Re-imagine CBC Realistically

In the wake of massive $115 million cuts to the CBC, a campaign called Re-imagine CBC has assembled the Canada’s citizen newsteam Anchorman-style to dream up a way to save our beloved public broadcaster. As much as I love and treasure the CBC to the point where I giggle like a little girl during Jian Ghomeshi’s Q at 10am every morning on CBC Radio, attending a local Re-imagine CBC meeting at Hub Ottawa only made me more cynical.

The location of Monday’s Re-imagine CBC meeting was Hub Ottawa – a space for activists and startups to meet – http://hubottawa.org/

The question that I asked the 12 or so CBC superfans in attendance was this: What separates the CBC from Bell (CTV), Rogers (CityTv), Shaw (Global) or even Quebecor (Sun)? If you agree that it is a national treasure, how do we convince Canadians that spending millions on it is money well spent during a recession? The answers I got did not satisfy me. After all, it makes sense that the Conservatives cut the CBC’s funding. The CBC has historically been the mouthpiece of a political centre-left that is accurately associated with the Liberal party who governed Canada for most of its near-145 year history. Also, the CBC focuses on a government who prefers to pan the lens towards business and family values instead of turning the lens inwards on themselves. This has been made crystal clear with the Torys’ finely-tuned party rhetoric and their limits on discussion over this year’s budget (House Leader Nathan Cullen’s face tells it all!). The Conservatives must be thinking that if the CBC is doing the same thing as privately owned media why should they deserve our cash when the other guys mostly fund themselves.

When Peter Mansbridge chose not challenge Stephen Harper on his PR-flub of “Islamicism is biggest threat to national security” in a rare 1-on-1 with the Prime Minister on the National it was clear that the CBC had changed. They have pandered to the pressure and fear of being de-funded. Turn on CBC TV today. Its hard to see the real dramatic difference between them and their rivals. They are at the same events, take pretty much the same quotes and do nearly the same short 1:30 min stories. In fact, in any media scrum you can find a CBC radio, local TV and sometimes even a CBC National covering it. This is a complete waste of resources. Fortunately CBC has been starting to address this by allowing their radio journalists to go live on TV more often. On the contrary, sometimes the inverse has been done – TV audio going on radio…Yuk!

What used to separate the CBC from the pack was their in-depth coverage – something noticeably absent from today’s broadcasts. The move towards punchy minute package-reports, pundits and copy stories is evident in the changes the CBC has made in response to these new cuts. For instance, one of CBC’s only in-depth investigative news shows CBC Radio Dispatches was cut. This is because media advisors, many of them coming from the US, perpetuate the idea that news must be local, local, local. I got it pumped into me at Journalism school at Concordia University. People don’t care about international news so give them what they want. Who are they? Does it apply to Gen X and Gen Y? Cambodian Canadians and Polish Canadians? The myth that everyone likes only local is not only perpetuated to young journalists, but to the rest of society as a supposed undeniable fact. Canada is an extremely diverse country with people born all over the globe. When they turn on their public broadcaster they might want to see what is going on in their other home. Understanding global issues also helps us choose the path we want for Canada politically. Stressing the importance of international news is one way to convince the public of CBC’s worth and the fact that CBC is cutting that aspect of its service is a u-turn in the wrong direction.

In my mind, information is a right and should be absolutely free. We can’t run a democracy without it. Obviously this won’t happen in the near future, so I acknowledge that quality broadcasters like the CBC must fight for our loonies. They must rake risks and find a way to stand out from the pack and run a different race rather than clawing away on the same horse track. Kai Nagata, the former CTV Quebec City Bureau Chief who quit his job with a riveting essay on the problems with corporate broadcasting reminiscent of the Half Baked “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, fuck you I’m out!,” suggested recently that the CBC dump its TV service altogether and ride the Net.

Radical? Yes. Bad idea? Not necessarily.

CBC Hamilton’s beta webpage is an exciting move in the right direction, at least locally.

Why not make the CBC more edgy and rough? Get away from the cookie-cutter coverage the CBC has been doing and get some real interesting long-form, investigative and interesting journalism! Instead of sending someone to cover the Juno’s for a 1-minute wrap, why not send them there on acid like Vice Canada did? Ok maybe not that, but there are ways to get more creative with your journalism. Just look at Vice or OpenFile to get a taste of how awesome investigative journalism can be in the 21st Century.

We need to get down and dirty with these ideas and change our CBC. We will never be believed if we keep saying I love the CBC cause its lefty and unbiased, that makes no sense! 12 CBC lovers preaching to the converted in a single two-hour meeting is not going to do it, but the Re-imagine campaign is a step in the right direction.

Get yourself into the conversation! Re-Imagine CBC has a survey online with as many or as few questions as you have time to answer.

Here is how I prioritized my CBC:

1. Informative and in-depth
2. A watchdog for powerful interests
3. Uniquely Canadian
4. A digital innovator
5. Open and participatory
6. Community driven

What about you?

Going Viral – A Close-up on Moving Mind Studio

When Sam Brisson, Ryan George and Brandon Calder made their Shit Guys Don’t Say Video, a sequel to the popular Shit Guys say trend, they had no idea that it would go viral. But now with over 2 million views and over 3 million on their Youtube page these three ambitious Montrealers are on their way to the up and up and looking to make their dream of working in the movie biz a reality.

I proudly present: Going Viral!

Doubling Up

Just as the ink dried on my first blog post about the issue, Conservative MPs in the House of Commons justice committee have more than thrown their support behind the bill to criminalize wearing a mask at a riot or unlawful protest; they doubled the sentence from 5 to 10 years. Now if you were scared to go out and protest, you better be scared shitless now.

At the end of the day, more than throwing a bunch of innocent twentysomethings in jail at the next G20, World Trade Organization summit or Free Trade Agreement of the Americas conference, Bill C-309 is a shot at the right to protest anonymously. Wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, a panda costume or even a bandana to a protest doesn’t mean you are going out there to raise all hell. Many protesters wear masks or disguises to protect their identity so they don’t get labeled in their future careers. They might just be there to add the all important body to a protest, which will inevitably be judged by its people-count rather than the merit of its message. What about the people going out to stand up for what they believe in and who just might be in the vicinity of a few people in masks? Or they might covering their face from the oh so wonderful tonsil-tickling substance that is teargas.

New Democrat MP Charmaine Borg explains to the House of Commons, that the bill proposed by backbench MP Blake Richards could throw people in jail that don’t deserve it:

“I would also like to point out that this bill takes away an individual’s right to demonstrate anonymously. An individual is not necessarily going to commit a crime just because he or she is wearing a mask at a riot. It is reasonable to think that the person just wants to remain anonymous and protect his or her identity.”

And no Allen Iverson we are not talking about violence. As said Francoise Boivin, co-leader of Quebec Solidaire tells the CBC, criticizing Bill C-309 does not mean you support criminals: “Let’s not oversimplify. I don’t want to protect those thugs or those criminals. I just don’t want to arrest innocent people.”

Francoise Boivin of Quebec Solidaire has been in outright support of the student protests. Here she is waving to them as they march past Berri-UQAM
The unfortunate thing about this bill is that criticizing it will automatically appear like you are down with, what Leo Knight of 24h Vancouver calls the “idiot anarchist” Black Bloc “leeches.” The Black Bloc is actually more complicated than you might think. Here are some stories on the Black Bloc from N+1 blogToronto StarQuebecorThe Link Newspaper.
“The world of protest today owes a lot to CBC-TV’s Mr. Dressup and his Tickle Trunk,” says one Toronto Star writer

Bill C-309 will pass. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has thrown his support behind it and in a Conservative-controlled Senate it has little chance of being shot down. This is unfortunate, because this legislation could cause some serious issues with protesting and “needs tough scrutiny,” as the Toronto Star accurately proclaims.

Behind the Mask of a Movement

ARRGHHHGGG!

No better way to start a blog than with a frustrated scream eh? It actually feels pretty good, give it a try.

This week a Canadian bill making it an offence of a maximum of five years in jail to “wear a mask or other disguise to conceal one’s identity while taking part in a riot or an unlawful assembly” reached another level on the bureaucratic ladder to implementation (2 out of 7 squares!). The law is also up for debate in the City of Montreal where a little something called #ggi has created a bit of a stir…

Is this the kind of masked protesters you are worried about!?
Just saw this post shared on Facebook by Etienne Coutu https://www.facebook.com/outremont.coutu.
Too good.

No, I’m not screaming because I want to go around wearing a mask and breaking shit or because i support violence *blah blah disclaimer on not supporting violence or anarchy blah blah*. Actually you never know about me…in Grade 11 I rocked a face-mask to school for Halloween with the idea that I was dressed as a freedom fighter, but for all you know I may be a terrorist!? Aha! The crux of the issue!

The ban on masks is another step in the direction towards silencing dissent. “Now wow there Mr. radical… Don’t you support capitalism and freedom!?” My position is that owning up to a movement or to any opinion that is contrary to the status quo will group you into a box…like this poor girl.

Ad in the Montreal Eaton's Centre
Activists are stuck in a box with no way out…sorta like this live advertisement in the Montreal Eaton’s Centre, but not really.

If for instance, you support the Palestinian people, nay, any singular issue where you take the Palestinians side you are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Sadaam Hussein. If you support the student strike you are the Black Bloc tossing red paint and using violence. Well, apparently according to Rex Murphy’s recent National Post article you actually are.

The proposed ban on face covering at riots or unlawful assemblies obviously does not list peaceful protests, but as we have learned from the student strike, police give only moments warning before declaring a protest illegal. Even though its in an extreme minority of cases, what about those demonstrating in a niqab when a protest turns illegal? How will the police respond to that?

Black Bloc leaving McGill campus…because who wants a lawyer that stands up for what they believe in

This anti-mask legislation is part of a wider global movement to expose the identities of activists and make you think twice before voicing your opinion to the public. The protection that we had from covering our faces and from the safety we found nestled behind our computer screens is eroding. Twitter is currently fighting a court order to release the names of Occupy protesters, the Canadian Bill C-10 Omnibus bill will change Internet privacy as we know it and Research in Motion was targeted in 2011 for allowing activists to organize the destruction that ensued from the London riots with their BBM service (BlackBerry gave up the information to the British government, but refused a similar request by Saudi Arabia).

I don’t want people to go out organizing violent actions and I don’t support Saudi Arabia creeping the information of their people, but I also believe in the democratic right of people to organize. But where do you draw the line?

There is a reason people cover their faces at protests. The stakes for associating with a movement are high. Along with jail-time or fines, an activist is, so they say, faced with public ridicule for the rest of their lives. I’m not sure I buy that, but hey what do I know. I was speaking with a reporter at CJAD during my internship who told me that even though she participated in student protests years ago…now she doesn’t give a crap about student protests.

We have been told over and over again to be careful of what we write on the Internet since employers will scope out those political beliefs or those photos from that sloppy night at the bar where you got blackout and you swear you didn’t touch that celery stick… So why not just stay home and do nothing about it?

The protesters in the Arab Spring did not have everyone on board with their pro-democratic (or is it anti-dictatorship?) arguments right away. I am sure they were ridiculed and labeled as pro-West, just like people here are labeled as socialists or communists. They still went out and said what they felt and  made a far greater life risk than botching their job interview at KPMG (no offense).

Canada is not a dictatorship you might say. We don’t have genital mutilation here. Incase you didn’t know, let CTV Montreal Executive Director Barry Wilson speak at you for 3 minutes. Why are you complaining? Because that is what democratic citizens do.

Express yourself and look past the denigrating rhetoric that seeks to delegitimize rather than debate. When they box you with that dictator, call you a “whiner,” “hippie,” or “hipster” challenge them on the facts – that’s the last thing they want.

Keep standing up for what you believe in and if that job doesn’t like your belief in free education, the environment or anything else…you don’t want to work there anyways.

Lupe said what he felt and cracked the mainstream…you can too :).

A Home of Our Own

Demi Begin and I present a mini- documentary about three courageous mothers who raise their children at On Our Own (O3) – a program that provides young families with support and low-cost transitional housing.

Without much support from parents or the child’s fathers, these women are committed to going to school and raising their children the best they can. On Our Own gives them a fighting chance. It teaches these mothers to be independent, self-sufficient and driven. However, if these mothers are not dedicated enough to the program they will be asked to leave.

These moms must rely on the support of the centre’s staff and community so they don’t truly need to be on their own.

To find out more about On Our Own visit their website.

This mini-documentary was originally produced for Concordia University’s Journalism Department.