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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Closely Watched Pains: Back to the Future on CBC TV

Last night's re-launch of CBC TV's flagship newscast, "The National," was highly anticipated and minutely parsed as to meaning, intent and significance. I don't want to bury the lead so I'll say right now that it was a huge disappointment.

I was one of the live bloggers on J-Source, a Ryerson University website and you can see our comments here.

I think the short version of the critiques was that CBC blew a chance to do something bold. Instead, under the "guidance" and news doctoring of Frank Magid Associates, the strongest impression was that CBC now has a very expensive version of CNN's "The Situation Room" on its hands.

There was a lack of story-telling, a lot of "faux" energy and bonhomie and an anchor who looked ill at ease and indeed, un-anchored as he strolled around the set, dispensing tidbits of information. Cameras were in perpetual motion around the studio making me feel queasy. Flashes of color behind the host faded in and out. Constant references to "Coming Up!" diverted one's attention from the story at hand. It was dazzling but very derivative of a lot of entertainment programs. "So You Think You Can Report?" came to mind. I actually felt nostalgic for Jim Lehrer.

The new "National" wasn't an entirely content-free zone. One feature on H1N1 profiteering was substantive but again marred by cutesy camera work. An interview with a Canadian general who has criticized participation in Afghanistan was solid, but again, jarred by intrusive production values.

In the end, it wasn't CBC's finest hour. Public broadcasting with its philosophic and historic commitment to serve the audience as citizens, was nowhere to be seen last night.

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