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Public Broadcasting - From Eh to Zed

Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, always seems to take a lot of flack, mostly because the public realize it's their tax dollars supporting the organization. Some think they should spend their funds to support more regional programming, or more Canadian drama, while others think it's just important to be a commercially viable station.

CBC produces some great shows: Rick Mercer's Report, The Hour and until recently, Zed TV. Sadly, this innovative program, which gave the opportunity to any regular Joe or Jill to submit short programming, has now been cancelled. No reason given. I was proud of ZedTV, and have been following CurrentTV, an interactive US channel that Al Gore modeled on the CBC's Zed. If others are emulating ZED, surely it's got potential for great success.

However, there have been some recent changes at CBC, one is the hiring of Hollywood Exec Producer Fred Fuchs (credits include The Virgin Suicides and The Godfather), but it was VP Richard Stursberg in Playback magazine who summarized the CBC's strategy by saying "While CBC is a Crown corporation and therefore not operating for profit, our programming still must reach Canadians in large numbers to be viable creatively and financially. It makes no sense for us to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars in licence fees and promotional expenditures on programs that are not appealing to a significant numbers of Canadians."

A ZedTV exec once told me they pay about $400/minute for licensing material for the show, that's some of the cheapest programming one can buy. Given the niche audience they were reaching, and the attention Zed garnered from international broadcasters for its innovative approach, it seems to me like an extremely viable endeavour. I'd like a much better explanation for destroying the bridge between public content creators and this public broadcaster, when it seems demand for short form content is on the rise worldwide.


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