Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The 'Corp(se)

I did a lot of venting on here regarding the CBC, but after my concerns just got continually passed around between the CBC, their Ombudsman, and the CRTC I had to step back for a bit. The Mothercorpse I have realized, must answer to no one. They have Carte Blanche and Canadians will like it, damnit. We have no recourse, we can complain and complain but it is all for naught. King Richard and Princess Layfield will do whatever the hell they want - and get away with it. So you might as well leave the muzzle on, because while we can speak our minds, no one who truly has the power to change anything will sincerely listen and take the appropriate action.

Yes, this all seems quite defeatist, but I just got so tired of not being taken seriously. I don't have any fancy titles in front of my name, I'm just a Stay-at-Home Mommy who foolishly thought my opinion counted for something in this country. My foray into trying to make a difference ended up in a big heaping pile of disappointment.

Maybe that's where I went wrong. I expected that as a Canadian, a Canadian Taxpayer, that my voice counted for something. That my suggestions or ideas counted for something. Don't get me wrong, I didn't ever think that I was going to change the world or anything, but I did trust, and wrongly so, that I would at least be heard.

But the Mothercorpse doesn't do that. Oh no. The Mothercorpse does whatever it pleases. The CBC doesn't care what Canadians think or want or deserve. As long as the big wigs are gettin' paid, pullin' in those big checks that we're all paying for, the Exec's at The Ceeb will continue to do whatever they please. It's very sad. This is our National Broadcaster but you might as well rename it "Television and Radio Corpse That You'll Pay 1 Billion Dollars a Year For No Matter What."

"Why does this bother you so much?" you may ask. After all, it's "just" TV and Radio. What I can answer is this. I was born in 1973 and became aware, very early on, of the Media around me. I grew up in a time that saw the explosion of Television for the masses. Pretty much everyone now had a "Tee Vee Set". While Canada was still over-exposed to American content, there wasn't so much that Canadian content got lost in the abyss of it.

I paid attention to home grown programming, my Parents made sure it was made readily available to me, and for that I will always be thankful for. One of my earliest memories was watching Cookie from the Original Kids of Degrassi Street go to the hospital for an operation, and when I went in for an emergency appendectomy at the age of 10 it was what I learned in that episode that chased away my terror. I loved watching the King of Kensington and feeling that connection of "Home" because Kensington was only a short drive away. It was familiar and comforting. It was Canadian.

Without even realizing it, the CBC fell off my radar. The extent of what I watched dwindled down to one, yes one, show, and that was Hockey Night in Canada. I was a Teenager in the 80's and early 90's and when I look back that's when I stopped watching. It seems that The CBC likes to forget there is a whole generation of viewers that exist between the ages of 12 and 40.

I became aware of this when a couple of years back I was surprised to find myself in love with a cheeky comedy called "The Tournament". It was funny and witty, well acted and had that once familiar feeling of "Home." It then dawned on me that "The Tournament" was the first Canadian produced programme I had watched on the CBC in years. Probably since The Edison Twins. I was surprised that The CBC was behind this production, and then even more shocked when The CBC canceled it.

For the first time in my life I wrote to the CBC. I let them know that I really enjoyed The Tournament and was disappointed at their decision to cancel it. Nothing ever came of it though, and I moved on... spilled milk and all....

When I caught a promo for jPod during a HNiC , I made a point to watch it when it premiered because it seemed right up my ally and hey, it was Coupland. People who know me will tell you it takes quite a bit for me to "get into" a show. I'm picky and not one to watch what is usually considered "Fluff". I'm not saying I don't escape into the odd show that would make some lift an eyebrow, but that is attributed to the "Train Wreck" factor. You know it's cringe-worthy but you just can't seem to look away.

Maybe it's because my parents exposed me to what I consider wonderfully produced shows when I was growing up. The Beachcombers, Read All About It, SCTV, W5, Bizarre, Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere, 60 Minutes, Archie Bunker, Barney Miller, 20/20.... I'm glad they took an interest in what I viewed, and doubly glad that they always tried to first and foremost, "Keep it Canadian".

But what in the world am I to do with my own children? Yes, it can be said that the CBC has quality children's programming, but that falls right in line with the same Canadian offerings found on TVO and Treehouse. My two oldest though are almost 12 and almost 18. What in the world is there for them on The CBC? Sophie? Being Erica? Wild Roses? Please, they're teenage boys, not 50 year old women.

The CBC has canceled "Street Cents" on them, and The Teenager realized himself that other than HNiC, jPod was the only other CBC programme he actually made a point of sitting down and watching with us every week. They'll be no more Marketplace for him either if he was so inclined, it's been moved to the "Friday Night Death Slot", and we all know our younger counterparts are usually not home on a Friday Night watching TV.

Needless to say, after the CBC made the decision to cancel jPod, dumped the CBC Orchestra and made big changes to Radio programming, the whole Hockey Theme debacle, and my questioning the state of todays CanCon (or lack thereof) I became deflated. I had tried my best, but in the end I got absolutely nowhere. Passed off from one person to another. "We're sorry, we can't help you, but these people can." And then when you talk to those people, they say "Oh no, we don't handle that" and then you're shuffled off to some other agency or department. My mind was left spinning and I realized that I could raise any concerns I wanted but it was falling on deaf ears.

I've asked the question before: If the CBC is our Nations Broadcaster, why is it that us regular citizens are not consulted about what content we would actually like to see and hear on the CBC? I'm not saying they have to send out a questionnaire to every household across the country, but wouldn't it be a natural thing to comprise a group of us regular Canucks that could contribute valuable suggestions and ideas to The Mothercorpse? (And that's not a typo, I say "corpse" because it might as well not even exist for me, as in dead.)

So here I am, just about a year after I woke up to all of this, and this is where things stand for me. Over the summer I watched the repeat of jPod, and then was subsequently disappointed when I bought the DVD for the season and found out that every disc produced was defective and had to be returned. I bought the "A Bear Named Winnie" DVD by CBC Home Video for my two youngest, only to discover on the back cover that they were 100 years off in their description of when the story began.

I have watched Hockey Night in Canada twice, and just the beginning. Once to see the Leafs raise Dougie's jersey, and once to see them hoist Wendel's. I caught the CBC's new hockey song after wondering why they first opened with that "Saturday!" one, and immediately thought I was watching a rerun of Dallas when I heard the "Contest Winner". I get my hockey fix on TSN , Leafs TV and The Score.

I now catch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on ABC West. I watched Stroumbo once to catch Joshua Jackson, and shook my head because really, The Hour is just a terribly hosted show. George may try, but in my opinion he just doesn't pull it off. I actually felt embarrassment when over and over everything he spouted just fell flat. I'm done with the 'Corpse, and no longer wish to have anything to do with it. I feel it does not represent me as a Canadian, I'm taking it very personal.

I'm sure I'll always think of this, it will always be one of those things that just saddens me. It might not be something that is on every Canadians' mind, but its on mine. I'll probably dive in here and there, but for the most part I'm stepping away from it all, and hope that one day the CBC returns to that familiar feeling of "Home" for me.

Until then, I take solace in the fact that Sophie is dying a horrible death (BBM Canada Nielsen Media Research Ratings 268,000 viewers Feb. 10/09) - just as I predicted would happen when the WGA strike was over - and in hearing Dolores Claman's Hockey Theme on TSN every week. How awesome it will sound during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Duh Duh Duh Dah Dah Daaaah!


Allan said...

Listen, A G, I'm going to tell you right off the bat that I was not a fan of JPod. But nor was I against it's right to exist.
And I understood the appeal, even if I didn't respect the way it was executed and so on.

And I know how it is.
For some dumb reason, when I was 15 I too petitioned the CBC to keep a show on the air. Must have gotten 300 signatures from people who probably didn't care one bit.
And even though I knew that little ol' me and all that scribbling wasn't going to change the course of programming, I did it anyway.
In other words, I was a fan of this show, friends with cast members and in awe of the skill of the this indoor theatre (imagine being on the set of an early CBC dramedy with sets and costumes) and wanted to do might futile little part.
It would have saved me some time if an adult had pulled me aside and said this:

This is about money.
It's about being able to sustain the cost of this production, ideally make a profit, and please people.
If you can't do those three, then it's over.
Or, if you do hit all three, it an still be over if or when someone comes along with The Goon Show, which nets an even bigger profit, and you're replaced.

Having said that, there are exceptions.
A show can make no money and still be on the air because so many people like it but advertisers are staying away. This is even more likely to happen when a public broadcaster is involved. One who likes to prove they are providing a public service.

You are convinced that JPod was far more popular than CBC gave it credit for, and you may well be right.
I saw no reason why the clever antics of a bunch of mischievous, arrogant techies with a little bit of drugs and sex thrown in and some stupid parents wouldn't be a hit.
A vicarious way to live out a dream job for a specific and large age-group who mostly live all too humdrum and not so funny lives and with no guarantee that they will be around as long as Friends.
We can't all be George Strombo or in his revolving gang.
You may well be right that in these hyper connected to media even in the shower that there were tons of people watching who didn't register with any ratings service.
10,000 sets of eyeballs on the TV channel and 50,000 downloading torrents for later viewing without the commercials. (not that people care about putting up with commercials I believe).
But without a way to present convincing figures to advertisers what was the CBC to do?
You can't say to an advertiser "just take our word for it", and the fact is that the CBC has yet to devise a way of measuring this new media in a convincing way.
They've already indicated that the internet does not present any real concern for them at this point.

So once the numbers go downhill, like they're doing with Sophie, it's over.
Here too the CBC went out of it's way to devise a rescue plan, just as they tried with JPod. Too late, at least this time around.

I though you really gave it your all, as evidenced in this post.
But I think you made a mistake.
You should have submitted it to Tea Makers.
And annoyed even more people.

Alternative Girlfriend said...

Allan, I think that is the nicest post you have ever written. Reading back I suppose my frustration can come off whiny, which was never my intent, but I can see being ripped for it.

I believe the show should have been given a little more time, sometimes you gotta throw a little belief and hope behind the product you put out. It's hard to get viewer loyalty for the rest of a season when you've already canceled it half way through. If it had been given a shot at season 2 and then tanked like Sophie, I would said fair enough, and that would have been it.

While jPod was what I wrote about most, my discontent with the CBC is overall. Do you think I expect too much of the CBC?

Maybe I have been suffering from illusions of grandeur, thinking that the CBC could be this really awesome amazing thing that a majority of Canadians, young and old, were really proud of.

Maybe I'm just getting nostalgic because back in the 70's and 80's I really did love it. Is it wrong that I want the majority of media that my kids are exposed to, to be Canadian *and* entertaining?

And your right Allan, I guess I'm glad I wrote about it too. My opinion may not be of expert caliber, but it was mine nonetheless.

FYI, I sent Ouimet the link for this post last week.

Dwight Williams said...

You're not wrong to want any such thing.

I'm working on a comic book co-pro with an Australian writer, inker and letterer, and we expect our first distributor to be based in the USA. My first paid work as a pro writer was for a US games company. But I still want to see good drama, good comedy, useful news and opinion/debate and so forth, as much as possible to be homegrown, via the CBC and as many others as can be bribed or dragooned into helping out.

For me, the "lost causes worth saving anyway" are Da Vinci, This is Wonderland, Intelligence...and I'm not giving up on any of them until the last surviving grip goes the way of all flesh.

Allan said...

Well, I don't want you to be upset.
Your post here was what a good blog is all about. Writing out everything about something meaningful to you.
It takes a long time to change the culture and mindset of a huge corporation, but I too believe that it can be done.
And seriously consider posting CBC concerns/thoughts at Tea Makers and insidecbc and of course always to audience relations.

I like personal blogs, they can be so impressive sometimes.
But these days I lean toward collaborative efforts. Even amongst people like joe and I who don't always get along.
You have your select readers following your life, and I always appreciated your involvement at TM, so keep on keeping on.
As each year of this blogging stuff (and now Twitter!) evolves, i find I learn a lot from reading other people (too many!), but that I learn even more by participating, about others and about myself.
But it takes effort and comes with a small price, so I know from experience that it's a reflection of both work and courage to write a post such as you have here.

The CBC is far from being the only thing in either of our lives.
But like you, I think we deserve better than we're getting.
Like with our government in some instances.
So we stand up and ask questions and present our views too.

You did your best, and it was a lot.
The CBC should be, and probably is, grateful to you that you cared that much.

Oh yeah, Ouimet probably doesn't answer her mailbox that often, so you should send to the Fake guy. His address is there.

Alternative Girlfriend said...

Thanks Dwight, I'm glad to know it wasn't just me. IMO Canada has some of the most talented people in the world and I wonder, why more often than not they must go to another country first to get recognized, discovered, appreciated.

Allan said...

Ah, he removed it.


and feel free to give us a piece of your mind when you're inclined, though I don't need to tell you that

Dwight Williams said...

I've been doing some reading recently, including John Ralston Saul's A Fair Country. I doubt that Mr. Saul's figured out the entire picture, but I wonder if he hasn't hit upon several of the contributing factors.

Alternative Girlfriend said...

@ Allan, Yes, I can only hope there will be change, Canadians deserve it. My oldest son had some of his friends over this weekend, and while I'm not sure how the conversation started, it came around that all of them had really no idea what was on the CBC, other than hockey. Now THAT says so much about our Nations Broadcaster. A whole Generation of 17 year olds' staring blankly when you explain "No really, we have TV Shows and Radio, made right here in Canada."

And you're right, The CBC is far from being the only thing in either of our lives. The state of The Mothercorp isn't keeping me up at night, but it is something that should be spoken about, debated about, and hopefully, improved.

Although, ha, ha, I doubt that Kirstine Layfied loves that I care so much. And I'm doubly sure the Mods over at don't like me either... I stopped posting there because my messages kept being rejected. Nothing I ever posted there was untrue, yet they felt my points were easier to delete than to have open for debate.

I'm glad you've appreciated my involvement at Teamakers, I've always felt welcome there, regardless of the fact that I come from the standpoint of Consumer.

Alternative Girlfriend said...

@ Dwight Thanks for the reading suggestion, it's going on my list for my next trip to the bookstore.

@ Allan FO's e-mail duly noted, I'll be sure to send over any future rants and raves. It's nice to know that while the CBC may not care about what Canadians think, other Canadians actually do.

Anonymous said...

You've covered far more in this one post than I have over the year or so I've posted about the various changes at the CBC. The rate at which this has been happening is scary to say the least.

And I think The Hour has really slipped since George started taping his shows in front of an audience (IIRC, the first year or so went live on Newsworld, then repeated on the main network).