Wednesday, November 02, 2011

History of the CBC

This week Ideas on CBC Radio is considering the history of the CBC in a five-part doc by Ideas stalwart David Cayley, "CBC at 75: Turning Points in Public Broadcasting."  The first two parts are already done, but Ideas program can be listened to online or downloaded .

I'm currently developing a program for Ideas myself so I'm neither impartial nor dispassionate.  But I find the anniversary provoking mixed feelings in people I talk to.  On one hand, CBC Radio seems absolutely indispensable.  On the other, people seem to wish it was .... better, and the feeling grows stronger the closer one is to it.

Last Sunday I thought I heard evidence of the problem in Sunday Morning's three hour tribute to the CBC.  At one point Judy Madren, ex-announcer, now officially CBC' usage authority, was Michael Enright's guest.  They read episodes from a CBC announcer's manual from the 1940s, and it struck them as hilarious.  "Announcers must be men of wide culture and broad general knowledge,"  Madren read, and the two of them sniggered about the foolish pretentiousness of their predecessors.  Yet it still seems like a good idea -- the difference between the radio hosts who know things and those who are simply pretty voices remains as stark as even.  Then Madren mentioned the manual included the word "viscid" and declared forthrightly that she did not even know what the word meant.

The CBC's usage expert is too important to reach for a dictionary.  I got the sense that a lot of people around CBC Radio reached their positions by seniority and now have a sense of their own authority that far outstrips the pretensions of the 1940s.

Still, I was driving a long way in the last two days, and every couple of hours I was madly running "Seek" to keep CBC Radio in range.

CBC Radio has also announced its ten finalists for the non-fiction episode of Canada Reads. Congratulations to Margaret Macmillan, whose Paris 1919 made the list despite the organizers' earlier fatwa against history books and academics. Also Chester Brown's graphic-biography Louis Riel and Ken Dryden's The Game, which counts as history for me.
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