Let’s infiltrate the CBC



On the brisk morning of October 21, a vanguard of media innovation made its way into CBC/Radio-Canada’s Annual Public Meeting (APM) in Vancouver. The plan was unspoken, but each of the wry smiles we exchanged was more than enough to acknowledge our purpose. After all, although insidious, our goal was quite simple: infiltrate the CBC and make it more community based, participatory and awesome.

Not long into the meeting, executives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation described their network as a “public space.” They also noted that Canada is at the centre of a revolution in media, with more opportunity for citizen participation than ever before. “We want what Canadians want,” said Hubert Lacroix, CBC’s president and CEO, “a vibrant CBC/Radio-Canada that gives voice to a creative nation.”

Wait a second, were they on to us? They were speaking our language, but why?

colourful cbc logoWhile there was evidence of a shift in thinking at the CBC, it didn’t feel tangible enough to satisfy us. We mingled with local CBC personnel after the event. Several of us innocent looking “citizens” encircled a CBC person and repeated our propaganda points while trying to avoid revealing our secret plan to make the CBC more awesome.

“One of the best ways to ensure the CBC’s survival and growth is for it to be more community based,” one of us said earnestly. “Yes, why not partner with community groups to cover local stories?” another blurted out. “Use web tools to engage people and provide a platform for creativity and dialogue,” another chimed in.

I motioned for us to make our way to door – we’d done all we could here.

But our work wasn’t finished yet. We needed to find out if there were people on the inside that agree with our media awesomeness ideology. We needed a champion of media innovation.

We set out to find an open minded CBC person we could invite into our Fresh Media community, and evaluate. We chose Steve Pratt, director of CBC Radio 3 and CBC Digital Programming. We would host him at our next Fresh Media ReMixology event.

At 5 PM on November 8, the festivities began, including live DJs, a Twitter wall that displayed comments from the audience and the Internet, a live web TV feed that permitted any one on the web to watch and comment on the talk and a cash bar and snacks. Would it all prove to be just too awesome for Pratt to handle? It turns out not.

Pratt said things like, “Turn the keys over to the audience and start empowering the audience to help each find what they want… and to give up control.” Pratt also talked about Radio 3, noting, “It is an innovation centre for the public broadcaster,” adding “We’re not a radio station, we’re a music discovery service.”

He may not have known it at the time, but Prattt was one of us – a Freshie as we sometimes call ourselves. Turns out we have a whole project within the CBC that has put innovation and participation at the forefront of their operation.

The best way for the CBC to ensure its survival is to build a community of supporters that truly has a sense of ownership over the organization. As Pratt says, “Empower the people and you’ll get a level of trust and ownership you never thought possible.”

Lets not sit on the sidelines and wait for the CBC to move in the right direction. If we believe in the potential of public media in a digital era, it’s our responsibility to do our part to ensure that potential is realized. It’s through engaging with the CBC, particularly the elements most conducive to participation, that will enable it to act as an open platform for media innovation and community collaboration.

Let’s infiltrate the CBC with awesomeness.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters.