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Jun 27 , 2016

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On the CBC Radio One Diversity Project

by Cliff Boutilier
On the CBC Radio One Diversity Project

As far as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is concerned, perhaps you were relieved when the Glam Boy Liberals came to power last October and you sensed sustainable funding for our public broadcaster for years to come.
Or perhaps you’re in the camp which has long proclaimed to hell with this billion dollar albatross around the neck of Canadian taxpayers, it’s time to sack the CBC.
Excluding our esteemed columnist Frank Cameron, who, for obvious reasons boasts a very vocal and proud CBC bias, the general consensus within the Frank Bunker is, “A cost-effective and distinctly informative CBC, but not a distinctly banal, uninformative CBC at any cost.”
That’s our two cents. Perhaps not worth two cents, but that’s where Frank Magazine stands.
And we stand, like you do, as off-the rack ordinary Canadians who have absolutely zero input into how the CBC is run, who runs it, how they run it, how much money they make, or how much they expense to the Canadian taxpayer. We are the innocent bystanders who in no way should be confused with the beneficiaries of the CBC.
We, like you, just continue to pay the freight for this Crown corporation.
Simply put, in language we ordinary Canadians can quite readily understand:
The dog’s dish is put on the floor and we can chose to eat from it, or to turn our hind quarters and walk away.
We ordinary Canadians have zero say in programming, content development or production. We can, however, choose to move on down on the radio dial, or change the television station. In the real world that’s the ultimate control, but in the world of spoon-fed public broadcasters ratings are secondary. So, that’s hardly any power at all.
As demonstrated by the sordid saga of Jian Ghomeshi, the power resides at 250 Front Street West, Toronto, in an array of executive offices and in the minutiae of executive titles.
Inside those executive offices sit a powerful clique of players. Some not as powerful as they think they might be. Others bent on further climbing the greasy executive pole. Some are people pleasers. Others are control freaks. Some exhibit actual broadcasting acumen.
Others wouldn’t know Edward R. Murrow from the man in the moon. Sadly, these are the principals who oftentimes spare little effort to have our public broadcaster made over in their own limited graven image.
CBCers in high places also have a phenomenal predisposition to scratch each other’s backs.
That was no more evident than in 2014 when a pair of married Peter Mansbridge sycophants — Jennifer Harwood, managing editor CBC News Network, and hubby Mark Harrison, then executive producer of The National, conspired to have Linden MacIntyre “banned” from the CBC after MacIntyre was critical of Mansbridge’s shilling for corporate interests.
CBCers in high places also see themselves as great evaluators of talent, fine connoisseurs of radio and television genius. Although the genius part may have more to do with personal relationships and preferred dinner party guests than actual talent.
No matter, the controlling members of the CBC Politburo see themselves as something much akin to hockey scouts, each eager to take credit for unearthing the next Great One.
That is no more evident than in the tragic case of Chris “We’re Not The Police” Boyce.
Boyce was the Corp’s new whizkid. Not 10 years removed from Ryerson, he found himself installed as CBC Radio’s director of program development, where he would go on to be the driving force behind bringing Jian Ghomeshi to air. Boyce would delight in his spectacular new find.
Having successfully created that monster, Manitoba-born Boyce was promoted to CBC Radio programming director, and finally to executive director of radio, all the while behind the scenes aiding and abetting Jian Ghomeshi in all things Jian Ghomeshi.
Verily, it came to pass that Boyce would go down in flames after he appeared on CBC’s Fifth Estate to discuss (read: defend) the CBC’s disgraceful mishandling of the Ghomeshi Affair.
Looking very much like the distressed school boy hauled into the headmaster’s office, the CBC wunderkid’s singular justification for Mother Corp’s kid glove treatment of Ghomeshi was, “We’re not the police, we’re not the police...”
So, 250 Front Street, definitely not the Toronto police station as we’ve established, can be as insistently stupid just as it can be incestuous.
Incestuous? Passionate relationships are constructed and nourished over time. And just like in the plant and animal kingdoms, there exists the uniqueness of Darwinism in the CBC’s magic kingdom.
To curry favour and to fawn is to display Mother Corp survival traits sure to get your immense talents noticed. Outside of the CBC workplace, membership in the same clubs is indeed helpful, just as the sharing of similar preferences, perhaps even a propensity for the same peccadillos, could be considered an asset. Perhaps even a strong asset. All part of the CEEB natural selection process.
Exactly one year ago, Susan Marjetti replaced  Chris Boyce as executive director of radio. Like the much younger Boyce, she also fell off the Ryerson assembly line.
In fact, Marjetti, 55ish, Class of ’83, has a distinguished place on the Ryerson Wall of Fame, where she joins legendary CTV Toronto weatherman Dave Devall, 85, Class of ’58. Not sure at this point if they’ll find room for Chris Boyce on that Ryerson Wall of Fame.
In any event, Susan Marjetti cut her teeth at C-100FM Halifax before moving on to CBC Halifax in 1988. She’s remembered as a hackette who didn’t shy away from hard news but did shy away from men if they asked for a close dance at the Corp Christmas Party.
After stints in Sydney, Fredericton, and Winnipeg, Marjetti surfaced in Toronto, in 2001, as program manager of local radio, having joined CBC management in 1998. In 2011, she became managing director of CBC Toronto.
At the time of her ascension to the big throne (and in the wake of Ghomeshi), CBC PR bumph, likely the most drippy PR bumph in all of the PR magic kingdom, heralded Susan Marjetti as some mythical Goddess of Radio Redemption & Radio Diversity.
Diversity, and not redemption, is the key word here.
As recently pointed out by our Ottawa cousin Frank Mag Jr., Marjetti, a confirmed spinster, had been “banging the diversity file for years,” so it was only fair that down the road some of the self-promotion would pay off.
And it paid off in spades.
Heather Conway, executive VP CBC English Services, 2ic to CEO Hubert Lacroix and a fellow confirmed spinster, was unrestrained and overflowing in praise of Marjetti, calling her among other things a “leader” and, of course, “a champion of diversity.”
The Susan Marjetti CBC Radio One Diversity Program is now fully upon us. We are now fully engulfed in it. Well, maybe not fully. I’m sure there’s more to come, but we’re off to a rousing start.
Not a year in, Susan Marjetti just last month gave a prime daily two-hour time slot to Candy Palmater. As previously noted, Palmater had failed miserably in her audition to take over the Ghomeshi time slot. And it’s the very same Candy Palmater the entire nation heard before. No different.
To be blunt: Candy Palmater is an obese Micmac lesbian.
And quite frankly who cares what’s between Candy Palmater’s legs, who she shares it with, or how big a chair she sits in. Point is — the only point is — Candy Palmater is not knocking anybody’s socks off on the damn radio front.
So, it is what it is. And what it is definitely a bright, shiny feather in the bonnet of the diversity seeking cruise missile which is Susan Marjetti.
In fact, and I hate to say this, but it could only possibly become a larger coup for Susan Marjetti if Candy Palmater was to suddenly lose a leg to diabetes or something terrible; go though a prolonged period of PTSD, and then come out of her long depression and PTSD at the same time  deciding or insisting with great favour that she wanted to transgender to a man.
Now, if that was to happen, and I certainly hope it doesn’t for obvious health reasons, but if that did happen — the diversity crowd would give Susan Marjetti her own ticker tape parade in Hogtown. No question.
So how did Our Lady of Perpetual Diversity cap off her first year as executive director of radio?
Well, there has never been a CBC radio personality more in love with his or herself than Sook-Yin Lee, who fancies herself the ultimate Renaissance woman.
For that past 14 years, Ms. Lee, another former MuchMusic VJ “star,” had been hosting yet another CBC Radio One pop culture show — Definitely Not The Opera, or DNTO. With some storytelling thrown in and some on-the-road stuff.
It was a magazine style show which aired on Saturday afternoons. At which time I would make a mad dash for my radio to shut the damn thing off.
Sook-Yin Lee was very much about Sook-Yin Lee.
Rarely was Ms. Lee not droning on about herself, her family, her parents, her older sister, what it was like to be a first-generation Canadian, or growing up in suburban Vancouver,  or her auntie’s bra shop back in Hong Kong.
Oh, there were some refreshing segments here and there, but as time wore on it was just too much Sook-Yin Lee for me.
So what happens?
Finally in May, God is quite obviously smiling down on longtime CBC Radio One listeners; God sees that they’re suffering, and the next thing you know, DNTO is cancelled. Thank God.
So what happens next?
Susan Marjetti gives Ms. Lee a new show. One which promises to make Sook-Yin Lee an even greater focal point. Like she needs the encouragement.
As is the case with many of these shows they, for fun or profit, or both, pop out of the head of the CBC personality/host, who then peddles the show back to the CBC brass, or to  diversity specialist Susan Marjetti.
Sook-Yin Lee, an openly bisexual woman of colour, likely didn’t have to try too hard a sales pitch on diversity specialist Marjetti to sell her new show Sleepover.
In Ms. Lee’s words: “Sleepover  is an antidote on 21st century alienation... I convince three strangers to meet me in a hotel room for a sleepover... with a specific problem they need help with... we hash it out and get to know each other.”
And of course, we ordinary Canadian taxpayers will pick up all the costs, hotel costs included, of Sook-Yin Lee’s fun sleepover adventures.
She calls Sleepover “durational art.” I’ll likely call it something else after I hear one or two episodes.
I think it’ll succeed. Succeed in putting another nail in CBC’s coffin. Succeed in supplying more fodder for CBC critics. Like they need that. Succeed in further dumbing down the CBC.
The Halifax connection to this crap is Veronica Simmonds, the proud producer, who graduated from Kings and used to toil at Best Donair Magazine. Surprise. Surprise.
And, of course, most of my connections to CBC Radio One are dead: Alan Maitland, Barbara Frum, Clyde Gilmour, Lister Sincliar.
My guess is the way things are going they wouldn’t want to come back. Not anytime soon. Not for one bloody second.
And I can’t wait to join them.

 

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