public broadcaster is going to hell in a hand mike.
Colleen McEdwards, CNN International Atlanta-based anchor
Globe & Mail: Comment
July 28, 2000
the CBC used to be like taking a knife to your neighbour.
When there was a lot of blood, people on the street got
quite annoyed. But when I scan the coverage of this latest
round, I'm struck by an almost ethereal detachment, like
this little gem from one of the papers:
"Of the 212 positions designated for elimination
yesterday, about 107 are television journalists and another
98 are technicians; the remainder are in other categories.
Most of the affected journalists are attached to supper-hour
will anyone really hear about what happened to the people
at CBLT, the Toronto local station I used to work for,
and just one of the regions essentially eliminated in
this round of cuts. The solid Ron Izawa, with some 15
years of service; Robin Smythe, who left another network
because she believed the CBC would be a better place;
the hard-working Simon Dingley; the hugely talented Bob
Hilscher and the quiet, dignified Mike Sakura, who've
both spent decades working in the technical department.
And, of course, so many others.
The budget cuts and the decisions made by the CBC board
and management have at last succeeded in making regional
might, quite rightly, not care about that, or the people
who may lose their jobs. But you might care about the
way all the dithering about regional television has wasted
your money. And I must admit that, three years ago, I
voluntarily left the CBC, after eight years of service,
for a rather large American television network. So I'm
writing from the possibly smug position of someone who
made a good decision, well-timed -- but here's what I
a round of small cuts in the mid-1990s, we were told to
change our format: do more in-depth current affairs stories
and less hard news. Committees with big names such as
"integration" were struck. Meetings were held.
The staff was consulted. Pilot programs were made and
thrown out. Put more news back in your show, we were told,
in an astonishing about-face. Our producers wrote reports
that gathered layers of dust on layers of shelves.
paid for a lot of this. And the employees paid with their
emotion and their hard work, on absurd little projects
we were led to believe would save us, would "redefine"
local news. One could fairly ask why the tougher decision
wasn't made years ago: eliminate regional television rather
than bleeding it to death at the expense of the lives
of great people and public funds.
this is a company that, from the outside now, looks like
it doesn't learn well from its mistakes. So is it any
wonder why CBC regional television finds itself where
it is today?
latest fix is to design a 30-minute local program with
a national newscast made in Vancouver. It's a decentralized
approach that was abandoned in the early days of Newsworld.
Certain programs were brought back to Toronto from Halifax
and Calgary, partly because it was more efficient to produce
them under one roof.
six years ago, the CBC eliminated the 11 p.m. local news,
only to bring it back a year later, in large measure because
it was a cheaper program to produce than anything else
the corporation could find to air in that time slot.
I'm sad about all of this, strangely, as one who flew
the coop. I'm remembering back to 1990, December. More
than a thousand people were laid off. The story led every
national newscast (and not just the CBC's) for days. It
was front-page news, for this was before the CBC's demise
by a thousand nicks and bruises. The Windsor station was
closed and Toronto's local station was told it would become
an "Ontario show." That decision was also abandoned
several months later. The Windsor station was reopened,
and Toronto went back to doing the same local news with
far fewer people -- and less than half the viewers tuning
head of the Toronto station back then was Slawko Klymkiw.
A man of considerable genius, he went on to become one
of the network's most senior programming directors. He
had made Toronto's station No. 1 among viewers in the
early part of the last decade. It was a great place to
work. And some great journalism came out of there.
When the cuts were announced that December, he walked
into the newsroom and wept. He must have sensed something
the rest of us just couldn't see then: that in a few agonizing
years, a substantial and historic part of the CBC would
essentially be gone.
I wonder who's crying now.
McEdwards is an Atlanta-based anchor with CNN International.
Between 1988 and 1997, she reported for CBC-TV in Windsor,
then Toronto, where she covered the Ontario Legislature
and later anchored the CBC's 11 p.m. local news.