CBC

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Culture

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Is Strange Empire good enough to save the CBC?

The CBC’s new feminist western is as gripping and gritty as any premium cable drama. But can it help reverse the beleaguered broadcaster’s fortunes?

The Argument: The Final Frontier

Melissa Farman as the unlikely doctor, Tattiawna Jones as the enterprising madam, Cara Gee as the Métis sharpshooter and Aaron Poole as the murderous pimp (Image: courtesy of the CBC)

The new series Strange Empire is a richly produced western set in 1869 on the unkempt Alberta terrain. It kicks off with a dark, propulsive premise: when the men in a small frontier camp are mysteriously slaughtered, their once-helpless wives and daughters are forced to buck up and take control. Every shot is a swirl of artfully dusty browns and tans, every costume and set piece a bedraggled beauty. The plots are full of brothels, sex and violence. The show bears every trademark of a premium cable drama, with morally ambiguous characters and an irreverent point of view. The strangest thing about Strange Empire? It’s on the CBC.

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Stat

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Peter Mansbridge probably makes at least this much money

$485,667

—The average total compensation paid to the four top-earning on-air personalities at the CBC as of April, according to a document prepared by the broadcaster for a Senate committee. The Ottawa Citizen, which reported on the document late last week, points out that one of the four is almost certainly Peter Mansbridge, whose salary has been something of a mystery.

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Business

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Everyone hates the CBC’s new strategic plan

cbc-logoThe future had never looked bleaker for the CBC than it did last month, after CEO Hubert Lacroix announced that he would be cutting as many 1,500 jobs over the next six years as part of a strategic effort to absorb the broadcaster’s many budget cuts. Lacroix tried to put the best possible face on the move, couching it in terms of an inevitable shift to cheaper, web-based production. “We’re going to lead now with mobility,” he said. “We’re going to lead with whatever widget you use.” But in the weeks since the news broke, the plan has been eviscerated from all sides. Here, three ways to complain about the decline of the Ceeb.

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Business

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CBC plans to cut 1,500 jobs, push digital services rather than TV and radio

cbc-logoThe CBC’s bad decade continues this morning, with news that the broadcaster’s grand solution to its existential funding crisis, is, essentially, to stop broadcasting so much.

CBC News reports that its parent corporation is planning to shed 1,000 to 1,500 jobs by 2020—and that’s on top of previously announced staffing reductions. (To put those numbers in perspective, the CBC only had about 7,000 permanent employees in April, before it announced the elimination of 657 jobs.) CBC CEO Hubert T. Lacroix told CBC News that the bloodletting will be accompanied by a shift in priorities. “We used to lead with television and radio,” he said. “Web came and then mobility came. We are reversing, we are inverting the priorities that we have. We’re going to lead now with mobility, we’re going to lead with whatever widget you use.” (Lacroix no longer knows or cares what widget you use.) He also said he might consider selling CBC’s Toronto building and leasing it back. Evening newscasts are expected to be shortened from 90 minutes to 60, or even 30.

In all, this isn’t a particularly good day to be a twenty- or thirty-something person working for the CBC. It’s a slightly better day for older workers who may suddenly find themselves eligible for voluntary buyouts, should the CBC decide to go that route. All of this is fallout from a run of ruinous financial blows, starting with the 2012 federal budget and culminating, last year, in the loss of NHL broadcast rights and all the ad revenue associated with Hockey Night in Canada.

The CBC has released an almost deludedly cheerful report on its so-called “2020 strategy.” Read the whole thing right here.

The Informer

Politics

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CBC’s Metro Morning confirms the obvious: nobody pays attention to Queen’s Park

(Image: Horwath: Andrea Horwath/Facebook; Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

(Image: Horwath: Andrea Horwath/Facebook; Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

Anyone who cares about provincial politics may want to sit down before listening to the first two minutes of this segment from today’s Metro Morning. The radio show had a reporter stand on John Street, where she asked more than a dozen passers-by to identify the three leaders of Ontario’s major provincial parties. At least three people didn’t know who Kathleen Wynne was (she’s the premier of Ontario, for anyone still wondering). Someone thought Olivia Chow was a party leader. In the end, only one person was able to ID Wynne, Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak without difficulty.

We now have about a month to go until the next provincial election—an election that may determine the future of public transit in Toronto, among other things. If this unscientific sample is anything to go by, the candidates are going to need to print up a few more lawn signs.

The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: what do I do about my wife’s erotic CBC fan fiction?

Dear Urban Diplomat: CBC Fan Fic

(Image: Peter Rogers)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I discovered my wife’s erotic fan fiction starring a certain personality from CBC’s The National. It’s astonishingly steamy stuff. What should I make of it?

—Fiction Friction, Summerhill

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The Informer

Culture

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Breaking: CBC cuts over 600 jobs

cbc logo

CBC News announced today that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be cutting 657 jobs over the next two years, the result of $130 million in cuts from its budget this year. The cuts also mean that Canada’s national broadcaster will no longer have the resources to compete against private networks for pro sports broadcast rights.

At a town hall meeting with staff today, CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix attributed the cuts to a $115 million loss in federal funding that came with the 2012 federal budget and a drop in projected revenue resulting from CBC losing Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers. Declining ad revenue and the network’s failure in delivering the coveted 25-54 demographic to advertisers are also responsible.

The network has also announced that they will not be replacing George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. But really, who could ever replace George Stroumboulopoulos? A pre-faded Hot Topic London Calling shirt stuffed with old leaves and jammed inside a used leather jacket? Not in the budget, friends.

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Random Stuff

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CBC does God’s work, tracking the hipsterfication of Spadina Avenue

(Screenshot/CBC)

(Screenshot/CBC)

Trigger warning for hipster content.

Have you walked up and down Spadina Avenue lately? If so, you’re probably a hipster, trawling the Chinatown strip, turning crummy t-shirt wholesalers into board-game cafes as if by the sheer force of fickle taste-making willpower.

Yes, Old Chinatown has a problem. And that problem is hipsters. But the CBC, ever vigilant, is keeping a watchful eye on the trendification of the street with a new interactive feature.

CBC’s Spadina’s Hipster Makeover asks readers to submit “examples of traditional Spadina shops transforming for a new clientele.” The accompanying graphic features a Spadina street sign decked out in a fuzzy beard (because hipsters love beards, and will go to insane lengths to acquire them) and sunglasses (because hipsters are extra-sensitive to the blinding tyranny of the sun, probably because they’re always hungover from drinking bespoke IPAs all night—or possibly because they’re vampires). It basically looks like if Zach Galifianakis was a street sign.

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The Informer

Sports

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Strombo’s talk-show career is dead; long live Strombo’s hockey-announcer career

(Image: Strombo: JMacPherson; Cherry: CBC/Screenshot)

(Image: Strombo: JMacPherson; Cherry: CBC/Screenshot)

Here’s your roundup of all today’s exciting George Stroumboulopoulos news: according to reports out of CBC and Rogers Media, the earringed one will be giving up his talk show, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, and accepting a new gig as the host of Hockey Night in Canada. The move is the first big staffing change to be announced by Rogers since it bought the rights to Canadian NHL broadcasts—including Hockey Night in Canada—for $5.2 billion late last year.

The Canadian Press is reporting that Strombo’s time on HNIC will begin with the next hockey season, in October 2014. His face will be virtually inescapable for Canadian hockey fans: Rogers now has a monopoly on hockey in this country, and so the new host’s duties extend not only to CBC, but also to broadcasts on City, Sportsnet and any other channels or websites that might conceivably contain a picture of a hockey rink. Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and the rest of the gang are said to be retaining their jobs for the time being (the Rogers deal only guarantees the continued existence of HNIC on CBC for four years), but a press release indicates that their roles will be reduced.

Considering the utter failure of his attempted expansion into the U.S. talk-show arena, this may be Strombo’s one realistic shot at advancing his television career. He’ll be the de facto face of Canada’s national sport, and Canada will have to get used to him, if it can.

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People

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The List: The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee tells us the 10 things she can’t live without

The Daily Show’s funniest correspondent returns home this month as a panellist on the CBC’s annual book battle, Canada Reads. We talked to her about her essential items.

The List: the Daily Show's Samantha Bee tells us the 10 things she can't live without

1 | My Céline brass cuff
It’s one of the only pieces of jewellery I ever bought for myself. It’s made so many boring outfits
look kinda good.

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Events

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Five things to do in Toronto on the weekend of February 21—23

Yorkville will host an ice-carving competition this weekend. (Image: Florin Chelaru)

Yorkville will host an ice-carving competition this weekend. (Image: Florin Chelaru)

In this edition of The Weekender, tropical ice sculptures, an industrial bazaar and three more things to do in Toronto this weekend.

BEER

Winter Beer Fest
Drown February blues in copious amounts of craft beer at this Danforth bar’s annual festival, featuring breweries like Junction Craft, Granite Brewery, Flying Monkeys and West Avenue Cider. There will also be snacks from The Blade and Butcher, and tunes from local bands like The Condor Boys. Feb. 21—Feb. 22. Entrance is free, tasting tickets are $1 each. The Only Cafe, 972 Danforth Ave., theonlycafe.com

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The Informer

Features

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Well, Hi There: Jian Ghomeshi, live and off the air

Jian Ghomeshi’s climb to the top of the CBC required plenty of ambition, glad-handing, star-chasing, stubble maintenance and serial dating, plus a couple of workplace meltdowns

Well, Hi There: Jian Ghomeshi, live and off the air

One day, roughly five years ago, Jian Ghomeshi got a severe headache and felt sharp pains in his chest. “I thought I must have a brain tumour or be experiencing a heart attack—that I must be dying,” he says now. A few days later, he started to feel dizzy, had trouble breathing and headed for the nearest emergency room. The doctor took note of his symptoms and asked if he’d done any coke (he hadn’t). It turned out to be a panic attack, and he was eventually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. He now visits a midtown psychologist once a week. When the demands of hosting Q, Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show, don’t allow him to leave the office, he and his shrink talk over Skype. The sessions help him cope. “I’ve worked through a lot,” he says. “Feeling like an outsider because of my Iranian background, trust issues. A lot of not feeling good enough.”

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The Informer

Sports

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Hockey Night in Canada to become Hockey Weekend in Canada?

(Image: Dan Heap)

(Image: Dan Heap)

When Rogers announced that it had bought the rights to all of Canada’s NHL broadcasts, it was immediately clear that the prognosis for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada wasn’t going to be great. Under the deal, Rogers gets complete creative and financial control of the iconic show, meaning it could make big changes without consulting the CBC. And now it’s becoming apparent that the telecommunications giant is even planning on introducing some competition into the mix: a second hockey night.

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The Informer

Politics

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The CBC’s Carol Off calls out Conrad Black for appearing to forget how to conduct an interview

(Image: Black: Canadian Film Centre)

(Image: Black: George Pimentel)

By now, pretty much everyone agrees that Conrad Black’s softball interview with Rob Ford was bad—except for Rob Ford himself, which makes the situation all the more worrying. Part of the problem was that his Lordship missed just about every opportunity to ask pertinent follow-up questions of the sort they teach you on the first day of journalism school. Follow-up questions are doubly important when the interview subject admits right off the bat that he or she has a tendency to lie about things, as Ford did.

One of the more egregious examples was when Ford made the completely unfounded assertion that the police chief Blair is motivated by a political agenda that could take down the mayor. Here, one would expect the interviewer to ask something along the lines of, “What makes you say that?” If that’s too difficult, a simple “huh?” would have done the trick.

It’s for this reason that Black deserved to get called out for the botched interview, and he did yesterday when he was interviewed on CBC’s As it Happens. He got called out hard.

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The Informer

Politics

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The nine most outrageous things that Rob Ford has said in the past 24 hours

Stripped of almost all his mayoral responsibilities, Rob Ford appears to be easing into his new full-time position: self-aggrandizing spin machine. Since yesterday evening, Toronto’s sort-of mayor has appeared on CBC, CNN and NBC, as well as his new Sun News Network show, repeating a series of folksy talking points about not being perfect and siding with “poor people” instead of “rich people” like himself. But is Ford’s media blitz is really helping his case?  With each interview, his explanations become more convoluted, his rants more unhinged and his denials less plausible. Below, we pull out the day’s most bizarre quotes.


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