Catherine Tait takes the reins at CBC
Apr 5, 2018
By Daniel Bernhard
"There is nothing more important than local stories and local news. It will be absolutely central in what we will do going forward."
CBC President and CEO
Appearing before the Ottawa media for the first time as CBC’s new President and CEO, Catherine Tait delivered a welcome signal that she understands the strong appetite Canadian viewers and listeners have for local news and information.
This is a positive sign for both the CBC and Canadians.
FRIENDS’ own opinion research shows that Canadians place a high premium on local news content, consistently ranking local news as the most desired type of TV programming. Yet these cherished local programs, especially news, face a dim future.
Ms. Tait’s arrival at CBC comes at a time when media in Canada are struggling to survive. Already, more than 10,000 Canadian journalists have been laid off and hundreds of media outlets have gone dark.
Facebook has become the largest single source of news for Canadians, eclipsing any other single TV, radio or print source. Yet Canadians don’t trust what they read on Facebook. Why would they, given recent events? Facebook’s history of spreading fake news gives us grounds to be concerned that news found on social media platforms can’t be relied upon.
CBC has an essential role to play in countering propaganda, at the local level and beyond. But it need not play that role to the detriment of other voices. Quite the contrary, CBC could be an instrumental partner for private Canadian media. This isn’t a zero-sum game. Now is the time to make 1+1=3, and the CBC has the capability to make this come to pass.
It’s time for CBC to assume its rightful place in the Canadian media solar system, not just to fill gaps but to lead by example, aim for bold creative excellence and raise the bar for all.
One measure of success for Ms. Tait’s term will be her ability to adopt a less commercial orientation for CBC, placing a greater focus on public service.
Ms. Tait’s predecessor filled prime time with American game shows, attempted to sell ads on Radio 2 and Espace Musique, sold off CBC’s valuable real estate and failed to exercise appropriate stewardship of irreplaceable heritage collections of artifacts and intellectual property.
Ms. Tait faces many challenges, but we can be cautiously optimistic that change is on the way.
Ms. Tait, if you’re reading, please know that FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting wishes you well as you embark upon this journey of a lifetime. Now more than ever, the CBC needs strong, ambitious, public-minded leadership. Canadians are looking to you to deliver it.
Daniel Bernhard @sendinthewolf is the Executive Director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.