HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE CBC JUNGLE - AND OTHER TV TRIBAL SECRETS
What does a CBC producer do when a member of parliament warns him to steer clear of a contentious topic? Or, when his CBC bosses forbid him to broadcast a skit that pokes fun at the Queen?
Here, in a probing interview with Percy Saltzman, are the answers given by two young men who live in the eye of a showbusiness hurricane.
Pat Watson and Douglas Leiter man are the creators of This Hour Has Seven Days. Bright, beset but seldom bested, they tell how they battle pressures to air their controversial show each Sunday — and live to do it again
SALTZMAN: The program This Hour Hus Seven Days has been possibly the most publicized the CBC ever had. What kind of an audience are you trying to reach?
WATSON: A very broad audience, the kind that comes to television primarily for entertainment.
SALTZMAN: Are you aiming for a low-brow audience? WATSON: Vast numbers of viewers in this country, millions, are
potential viewers but are not actual viewers of public-affairs programs, and never have been in the whole history of television, or of writing, or of newspapers. These arc the people who read the comics and the sports page, who wouldn't dream of reading dispatches from Ottawa except in time of national crisis. We are seeking, among others, those who have as much right to be informed as anybody else, and a much greater need, because they are not being reached by
other media. They are not the readers of Maclean’s, they are not the readers of the financial pages or the political pages, but they are watchers of television.
SALTZMAN: Bonanza, for example, and the Ed Sullivan Show, with which you compete? You expect to draw people away from them? WATSON: Well, not quite. We come after Ed Sullivan and Bonanza and it's our great hope that we can hold many of the viewers. There are millions who sat through Ed Sullivan and Bonanza and then used to turn the television off when public affairs came on. or switch to another channel. They have, as I said, a need to be informed, and what’s required is an approach to public-affairs television aimed at them. They are either ill-informed or disoriented from nonfiction, from reality, from the kinds of things that the CBC has traditionally pumped out on the air in the public-affairs area. We are not saying
they are intelligent or unintelligent. There are an awful lot of bright people who, for one reason or another, never got tuned into the world of public affairs. We know something about the range of intelligence of our audience and want to be able to serve people whose intelligence isn't right up to the mark. But we are not going to feed them at the thirteen-year-old level. It’s our intention to feed information to a number of levels at once.
SALTZMAN: You have assumed that you know who your audience is and what they want and why. What is the verification? LEITERMAN: We asked the CBC, when we started, to try and find out who that audience was and to expand the normal CBC audienceresearch processes. They have done this. They have corroborated all our instinctive suspicions about who the audience was and what they would listen to. Some of the facts are
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“What annoys us is people saying we will put in anything to get an audience”
that the level of education of the national-television audience and the audience which listens to This Hour Has Seven Days has a pattern about like this: less than ten percent graduated from university, more than sixty percent did not complete high school, more than twenty percent did not graduate from public school — and a larger number than went to university did not finish elementary school. Watson: The surveyors found that relatively short, high-level-interest material would be listened to. even if heavy. If you gave the audience a longer chunk with little vitality, they turned away in droves.
Salt/.man: I don't think the methods of measuring audience reaction are so precise that you can tell within a given program which two-, fiveor ten-minute segment is drawing the attention, and which isn’t.
Watson: One of the exciting things that this survey turned up was an audience-appreciation index based on howwell people recalled w'hat they liked. The audience-appreciation index for the first edition of This Hour Has Seven Days was seventy-six percent. compared with the same audience surveyed for Bonanza and the Ed Sullivan Show which came in an index in the thirtyand forty-percent range of audience appreciation. Salt/.man: You mean your show was twice as popular with the very same people as these other two?
Watson: Oh no. this isn’t a popularity measure. This is a measure ot the degree of appreciation.
Saltzman: You mean seventy-six percent liked it?
Watson: "Like” is perhaps a broad
w'ord. They felt that it was worth their while watching, to that much greater degree then they had felt Bonanza and Ed Sullivan w;erc worth watching. But in terms of numbers who w'atch. Bonanza is still way ahead of us. So is the Ed Sullivan Show. Saltzman: Why this concern about numbers? Why do you want to play the numbers game?
Leiterman: We are working with a mass medium. We have a tool which, when it works at its best, works for a great number of people, and its our responsibility to use this machine that we have, these devices that w'e have, these skills that we have, to provide some kind of service to the greatest number of people.
Watson: It seems to us that almost any given individual is interested in his future, what is going to happen to him on this planet, what conditions he earns his living under, and how his kids are going to be brought up, and that if you can reach him with material that he can absorb, which television can do, you can achieve a much wider audience than has ever heen reached before by public affairs. Leiterman: We don’t seek ratings. One of the things that annoys us most is this misinterpretation of what we are after—people saying and people writing that w'e will put anything in to get
an audience and to get ratings. We could make an entertainment program that would get a far bigger audience than This Hour Has Seven Days, but we have obligations to serve the people with certain kinds of information, and the CBC has always acknowledged this obligation. For example, you don’t program an interview with
the minister of trade and commerce, Mitchell Sharp, if what you are interested in is ratings. But you might program Mitchell Sharp at a moment of crisis in federal politics, which is what Seven Days did — and Sharp had as high an interest rating as anything else we have programmed. Why? Because Mitchell Sharp was
questioned sharply, probingly, in a format Pat Watson first worked out on Inquiry. This is what we describe as the "hotseat,” which w'e think is one of the more exciting uses of television for public affairs. It makes a person who is at the centre of something that is happening — whether it be in national politics, international affairs.
Was the interview with Nazi Lincoln Rockwell necessary?
sports or entertainment — appear as a real person. The audience can sec the essential worth and value of the person and the color and the texture, so that the next time you read about the minister of trade and commerce, suddenly you have an image in your mind that’s not just a stick of type in a newspaper. You’ve seen him tested. Watson: Television is designed to do a very specialized job with immediate kinds of information that work largely at a nonintellectual and nonrational emotional level.
Leiterman: Another area of the values that a program like ours serves is generating conversation, provoking interest.
Saltzman: Well, that’s spending a lot of money just to get people to talk. Generating a conversation must be among the lowest of motives of any publicly financed operation.
Watson: We are not interested in generating conversation about purely frivolous and trivial subjects. Leiterman: We are interested in having the people of the country watch television and talk about serious matters. Saltzman: You mean talking about Seven Days?
Leiterman: Oh no. I mean talking about something they saw on television last night, that they didn’t know about before, they didn’t think about before. This may range from a football player to the new president of the United Nations.
Saltzman: Contraceptive pills?
Watson: That’s an interesting example. In the cosmopolitan atmosphere we live in, we all assume that when something comes out like a birth-control pill, everybody knows about it. We discovered there were people in our audience who had never heard of a birth-control pill, let alone get involved in the moral or biological arguments surrounding it.
Saltzman: What kind of conversation do you think was provoked by the interview with the American Nazi, Lincoln Rockwell?
Leiterman: Conversation in many
areas: concerning freedom of speech, concerning sensationalism, antisemitism, and the rights and responsibilities of the CBC as broadcasters. Saltzman: Could you not have got the same results had you interviewed, say, Rabbi Feinherg?
Leiterman: Emphatically no. What you got out of Rockwell was exposure of the primary source. Viewers who saw it will not forget ... an intelligent, handsome, articulate man who was able to say with conviction that a substantial number of people of our society ought to be put in a gas chamber because they disagreed with him. It was a pretty frightening experience, and one we felt our viewers ought to be exposed to.
Saltzman: Would you have put it on if you had concluded that it wouldn’t have caused a ruckus?
Watson: Unless there is interest, the information isn’t going to come across. If the Rockwell thing had been bland and dull, of course we wouldn't have put it on.
Saltzman: A number of the things which were announced, and which
did not appear, would have been equally informative — the Pearson film; the interview with the Quebec students following the riots about the Queen’s visit; the skit about the Queen by The Establishment people. The point is, are you not being safely controversial? It’s easy to be controversial about antisemitism, a little tougher to be controversial about the Catholics, a little harder to be controversial about the Liberal Party, which is in power, and very tough to be controversial about the Queen.
Watson: Right. It’s very tough about ministers of the crown and I think that since watching the program you will remember that on the very first one we gave a very tough, blunt, direct interview to the minister of justice— as a result of which we were roundly roasted by some people on Parliament Hill and by some people of the press. We gave a tough, blunt, straight-forward interview to the minister of trade and commerce, which began by his being confronted with the suggestion that the affairs of the nation were in a hell of a mess. We have gone after the leader of the Opposition in the same straightforward aggressive way. These are tough areas, which bring the roof down in many ways.
Saltzman: You were safely controversial. Your jobs, for instance, arc not on the line. You wouldn't have received hot memos from way up top about the Rockwell interview, because it’s not the kind of thing that touches a major nerve. The major nerve has
to do with the government itself and its men and its conduct and the major policies, and the Queen, of course. Leiterman: We had more than onethousand phone calls before that Rockwell program was aired, admonishing the CBC not to let us run it. The CBC Department Of Public Affairs decided that it should run. Now, on the question of why we did not run the interview with the Quebec students, the skit about the Queen, and the Pearson film excerpt . . .
Watson: In programs in the contentious area, the decision is not reached solely by Doug and me; we are working in the context of a policy laid down by the CBC. This includes certain policies that are built into the law of the land, concerning what shall — or shall not be broadcast.
Saltzman: Doesn’t that deal merely with such things as sedition and birthcontrol devices, which you violated by talking about contraceptive pills? Watson: No, we didn’t violate it. We didn’t advertise them.
Saltzman: You spoke of them, and I think you are not even allowed to mention contraceptive devices under the Broadcasting Act, strictly interpretated.
Watson: We may have tested the limits of interpretation. Most of the decisions are made in consultation with the general supervisor of the publicaffairs department. Reeves Haggan. Most of the things we propose on any given program go out pretty well as we have proposed them.
Leiterman: Let’s deal candidly with the three matters you brought up. The skit about the Queen we were explicitly forbidden to put on the air.
Watson: We presented satirical material on the Queen before. In fact the very sketch we wanted to do had in an earlier version played on the program Quest the year before.
Leiterman: And not only that, but it was running in Ottawa the very night !hat the Queen arrived there, on a public state visit.
Watson: In the end we agreed that 3hat sketch would not go in. If we had not agreed, we would have had a pretty limited range of responses to, you know, the prevailing point of view.
Salt/man: You mean you would have been fired?
Watson: Or to have had to radically revise our intentions for the program. The important thing is that a consensus is arrived at. The other important thing is that there is inevitably tension between the program people and the policy people.
Salt/man: You mean you had to compromise with your conscience?
Watson: I don't think it is a matter of compromising with conscience, but you are dealing with a set of practical realities.
Leiterman: Pat and I consider that the responsibility of putting out a program of this calibre in this time slot, to this many people, is not such that two guys like he and I — though we respect our own opinions — should have the sole and unchallengeable right to decide what goes on. Of course, we have masters, who are equally responsible for the program.
Salt/man: Have you ever won? Watson: Of course. You noted three items that didn’t get on the air. and I think those are the only three. But we’ve fought over dozens. Take the Horsburgh item.
Salt/man: Horsburgh, the minister in Chatham.
Watson: In naked language, he was accused of encouraging teenagers to have sexual intercourse. There was a feeling among some of our superiors that no item on Mr. Horsburgh ought to be aired.
Salt/man: Well, we have had films on homosexuality and on many areas of sex.
Watson: And whatever we do on this is questioned on grounds of taste. Watson: The Horsburgh item, we felt, was an entirely valid one for us to examine. Here was a subject every newspaper in the country had run abundant reports on — many more, I suppose, than the item deserved. But we thought from our reading of what the public had been given that the viewers didn’t really have a sense of what was going on, what kind of a man this was, whether he was justly or unjustly accused, whether he was a victim of vicious teenagers or w'hcther he had, in fact, been leading his flock astray. We produced a film which we thought answered some of those questions, w'hich we thought showed some of the real dimension of the Rev. Horsburgh and the teenagers who were involved. There was considerable dispute between us and our masters over whether or not this item ought to go on the air. In the end. it was agreed that it should be aired.
Salt/man: To get back to this business of committing considerable money to a project which may never see the light — what’s your view on that? Leiterman: It doesn’t happen that way. There have been in fact only three items we have ever done that weren’t seen. On one of them no money was committed, and on both the others the amount of money was almost infinitesimal.
Salt/man: You had a Lévesque interview which you didn’t use, so therefore
there was a commitment of payment. Leiterman: When we came to do René Lévesque, we videotaped another interview in our Montreal studios at virtually no cost. We intended to update the first one. but in the end we ran the first one. which was better. Salt/man: The first one by Larry Zolf and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with René Lévesque in the hotseat?
Leiterman: That’s right, and the exciting things in this encounter did not recur because by the time of the
second interview the three men had the measure of one another and simply could not repeat the vitality. Leiterman: It seemed to us that when the Mr. Pearson film was finally released for showing at a few' theatres around the country, it would be an interesting news item if we went to the theatre where the film was being shown, the film which the viewers of the country had not been permitted to see on the CBC, talked to the people who saw' it, asked them wheth-
er they thought it was an interesting film, whether they thought it did harm to Mr. Pearson’s image or improved his image in their eyes, and finally whether they thought the CBC should or should not have aired it. It was our opinion that it was a valid news item and that the eight minutes of our hour that we intended to devote to that film was valid journalistically. Others who saw it disagreed. There was a great deal of discussion, and in the end the opinions of those who thought that it should not be aired prevailed, and we concurred.
Salt/.nian: Is that not a nice way to say that you ran up against political pressure? That it was political pressure in fact that made the decision?
Watson: I would like to spike that gun right here and now, because this has been a convenient way for a lot of people who write about our program and write about the CBC to explain the nonappearance of all kinds of items that enter the political area on the CBC. To my knowledge — and my knowledge in this area is very wide in the corporation — there has not been any overt political interference on television programming. Saltzman: By overt, you mean when the Minister of Justice Favreau makes known publicly that he doesn't like it? Watson: No, that’s not political interference. He has a right to express an opinion.
Saltzman: What is political pressure in your view?
Watson: May I then throw out the word “overt,” because in fact political interference when it really works is not overt. In the famous case, Preview Commentary, which was not television but radio, it was covert. Political interference in broadcasting takes place when the government goes covertly to the management of the corporation and compels it, by whatever leverage it possesses, to do or not to do something on the air. 1 don’t know of that having happened. Of course, we do not know all the influences that are brought to bear, and of course, there is influence. The politicians stand up in parliament and say what they have to say about the CBC. They talk to us, Douglas and me, privately, they talk to other members of the corporation. We are made aware of what their opinions are, but that’s not interference, that’s the legitimate expression of feelings. I think the corporation has very manfully resisted interference.
Saltzman: You say members of parliament talk to Leiterman and Watson. Watson: Right.
Saltzman: That in a sense makes a kind of political atmosphere. You become directly aware whether a thing is acceptable or not.
Leiterman: We cannot program in the political area unless we are aware of what’s going on, but if it governs our judgment, we ought to lose our jobs. Watson: Every viewer who writes to say what he likes or dislikes on the program is of interest to us, but we do not change the nature of the program because of what any viewer, any single viewer, may say, even if he is a member of parliament or a cabinet minister.
Saltzman: Of course, nobody picks up the phone and says, “I understand you are doing a show on Horsburgh or
birth-control pills. I don't w'ant it on the air, get it off.” This doesn't happen. Leiterman: It has in fact happened. Saltzman. An individual has done this? Watson: Certainly it’s happened. It’s happened in many areas. It's happened with people of influence over and over again. It’s happened all through the history of broadcasting, that people of interest in politics and other spheres of influence have picked up the phone to somebody they know in the corporation and have said in one set of words or another, “This item isn’t going to go on the air — see that it doesn’t.” And it’s to the everlasting credit of the corporation that that kind of influence has not been paid any attention, hasn't been yielded to. It has happened to Douglas and me that a politician has called us up and said, “You have an item that is not going on the air. If you put it on the air, you're going to be in trouble.”
Saltzman: He is a very inept and unsettled politician if he used that kind of treatment.
Watson: I quite agree.
Saltzman: Moreover, a politician is not the same animal as a member of the government — holder of the purse, so to speak — at the seat of the mighty. Now what if you had heard from the minister of justice or the prime minister? I am sure you wouldn’t have just said, "Away with you,” — put your job on the line, in short.
Watson: I think in a sense our jobs are continually on the line. We’re programming continually in contentious areas, before the people of this country, and if we mess around with their network to an intolerable degree . . . Saltzman: What about the charges made against you by the Canadian Newswriters Guild, that you people were snitching TV film?
Watson: That’s nonsensical. At the time of the Queen’s visit the news services and ourselves were all working extraordinarily long hours, running into each other because we do work in the same building from time to time. We needed certain film which had come in through the normal news channels and there were encounters and short tempers and misunderstandings which produced this violent and imaginative grievance compiled by the guild.
Saltzman: You mean there weren’t transoms being peeked through and locked door knobs being . . .
Watson: No, and there were no girls being harassed by telephone callers who hung up, and that whole memo was a marvellous piece of fiction based on a genuine misunderstanding which was settled within the corporation in about two days of negotiation between the responsible people, the head of the news service and the head of the public-affairs department. Saltzman: Yes, but considering what has happened, the announced organizational changes in the corporation, really nothing was settled by the negotiation. 1 mean now news and public affairs are under one roof.
Watson: These changes bear no relationship to that dispute.
Saltzman: They were linked in the press, were they not?
Leiterman: This was an example of not very thorough reporting.
Watson: It’s not a case of combining the two departments, but a simplification of the way in which the two departments report to the central management in Ottawa. We used to report through the network. We now report through one man.
Diefenbaker liked his “hotseat” interview
Saltzman: But it also facilitates more direct control over Leiterman and Watson. How' do you feel about that? Leiterman: Theoretically, as far as we can assess it now, it doesn’t make any difference, except to perhaps make the communication more efficient. Saltzman: It’s widely been rumored that the whole intent is to ensure that the boat isn’t rocked.
Watson: As programmers, we can only judge by the effect on programs. Saltzman: Would you say the TV critics are unfair to Seven Days? Leiterman: It would be a brave man that would make that statement. No. The critics across this country have been exceptionally kind. They say it is breaking the sound barrier, and the first successful adventure into massaudience public-affairs programming. Saltzman: But they also say it’s a shambles and sensational and there is so little for the mind.
Leiterman: There are a small minority of critics who seem . . . well, let’s just say notably unaware of what we’re trying to do and unappreciative of it. Saltzman: It has been said that the Diefenbaker, Pickersgill interviews, which were back-to-back, were unbalanced and that your interviewers tore Diefenbaker to pieces, while the cabinet minister. Pickersgill, was let off lightly.
Watson: Mr. Diefenbaker was perhaps better interviewed. He was strongly pressed and he was strongly challenged in a w'ell-organizcd. wellconstructed interview. Pickersgill was done later in the day, with hurried preparation, because it was very late before he agreed to come. One of the men w'as hastily brought back to the studio to do it, while the other was on a plane. Mr. Pickersgill was not feeling well, and it w'as less exciting television. I should tell you what happened at the end of that interview with Diefenbaker. When it was over, he jumped down off the seat on the platform and he went over to the two men and he shook them by the hand and said, "That was the best television interview that 1 have ever experienced and you two men are the best interviewers in Canada.” Laurier Lapierre who knew him quite well, said, "We will be criticized tomorrow for having been rude to you.” “Send the letters to me,” said Mr. Diefenbaker, "I’ll answer them.”
Saltzman: Is it true that you wanted to nail Mr. Diefenbaker but not to nail Mr. Pickersgill?
Leiterman: What we failed to do was to keep the appearance of balance between those two interviews, because it was vital to have the same two men do Pickersgill. To have only one do Pickersgill immediately suggested to some viewers that we were being less tough. This w'as a circumstance we could not avoid.
Saltzman: When you lean over backward to balance the program, why, when you put Rockw-el! on, violently antisemitic, didn't you immediately
have another person who could present the other side?
Leiterman: Rockwell presented the
other side by implication.
Saltzman: He told lies that weren’t challenged.
Leiterman: Very often the best counter to w'hat a man says is what he himself says at a later point in the same interview. In Rockwell w'e had a man who held many extreme views. The two interviewers tried to expose his views and counter them. That doesn’t mean that every time he says, "1 would put the Jews in a gas chamber,” that the interviewers have to say back to him, "Isn’t that a heinous thing to do?”
Saltzman: One of the critics says that one of the troubles w'ith the publicaffairs programming is that the people who are in charge of it now, such as Leiterman and Watson, are primarily educationists, rather than showbiz people.
Watson: Well, you can’t have it both ways. In the same newspaper, the same day. another critic said exactly the opposite, the implication being that what w'e are doing is purely superficial and has no substance.
Saltzman: The accusation has been leveled in a broader sense that the whole of the public-affairs programming — its concept, its organization and its product — has been on the decline.
Leiterman: Can you ever think of a period in which some people haven’t been writing that either the CBC has been on the decline or the publicaffairs department was on the decline, or that the government w'as on decline?
Saltzman: No. hut specifically are you denying that there has been a decline in the public-affairs department, from the point of being probing and provocative. adventurous, nonconformist, irreverent — any of these terms that imply a certain amount of revolt, independence, daring?
Watson: Are you suggesting that This Hour Has Seven Days is conventional or conservative?
Saltzman: You have rejected, or
apparently left behind you. the oldfashioned school of the one-man interview'?
Watson: No, there is a fair amount of one-man interviewing on the show. The “hotseat” has been reserved for challenging a man w ho is in some kind of responsible position, who in a sense has to account for his actions. Saltzman: You also said you don’t w'ant these speaker-outers or sounderoffers. One of you is quoted as saying you were going to abandon that breed of cattle.
Watson: We like the idea of one man standing up and saying w'hat he has to say. provided he says it in an interesting way.
Saltzman: The phrases such as “childish antics” have been used to describe your program by critics and others. Do you reject these out of hand? Watson: What to one person might he an antic, to another might he an insight, and to still another a challenge.
Leiterman: 1 guess we’re both pretty well distressed by comments like the
one you just quoted. The individuals you are quoting have for one reason or another found it at least useful or fashionable to throw at us all kinds of charges, such as sensationalism. I get pretty tired of the kind of attacks that are made on us without any real substance. Before we started Seven Days, Pat was producing Inquiry which was universally hailed as the first program to deal week after week with national affairs in an interesting way. I was responsible for a program called Document, which turned out one-hour documentaries of depth and were hailed by the same critics. I don't really understand how some of these same critics should now decide there has been a long decline in public-affairs programming and that Pat and I arc in fact engaged in a superficial attempt to stir up sensationalism. Goodness knows, we make all kinds of mistakes, but the constant, needless and inaccurate criticisms made by very few reviewers do hurt a little. But I guess this is one of the prices of being in the public eye.
Saltzman: About being in the public eye. This has been mentioned by the critics: how come that it's the producers, Leiterman and Watson, who get the major attention, the public spotlight — that they have star status, not the people who actually appear before the cameras? It's sort of comparable to a Hitchcock movie. Hitchcock's hilling takes precedence over the stars. Do you feel it’s a good idea?
Leiterman: Well, it’s the conventional wisdom among the television critics that we don't develop any television personalities in this country, and for some obscure reason try to make the producers public figures. We have certainly sought publicity for our programs and tried to put people on the air who are compelling broadcasters, and I'm a little bit puzzled why people like Laurier Lapierre. for example, have not been subject to more attention. But it may he partly due to this valid reason, that the programs in this area are, in effect, authored by the producers, and we are the responsible guys.
Saltzman: Do I take it that I'm correctly quoting you that there is no CBC policy to play down any Canadian star system — that is to say, to feature performers as the public personalities? I mean, the great names in Canadian TV are the ones that have gone to the States and England and made it and come back.
Watson: I think it has something to do with the national psychology which the CBC reflects, maybe erroneously. I don't think the CBC by itself could make this country Canadian star-conscious. It may he that if Canadians only believe they’ve got something good when another country, particularly the United States, puts its stamp of approval on it.
Saltzman: I’d like to get into the area of the CBC broadly, and its future, because we have really been talking in a sense about this. The shake-up recently of CBC public affairs and news was part of this. What do you think is going to happen? Is there a crisis at CBC now as to its future role?
Leiterman: An easy answer would he that from time to time throughout its
history the corporation has been under attack, but that might not he an adequate answer because these things come and go.
Saltzman: Is it that CTV, or private television broadly, is now out to get the CBC finally and relegate it to a sort of National Film Board role? Leiterman: I don’t think so. Private broadcasting has always been out to get the CBC.
Saltzman: In the older days there was no alternative TV network — this is where the money lies — and now we have that. Well, have we added our two and two and got our four?
Watson: It may very well be that enough of our representatives in parliament and enough of the people in the country feel that the CBC in one way or another is not being operated as it should.
Saltzman: Do you feel the CBC should survive?
Watson: I think the CBC must survive —and it will.
Saltzman: In its present form, partly sustained by public money and partly by commercial income?
Watson: I think it would he totally incorrect for me to voice an opinion on that.
Saltzman: Let me come at it a different way. If the CBC is under attack and if you do feel it is worth saving, leaving aside for the moment in what form, how do you think it could he saved?
Leiterman: I think the CBC will he
saved, as you put it — and that’s as far as I’m prepared to go—by the support and interest of the thinking people of this country, as it always has been. There can he no doubt that the CBC performs a real public service. You have only to go out and talk to people. Whenever I do this it’s always encouraging to find the extent to which ordinary people rely on the CBC for their information.
Saltzman: Do they know you are a CBC staffer when they give you these opinions?
Leiterman: I’m not widely known or recognized as a CBC person. I have no trouble in preserving my anonymity anywhere in this country, thank goodness. And I don’t think that you’re in any doubt, either, that there is this vast body of support by people who feel that the CBC is doing its job. The time this support is most apparent is when the CBC is under attack. During the week when Seven Days was under attack in parliament, the mail just flooded in. There were more than twelve hundred letters from across the country, saying. Don’t let them beat you down, don’t let the politicians take over the CBC or your program. Keep giving us what we think is (many said, and we’re a little embarrassed at this) the best program on TV.
Saltzman: They wrote to the wrong people, did they not? They should have written those letters to the members of parliament.
Leiterman: The foremost conviction that wc have to have is that the way to keep the CBC alive is to turn out good programs.
Saltzman: Two points here raised in my mind by what you said about the public support you have received. One is that generalized support is not sufficient. That merely shows you have a favorable client. How do you chan-
nelize and organize it? Where are the trade unions, the women’s organizations, the church groups in organized fashion? Where are the lobbies— people’s lobbies — for the CBC if there is this kind of support?
Watson: I think if the groups you mention were aware of how severe the attacks on the CBC were, they would be a great deal more articulate and persuasive than they have been in making their opinions known. These people don’t come out and start shouting until they are aware that there is a need for it, because they assume, and rightly, that the CBC is doing a good job and will be supported by those whose job it is to support it. Saltzman: My second point is that if the CBC were stauncher in its own defense, more forthright in presenting a new independent Canadian programming pattern from a strongly Canadian standpoint, would that not in itself guarantee its survival and the defeat of the enemy? I’ll put it as bluntly as I can: I have been told by a high CBC official that the greatest single factor in the Americanization of Canada over the last ten years is the CBC. Now that’s a pretty sweeping statement from a highly authoritative source. It shows that within the CBC there are people who sit high up— you know, policy makers and programmers and not least yourselves— who feel you are not really fulfilling the mandate for which the CBC was originally set up. What are your views on this whole area? It goes to the heart of the matter of your survival as producers of Seven Days, in its original form anyway.
Leiterman: I think that the CBC in fact has been the agency which has been more responsible than any other for this country remaining Canadian. Saltzman: What about all the film stuff they buy from Hollywood, like The Beverly Hillbillies.
Leiterman: Public affairs does not as a rule buy American packaged publicaffairs shows. If it started to do so, I think this would be a terrible tragedy and would he leading in the direction that you suggest.
Watson: On the other hand wc share the North American continent with the U. S., producer of some first-rate entertainment, and I think that the corporation has an obligation to convey some of this entertainment. ★