Friends of Canadian Broadcasting goes to the mat for CBC in awareness campaign by Chris Powell

Dec 1, 2011

Source: Marketing Magazine

Peter Mansbridge has been replaced by a tattooed, eye-patch wearing grappler, while flamboyantly dressed Radio 2 personalities now settle on-air disagreements with their fists in a new vision of the CBC presented by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

Don Cherry, presumably, remains unaffected.

Concerned about potential cuts to the CBC’s operating budget as part of the Conservative government’s ongoing strategic and operating review, the broadcasting watchdog has launched a new awareness campaign called “Stop the CBC Smackdown.”

Created in-house, the campaign imagines the public broadcaster in the hands of a new owner – a former professional wrestler from the U.S. named Lance Fury (“My given name is Lancelot. It’s the type of name that either makes you furious or gay – I chose furious”).

Videos housed at a dedicated website feature the garrulous, extravagantly coiffed Fury – played by actor David Huband, a mainstay in Friends’ awareness campaigns since 2003 and a regular on CBC Television shows including Little Mosque on the Prairie – as an American who claims to know what Canadians want from their public broadcaster.

“They want information, they want entertainment, they want action,” says Fury, who pledges to give Canadian viewers everything they want in a single package called “infotactiontainment.”

Saying that action is what the network needs, Fury introduces a plan to change the name of CBC’s flagship newscast The National to The N-Actional, with an emphasis on action. A subsequent video depicts the news anchor and the weatherman as wrestlers, using wrestling terms like “stranglehold” to describe the day’s events.

The video ends with the message “Stop the CBC Smackdown” and drives people to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting website.

“It’s kind of a worst-case scenario about what could possibly happen if there weren’t any constraints on the Prime Minister,’ said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison, noting that Stephen Harper pledged to support the CBC during the most recent federal election.

“Since then he has contradicted that very strongly, and this is the time to act,” said Morrison. “You take the medicine before you get the cold.”

The videos have been viewed about 50,000 times since debuting yesterday. “Some of that might just be people who think wrestling is funny rather than people who care about public broadcasting,” joked Morrison. “But I’d like to think that some 25-year old who thinks it’s funny sends it to 20 friends and one of those people sends it to her mother, who sends a message to Prime Minister Harper.”

“It was intended to be funny and over the top,” said Morrison. “I think an intelligent viewer would understand that there’s an element of satire in this – it’s not an attempt to put down wrestling, or Americans for that matter.”

The Harper government’s strategic and operating review is asking all departments, agencies and crown corporations to find cost savings at it seeks to find $4 billion in savings to help reduce the deficit. Heritage Minister James Moore told The Globe and Mail this week that the CBC will be included in any cost-saving initiatives.

Friends claims that a proposed 10% cut to the CBC’s budget would have consequences that would be “visible and of great concern” to the majority of Canadians. The watchdog also said that a “steady attack” on the CBC by various MPs could change the direction of public support on the issue.

According to a recent poll conducted for Friends by Angus Reid/Vision Critical earlier this month, 46% of Canadians said they would urge their local MP to keep CBC funding at current levels, while another 23% would advise their MP to vote in favour of an increase.

The results are based on an online survey of 2,022 adult Canadians conducted between Nov. 4 and 10, and have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.18% 19 times out of 20.

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