Archives for posts with tag: CBC

Image: Radio-Canada

Anyone interested in how to ruin a major brand-related announcement should study how Radio-Canada launched Ici and the immediate fallout. Heritage Minister James Moore appears to be quite irritated by the whole thing. It got loads of negative media coverage, including this editorial. It caused many supporters of public broadcasting in Canada to doubt the credibility of CBC/Radio-Canada and of its senior management. Not exactly the impact Ici’s creators were hoping for.

From a communications perspective, here are five questions those managers should have asked before the Ici launch:

  1. Stepping back from the details of the Ici brand, ask yourselves: Do we fully understand the larger context of removing the name Canada from your branding and journalism? Are we prepared accordingly?
  2. Consider your key stakeholders – starting with the federal government that is in the process of defunding and harassing you – and make sure they’re informed, in the right way, at the right time. Are you prepared to explain in a clear and compelling way why Rad-Can will now be known as Ici? What about other groups such as Rad-Can and CBC employees, unions (which are particularly pissed about the cost of at least $400,000 in the midst of budget cuts), Francophone groups, the media, broadcasting support groups, and even the opposition parties?
  3. Consider your specific explanation for why the word “Canada” is no longer necessary for a broadcaster that serves Francophones across Canada? After multiple explanations from CBC VP Bill Chambers, it is still as clear as mud.
  4. Consider the issue environment and factors affecting public broadcasting. Ensure that you’re not making the announcement at the same time as, for example, a Tory Backbencher quit the party caucus over the Conservatives sucking the life out of his accountability and transparency bill that would have affected CBC/Radio-Canada?
  5. Ask yourselves: Hey, is this even a good idea? Why do we need to do this? What is wrong with the Radio Canada brand? What’s the urgency? How is creating Ici going to provide better programming and service to Francophone Canadians? How can we – in the broadest sense – justify this decision?

This whole issue pains me. I used to work at the CBC and I know that its employees don’t need to be reminded again of the ineptitude of senior management in a time when budgets are being cut and a cultural battle is being waged against public broadcasting. As a supporter of public broadcasting, I can only shake my head.

Please stand by.

I’m a strong supporter of public broadcasting. If done right, and adequately funded, public broadcasting can inform, engage and reflect a country back to its citizens.

Without having to worry primarily about ratings – and therefore revenue – public broadcasters are focused on their mandate to offer programming in the public interest. The CBC’s mandate, for example, says that it should “provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains.” Its programming should, among other things, “contribute to shared national consciousness and identity… be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions… and, actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression.”

There is no doubt that better-informed citizens make better-informed decisions about everything from public policy and voting to financial and lifestyle choices. Good public broadcasting helps both citizens and the rest of the news media to hold governments to account. You only have to look south of border to see the impact a weak public broadcaster has on the quality of public knowledge and political debate.

So I was quite interested in a recent article in the Globe and Mail about a study done to measure citizens’ knowledge of current affairs in six countries with strong public broadcasters. Canada, despite what you may think about the CBC, is one of the six countries. The study’s general finding is that public broadcasters have a positive impact on public knowledge.

Here’s another finding from the study cited in the article: “Canada sits somewhere in the middle range. Citizens who rely on the CBC for news score only marginally better on current-affairs indicators. The bang for your (public broadcasting) buck is much better in the U.K., Japan, and Norway. Not coincidentally, in these countries the levels of funding and independence from government are much stronger.”

So we can expect the Harper government – which prefers Canadians fearful and ignorant – to continue to cut funding to the CBC. The result will likely be the continued erosion in quality journalism and programming (overdone news coverage of the new pope, the cringeworthy Jack Layton biopic and the continuing presence of Don Cherry and Kevin O’Leary being a few examples) at the public broadcaster, particularly for English TV. Well, at least we have CBC radio. I should also single out TVO for the quality of its current affairs programming.

The next post will further explore what happens when news consumers don’t like what’s on offer – from public or private broadcasters.