Where Are the Rewards for Luring the Young?

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?

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9 responses to “Where Are the Rewards for Luring the Young?

  1. This is an opportune time to re-read “Inside Seven Days; The Show that shook the Nation!” (1986) by Eric Koch.

  2. While it is understandable that our respected blog master would draw a parallel, the issues at play (whatever side one takes) are fundamentally different today than “This Hour has Seven Days”. Then, the issues was what he saw on our TVs, not the private lives of the hosts. Correct? This does not mean that the issue of private lives going public, and the right of a public corporation to protect its “brand”, is not worthy od debate in itself. Many corporations are grappling with the question of whether sexual harassment (on and off the workplace) is a firing offence in the 21st century workplace.

  3. Should we not make a distinction between fans of his show, and fans/participants in his private sexual life? Have any women come to his defence of his private conduct? Is this about programming choices or the failings of one public person?

  4. The issue in 1966 and today is the question whether the behaviour of prominent CBC employees or performers is socially acceptable and/or acceptable to CBC management.

    • Surely, “behavior” on air on in public statements about the Corporation, is a different issue than conduct in ones private life? The judgement call over the suspension or firing of prominent member of Corporation accused (but not yet convicted) of sexual harassment in the workplace is a common challenge in the working world today. Was not the issues of “Seven Days” about censorship of producers and journalists and approaches to journalism?
      Was any of the internal debate at the time about their private lives? I know public comments were made much later….

  5. It seems that the current issue is not sexual harassment in the usual sense, which, alas, is common, but doing physical harm to women, which is a criminal offence and is much less common.

    The word “censorship” was rarely raised in connection with Seven Days, but approaches to journalism – as stated in the blog – certainly was.

  6. Can the act of inflicting pain in a mutual and consensual manner be deemed to be at the same time ‘sexual’, ‘pleasurable’ and ‘harmful’?
    Or does it always imply an asymmetry of power?

  7. Surely it is today a fact of life that violence against women reflects badly on the organization that ignores such behaviour by those in its employ whether they are stars in football, hockey or the CBC. In other words, it is a hot-button issue and, in an age of social media, talk of privacy is irrelevant.

  8. Before this exploded, read a report in mainline media that the CBC had issued statement he had left to address “personal issues”. Before world knew of sexual harassment allegations in the workplace AND in the bedroom, it was Ghomeshi that went public about “rough sex” in private life, insisting it was with consent among adults. So far, no partner has been prepared to come forward and corroborate his version. Is the CBC treatment or standard as an employer materially different that any other broadcaster employer? In this instance I do not believe so. Challenge for CBC same as if it was CTV or Global, the prominence and identification of the personality with the broadcasters brand.