Don’t sign the CBC’s template letter: Chuck Lapp

Posted to the doc-discussion listserv June 29 (reposted here with permission)

Re: “How can CBC be relevant and meaningful in the future?”

As an independent documentary filmmaker it is a natural inclination to
support our public broadcaster which is mandated to do programming about our

However, the question now facing us is whether the CBC is compromising its
mandate in an attempt to compete with private broadcasters for ratings and
advertising dollars.

More specifically, is CBC proposing to support the independent doc maker in
a common pursuit of showing our culture to Canadians.

The DOC analysts who have examined the CBC license renewal application have

. a. CBC is proposing to expand the program categories it can
broadcast on Documentary and ARTV to include all programming categories
b. CBC is proposing to reduce the Canadian program expenditures of
c. CBC is proposing to remove a restriction on broadcasting live news and
sports programming on Documentary

. Regional Production: CBC/SRC wants to remove all regional
production conditions of licence for non-news programming on conventional

. Expenditures:
a. Documentary share of overall expenditures will decline as news, sports,
and drama rise
b. French services will have a higher share of overall documentary
c. English services’ share of documentary expenditures will decline
d. In-house production will dominate documentary expenditures overall

As a producer in the Atlantic Region, I too have been approached to support
the CBC application, The CBC has sent out a “template” letter asking the
producers’ approval because “CBC/Radio-Canada needs regulatory flexibility
to adapt to the interests and requirements of its audiences…”. “Regulatory
flexibility” is bureaucrat-speak for ‘Trust us, we don’t need regulations
that require regional programming, we do that naturally, don’t you worry.’
To approve CBC’s application would be signing my own career death warrant as
a regional producer. The indications from inside CBC are that regional
production, and regional air time are a constant dogfight with head office,
and the big dog always wins. Now the regulatory oversight people are being
asked to walk away from the dogfight and let head office have their way.

CBC is asking for “flexibility” so expenditures can be reduced for
independent programming and increase its in-house production. Docs, already
ghettoized into Documentary, will now have to compete with game shows and
live sports.

No, it does not look good for independent doc makers in the future of CBC.
It may be all we have as a public broadcaster, but after abandoning its POV
doc strand and practically all of its arts programs, this application is yet
another wrong turn towards the goal that it quotes in its application:

“Canadians will come to recognise us as the leader in expressing culture and
enriching democratic life on their behalf”.

We need to make it clear that CBC is not supporting the independent doc
community and is contributing to its demise by reducing its commissioning
of docs. In 2004-05 CBC was the leading commissioner of independent docs in
Canada (about 50% of all CMF doc production) and has now almost dropped off
the grid.

Don’t sign the CBC “template” letter. Go online and make your points to the

Chuck Lapp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *