve been thinking the exact same thing lately. The fluff and filler necessary to even attempt to make a TV channel profitable cuts way down on the amount of decent, genuinely Canadian original content we’re getting back.

    I don’t want to lose the CBC. It means a lot to me as a Canadian. But I’ve also gotten a lot of kicks lately out of browsing the NFB’s online collection. In terms of quality content that contributes to a national identity, the bang for your buck is going to be much, much greater. It’s on-demand, personalized and diverse but yet still carries that ‘Canadian’ feel you get with CBC Radio. It addresses Canadian issues and highlights Canadian artists. That’s the way forward. Having to pump out more and more episodes of Dragon’s Den to fight a losing battle to stay in the black is not.

  2. I don’t think we’re going to lose the CBC, but the Corp’s gotta get nimble – and brave – if it’s going to ride out the next few years with its mandate and morale intact. I agree, the NFB is a great example of an institution doing what it has to in order to stay relevant.

  3. Meet the Internet said:

    Great Video by Mr. Nagata via the Toronto Star:
    http://thenetwork.thestar.com/kai-nagata-cbc/cbc-meet-the-internet/20120320/

    CBC player IS mediocre. The player lacks embed codes or other easy method to share videos (ie. via twitter, google+, facebook etc), and lack of commenting is another big issue. Yes you can also view content, via itunes, netflix and cbc mobile app – but social media engagement (commenting and sharing) is NON existent. They should take a page from the NFB – who have got the right formula for Sharing and commenting: http://www.nfb.ca/

    More CBC departments and programs should use alternative delivery methods like youtube, just as Rick Mercer and Jian Ghomeshi’s programs have, if they truly want to be social. This is an easy problem to solve.

    It really doesn’t cost much to upload old Archive content onto Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, or other video sharing sites that dominate the market. A staff of 1-3 could probably manage the entire catalog.

    Here is a sample of the typical engagement of CBC on the world’s most popular video sharing site youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/WatchCBCLearning

    compare that with Q:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/Qtv – over 40,000,000 video views

    and Revolution of the Internet: Over 200,000 views – uploaded by some dude

    I think there exists certain departments within the CBC that just don’t get it. For example, If CBC wants its educational content (ie CBCLearning) to be widely viewed, it must not operate as a private corporation charging school boards large sums of money to access the content as they currently do.

    Also the CBC is very quick to delete video’s from sites such as Youtube once they have reached there “expiration date.”

    BTW – the Toronto Star is just as bad, i would have posted there but I’m not on facebook!

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