For years, CBC Radio has performed acrobatics to attract young audiences. It has paid the price of antagonizing its “base” – mature Canadians. The Corporation has banished classical music from Radio Two (fortunately, with important exceptions) and presented, instead, pop music, much of which can be heard on private stations, though less so Canadian bands.
The rewards for these efforts were respectable ratings and the creation of a celebrity, Jian Ghomeshi, an excellent interviewer who has regiments of fans, including some adventurous young women who were prepared to do anything for him. Who would have thought that CBC Radio was still able to generate such a phenomenon the old-fashioned way? Well, it has.
But look what happened. CBC management found itself in a position where it had to fire him, no doubt most reluctantly and no doubt after consulting lawyers. We have not yet heard the CBC’s position, but we may assume that it has done so because in its judgement the celebrity’s sexual behaviour was on the wrong side of the line that separates the acceptable from the unacceptable, and perhaps because some women were hurt. If management was to blame for this latest CBC crisis, its offence was that it tolerated this behaviour too long. The society in which we live is permissive but, finally, somebody said, for reasons we don’t know yet, enough is enough.
In 1966, CBC President Alphonse Ouimet took steps to change the producers and hosts of the immensely popular public affairs show This Hour Has Seven Days. It was not his intention to terminate the program but that is, in fact, what he did. He did so because he could no longer tolerate the producers’ open insubordination and because the program infringed CBC journalistic policies.
It is not known whether Hubert Lacroix, the current president, played a role in the current crisis. Let us assume he did. In that case he, too, acted to maintain standards.
In the eyes of the public, Alphonse Ouimet was the villain. Will the young, whom Hubert Lacroix and his predecessor have tried so hard to win over, give him credit for acting as a defender of decency in human behaviour?