The CBC’s Richard Stursberg takes to the pages of the Toronto Star to argue that “CBC TV’s Never Been Better.” He’s responding to a somewhat different argument from the usual anti-CBC argument, that their shows aren’t popular enough. The other argument, which Stursberg is addressing, is that the CBC’s shows are too focused on popular entertainment and not enough on the types of programs that can’t support themselves on purely commercial networks.
The two arguments are, in a way, linked, since they both proceed from the idea that programming should either be totally commercial (and therefore paid for entirely by private money) or totally “public-service.” I don’t agree with that idea, because there’s no such thing as totally un-subsidized programming, but I do have a certain level of sympathy with the argument that the CBC doesn’t quite do all it needs to in the areas that Stursberg dismisses as “a university lecture, a ballet, or a treatise on world hunger.” Not that public broadcasting should only be highbrow stuff, but it needs to have some of that stuff, because nobody else will. And the CBC sometimes strikes me as doing less than it could in those areas. And those are the areas, like music, theatre, and variety, where the CBC of the ’50s and ’60s was able to show off a wider range of Canadian talent. Even PBS, hardly in a golden age, has a little more of that.
Incidentally, while Stursberg’s point about the ’70s and ’80s is well taken — that the CBC had a lot more simulcasts of U.S. programs than it does now — the 1982 schedule he describes doesn’t sound half bad, except for Joanie Loves Chachi. But it does fulfil the rule that every article ever written must have a freakin’ Scott Baio reference in there somewhere. I swear I don’t go looking for them — it’s just that Bob Loblaw is everywhere!