The CBC’s new plan is to be a digital content company (that doesn’t make content). Jeffrey Dvorkin used to run news at CBC and NPR. He tells Jesse what he would do if he were still in charge.

Episode Breakdown

00:45 “That word content appears 48 times in the CBC’s just released  2020 strategy plan, the word news appears in the same plan 14 times, the word journalism appears once” Jesse talking about this plan (link)

5:22 “I would like my students to graduate and be bomb throwers and end up wherever they go and question ‘why are we doing it this way, why do we have to do it this way’ and I was told by people at Ryerson, you don’t criticize media organizations ever because they’re the ones that are going to get our graduates jobs. My response was basically journalism schools are hiring calls” Dvorkin

6:15 “The number of paid journalists in the United States had dropped by 30% in the last 5 years, but the number of people in public relations & communications field has about increased by that much”

50,690 in 2008 (link)

43,530 in 2013 (link)

He was off about public relations, it went down by nearly 40,000 since 2008

6:40 “I was once asked if I would come to work for a very big public relations firm in Washington and I said ‘what would I do?’ and they said, well we would like to assign you to handle the World Wrestling Federation file. They would like to lobby to have Congress acknowledge that wrestling is an acceptable form of family violence” – Dvorkin

7:50 “What is the most important thing journalism has to have and we all said truth justice and the american way or versions thereof and this women. this older women said all that’s nonsense the most important thing for journalism is advertising. And she’s right.”

9:00 “It should raise hackles. I think the value of good public broadcasting is listening to the radio in the morning, is for coffee to be spewed across the breakfast table, where someone says ‘My God martha, do you hear what they just said’ that to me is valuable.”

9:45 The David Taras piece about Meech Lake (link)

10:24 “What had happened was that NewsWorld, the all news network had just begun and covered the Meech Lake negotiations like a full blanket. A provincial premier couldn’t go to the loo without someone from CBC television sticking a microphone in his face and saying ‘well, have you come to an agreement yet?’ and the conclusion of the politicians was the CBC was intrusive (for the Meech lake failure)…..So Trina (McQueen, head of English Television) was held up in front of the board and told ‘you must tell your journalists never to do this again’ and Trina said ‘you’re telling me to tell my journalists that they can’t do their job, I won’t do it’, at which point she was fired. When I saw this it made sense: the CBC had become a government department and the goal of a government department was to please as many constituents as possible and offend as few as possible” – Dvorkin

16:22 Referring to the OJ Simpson Trial  “The idea that news can become a marketable commodity and attracts a lot of eyeballs if you do it right” (air quotes) Dvorkin

16:45 “The curse of the consultant culture at the CBC really took over” Dvorkin

17:12  I can’t find anything about this  confessions of an exmackenzite  in the Harvard Business Review?

18:50 “We (Committee of Concerned Journalists) published a study on local television news called We Interrupt This Newscast. We looked at the Magid effect on local TV and news which was the old, if it bleeds it leads philosophy. We looked with the help of PEW, a research group into journalism in the US. We looked at 34,000 TV reports and analyzed which reports the audience was neutral about, stories they were actually interested in, and which ones did they dislike so much that they turned away in a measurable amount. We discovered undifferentiated, uncontextualized crime reporting is what the audience hates the most. That when they in fact have a story that has flashing police lights and yellow tape, the audience will switch away by as much as 7%.” Dvorkin

We Interupt this Newscast sold here (link)

20:32 “Crime is falling in this country in a way that it never has, yet the amount of coverage of crime on CBC TV, especially local cbc tv has gone up 400-500%” Dvorkin

20:45 They (CBC) have tapped into government sources of information in a way that it is, I think, appalling. What do they cover more than anything else? Weather, traffic and crime. What are the sources for those stories? Weather, Environment Canada; traffic, Ministry of Transport; crime, the cops. All three are government sources of information, so where is the independent reporting?” Dvorkin

27:45 “It’s what I think is missing is at the CBC. They don’t seem to understand audience, they don’t understand their audience. There maybe a differentiation between radio and tv. I think radio, CBC radio understands and embraces its geeky audience a little better than TV does. CBC Television is still deformed by its commercial aspects.” Dvorkin

28:30 “If the way of the future seems to be online, why are we still broadcasting. What if the CBC said everything is going to be streamed video and audio.” Dvorkin

More on Dvorkin’s idea for the CBC here (link)

29:00 “If you’re going to create stuff that’s going online, you have a different kind of capacity than if you’re restricted to a one hour program with commercial inserts. It also gives you the freedom to make the choices that you think your audience will be interested in. If you consider your audience as citizens first and consumers of media second.” Dvorkin

30:45 “I grew up in Edmonton in 1957, we didn’t see TV before then. You eastern sophisticates had it for a few years before us and we would plug it in. It was Sylvania TV with Halo light. Their was kind of a fluorescent tube around the screen that was supposedly easier on the eyes.” Dvorkin

A Christmas gift for Dvorkin (link)

32:18 “Now Aereo is before the supreme court in the United State, a different way of taking over the air signals and popping them on to your Television sets. The cable companies are opposed to this because it’ll destroy their business model. Exactly, their business model should be destroyed.” Dvorkin

Aereo lost the case (link)

34:15 “There’s a lot of magical thinking going on at the CBC. I was talking to a very senior, long-time person and I was talking to him about this idea that maybe this is an opportunity to make some really interesting changes. And he got very dismissive of that idea and he said ‘there’s nothing wrong with the CBC that a return to full funding and Justin Trudeau won’t solve’…. yikes is right”. Dvorkin

35:05 “that hasn’t historically been true, Liberal governments have cut more than Conservative governments from the CBC”. Jesse

Hello Mr Chrétien (link)

and Paul Martin (link)

35:10 “I’ve got blood on my hands, when I was in management in the 90’s I was told cuts have come from the Liberal government. You have to reduce your staff by 30%, introduce digital technology and invent new programs Thank you! We did a lot of that. It was exhausting and it happend just around the time that NPR came a’ knocking on my door and I said ‘you know what? I think I’d rather try something else.”