CBC TV goes “downmarket”

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In news-media-speak, “going downmarket” means dumbing-down content to attract a broader and bigger audience.  CBC TV’s local supperhour newscasts began going downmarket after hiring the U.S. news doctor Frank Magid and Associates in 2007. Magid prided himself on  inventing the Action News format, a recipe based on snappy stories about crime, fires, accidents, oddities and weather.

Tom Murphy

As a public broadcaster, CBC has to add a dash of political coverage. Here in Nova Scotia, a favourite CBC political theme is “your tax dollars,” which those rascally politicians steal from “our” pockets and purses and then scandalously misspend.

On May 24th, CBC news anchor Tom Murphy led off the six o’clock news with a touch of tax hysteria: “Confirmation tonight of what many Nova Scotians have long suspected. We pay more in taxes than anywhere else in the country!”

Murphy’s claim was more rhetoric than reality as I reported in the Coast, our local Halifax weekly. The day after the CBC report, Nova Scotia’s finance minister Graham Steele disputed the CBC claim.

While other local media widely reported Steele’s response, CBC television’s six o’clock news steadfastly ignored it — a clear violation of CBC journalistic standards. The “we-pay-more-in-taxes-than-anywhere-else-in-the-country” story that was such a big deal on Tuesday’s news mysteriously sank out of sight.


About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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