Soon the CBC will have to deal with their cuts. What will this mean? My bet is that it will mean a retreat to the Toronto Centralize Everything Bunker and to Broadcast TV.
What might a stronger CBC look like? How could a stronger CBC work on a smaller budget? Could they take these cuts and come up with another model. What about the best of Public TV and Radio in the US?
I offer to you the example of my wonderful client The Nine Network for Public Media (KETC Channel 9) in St Louis MO.
Nine, like all public stations in America, has a local board and is a self funding organization with only 5% of its budget coming from the Feds. The CBC depends mainly on its grant and on adverts for TV. It is a prisoner of who funds it. What if the CBC went local rather than concentrate further in Toronto?
The CBC is still a broadcaster who plays with social media as a marketing tool.
Nine still does broadcast BUT uses the digital world to offer 4 distinct channels with very different programming. So Kids have their own channel. Those who like current affairs and drama have theirs and so on. PLUS many of the shows are accessible directly from the web. Nine is all about making choice easy and about offering content on the viewers terms.
Nine makes it easy to see all online content. Nine showcases the networks web based shows that include many national shows but also many local shows that illuminate what is going on in St Louis.
All this is easy but the CBC has still not done this.
But most importantly, Nine sees itself as a Trusted Connector so that the community can meet safely and cope with pressing and complex problems. Nine sees a key role in engaging the local and the national community in getting beyond the sound bites to the real issues.
This work started with the Mortgage Crisis where Nine hosted a St Louis Alliance from the community where St Lousisans helped each other cope with the trauma of the housing crisis. This then became a national process where TV and Radio stations in 70 markets worked with each other and locally on this issue.
The point being that the CBC could play a huge role is helping Canadians get together locally and nationally to work on our problems with each other. Currently Nine is doing this on the topic of the dismal high school situation in America and will be launching a national debate on the toxic issue of immigration.
Imagine CBC helping us get to grips with the health care crisis or with the stalled economy and work issues?
The problems that face Canadians today are complex and all that the media allow for are shouting matches. The CBC is no better. But if the CBC saw their role as the trusted host, what could we do?
Th CBC is all over social media - but in the most crass way. It uses social media to promote itself.
Nine goes further and puts the Public into TV and Social Media. Nine trains the public to become great advocates and gives the best a showcase.
Making a good movie is not as easy as pointing an iPhone and recording. To tell a story we need how to tell a story! Nine runs a school to teach the public how to make great films - The Nine Academy. This is open to the public and to organizations - for we all need to be film literate these days.
Nine goes further. It is no good knowing how to make a good film if there is no showcase for it. yes, you can just post it. But Nine offers a showcase for locally made films about St Louis as well.
There is a lot for us to learn here. If the CBC allowed the public to come in locally, we could make the CBC ever more meaningful in Canadian life and we could take away the tension that it has with any government. We could have a national network of truly local hubs.
Here is a picture of how all this fits in St Louis - Oh yes and the local Public Radio station moves into premises next door later this year.
So I ask that the CBC consider changing its structure into that of a real network - similar but better that in America.
A national network of local stations that join together to do national things such as program or deal with issues. But where the centre of the system is always the local market. A local market with its own board.
Where the trusted brand of the CBC is used to create the ability to engage the community in dealing with the issues that concern it the most.
Where the bias is to the web where the costs can be kept low and where the public can play the best part. Where Canadian content is defined as being from the Canadian public. Bandwidth is all but limitless. Every local game of hockey can be available shot by the public. Every local band will have a place. All points of view will have a place. We can have TED like aggregation of the best.
What do you think? Would you like to be part of such a CBC?