Summary: CBC Radio National News Reporter Survey

May 8, 2010

“TV makes money and radio costs money. The concept of public broadcasting is lost.”

A CBC Radio National News reporter
The absence of public broadcasting values among CBC senior management is no more evident than in its decisions concerning CBC Radio.

Consistent with its abandonment of classical culture, CBC’s senior  management appears determined to make CBC Radio News more superficial, less intelligent and even more dominated by CBC TV News when it comes to internal decision-making and resource allocation.

Why is this happening?

One CBC National Radio News reporter offers this simple and cogent explanation that goes to the heart of the mindset of the current senior management at the CBC:

“TV makes money and radio costs money. The concept of public broadcasting is lost.”

This incisive comment emerges from a recently leaked internal survey of CBC National Radio News reporters, the creative power behind some of CBC Radio’s most innovative and informative programs.

The survey was completed since CBC’s management merged the news assignment process in which the assignment desks for radio, online and television were brought together under the same structure (called the Hub) intended to coordinate and assign the news gathering process.

The survey paints a picture of a creative team demoralized by decisions that have diminished the quality of its work controlled by managers who do not understand radio.  Some low lights of the survey:

81% reject the notion (52.4% strongly) that the integration of TV and radio has benefited National Radio News programming.

Reporters offered these additional comments:

“The problem is that radio news has been overwhelmed by TV and no one up there seems to realize it or, more importantly, care.”

“There are no advocates for radio, radio culture, radio ideas or radio reporters anymore.  We’re totally on our own.”

“Radio is being treated as TV without pictures. A voiceover from TV played on radio fails to paint any pictures and leaves our audience with less than it deserves.”

“TV on the radio, as we are increasingly becoming, is a terrible waste of our senior service and a disservice to our listeners.”

“In fact integration has lowered the quality of radio news.”

“Radio is being dumbed down by reactionary, follow-the-paper journalism that seems to be the hallmark of TV. These days, it seems we're TV without the pictures. I also think the diversity of stories has narrowed significantly because we do so many TV-friendly stories.”

“It's all about TV.... Radio is a distant after-thought.”

Almost all (90%) think radio has its own culture that is the hallmark of CBC Radio’s success.  At the same time, 90% think that culture is in a much worse state today compared to a year ago (before the Hub).

Reporters wrote these additional comments:

“Our culture is dying.”

“We've gone more to entertaining than educating or informing - I think we're losing what Canadians love the most about us and becoming more like the privates all the time. Soon they'll be saying about radio what they've said about TV for years - why fund us if we sound like everyone else? Very, very sad.”

“Again, radio culture is being washed away in this integration. We've gone from a culture that valued strong story-telling, and investigative, original stories to one in which we're pumping out content, feeding the goat. Quality, intelligence, depth no longer seem appreciated. Everything is puddle deep.”

Over 95% think CBC Radio is on the wrong course.

“I don't think radio news has a course. I think it's being swept along in the new corporate focus on ratings and profits. As Richard Stursberg has pointed out in his town-hall charts, TV makes money and radio costs money. The concept of public broadcasting is lost.”

“We are dumbing down...things are more superficial...we are not supposed to even talk with the Current ( the one long-form outlet we have left) if we want to do a story.”

“I worry very much that we are losing what makes us distinct and popular.  We are increasingly being made to resemble: from programming decisions, to hosts, producers work flow and more. And this makes no sense to me, because radio has always been much more popular than TV.”

“Why would we make our popular news service resemble our unpopular one?”

Reporters were also asked for their views about changes to the morning national news program World Report.
“The changes to World Report and World at Six are a big disappointment and no one thought to talk to us.”

A CBC Radio National News reporter

“The rationale behind the dramatic changes made to World Report has never been explained to me.”

“At the end of a World Report newscast, I often feel I really don't have a clue about what's going on in the world…. It's bells and whistles, and a sense of urgency in tone, but with little real content.”

“In my opinion, World Report died when the show lost 25% of it's airtime, and hired people who can't even be called junior reporters to guide it.”

“What kind of organization cuts the most popular program on the most popular service? It was one of the worst decisions and should be reversed.”

“The need for shorter stories works against making good radio as elements such as sound and context are sacrificed for the sake of brevity.”

“World Report as a whole is now more superficial, the journalism is less accurate, respect for language and creative writing is diminished and the format is formulaic.”

“WR used to be the place to go for significant, important, original stories. Now it feels like TV-lite, or TV without the pictures.”

“The bottom line is we're giving people less. You can pretend it's more by giving people more bites, but there isn't as much food on the plate. I didn't know we needed to go on a news diet.”

Three-quarters believe CBC no longer has a strong commitment to original journalism.

“There is no commitment to original journalism. Partly because there's no time for it. And partly because the TV news culture is more about agenda journalism and not wanting to miss something the Globe and Mail or CTV has.”

“I think CBC has fallen down completely in its longstanding commitment to depth journalism.”

95.2% believe that “compared to a year ago, morale in the national news service is lower than ever during my career.”

The full survey report – a damning endictment of CBC’s current senior management  – is available here.