Theodore Tugboat leads CBC suicide mission

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Theodore T steams toward oblivion

A single-source, puff piece in today’s Halifax Chronicle-Herald says Andrew Cochran, senior managing director for CBC in Atlantic Canada, is heading to Toronto to spearhead the public broadcaster’s five-year suicide mission named “Strategy 2020.”

The Herald actually calls it a “survival plan,” but a so-called “strategy” that cheerily chops another 1,500 staff jobs by 2020 and puts the development of digital and mobile media ahead of programming on radio and TV, looks more like suicide to me.

Cochran himself is best known as the independent producer whose company created the hugely successful children’s TV series, Theodore Tugboat. Since 2007, he’s been CBC’s head honcho on Canada’s east coast where he oversaw a disastrous plan to boost supper-hour TV news ratings. In 2010, I wrote a piece in the weekly Coast magazine that included this:

Ten years ago, CBC Halifax cut its TV supper-hour news in half and gutted the staff. Ratings fell to near zero and advertisers fled. In a desperate attempt to revive the Mother Corpse, CBC managers came up with a 90-minute show based on the “action news” format touted by American consultants. If you want to gauge quality, tune in at 5pm and chug a beer for every crime, accident, fire or weather story; you’ll be shit-faced by 5:15.

In 2011, this mediaspin blogpost tried to show how dumbing down the news also made CBC’s political coverage more sensational and less accurate.

The headline in today’s Halifax Herald says “Andrew Cochran’s herculean task is to save CBC.” With his record so far, I’d say he’s more likely to help kill it.

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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One Response to

Theodore Tugboat leads CBC suicide mission

  1. Blair Mitchell says:

    It’s hard not to join Bruce Wark in opposing dumb news.

    But how that translates into opposition to Andrew Cochrane is a bit more difficult to see on this thin piece. For CBC outsiders, like most of us, the landscape may seem a little less complicated.

    That landscape looks like this:

    1. Andrew Cochrane bears a large chunk of the credit for having seen this region generate local programs, not just Theodore Tugboat, whose contribution to national popular culture is and has been absolutely unrivalled.

    2. People might think that kind of accomplishment was creative, truly creative.

    3. So people might be forgiven for thinking that how to run a corporation who’s just had the financial ar*e pocket ripped out of ‘er might need some true creativity.

    To make his point comprehensible to the reading masses, this writer might need to be a bit more specific and to find a few alternatives.

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