By Graham Crawford
Published October 19, 2012
Well, I listened intently to Matt Jelly and Gunner Smith's CFMU interview with Roger Gillespie, Executive Producer of CBC Hamilton. Houston, we have a problem. If national innovation was the goal, actions simply do not reflect that desired outcome.
The defensive statements were many. "The model is not set." "It's constantly changing." "Innovation is in the DNA code of this project." "We're small and can't work any more hours in the day than we do." "There's no such thing as us at the CBC." "The audience doesn't want to hear about every time the mayor closes his file and leaves the Council Chamber." "There is no template. I can't say this often enough. There's a lot of invention going on and invention is not easy."
OK, I get it. CBC Hamilton is understaffed, overworked, and has no real idea what they're supposed to be doing or what they're going to do about it. Not good enough. In fact, not nearly good enough.
I want to hear about what's going to happen, not hear about why it's not happening now. I want to see change, not simply be told that because change is constant we can't nail anything down and that being organic is our preferred rationale for lack of progress.
I want to experience things through CBC Hamilton that I'm not getting, or not getting enough of, elsewhere and in new and innovative ways. I want CBC Hamilton to push technology applications, not avoid them.
So far, one unique technological aspect of CBC Hamilton on which we can all agree is the homepage news map, and I think we can all agree it's a failure. It's an ill-advised feature that doesn't warrant tweaking.
Instead, it needs to be scrapped, regardless of what it cost to design and to implement. It won't work any better for CBC in another under-serviced community in Canada than it does in Hamilton. Admit it, CBC. Cut your losses. Move on.
Roger talked about a video interview he did months ago with Bob Bratina and that it "didn't move the dial" (I guess I was one of the apparently few people who saw it). It was the last one CBC Hamilton did for months. It wasn't until last week that another one was posted, this time with Rob MacIsaac that, according to Gillespie, also "didn't move the dial" either.
Should we conclude then that these videos aren't worth doing? Should we conclude that when you're in innovation/experimentation mode that using the old-fashioned technique of building an audience is outdated? Should we conclude that audio and video will never contribute to a unique CBC Hamilton audience?
CBC gets government funding in part so that ratings don't have to be the number one priority. I support this. Always have.
I get that we don't want an audience of the same 200 forever, but surely differentiation of content and increased levels of understanding in the community are worthy goals for our public broadcaster to hold.
I know CBC Hamilton is understaffed, but innovation is what happens precisely when you don't have enough resources. That's how my own company started. Staffing up will not resolve the fundamental issue of poorly articulated vision at CBC Hamilton.
There are already good examples of people in Hamilton doing very good things with almost no resources, and certainly without any staff. Innovation seems to be in evidence all over the place. I'm happy to cut Gillespie some slack, but not if more resources is his idea of a solution. More staff to do what, exactly?
Another six months of this experimentation, innovation, organic development, focus on dial-moving, and un-templated effort clearly will not serve to refine the model. And that's not good for Hamilton, the CBC, nor any future community where this form of CBC presence will be implemented.
This problem needs attention from the top-of-the-house CBC executives responsible for this national experiment. Based on what I've seen and heard so far, it's not going to be fixed locally. This national Beta needs to become a national Alpha in a planned way and soon.
Let's get on with it CBC. We're tired of waiting. At least I am.