17 August 2005

CBC is Dead! Long Live CBC!

It's somehow appropriate that the now locked-out CBC network has the contract to televise the return of NHL hockey games this fall and winter. The parties in the broadcaster's dispute did not learn a thing from the lost year of the NHL. If nobody really cares, strikes and lock-outs irreparably damage both sides. Just ask baseball.

In case anyone is interested in following the intricacies of the ongoing soap opera, management is here, union is here, and pundits are here, here, and (ahem) here. (I guess we Canadians are just too far north for our necks to get really red.)

Antonia Zerbisias, the media columnist-cum-blogger for the Toronto Star believes that CBC Television is down for the count this time. I think this is probably as good a time as any to reconsider the role of public broadcasting in the context of the evolving definition of mass-media: Not media for the masses, but media by the masses.

Among the components that comprise the mandate of the CBC are the need to reach from the most densely populated urban areas all the way to the remote Arctic wilderness - from sea to sea to sea throughout this vast land, as they say. There is the need to promote, preserve and protect Canadian culture, and to help define that often undefinable and inexpressible notion to ourselves. And certainly, CBC tells us our own stories, from Roch Carrier's classic icon, The Sweater, to Colm Feore's portrayal of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. And where else would Tommy Douglas be recognized as The Greatest Canadian?

But under conditions of instantaneous communication, consumers of culture become producers of culture, and collaborative producers at that. This suggests that for the CBC to fulfil its mandate of promoting and preserving Canadian culture, it should become the vehicle through which we tell our stories to ourselves. As I describe in far greater detail, "the [dominant] cultural artefacts of our time are experiential in nature and create a unique form of narrative by which we are telling our stories to ourselves."

When CBC reopens for business, it should, like the BBC, open its archives and make its footage available to Canadians (and others citizens of the global village) for the express purpose of remixing and remaking our stories. It should foster participatory culture, whereby Canadian's stories, made and told by ordinary Canadians, are made available throughout the land - from sea to sea to sea - as well as throughout the world, since contemporary Canadian culture is inherently m├ętissage:
We hear it in music, we see it in art and design, we taste it in our restaurants, we wear it in our fashions, we tell it in our new mythologies. And, we create it when we touch, and are touched, by each other’s indigenous heritages, that we combine and recombine, mix and remix. The history of human culture has slowly evolved through processes of integration, acquisition, adoption, rejection, extinction, yielding a modern m├ętissage that emerges from a complex socio-cultural matrix. Pervasive proximity accelerates what has, until recently, been a project on the time scale of centuries, but now occurs in days, or – given the right meme – in hours or even minutes. Canadian anthropologist and essayist Serge Bouchard puts it this way:

“…humanity has been intercultural and polyglot since the dawn of time. … In today’s world every culture is the result of encounters, for good or ill, that humans have made since they first walked and talked. We’re all the same, but we’re also all Wallawalla, Nambikwara, Breton, Basque, Tutsi, Chechen, Samoyed, Ainu, Berber. Humanity is nourished on diversity.”
While the labour issues that are keeping us from our daily drollery of "The Voice" deal with business (and livelihood) pragmatics, there are larger issues to be considered, so that Canada can recover its reputation as a leader in truly public broadcasting.
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Anonymous said...

CBC, CBS, SKY, BBC, CNN, DW, andy many other spammers go home!

Sean Smith said...

Mark, I would LOVE to have the CBC release the Hockey Night In Canada theme song, Creative Commons-style, so that hockey-music-cultural Canadiana fans could remix it for the next generation.