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 , Caitlin 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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