True Testing Times

Here’s inveterate curmudgeon Rex Murphy with some pithy observations on Michael Ignatieff’s very bad month, describing the Liberal skipper’s “true testing time” complete with one of his typically hackneyed metaphors involving an embattled ship in a gale…

Speaking of distraught flagships flailing about in a roiling sea of noise and confusion, viewers of CBC’s The National and its various other news offerings will doubtless have noticed (how could they not?) the public broadcaster’s trendy re-branding in an attempt to emulate the “pizazz” of cable networks on American TV. Apparently, I’m not alone in despairing of this “new and improved” approach to delivering the news… Rick Salutin at the Globe & Mail viciously slagged it earlier in the week:

This is all about talking down to dim, self-absorbed viewers, with weak attention spans who don’t care about complex issues or, yuck, details. About “relating’” to them. “Connect,” as Mark Kelley’s new nightly segment is called. But (with apologies to the late Johnny Cochrane) you can’t connect without respect. What you get is a parody of connection.

The CBC execs are beside themselves with the thrill of it. Their endless in-house memos rely heavily on triple exclamation marks as punctuation: “The energy in the building is palpable … The torch has been passed … We have moved from a Buick to a Ferrari …!!!” (Oddly dated images, by the way, and insulting.)

It’s as though it’s all about them: their new sets and graphics, full-page ads, U.S. consultants. Watching CBC news now feels like living inside English-language boss Richard Stursberg’s head, the man who endowed the CBC with a “factual entertainment” department…

Granted, Salutin has an obvious disdain for the CBC due to the broadcaster’s perceived arrogance and supercilious attitudes manifest in its condescending delivery, etc., whereas my irritation in roused more by the superficial, but equally insidious aspects of packaging news as substance-free “infotainment”… With this flashy re-branding of CBC News however, it seems we now have an accretion of the most appalling aspects of both; one that, unfortunately, we’re likely to be stuck with for quite some time.

In a sense, this too might be a “true testing time” for the CBC’s “new look” based on whether the public either: a) reluctantly adapts to it; b) embraces it with enthusiasm; or c) rejects it for the annoying, vacuous tripe that it is. Only time will tell, of course.

I’ll leave it to readers to draw comparisons between the Liberal Party’s installation of Michael Ignatieff as the “new and improved” leader earlier this year and the current “exciting” re-branding of the CBC.



Filed under CBC, Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff

30 responses to “True Testing Times

  1. Ti-Guy

    ’ll leave it to readers to draw comparisons between the Liberal Party’s installation of Michael Ignatieff as the “new and improved” leader earlier this year and the current “exciting” re-branding of the CBC.

    I’ll pass since I only have the bibulous geriatric Rex Murphy to react to.

    All of this is fluff. Except for Salutin’s criticism of the CBC, but people who are in charge no longer listen, nor care.

  2. Bill

    Go away and shuffle off your mortal coil Rex.

  3. Blues Clair

    Good old Rex, fervent, interpreter of the vast, political, landscape. With his perspicacious insights, you ignore him at your own peril Liberals!

    “Murphy has run for office in three Newfoundland provincial elections, in 1975 as a Tory, and in 1985 and 1987 as a Liberal. He lost all three times.”

  4. I have to confess that I find him amusing. Better Senator Murphy than Duffy…

  5. Omar

    No more BBC World Service at 7pm each night blows dead monkeys. What genius thought that a good idea?

  6. Maybe they didn’t like the comparison?

  7. Omar

    Overall I don’t really mind the changes. I like the new Politics show, but find it too long at 2 hours. I usually enjoy Mark Kelly’s pieces when he’d have one every couple of months, but every night? Pass. The Mansbridge standing thing is neither here nor there, but boy, I didn’t realize he was so fat until you see him erect and in profile. The BBC being gone is my biggest beef. If I want it I have to subscribe to BBC Canada. Maybe that’s the plan. Fucking cable companies..

  8. Ti-Guy

    Good old Rex, fervent, interpreter of the vast, political, landscape. With his perspicacious insights, you ignore him at your own peril Liberals!

    Although he didn’t say so in so many words, he supported the Iraq Invasion. He screamed “Clarity! Where’s the clarity!” at the time to condemn Chrétien.

    I can easily ignore him. He’s a clapped-out lush. He was drunk on the CBC (ie. on the job) the night Harper won in 2005.

  9. I might grow used to the changes. For example, I just despised CNN’s “Situation Room” when it first aired. Far too much extraneous crap and frivolous nonsense going on… But now I’ve grown accustomed to it as some weird force of nature that has to be contended with. Or, as more usually is the case, ignored completely.

    The “Mansbridge standing thing” (and other reporters that are forced to awkwardly belly up to the plexiglass bar of the news desk) really, really bugs me. It’s soooo affected, uncomfortable, and just incredibly wrong.

  10. jkg

    I suppose part of their rebranding effort was to have some already tired political memes and talking points “Rexed” up or “Murphied” as to give that scintillating veneer of erudition and thoughtfulness?

    One good thing, I suppose, is that with Rex on the CBC, the automaton-like howls of bias might decrescendo (which curiously followed the increasing intensity down south at which anything not Fox News was considered bias). I don’t think I was the only one that noticed how the dynamics surrounding journalistic media from down south have crept up north, a trend I find particularly unsettling. The last thing we need is for our media to be an echo chamber up here. Then again, Rick Mercer or the folks over at This Hour Has 22 Minutes might be able to satirize our media industry with the same poignancy as that of The Daily Show . I doubt it though. As much as Rick is funny and everything, he is pretty much an attenuated court jester as he cannot afford to satirize seriously; otherwise, he would lose access. Besides, our media is just not that crazy…..yet

  11. Blues Clair

    I have no problems with drunks… but, Rex’s schtick is too much for me. I’m starting to feel sorry Michael Ignatieff. Imagine the indignity, striving to be in Taber’s who’s hot list.

  12. Ti-Guy

    I have no problems with drunks…

    On the job, I do.

  13. …striving to be in Taber’s who’s hot list.

    Does any sentient human being on planet Earth care about what Jane Taber thinks? Really… about anything? Let alone about who she considers “hot” or “not”…

  14. Blues Clair

    I would hope so, but with those polling numbers Ignatieff has these days… any good press will do.

  15. Ti-Guy

    I would hope so, but with those polling numbers Ignatieff has these days…

    I draw a different conclusion from those polls. They reveal that people *do* care what Jane Taber says. Or at least, they process information the way she does.

    It the NDP were surging, I’d think differently. But support for all oppositions parties has been lacklustre.

    Then again, I have serious questions about those polls and the fact the the undecided vote (which has been as high as 17% lately) is not being reported. Given that voter turn-out has been steadily dropping, I wonder if they’re telling us anything at all. And the spokespeople for the pollsters have been making startling claims for which the data from their surveys don’t support.

  16. Blues Clair

    I don’t live Canada anymore, so I haven’t witnessed the million dollar advertising blitz by the Harperites. Though, my father, a lifelong Liberal, has started repeating Tory slogans about the economic recovery to me in our phone conversations.

    Heads up RT, any minute now, Adscam.

  17. TofKW

    “Heads up RT, any minute now, Adscam.”

    Don’t laugh, we’ll be paying for it. Well, we still here in Canuckland anyhow. Unfortunately I wish it could be caught any minute now, but the sad truth is it will takes years before the Auditor General’s report confirms anything.

  18. hugger

    Much like their online news forum. You can say pretty much whatever you want as long as it is dim, self-absorbed, ill informed and doesn’t seriously challenge the current Governments Regurgitated Unimaginative seemingly Endless Lying. Or GRUEL for short.

    The intent being a wantonly sadistic, slow torture of perceived intellectuals at the hands of ghoulish revenge seeking proponents of cleansing the country and the spirit via evangelical worship and physically disecting nerds.


  19. Blues Clair – speaking of Adscam – Dean Del Mastro is putting up a motion in the house to request the AG re-investigate Adscam…..under Harper’s instruction I have no doubt.

    Rex Murpy hates Obama, Ignatieff and the idea of climate change and I think it’s more about those folks that have succeeded where he’s failed.

  20. Navvy

    The more CBC chases ratings, the less relevant it becomes. Their job is to NOT be like the other broadcasters, that’s not hard to understand. There’s no mystery here. Want to be a good public broadcaster? Copy the BBC. It really is as simple as that. I understand the pressure that the harperites put them under, but making these kinds of changes doesn’t get them anywhere.

    Does anyone know who you write to at the CBC to tell them they blow? Not that it will do any good, but there is a certain satisfaction in it.

  21. Ti-Guy

    Does anyone know who you write to at the CBC to tell them they blow?

    Write Richard Stursberg and copy it to everyone. Make sure you congratulate him on his betrothal to the enterprising CBC newsreader Carole MacNeil, several decades his junior.

  22. Omar

    Several decades his junior? I believe Ms MacNeil is a little longer in the tooth then you are thinking she is.

  23. Anonymous

    She’s 45. Richard Stursberg’s age/date of birth appears to be a state secret, so let’s just say he’s 72 for argument’s sake. All of these clapped-out boomers might as well be.

  24. Ti-Guy

    That last comment was me.

  25. Omar

    My bad, TG. I didn’t think Stursberg was that old.

  26. Kaplan

    Is it just me, or is Rex Murphy half in the bag in this video?

    Go watch it again, even for 30 seconds, and tell me I’m wrong.

  27. Jay

    I hate the CBC now. It is dumbed down and the way the host question each other is so fake and cheesy.

    The hosts even look like they are being forced into it.

    Didn’t the conservatives appoint a crony to CBC? This must be the fruit of his free ride. Conservatives may now like it though, its sunken down to their level of dialogue and detail. Near zero.

  28. It would certainly be nice to see some kind of a fusion between the BBC and PBS (or even Al Jazeera English which offers some really excellent programming and in-depth analysis) rather than the direction they’ve taken towards CNN/Fox and that ilk of sensational scare-mongering, soundbites, and twitterfied, truncated talking points.

  29. I can’t stand the new CBC News Network either.

  30. jkg

    Al Jazeera English which offers some really excellent programming and in-depth analysis

    I don’t know if you experienced this, but AJE is greatly ostracized, considered practically a pariah in the North American news complex. When I actually say to some people how much I enjoy watching some excerpts from Al-Jazeera English, they recoil and descend right into disjointed diatribes. They tend to target the fact that Avi Lewis is featured prominently, and he certainly does not deny his bias. However, it is almost pathological as most of their objections ignore the swathe of great reporting done by that network. Heck, AJE does a better job reporting on the Afghanistan mission than other news networks. There was a report done by an AJE reporter who went out to one of the most forward operating outposts in one of the provinces in Afghanistan. A small group of maybe 20 or so soldiers were single handedly defending a small town at the base of a valley against continued fire from the insurgents perched close to the peak. The details of how they coped with only a couple of artillery cannons was very insightful, especially since it was shown that for each time they must use the cannons, they must receive authorization from a commanding officer. The problem is that the C.O. was back at the forward operating base, which continually produced a lag in use of those weapons. I have not seen any other networks get that close to what is going.

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