Editor's notes - Mansbridge

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© Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective.
True North Perspective
Vol. 8, No. 3 (331)
Friday 15 February 2013
Editor's Notes

As CBC night television news dies on its feet

Mansbridge continues to ride his hobby horse

I cut my teeth on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I remember, at the age of five, running noisily into the living room in play with my sisters and my father lovingly waving me to silence. He was sitting on a chair, ear bent to the floor model radio. I stopped to listen to learn what was so important to Daddy. It was the BBC news from London coming through on CBC radio.

The only radio station on the dial that entered our home was tuned to CBC. This wasn't censorship; it was because the station carried more substance in everything from news to entertainment, to sports. It wasn't until I was about 12-years-old that I realized that there were other stations in range. It was not that we were informationally deprived, there were books, magazines, newspapers aplenty — it was just that we were always tuned to CBC.

I developed a sense of loyalty to CBC, radio, and then television. I suppose it may be likened to the kind of proverbial loyalty one has for the home team.

So it was with a sense of betrayal that I responded to the watering down of CBC national television news. To me it began in the 1970s and it's been heading south with increasing speed ever since.

I despaired at its decrease in quality because I saw this development as suicidal. The CBC had and has plenty of enemies with limited intelligence and imagination who would like to see the corporation terminated.

On Sunday, May 29, 2005, Canadian Fishery Officers and crew from the CCGS Leonard J. Cowley intercepted and seized the Portuguese Fishing Vessel Santa Mafalda and arrested its master in Canadian waters south of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This operational activity stemed from an incident in May, 2003, as a result of which the Santa Mafalda and its master were charged for unauthorized entry and fishing in Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone within Canada's 200 mile limit. It was only in May 2005 that the Santa Mafalda returned to Canadian waters for the first time since the violations occurred two years before.

Big story. With the exception of heroic naval action during the First and Second World wars, you'd have to go back to the War of 1812 to find our navy involved in hostile action on the high seas, albeit this time within our 200 mile limit.

CBC television news sent a crew of 51 to cover the story. CTV sent three. I was able to watch CBCTV ten o'clock news and CTV at eleven. Fifty-one to three and the CBC was no better than the CTV.

I was embarrassed for CBC; what a waste of resources. In my mind's eyes I saw empire building at work. The Empire of Peter Mansbridge and a raft of little empires under his ever watchful eye.

In 1966, when I was holding down the Montreal bureau for The Toronto Telegram, there was an international convention of legal eagles. There were 5,000 of them ensconced in three hotels.

Bob Vezina, The Tely's National Editor, to whom I directly reported, called to ask if I needed any help. I said, no, I can handle it. The Toronto Star sent in a crew of nine, The Globe and Mail, three. I beat them all, sending in seven stories that resulted in five bylines in the next day's edition.

I know from experience that it doesn't take numbers to "get the story", it takes brains and imagination and an objective sense of news.

An objective sense of the news is what CBCTV's National lost along the way under Peter Mansbridge's inept leadership.

In 1984, during the American presidential campaign, candidate Jesse Jackson, made a most unfortunate faux pas by referring to New York City as "Hymietown." You would have thought that World War Three had been declared. The staff under Peter Mansbridge's leadership went haywire, behaving like a bunch of amateurs. At least 90 per cent of the night's news time was spent with interviews attacking Jackson.

Meanwhile, ever professional, CTV gave the subject its usual three minutes.

A problem is that when you voice criticism of what's been happening at CBCTV National there is all too often a mindless knee-jerk response that you are against public broadcasting.

I maintain that if you are not constructively critical of your friends then you betray them.

I would never betray public broadcasting. After all, public broadcasting is my home team.

I despair because public broadcasting, my CBCTV, is betraying me.

Meanwhile, take it easy, but take it.

Looking forward.

Carl Dow
Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective
True North Humanist Perspective

For more on Peter Mansbridge and the demise of CBCTV National see Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin below or by clicking here.