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Monday, 17 November 2014

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The CBC, Jian Ghomeshi, George Stromboulopooulos, Sun News and Ezra Levant

CBC Television
CBC Televison (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) began operations in 1952. It is federally funded by the Canadian taxpayer although it does receive some revenue through advertising. It receives a little over 1 billion dollars annually in federal funding and current advertising revenues are about 300 million. This latter figure is expected to decrease dramatically due to the CBC losing any broadcasting rights to any NHL hockey games. Together CBC Television and CBC Radio employ about 6,000 Canadians.
Canada, with a population of about 34 million people, is not a flag waving country like the US is. It isn’t that Canadians aren’t proud of their country, they are, but there aren’t a lot of things that tie us together. Canadian history hasn’t been glorified like it has been in some other countries.
In a lot of ways Canadians have been Americanized. There are Wal-Marts and MacDonalds in almost every city large or small. We watch a lot of American television. Most of us live within a few hundred miles of the American border.
Over the last several decades we have seen our large department stores like Eaton’s and Woodward’s disappear. Our big beer breweries like Molson’s, Labatt’s and Sleeman’s are now foreign owned. The most popular beers sold in Canada are now Budweiser and Coors Light. Canada is a country that is more Tim Hortons than Starbucks. Tim’s has become the morning meeting place for many people in small towns across Canada over the last number of years. Tom Hortons was recently sold to Brazilian concern for something like 16 billion dollars.

Canada doesn’t even have complete control of its vast oil resources. Countries like the US, France, the UK, China, Korea, and Norway have big investments in the province of Alberta’s tar sands. The proposed Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Texas isn’t about Canada selling crude oil for the US domestic market. It is about Texas refineries exporting the oil to other countries.
Well at least we have Canadian Tire and Home Hardware that are Canadian owned some might say. Yes they are but almost everything sold in these stores is made in China or some other foreign country.

That’s just the way it is.

There isn’t a lot left that we can truly identify with as being Canadian. The one thing that has remained constant in identifying ourselves as Canadians is the CBC. Almost everything about the CBC is about being a Canadian. It is the only place where we are totally represented. In a lot of ways the CBC is our history. It is our institution. We might have other things that we like to watch on TV on other stations but for many of us there is a comfort in knowing that the CBC is there if we want to see or hear Canadian stuff.
The CBC has always been a haven for Canadian talent, about the only place in Canada where actors, writers, and directors could make a living without having to try their luck in the US. The other Canadian TV networks like CTV, Global, and City don’t produce comedy or drama programs. The only investigative reporting series I can think of on Canadian television that isn’t on CBC is CTV’s W5. In my opinion the other Canadian TV networks can’t hold a candle to CBC’s news reporting, particularly international news. The other Canadian networks show programs that originate at American networks NBC, CBS, and ABC.
CBC Television has a wonderful history. Granted some younger Canadians and newer Canadians aren’t that aware of that history but if you grew up in the 50s or 60s you probably have a number of good memories of those early days at the CBC.
CBC has always tried to provide something for everyone. Here is just a short list of some of the stuff that has turned up on CBC TV in the last 60 years.

Maggie, Muggins, Chez Helene, The Friendly Giant (27 years), Mr. Dress Up (29 Years), Tommy Hunter (30 years), Front Page Challenge (38 years), Wayne and Shuster, Hymn Sing (30 years), Good Rockin’ Tonight, The Nature Of Things, The Plouffe Family, Reach For The Top, Kids In The Hall, The Red Green Show, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Beachcombers (19 years), This Land, The Kids Of Degrassi Street, Country Hoedown, Anne Of Green Gables, Forest Rangers, Telescope, Man Alive, Corner Gas, Little Mosque On The Prairie, King Of Kensington, Murdoch Mysteries, Rick Mercer Reports, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Don Messer’s Jubilee, Mr. D, Take 30, Mr. Wizard, Dragon’s Den, Seeing Things, What’s For Dinner?, This Is The Law, Tabloid, This Hour Has Seven Days, Venture, The Passionate Eye, Razzle Dazzle, Danger Bay, Air Farce Live, Heartland, Klahanie, The Irish Rovers, Close Up, On The Road Again (19 years), Wok With Yan, Road To Avonlea, North of 60, Wojeck, and Artic Air.


Older Canadians can recall the old curmudgeon Gordon Sinclair Sr. on the quiz show Front Page Challenge asking Canadian Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner what she did when she had her period and had to swim in a race. We remember Danny Gallivan doing the play by play for the Montreal Canadiens and Foster Hewitt doing the same for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday nights when there were only 6 teams in the NHL. Canadians were split in their loyalties to each team. Some were fans of Detroit because Gordie Howe played there. We remember the Hot Stove segment between periods. From Prince George, British Columbia to Corner Brook, Newfoundland Canada was tuned in.
Canada had things like Expo 67 in Montreal and Expo 86 in Vancouver, the summer Olympic Games in Montreal and the winter Olympic Games in Calgary and Vancouver that brought Canadians together for a short while. Most Canadians who were old enough at the time remember Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal in the Canada-USSR hockey series. These were all temporary events.
Canada has 3 main political parties, The Conservatives who have had power for the past 10 years, The Liberals who The Conservatives replaced, and The New Democratic Party (NDP) who are on the left and have never been in national power. The Conservatives were reelected in 2011 with 39.6% of the popular vote. Over 60% of Canadian voters didn’t vote for them.
The Conservative Party is a lot like the Republican Part in the US. They are for the most part anti-union and aren’t thrilled with things they consider to be socialist. They kind of have a bullseye on the CBC because the CBC has unions and is government funded. They also believe that the CBC leans far to the left.
It shouldn’t be any surprise to those on the right that most creative people in the arts lean to the left. The reality is that CBC Television is pretty middle of the road. If odd behavior or criminality occurs in Canadian politics CBC will report on whoever the culprit is no matter what party they belong to. Comedians often make fun of Canadian Prime Ministers and other politicians. When the Liberals were in power they received ridicule too.
What really seems to piss right wingers off about the CBC is their investigative programs like Marketplace that often exposes business scams and The Passionate Eye which often delves into political and business corruption. Right wing climate change deniers pretty well all hate David Suzuki and his Nature OF Things program which often deals with subjects like pollution.

In the last few years, using austerity as the reason, the Conservative federal government has cut the number of employees at the CBC. Some on the right would like to see the CBC totally disappear.  
The cost of the CBC is about a third of 1% of Canada’s annual budget. Being that there is little else that mirrors what Canada is about today I personally think it is money very well spent. It is about the only thing we haven’t given the US the keys to.
CBC Radio (Radio Canada)

I can’t say I have ever been a big listener of CBC radio. Through most of my life radio meant listening to music. As an adult it was mostly in the car. As I got older I preferred music from the 50s through the 80s. I found a jazz station at 88.5 in Bellingham, Washington but I couldn’t pick it up all of time.
I knew that CBC Radio had a long history dating back to the 1930s. Prairie farmers often depended on CBC Radio for the weather reports. In WW2 Lorne Greene, who later became the patriarch in the US cowboy TV show Bonanza, often read the news on CBC Radio.

Lorne Greene
Peter Gzowski was the voice of CBC Radio and some think the voice of Canada for about 15 years starting in the early 1980s. His background was writing for Canadian newspapers and magazines. At the age of 26 he was the managing editor of Canada’s MacLean’s Magazine. He was a bright guy who knew a lot about the goings on in Canada. In some ways he was kind of a bridge from the old school guys who wrote and talked about Canada like Pierre Berton.
Foy years Gzowki sat in his studio smoking one cigarette after another while he chatted with anyone he thought represented being a Canadian. He had a very relaxed manner which made him easy to spend time with. He also told a lot of stories about his youth. He died of emphysema at the age of 67 in 2002. He went through a lot of women in his life. He had 5 children with his second wife and another child by another woman who he often didn’t pay child support for.
It turns out that Gzowski was a pretty complicated individual in some other ways. He suffered from alcoholism, depression, and loneliness. It seems that he also exaggerated and fabricated some of his stories. A lot of his depression was about his failure to find success on television. Some have said he was a radio guy and not a TV guy and his inability to make eye contact with his guests on TV was disconcerting.
Peter Gzowski
His CBC morning program “Morningside” had 350,000 listeners daily at its peak. In some ways Gzowski created the niche where many Canadians were willing to tune in Canadian radio in the morning to see what was going on in their country.
Gzowski wasn’t the only personality on CBC Radio back then. A Vancouver born gal named Vicki Gabereau was also an excellent interviewer and her 2 hour daily show at CBC Radio lasted from 1985 to 1997.
Vicki Gabereau
Personally, up until about 5 or 6 years ago I hardly ever tuned in CBC Radio. I kind of came upon it accidentally. It is the station my partner Linda listens to in the car. I got rid of my car (van) a few years ago because it mostly sat in the driveway and was a gas guzzler.
I was a bit surprised to find what a gem CBC Radio really is. More than once I have sat in the car in a supermarket parking lot waiting for one of Stuart McLean’s stories to end. The Debaters is often very funny. Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap is excellent. And then of course there was the smooth talking hip Jian Ghomeshi.

Stuart McLean-Vinyl Café
Jian Ghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi
A lot of people got sucked in by Jian Ghomeshi including me. He was the guy on Canadian radio with the exotic sounding name. My guess is that most of us had to hear his name a number of times before we could properly pronounce it. He was born in London, England and his family who were from Iran originally immigrated to Canada when he was seven. He would later tell his radio audience he loved David Bowie as a teenager and how he wanted to be accepted not as an Iranian immigrant but just another Canadian kid. Music was a big part of his life. We knew that he had once belonged to a Toronto band called Moxy Fruvous that had a cult following mostly in the 1990s.

Ghomeshi wasn’t the first or only great interviewer Canada has produced. He was the hip radio guy and his buddy George Stroumboulopoulos was the hip TV guy who also did radio. Between them they had the bases covered when it came to current music genres and social issues. Both were very respected by famous American entertainers who appeared on their shows because they asked questions that were well researched. They both had a similar approach in how they interviewed their guests. Simply ask the guests a good question that required a thoughtful response and then step out of the way.
A number of years before Ghomeshi and Stroumboulopoulos turned up there was another Canadian who was respected for his research on the people he interviewed. His name was Brian Linehan and he mostly interviewed Hollywood movie stars. He had a particular talent for finding depth in the people he talked to. Linehan also had the ability to gain trust in the people he interviewed. You can see a lot of him in the way Jian and George talk to their guests. Linehan died in 2004 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 59 just when Stroumbooulopoulos’s and Ghomeshi’s broadcasting careers were starting to take off. Two guys with non-Anglo Saxon sounding names that were hard to pronounce.

Brian Linahan
So what drew us to Jian Ghomeshi? How did he get so big? He had a great radio voice for starters, a kind of quiet casual way of talking. It was quite obvious he was very bright and knowledgeable about a lot of things that concern many Canadians, particularly social issues. For a lot of his listeners who had jobs and families he was kind of the go to guy as to what was going on in the music business. He was a heavy promoter of Indie Music. If you were an old fart like me you really enjoyed Ghomeshi’s interviews with some of the rock and roll greats from the past.

Aside from his love for popular music Ghomeshi seemed to have a lot of compassion for women’s rights and causes. He was empathetic to environmental concerns and people living in poverty. There was little doubt that his politics leaned to the left. Over the years he built up a lot of loyalty. He seemed like a good person with a good heart.
His interview with actor Billy Bob Thornton became big news in 2009 because Thornton didn’t want to talk about the movies he had made. At the time I thought the whole thing was a lot of bullshit. Big deal I thought. Ghomeshi talked to some guy who was kind of famous who didn’t want to be cooperative. It really didn’t  seem to have any importance or significance.
His audience was huge for radio and his broadcasts were picked up by a number of American radio stations. Even right wing Canadian radio show host Charles Adler admired his communication skills. The future looked very bright for Jian Ghomeshi.
And then….Ghomeshi’s father died in October of this year. The next thing we knew he was taking a leave of absence from his “Q” radio show. It seemed quite understandable in that it was obvious that he was very close to his dad.
A few days later we learned that it wasn’t just a leave of absence. He had been fired by CBC Radio for committing violent acts in his sex life. At first a number of famous Canadian women that knew him stood up for him including Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, and ex Liberal MP Sheila Copps. They had been sucked in like the rest of us.
Ghomeshi did two things almost right away to defend himself. He sued the CBC for something like 55 million dollars and then used Facebook to tell his side of the story. On Facebook he claimed that he was fired from CBC Radio because of a disgruntled girlfriend who couldn’t handle his rejection of her. He admitted to using physical violence in his relationships with some woman but claimed that it was always consensual. He said that although his sex life might not be everyone’s cup of tea it still wasn’t anyone else’s business including his employers.
For some strange reason Ghomeshi doesn’t seem to understand that physical violence against another person is a criminal act. In fact if physical violence happens involving sex it is rape.
So far 14 women have claimed that Ghomeshi either assaulted or sexually harassed them. 4 of these women have revealed their names. Coming forward is a very difficult thing to do. It isn’t like picking a robber out of a line-up. There is nothing sensational about being a robbery victim. There is something sensational about being sexually involved with a famous man whether consensual or not. My guess is that a number of Ghomeshi’s victims don’t want to see their lives totally disrupted simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We now know that Ghomeshi showed a tape to his bosses at CBC Radio before he was fired. Reportedly the tape shows a woman Ghomeshi dated with bruising that were caused by his fists. There is also a cell phone text message referring to the woman having a cracked rib.
Without a doubt there was a lot of scrambling to the internet to find out more about Ghomeshi’s background and if there were any indications in his past that signaled the violence in his character.
Probably a lot of us thought Ghomeshi was younger than 47 years of age.
His early music takes don’t tell us an awful lot, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Rush, fairly typical stuff. Not a lot of women are big fans of Rush.

Beginning in 1985 he attended York University in Toronto. He graduated with a B.A. in political science and double minored in history and women’s studies. He got involved in university politics. In 1989 he was elected president The York Federation of Students. While president he promised increased funding for the Women’s Centre, supported increased safety for women on campus, and co-founded a pro-choice network.
Looking back now it is kind of hard to understand how a man who claimed to support women’s rights could turn out to be so violent with some of them. I’m not saying that this the case but some manipulative men have used their supposed empathy for women as a way to get them into the sack.
In 1990 Ghomeshi was part of a quartet that formed a band called Moxy Fruvous. The band was kind of a cross between The Bare Naked Ladies and The Nylons. They were pretty good at harmonies. Most of their songs were political satire. They were kind of a college crowd type of band that encouraged their audience to have good time. They had a cult following that called themselves “Fruheads”, many of them were teenagers.

Moxy Fruvous
A few days after Ghomeshi was fired by the CBC and old video turned up on YouTube. It was from 1996 when he was with the band Moxy Frouvous. In the video Ghomeshi sings the following lyrics…All of my fans make me sick/all of my fans are pretty thick/I’d like to beat them with a fucking big stick.

See video here....

The video says a lot. His audience wasn’t people coming to see Yo Yo Ma play the cello. They were probably not looking for deep messages in his band’s lyrics either. They were kids who wanted to have a good time. More than anything else this video shows that he had sense of superiority and a kind of nonchalance about mentioning violence. The video is creepy in a number of other ways. It shows a complete lack of gratitude to those fans that supported him and an ego that was out of control.
At some point after 12 years with the band and getting on in years Ghomeshi must have figured out that there wasn’t much of a future playing one night stands. His love of music led him to radio and he was wise enough to tone his personality down for a broader audience. He morphed into a non-confrontational low key interviewer.
It now appears that Ghomeshi’s penchant for hitting women dates back to at least 1988. In an informal meeting at York University with about 25 people in attendance 2 women claimed that he had hit them and one woman claimed that he choked her in a stairwell. A few years later at the same campus he grabbed a male student’s crotch. It seems like a pattern was developing where he thought he could get away with various unacceptable things.
Ghomeshi hit the big time in radio by getting the prime slots on CBC Radio in 2007. His program was called Q and aired twice daily on CBC and was picked up by over 170 Public Radio stations in the US.
We now know that through all those years he was having violent sexual encounters with a number of women. Choking, hair pulling, punching, and verbal abuse were all a part of his modus operandi. There is little doubt that he was a predator taking advantage of his fame and that he felt he was above it all because he was “special”.
There is a very small % of women that think sex and violence are compatible. I’m sure there are clubs where this happens but if Ghomeshi had joined one he would have been exposed in no time. If he had just been out there getting laid without the violence nobody would have really cared. You would think that as a logical person he would have figured out after 1 or 2 assaults that very few women shared his fetishes and he could have very well found himself in jail.
So why did he do it?  I think his fame and notoriety made him feel vastly superior. It might have something to do with his family background. Middle Eastern culture often has the man as the superior individual compared to women. It’s hard to say.
One thing that seems to be pretty evident is that he was surrounded by a number of enablers both men and women. Unwanted touching, fondling, and dry humping isn’t acceptable in any office. They are criminal acts and not horseplay. It seems that a number of people he worked with turned a blind eye simply because he was the goose that laid golden eggs.
It is hard to feel any compassion for Ghomeshi. His career is over. Nobody is standing with him anymore. 5 years in jail seems about right, after a trial of course.
I find it interesting that at the same time Ghomeshi has fallen from grace that 77 year old comedy icon Bill Cosby has also lost his reputation because of multiple claims of him committing rape. Together these two have disappointed millions of people. It is really sad.
George Stroumbooulopolous

I like George. He is one of the best interviewers ever. I’ve watched him for years. He always seemed like a cool dude. And then it seemed like he started to slip. He introduced a segment to his show where he had a panel of 3 Canadian comedians. They weren’t funny and the segment sucked. Most of us wanted to see him interview somebody interesting not hosting a bad comedy show.
The next thing we knew he was down in the US doing an interview show for CNN. CNN George? About the crappiest News network there is aside from FOX. It must have been about the bucks. After 7 episodes his show ended abruptly and it was back to good old Canada.
By now he had spent a lot of years doing interviews on CBC TV and radio. He was also 42. What else could the boy wonder do that would be interesting for him?
George had long let it be known that he was a big hockey fan and that his team was the Montreal Canadians. In November of 2013 Rogers Communications secured the rights for all NHL hockey games in Canada. The price tag was something like 5 billion dollars. Yippee a lot of us thought. More money for the poorly paid NHL hockey players! (not really). It was a 15 year deal and Rogers promised us we would see hockey in a whole new way.
A whole new way some of us thought? Most of us were quite content with the old way thank you very much. But, but, but we are going to bring George Stromboulopoulos to be the main guy between periods Rogers promised. Oh great! Now we are going to able to find out what Sidney Crosby’s favourite tunes are!
We are only a few months into the new hockey season and we are still getting our head around what Roger’s promised us. You can now watch the NHL on your cell phone while you are on the bus going to that crumby job that doesn’t pay enough for you to ever be able to afford to buy a ticket to a live NHL game. We can now watch George, Nick Kypreos with his 46 goals in 446 NHL games, and ex goalie Kelly Hrudey with more losses than wins in his NHL career stand around in suits with hockey sticks in hand and a goal net in the background discuss the finer points of NHL hockey.

Hockey Night In Canada
And how about the “ref cam”?  It looks kind of cool but it could make you dizzy after a while. Here’s an idea. How about a puck that lights up so the TV audience always knows where the puck is or better still why not call the puck Peter? Does this sound familiar?
So CBC gets to keep hockey on Saturday nights for a few more years but they don’t get any of the revenue. The NHL was the CBC’s biggest source of revenue. Basically what Rogers is doing is bleeding CBC for all it can get. Right now it is using a lot of people CBC groomed over the years. When CBC Television is totally out of hockey Rogers will hire all their best people and those they don’t need will twist in the wind.
By then I guess they feel that we will be all warm and comfy with George and not wonder why things seemed perfectly fine before Rogers went and spent 5 billion dollars on wrecking Hockey Night in Canada. Who knows? Maybe Derek Roy needs a bigger country home?

Hockey will never be the same.
Sun News And Ezra Levant
If we ever doubted that Canada was becoming more and more American, Sun News is a prime example that it is. It is basically a right wing TV network in the same fashion that FOX News is in the US. On Sun News anyone with Liberal beliefs (most Canadians) is one step removed from Joseph Stalin. Any type of socialism is pure evil. (Socialist Tommy Douglas was voted the greatest Canadian ever.) Watching Sun TV (as do about 12,000 Canadians daily) is like watching gloom and doom topped off with fear.
The vice president of the SUN News Network is a guy named Kory Teneycke who was at one point Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The host on Sun News who by far gets the most attention is a piece of work named Ezra Levant. Levant is kind of a point man for the Alberta tar sands and Israel. If you question anything about the environmental damage caused by the tar sands or how Israel deals with the occupied territories Levant will quickly identify you as being un-Canadian or a bigot. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Levant to explain to Canadians what Israel has ever done for Canada. With less than 2% of Canada’s population being Jewish one has to wonder why Israel gets far more attention than the Ukraine. There are a lot more Canadians with Ukrainian heritage than there Jews with an Israeli heritage.

Ezra Levant

Shrinking Palestine.

Alberta tar sands
It is very likely that the Conservatives are going to get thrown out of power in the next Canadian election. The man who many expect to replace Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Liberal Justin Trudeau. Trudeau’s father Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the prime minister of Canada for 15 years from 1968-1979 and from 1980-1984. When Justin Trudeau was a kid his parents split up after 13 years of marriage.
Pierre Trudeau dated a number of women in his lifetime. He had a romantic relationship with Barbara Sreisand before marrying Margaret Sinclair a few years later. After his divorce he dated actress Morgot Kidder (Lois Lane in the Superman movies). Pierre Trudeau’s wife Margaret suffered from bi-polar depression. In 1991 the elder Trudeau at the age of 71 fathered another child with a woman much younger than him. Pierre Trudeau died in 2000.

Earlier this year Justin Trudeau was involved at a function at a hotel near Toronto. There was wedding going on at the hotel and when Trudeau was spotted by the wedding party he was asked to pose in a picture with them. He kissed the bride on the cheek. The whole episode was harmless.

Justin Trudeau kissing bride on cheek.
Ezra Levant decided to turn this brief encounter into a Trudeau bashing rant. He accused Trudeau of forcing himself on a bride half his age. And then he went after Trudeau’s mother and father. He said that Trudeau’s mother didn’t like to wear panties back in the 70s. He called Trudeau’s father a slut. No elected Conservatives made any objections to Levant’s vile rant.
When I heard Levant’s rant I had a few thoughts aside from what a disgusting human being Levant is. Most Canadians, and Americans too for that matter, have had sex outside of marriage. Are they all sluts too? And what about Canada’s Conservative defense minister Peter MacKay and his dalliances with a number of women before he got married? Would Levant call him a slut also?

Peter MacKay and Belinda Stronach
This past November 11th, Remembrance Day, Levant took it upon himself to condemn the Ontario school board over a memo they had sent out about students attending Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Levant claimed that the memo exempted Muslims from attending ceremonies on November 11th. It was a big lie on his part. What he was obviously doing was fanning the flames of prejudice towards Muslims.

Levant has been sued a number of times for making false statements. Sun News has had to apologize more than once for his on-air statements.
In October of this year a storefront mosque in a town called Cold Lake in the province of Alberta was spray painted with words like “Go home!” Alberta is the most conservative area in Canada. Cold Lake is a military base. Local residents got together and cleaned up the spray painting.


I think I know the answer if most Canadians were asked what kind of country they would prefer, one where bigotry and disgusting allegations are common place or one where people have a tolerance for others with different religious beliefs.

The next federal election can’t come soon enough!



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