A SATIRICAL NOVEL published in 1954* (*The Chartered Libertine. Ralph Allen: Macmillan) a Canadian writer prophesied the slow attrition and finally the demise of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Its stations were handed over, by order of the government, to a new private network whose proudly advertised reason for being was to make money and w hose programming policies were summed up in the slogan: “The best of Hollywood is none too good for Canada."
The man who led the war against the CBC and fell heir to its spoils was an aggressive young entrepreneur from Toronto. His last battle began with an effort to pre-empt the CBC network for a series of athletic events —the home games of a famous ladies' softball team. As the debris cleared and the new pattern of broadcasting emerged, another man and his wife sat at home searching the program listings for the hour ahead. Television offered a choice of I Love Lucy, I Married Joan. I Wed Wanda or — "a new one,” the man said hopefully — I Adore Adele. The only available radio programs were The Bing Crosby Show, guest Bob Hope; the Bob Hope Show, guest Bing Crosby; and the Danny Kaye Show, guests Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
The only remarkable thing about this gloomy fantasy is that it was written ten years ago. almost a decade before the 1962 Grey Cup crisis raised new fears and. in some quarters, new hopes that something like it might be very close to coming true. Even at that distance it was not a difficult prediction. Long before the murky brawl over last December's football broadcast, the publicly owned radio and television system was locked in two ceaselessly recurring fights. One was for its life. The other was to avoid the living death of a half-starved, half-chained, emasculated, unloved, unhated, unheeded bureaucracy.
In this contest, now more than twenty-five years old — the age of the CBC itself — both sides have depended on so much wild argument and deliberate obfuscation that even they themselves have occasionally become confused. But in fact there's nothing mysterious or complex about the quarrels over the CBC. They're as fundamental as the clash of tastes and ideas and the hypnotic tug of dollars and cents.
The CBC was meant to be, and in its happiest moments has succeeded in being, the strongest single voice of Canada s nationhood. When it's performing well it expands and lifts the nation and affirms its identity as does no other force in our daily life. At its best the CBC can put a priceless mixture of sights and sounds within the viewing or hearing range of at least ninety-five Canadians out of every hundred — honest, well-reported news, first-rate drama, first-rate documentaries, pretty singing girls, pretty dancing girls, lucid commentaries and knock-down debates on our past, present and future in a thousand fields from the British North America Act to teenage sex. At its worst it offers something quite different: lapses from objectivity and accuracy in the news; cliche-ridden or embarrassingly "daring" plays, badly written, badly directed and badly acted by any standards; spectacularly ordinary variety artists, masters of ceremonies and "personalities"; adenoidal pundits striking poses; a parade of Westerns, wrestlers and tired situation comedies from the big U.S. networks.
During the last four years the terrain over which the CBC treads between its peaks and chasms of programming has undergone two major alterations.
First, in 1958, the CBC ceased to be the regulatory authority over all forms of broadcasting. Up to then the CBC had decided, subject only to the infrequently used veto of the Department of Transport, who was to be granted broadcasting licences and where and under what conditions. It also wrote the rules both for itself and for the country's private broadcasters. All that was changed with the creation of the fifteen-man Board of Broadcast Governors and the transferal to the governors of the job of allotting licences and making regulations.
The BBG's first major act was to grant second-station TV licences and, subsequently, to authorize the creation of a private television network, thus ending the C'BC"s long-standing monopoly of network broadcasting in Canada. As of now the new CTV network has nine member stations between Halifax and Vancouver. CTV owns none of the member stations but eight of the member stations own stock in CTV.
Beneath its alphabetical superstructure the underpinning of broadcasting in Canada still consists of many small parts. Excluding relays and rebroadcasting satellites — which number over two hundred—there were about two hundred and fifty radio stations and seventy TV stations in Canada at the start of the year. The CBC owns and operates twenty-three of the radio stations and twelve of the TV stations. The rest—more than four fifths of the originating outlets in both radio and television — are privately owned. Roughly a third of the private radio stations and two thirds of the private TV stations are, however, linked to the CBC by affiliation agreements which they signed as a condition of their licences. Affiliates are required to carry certain CBC programs — the national news for instance — in order to ensure that these programs are available to as many Canadians as possible; the CBC does not itself own enough stations to provide full Dominion-wide coverage. In the intricate patchwork of the four major CBC networks — English radio, French radio. English TV and French TV — each affiliate is a vital link.
So far as the vast majority of its audience is concerned it's of small consequence who owns or bosses broadcasting in Canada or how the various pieces of the total apparatus are fitted together. The thing they're interested in is what their receiving sets bring into their homes; everything else seems like a side issue.
But in fact there are no side issues in Canadian broadcasting. Every influence — political, economic or administrative — that comes to bear on any part of it also comes to bear in some degree on the programs. And as of now all these “incidental” factors arc working together not only to challenge the nature of the CBC but, quite possibly, its existence.
Broadcasting in Canada is an extremely valuable property. The Income Tax branch has published a list of the relative profit standings of 127 types of business in I960. Broadcasting was tenth. It is likely that, with a large number of new TV stations still absorbing the planned losses of their first years or showing thin earnings, the ranking would be lower today. But the industry as a whole has not seriously altered in its position as one of the surest and safest sources of lawful gain in the world. Even allowing tor the birth pangs of the new CTV network, broadcasting's total slice of the national income is certain to grow greater before it grows less. Not surprisingly, some of the men who are already making large amounts of money from private broadcasting, or have expectations of doing so, would like to make even more by taking over the CBC in toto or depriving it of the power to “compete” or "interfere" with them in the areas where the money lies.
A rubble of crooners and salesmen
Many of them are men of great wealth, determination and political influence. Whatever their influence, and it is not to be underrated, it is indirectly and impalpably reinforced by another kind of influence. Many working politicians would gladly make better use of the giant, prestigious forum of the CBC. In some cases they believe earnestly that it is actually misusing them. Although almost every member of parliament pays lip service to the statutory guarantee of the CBCs independence from politics, many of them still find it irksome. Even the careful, legalistic Louis St. Laurent, while holding the office of prime minister, once was caught out lecturing a CBC chairman on the propriety of allowing an attack on his government's foreign policy. And the guarantees of political noninterference, even when they're honored, can only apply to immediate programming policies.
It is parliament that controls the corporation’s purse strings and parliament that determines its general shape and destiny. It is a total myth that the CBC is above and beyond the reach of politics: a sudden gust in the political winds could snuff it out in an hour or reduce it to a rubble of crooners, guitar players and deodorant salesmen.
There are several ancillary disputes over the CBC. Many ordinary citizens— not the majority, or the CBC would not still be with us — are simply opposed to the basic notion behind public broadcasting. They have no selfish motive in this, they just don't see the sense of having the taxpayer till the air at a cost when private promoters are clamoring to fill it for nothing. Another substantial number of Canadians believe that if we must pay tor public broadcasting its object should be to please most of the people most of the time and not dissipate its talent and money on the minority programs that the CBC's detractors usually call long-hair, egghead or — goaded to outright profanity — cultural. And still another small army of the disaffected, overlapping the others but. not always the same, think broadcasting in general and the state-owned CBC in particular should be censored: it must never question or re-examine the established beliefs about religion, morals and ethics.
These are the inherent and general hazards to the CBC without and within. They’ve been there since the corporation's birth in 1936. But their manifestations have become much more specific in the last three years, and much more menacing. The new threats to the CBC's basic character -— and conceivably to its survival —reside in five main developments.
■ When the Diefenbaker government came to power in 1957, many of its supporters believed it was only in spite of the CBC's oblique but deliberate support of a Liberal dynasty extending back to the days of Mackenzie King. And even in office Tory MB's in general haven't felt the CBC has given their party its due. As Conservatives some of them would be opposed to publicly owned broadcasting on principle anyway.
■ When the government created the Board of Broadcast Governors to replace the CBC as regulatory body it saddled both agencies with a new Broadcasting Act so vague and general that each has been able to interpret it in a different way. There was jealousy and friction between the two authorities from the start and it reached its climax when the CBC flatly and successfully defied the BBG's order that it carry the commercials of the rival network during the fog-bound Grey Cup game of December 1. The CBC won that crucial fight — and along with it the official support of the Department of Justice, on the ground of law. and the apparent support of the public and the press, on the ground of principle. But relations are still strained, no matter how' strenuously Andrew Stewart of the BBG and Alphonse Ouimet of the CBC may deny it. (Stewart says there's “absolutely nothing personal”: Ouimet says if there's any enmity, it's “a Platonic enmity.”)
■ When the BBG licensed Spence Caldwell's CTV, it committed itself, by Andrew Stewart's candid admission, to see that the private network did not fail. If CTV fails, so by inference does the Board of Broadcast Governors. But according to most people who understand the economics of broadcasting in Canada the Caldwell network can only succeed either by cutting further into the CBC's commercial revenues or, more crucially, by invading the CBC's vital family of privately owned affiliates and either borrowing, seducing or kidnapping the key stations. This is what Caldwell and John Bassett of CTV's Toronto outlet, CFTO. were trying to do behind all the hugger-muggery of the Grey Cup wrangle. The CBC contends it must maintain its live-network affiliates intact and inviolate until years hence, if ever — it's able to blanket the country with stations of its own.
■ The CBC, ordered by a 1959 House of Commons Committee to fight harder for commercial revenue and now under the guns of austerity and tough competition from the private network, finds itself in one of the most difficult programming dilemmas of its life. Last year parliament gave it seventy million dollars and the corporation raised almost half as much again by selling time to sponsors. But according to the CBC’s estimates it lost about ten million dollars of commercial business to CTV. The result, although no one will admit it officially, is that both the English and French networks of the CBC are under growing pressure to offer not so much what is good as what is going —-what will get a respectable Nielsen rating, what will attract the account executive and the sponsor. Far from being the dreamy, remote, undisciplined child of “culture,” the CBC is in grave danger of becoming just another obedient child of Madison Avenue. “If that happens,” one of the corporation’s most loyal employees asked recently, “what difference does it make whether we go under or not?”
■ Another problem, largely internal, is that the CBC has become so obsessed with its status as a corporation that it’s slowly losing its passion for broadcasting. When he succeeded to the presidency four and a half years ago. Alphonse Ouimet, who had come up through the engineering ranks, sent scads of his top men to seminars of the American Management Association to learn everything that was new in organization and administration. The paper work proliferated, the organization charts grew a dazzling array of arms and legs and the establishment sprouted five new vice-presidents almost overnight. With top management already concentrated in Ottawa, away from the main production centres in Toronto and Montreal, the thickets of red tape between the brass and the men and women in the studios and control booths grew more and more difficult to penetrate. And in recent years Ouimet and his vice-presidents and general managers have been virtually powerless to control this trend, even granted that they are fully aware of it; attending meetings and preparing for meetings with the BBG, with the rival network, with parliament, have left even the program chiefs far too little time to attend to the essential business of what is going to appear on the screen or emerge from the speaker.
“We're so busy defending our honor, there's no time left to defend our virtue,” one senior officer said to me. A brilliant producer, one of the CBC’s authentic giants of the early pre-TV generation, had an equally poignant lament: “I'm concerned about the tendency of the CBC to become older than God. The zest of the radio days is vanishing into a creaking sort of conformity. Our destinies are controlled by slow-rising administrators who have now clustered on top of the vat like the sediment which should be scooped off a good batch before you sample the wares that have a kick. And this same group is responsible for making TV an old medium in terms of creativity before it had a chance to have the coltish days of adventure that would shock the Canadian public into having some respect for it.”
And a brilliant post-TV producer, like both the others a man deeply certain that Canada’s own salvation depends on the salvation of a virile CBC, had this to say: “When we get public disputes about broadcasting, they always seem to be about politics or administration or advertising or some kind of manoeuvring. Seldom about the thing that counts, which is what comes out of the box and what it says and does to people. Never anything much to do with life. The CBC is full of PR's and bureaucrats determined to keep everything tidy and neat. But life isn’t tidy and neat. Life is a messy business, full of the unexplained and the contradictory, full of argument and speculation. TV is underplaying that aspect of its job in the surrender to tidiness and neatness and it’s not much wonder that the CBC is in trouble. No one roars to its defense any more: people just say, 'Who cares about that damned idiot box anyway?’
“We’re caught between two stools. One the need of making everything salable, some of it very good but a lot of it plain junk. The other the old adult-education concept, the stuffed shirts and English accents boring everybody stiff. Between the two we get a product that’s horribly denatured and empty. And it's no wonder the poor beleaguered bureaucrats and the poor haunted PR’s and the vicepresidents in charge of God knows what forget what we’re all here for. To make good television or radio you don’t need the best spokesmen or the best apologists or the best bookkeepers or the cleverest infighters. You need the best writers in the world, the best singers, the best poets, the best directors, the best composers, the best oboe players. You’re not speaking to some vague machine in a living room. Unless it comes down to one person— one real person you're trying to reach — unless there’s some personal statement, it’s lost. You’re speaking — you, yourself — to one man or one woman and usually an interesting man or woman too, just as interesting as you are.”
For all the CBC’s size — it had sixty-two full-time employees in its inaugural year and now has more than eight thousand — it is a misconception that the corporation comprises the great mass of the broadcasting industry in Canada, with a few nooks and crannies left over for the private stations. There are not only more than four times as many private stations — radio and television alike — as there are CBC stations in Canada; the private stations corral something like three quarters of the advertising revenue.
In the eyes of a large number of the country’s 295 private broadcasters they have a rightful claim to the CBC’s advertising revenue as well as their own. (Actually, almost five million of the thirty-three million dollars the CBC took in altogether from advertisers last year was paid by the CBC to its private affiliates for air time. This further cuts down the CBC’s percentage of the advertising take.) They maintain that the CBC, being subsidized by the state, has no business competing for advertising money. The fact, of course, is that every broadcasting outlet in Canada. public or private, down to the smallest relay tower in the remotest patch of muskeg, is subsidized. Every franchise to broadcast constitutes a subsidy in itself, since wave lengths are limited and valuable and belong to the public. Nearly half the private radio stations and almost all the private TV stations receive additional subsidies through their affiliation agreements with the CBC. As a condition of their licence the affiliates are required to carry certain CBC programs of national interest: they get unsponsored network shows (such as Razzie Dazzle and The Nature of Things) free and on the sponsored shows they are paid a commercial rate set by the CBC. To many of them the CBC is the goose that lays the golden eggs. This does not, however, deter them from joining the non-affiliates, through their trade association and lobby, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, in exploring ways and means of acquiring the goose and the eggs. Due to the mixed positions and interests of its members the CAB's ultimate goal has been slightly ambiguous, but the Canadian Broadcaster, generally considered to be the unofficial voice of private radio and TV, has long advocated that the CBC be liquidated and recast on the lines of the National Film Board. In the view of the paper’s tweedy, forthright editor. Dick Lewis, all the CBC’s stations and network properties should be sold to private interests and then the corporation should confine itself to “the production on tape and film, of radio and television programs of certain prescribed types, deemed to be beyond the capabilities of private broadcasters.”
But for the moment all proposals to eliminate or divvy up the CBC’s advertising revenue must be considered as academic. The CBC is still under clear-cut orders from parliament to maintain a hard-sell operation and its commercial department is obeying instructions with vigor and efficiency. For every young man in sandals and sports shirt meandering through the production buildings on Jarvis Street in Toronto, there's another one in a business fedora and topcoat springing forth from the sales office around the corner on Wellesley — brief case in hand, rate-card in pocket. Nielsen ratings, costs-per-thousand and frequency discounts as ready to his lips as the name of the prospective client’s secretary. “A few years ago three or four of us just sat here and waited for the phone to ring.” John Malloy, director of sales for the English networks. said recently. “Now we get out and hustle, with a sales staff I'd match with any in Canada. On tough accounts I’ll go out with the salesman myself and on a really tough and important one I wouldn’t hesitate to ask Mr. Ouimet himself to lend a hand. In fact I have and he has.”
Certain programs are not for sale as a matter of policy — news and public affairs automatically, and such deliberately unpredictable, unstylized, non-formula productions as Quest and Close-up. Seven nights a week the hours 7.30 to 11 are earmarked by the English TV network as reserved or prime time. These are the peak-viewing hours, the maximum-revenue hours, the hours when all the privately owned affiliates join the network as part of their original contract. Of the weekly twenty-four and a half hours of prime time only four and a half hours are non-sponsorable.
Whether "sponsor influence” is good or bad, it's obvious that in a ratio so lopsided as this it is going to be very considerable. A good deal of the CBC’s share is already built into the Bonanzas, the Beverly Hillbillies and the Car 54. Where Are Yous at the agency level in New York or the studio level in Hollywood. But Canadian-produced shows and the overall network schedules are by no means immune. Under the CBC's much publicized hands-off rule, a potential or actual buyer is supposed to have one thing to say and one thing only about any CBC program: Does he want it or not? In practice programs are often modified, usually in minor ways, to meet the suggestions of the advertiser. The closest thing to a real donnybrook between the CBC and a sponsor occurred a year or so ago when General Motors demanded the removal of a hanging scene from the play. Shadow of a Pale Horse: the show ultimately went on with the hanging, but without General Motors commercials, even though the sponsor’s fee was paid in full. No senior programming official will admit the sponsors’ changes are ever tor the worse, but none will deny they're sometimes made. "If you're trying to sell a program you want to please the customer,” Eugene Hallman, vice-president of programming, says. "Certainly an advertiser will sometimes look at a format and say, ‘It hasn't got enough beef': maybe he’ll suggest we bring in a guest artist. If we think we can accommodate him without hurting the show, we do our best to do it."
Hallman heads the four-man program committee that makes the final decisions on schedules for all the networks. Sales policy also comes under his jurisdiction and no program except those excluded from sponsorship is ever placed on a schedule without the sales department being consulted. Some kinds of show draw better at certain hours; some products sell better at certain hours. “You can't divorce programming from sales." Hallman acknowledges. “You’ve got to meet the budget." He concedes sadly that under the pressure of ratings and revenue some programs that he'd like to see in prime time have to be moved back to what has been called "the ghetto of Sunday afternoon."
The French network, which many innocent English Canadians regard as happily free of the taints and temptations of American commercialism, has met one of its many special problems in a surprising but ingenious way. Partly to build up its evening audience in a tough scramble for viewers, partly because its financial resources are under the heavy strain of fifty-four hours of live Canadian production every w'eek. it ushers in its prime-time bloc with a U. S. situation comedy every night, Sunday through Friday. At 7.30 Sunday it’s Papa a raison (Father Knows Best). At 7.30 on Monday it’s Mes trois fils (My Three Sons): on Tuesday it's Plus on est de feus (Room for One More), on Wednesday Adele (Hazel): on Thursday La Famille Stone (The Donna Reed Show): and on Friday Petite peste (Dennis the Menace). The dialogue, incidentally, is dubbed in Paris in order to qualify the films for viewing there under a national French-content rule.
How much damage the need to pursue the dollar has done the corporation's original purpose is a matter of opinion. It was never intended that the CBC should crowd out or boycott American programs or that it should avoid the field of popular entertainment. It was intended, however, that it should make sure there was no dearth of Canadian programs and that these were of the widest possible variety. Eugene Hallman, the chief of programs, admits it's "a pretty narrow spectrum" now but points mildly to a simple fact of life. “If the Canadian people are really willing to pay for more and better Canadian programs these can be provided. But it will cost a heck of a lot of money — whether it’s public money or private money."
Alphonse Ouimet, the president, sees more good than evil in the CBC’s commercial operations. For one thing there’s that thirty-three million dollars, a third of the corporation's budget in a time when budgets are tight. “And don't forget, it's worth far more than thirty-three million dollars because along with it come many worthwhile programs whose production and talent costs are either wholly or partly paid by the advertiser. Furthermore there are some good U.S. shows that are available only on a sponsored basis shows we need for a balanced schedule. And when people in the big metropolitan areas near the border say, ‘Why should the CBC bring us Carry Moore when we can already get him on another station?' they’re forgetting that there are millions of other Canadians less well situated. All they get is the CBC anti the CBC owes them a decent sampling of the best and liveliest entertainment available anywhere.”
Ouimet concedes, nevertheless, that the corporation’s dependence on advertising is not far from the danger point. “If suddenly we were required to get twenty-five percent more commercial revenue, our mandate would be in jeopardy and our program schedules would be thrown seriously out of balance.” he says. “The time may come — it's probably years away — when we can function entirely without commercials.” he adds. “But under present conditions the no-commercials line is dangerous sophistry."
Whatever hazards the CBC faces there is no assurance that it can expect protection against them from the government of John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker himself has never publicly taken what could be described as an anti-CBC stand, but many of the men around him have. Senator Allister Grosart. the Conservative Party's long-time national organizer, privately believes the CBC was an unofficial government propaganda agency during the long pre-Diefenbaker run of Liberal governments and he attaches part of the blame for the loss of Diefenbaker's majority last June to what he believes was a continuing Liberal bias even alter the Tories had been in power tor live years. "Something will have to be done about the CBC,” is a remark the PM's chief strategist has made more than once.
Diefenbaker's closest friend in the cabinet before he lost his seat last June was David Walker, former minister of public works. At a Progressive Conservative meeting in Kingston on June 12 Walker said: "CBC analysis of news, its commentators, are grossly unfair. And after twenty-two years I suppose it is natural that the government-owned CBC should, through its commentators, be not only tinged with die Liberal brush but right down the Liberal side." Réal Caouette. whose French - Canadian Social Crediters have kept the Diefenbaker government in power for the last seven months, recently asked in the House what was being done by the CBC “to remove the socialists and the like-minded persons from control of the government-owned radio and television service.” (He didn't get an answer, incidentally: the question was ruled out of order.)
In the aftermath of the CBC producers' strike of 1959 — a wild episode brought on by then Acting President E. L. Bushnell’s warning that heads would roll unless the news program Preview Commentary came off the air — Revenue Minister George Nowlan, now minister of finance, was called on to testify before the Commons Broadcasting Committee. As minister responsible for reporting on its activities to parliament but with no authority over it Nowlan had done a manful job of standing up for the much beleaguered and frequently vulnerable CBC. But now, thoroughly fed up, he expressed the sardonic hope that if any heads rolled his would be one of them. Transforming the original figure of speech slightly, he said the corporation reminded him of a cabbage patch, “with a great lot of heads and each one trying to get bigger than the other — and you know what happens when they get loo big, they burst.”
Before that storm-tossed committee hearing of 1959 was over. Douglas Fisher, the CCF member from Port Arthur, walked out. protesting that the Conservatives were trying to do a hatchet job on the CBC. Hatchet job or not. the committee verdict ultimately tabled gave the CBC a series of sharp rebukes for various forms of mismanagement. The committee also ignored the Fowler Commission’s recommendation that the CBC be given some assurance of long-term financial stability, and merely urged a ceiling on its grants: ordered the CBC to "ensure the emergence of vigorous commercial policies": and suggested that President Ouimet be removed from his other position as chairman of the CBC's board of governors. Even its best friends didn't question that the CBC, then in a time of transition with the newly installed Ouimet recovering from a heart attack and Ernie Bushnell carrying an impossibly heavy load, was in need of a jacking-up. But to reporters who covered its proceedings the committee's attitude seemed not so much critical as hostile. Ernest Halpenny, who presided over the hearings then, has now succeeded George Nowlan as parliamentary spokesman for the CBC; it is too early to guess whether lie'll prove more eager, or less, than his predecessor to man the ramparts on the CBC 's behalf.
However serious the tribulations of the past have been, it will be a miracle if the bristling world of Canadian broadcasting doesn't encounter more
serious ones in the few' months and the few years immediately ahead. Many people who arc committed to no particular cause — neither to the CBC, the BBG nor CTV — can't help wondering how' Canada is going to support three major TV networks wathout a substantially larger and more willing infusion of public money or advertising money than appears immediately visible, or alternatively without a drop in costs and program standards across the board. As of now, although the broadcasting industry as a w'hole is in excellent shape financially, the ('anadian network industry isn’t.
No matter how hard the CBC may sell against him. Spence Caldwell must and will sell back a little harder. “We’ve had football,” he told me confidently. "and we're going to get the big hockey broadcasts and the Queen's Plate. Don't ask me how. We’ll get them. Whenever anything is being done private enterprise can always get il done a little better than the government. We have a heavy investment here. We also have a great deal of money behind us. Our directors and shareholders include some of the biggest men. financially, in the country and they didn't come into this thing to see it fail.”
Caldwell denies he has his sights set mainly on the CBC. He thinks most of the revenue he still needs to pay off his capital costs and reach a satisfactory profit position will come mainly from outside the present sources of broadcasting money —from newspapers and magazines. But to make his network fully effective he needs access to three or four of the CBC’s affiliates, particularly in Saskatoon, in western Ontario, in northern Ontario and New' Brunswick. With the BBG on his side, at least up to now. and nothing to complicate his programming problems except the axiom that every show must show a profit, he is bound to become more and more a threat to the CBC whether that's his desire or not. His next immediate goal, of course, is to break into the CBC's chain of exclusive agreements with its privately owned affiliates and increase CTV's potential audience from its present seventy-two percent of the total population to something around eighty, a much more attractive figure to national advertisers. The CBC has no objection to the affiliates taking kinescopes and tapes from CTV and showing them at hours not previously contracted to the CBC. But to release the affiliates to the rival network would, the CBC insists, seriously threaten its own interests which, it insists equally firmly, is the public interest as well.
Caldwell dissents. "In the United States,” he says, “it’s against the law to force a private station to sign an exclusive agreement w'ith any network." Musing beyond the immediate issues a few weeks ago he arrived by stages at a dream he insisted was really secondhand. “Someone said why shouldn't the CBC sell all its bricks and mortar and real estate. It would bring at least a hundred million dollars. At ten percent that would be a return of ten million dollars a year and they're only getting thirty-three million dollars from the advertiser now. Well, if they sold all their bricks and mortar to private business—I'd buy some of it myself—then we could have two good national networks, both private. The CBC would eliminate its sales and research costs and a lot of its administration and could concentrate on producing for both networks. It would, of course, need government grants, slightly more than it gets now. But the number and quality of shows it could do would be far greater. Some of them would he a gift to the people of Canada. On the commercially salable shows the networks would sell their time and make a return to the CBC for the program.”
With the BBG at least nominally in control, CTV beginning to roll and an unadmiring Conservative-Social Credit majority surveying the over-all scene from across the street on Parliament Hill it may be more than a coincidence that the CBC has been inserting discreet commercials for itself on the country’s television screens and across its radio bands. By the time this is printed a further spectre, of uncertain dimensions, may have disappeared or taken solid form; the Glassco commission was expected to come down any day with the CBC section of its mammoth study on government organization.
Al Ouimet, the man in the middle, professes to be unaware of any crisis, present or pending. Or if there is a crisis he'd like to face it squarely. The one thing he wants above everything else — aside from getting out from under the BBG — is a searching enquiry into all aspects of broadcasting in Canada, to redefine and clarify the relationship between all its elements, old and new, and above all to re-examine and, if that’s what the people want, reaffirm what he calls the CBC’s mandate. “The danger,” he says, “is in carrying on with ad hoc decisions that will erode what has already been achieved. People think the CBC is such a large and well established and strong service that it can’t do any harm to take a little bit away from it at a time. But in the North American context the CBC is a rather delicate thing, a little like Canada itself. It takes effort to keep it as a going, growing entity.” ★