Archives for posts with tag: TVO

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.

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My mom is a retired teacher and fairly active in progressive politics. Over a recent dinner, we started talking about striking Ontario teachers, Bill 115 (the Ontario government’s bill sending the teachers back to work), and the fallout, including the issue of sick days. Mom said first that she couldn’t imagine not doing extracurricular activities, and she thought that banking sick days for a retirement payoffs was a thing of the past.  That’s an opinion held by quite a few people.

The issue, as it is popularly understood, is generally as follows: The teachers’ old collective agreement gave them annual sick days, which can be saved up over a career to a maximum of 200, and paid out upon retirement. An average lump sum for cashing out sick days over a career is over $40,000 (according to this CP story). UPDATE: This figure is disputed; teachers say it is less than that, and that not all teachers are even eligible for such a payout.

But what if the issue is more complex – or simpler – than that?

Last week, TVO’s The Agenda blog ran a great post on the sick days issue. The post suggests that the common understanding of the sick days issue may not be accurate or based on fact. It also suggests that the culprit for this may be “a colossal failure of communication on behalf of the government or on behalf of the union to its members.”

How the public – especially parents – perceives issues like this through the media and discussion with friends, families and fellow parents is critical to the communications strategies of the government, school boards and the teachers’ unions. And that strategy is critical to achieving their goals, whether it be cutting costs, successfully negotiating a collective agreement or preserving benefits.

Who could have thought that the perceptions among so many interests active in this debate (including the media) would be potentially under informed? Could the entire debate have been more focused to all involved, and possibly less contentious?

A good lesson for communicators here: frame the issue clearly, simply and honestly – based on facts.