Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The CBC: Happy 75th Birthday

It's the first day for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which replaces the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission. . . . It is hoped that the radio in Canada will be a welcome guest at your family fireside, and not a skeleton in your family cupboard.
CBC Chairman Leonard Brockington,
November 2, 1936


The CBC Logo: This is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's current corporate logo. As Wikipedia explains; "The red 'gem,', adopted by the CBC in 1992, is a simplified version of the corporation's logo used between 1974 and 1992. The logo was simplified to improve its visibility on analogue television screens. The logo's simplification also made reproduction easier, as it is made up of only 13 geometric sections, as opposed to 25 in the previous logo."
Source: Wikipedia
Today marks the 75th birthday of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or the CBC, Canada's national broadcaster and a crown corporation. It is mainly CBC Radio 2 that I now listen to, particularly its transmission of classical music and other musical shows not found anywhere else in the broadcast spectrum. Over the years, I have tuned in to both its television shows and news broadcasts. 

There are too many shows to recount, but here are  two that both influenced and encouraged my thinking and development as a human being:

1. Ideas: Now with Paul Kennedy as the show's host, who does a commendable job, I listened for many years to the calming voice of Lister Sinclair, its legendary host. The show remains outstanding in its journalistic and documentary approach, and it no doubt has a particular appeal to the cerebral minded:
Billed as a series prepared for people who just enjoy thinking, its mandate has changed little since the 1965 debut of Ideas. CBC Radio's first documentary series, Ideas is also its most successful. Over 400,000 listeners tune in weeknights to hear hour-long documentaries covering everything from Socrates, to the concept of “the other”, to clowns. Every year since its debut, Ideas hosts The Massey Lectures, where leading thinkers explore contemporary issues. Hosts have included Ken Haslam, Russ Germain, Lister Sinclair and Paul Kennedy.

Barbara Frum [1937-1992]. "I don't care if I'm understood. I just don't want to be misunderstood."
Photo Credit: CBC Files
Source: Wikipedia

2. As it Happens, with Barbara Frum:  The CBC site says it best:
The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the country's most respected broadcasters at the age of 54 reverberated across living rooms of the nation.
The courage and tenacity she showed in her very private 18 year battle with leukemia was reflected in her tough, pioneering interview style on CBC Radio's As it Happens and later on CBC Television's The Journal. Whether she was talking to Nelson Mandela, Harold Ballard or the grower of the world's biggest cabbage, Frum's unrelenting curiosity, her fearless search for the truth, and her empathy and humour made her one of Canada's most important broadcasters.

Frum was born on Sept. 8, 1937 in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Her American-born mother, Florence, arranged to give birth in the United States because she wanted Barbara to have an American passport. Frum's father, Harold Rosberg, was a pillar of society in Niagara Falls, Ont. He ran a successful clothing department store called Rosbergs.

She would go on to graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in history in 1959.

Frum ventured into the world of journalism later in her life. Having married the love of her life at 19, Frum happily spent much of her twenties being a doting wife, a devoted mother of three and an active volunteer. It is through her volunteer work that she made her first foray into journalism in the mid-1960s. Encouraged by her husband, Dr. Murray Frum, and her mother, Florence Rosberg, she wrote an exposé of a Toronto charity for the Toronto Star.
It would be the beginning of an illustrious career.
In a bit of irony not lost in the world of journalism, David Frum, son of Barbara Frum, is a noted conservative writer, journalist and political pundit, who worked briefly as a speechwriter for  U.S. President George W. Bush. And her daughter, Linda Frum, is a conservative author and journalist who wrote a bestselling biography of her mother in 1996. Linda Frum was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party in August 2009. If anything, Barbara Frum was a liberal.

The CBC, often maligned and attacked by private broadcasters and conservative commentators, is a national treasure. Its appeal is varied and many, but one is that is a space on the airwaves that is free from commercials and partisanship common to private broadcasters. At times, we require a freedom from the constant barrage of commercial appeals.

Although the CBC shares many things in common with its American (NPR) and British (BBC) cousins, it has its own distinctive voice, which is truly Canadian. It's true that some criticize that the CBC is chiefly funded by the federal government to the tune of $1.1 billion a year (see here),  drawn from Canadian taxpayers. But, then again, the federal government funds many organizations, not all of them outstanding.

Without a doubt, and I say this with no patriotism, but a bit of national pride uncommon to us, "the CBC is Canada's voice." As a professional journalist and Canadian taxpayer,  I wish you many more and healthy years on the airwaves, continuing in the fine Canadian tradition of firm fairness and balance.

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More information on the 75th anniversary of the CBC can be found here.

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