The CBC like many media outlets has been in crisis recently. On top of repeated cuts in government funding over the last twenty years, they're suffering from the collapse of advertising revenue to traditional media, due to the television services' dependency on ad revenue.
(U.S. readers: The CBC is the government-funded public television and radio broadcaster in Canada, like the BBC in the UK or the ABC in Australia.)
To me, the role of the CBC is to provide channels for Canadian cultural expression. Market forces will inevitably regurgitate what is produced by the massively-productive American media machine, so we need someone to provide the infrastructure for cultural dissemination. Nothing in that says that the CBC has to be a radio or television network in the traditional sense.
In the post-network, post-newspaper world, I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities for public broadcasters to facilitate even greater promotion of Canadian (or British, or Australian, or South African or New Zealand or ...) culture. So here's my road map for CBC over the next decade. It consists of two themes, distribution and production:
It should be obvious that people don't think of network television or radio as their primary way of getting information or entertainment anymore. Music comes on a iPod. Video comes from YouTube. I want to listen to my local CBC radio morning show on my iPhone, because that's what I take with me when I walk my dog. And I want to view CBC TV on all those devices, too.
CBC should stream all its content, in local timezones, and in open source formats. This means CBC should support open source projects that develop and/or package codecs and whatever other software is needed to ensure that users of all platforms have access to CBC audio and video content: Mac, Linux, Windows, iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other phone platforms. A lot of this technology is available already, but much of it is only accessible to us hard core geeks. It needs to be really easy for anyone to use.
Even more exciting is the possibility for production: Enable the public to produce their own high-quality podcasts and video. This means, again, funding open source projects to develop and package audio and video production tools. Having done a bit of screencasting, I know it's not easy for the general public to do today, but we're not a long way from it being easier.
The CBC, or Canadian universities, could also produce a series of screencasts or videos to show people how to produce content: A sort of on-line journalism and documentary production school. And there's no reason to limit this to news and documentaries. The CBC, NFB and universities
This is technically feasible. I believe it's economically feasible within a budget that CBC has or could get. Maybe they can cut real costs (rather than cutting services) from the traditional parts of the broadcast system by moving programs around on the Internet, instead of via satellite or other dedicated pipes. Maybe they can increase their budget, by showing the government they're more relevant than they've been in years (not likely with Harper as PM, but he'll be gone someday).
The real challenge is the mindset change that would have to take place within the CBC bureaucracy. Therefore, this is a call to action to those who know people in the CBC or that can influence the CBC's direction. Start spreading this idea. The important thing is that we start discussing how we're going to create and distribute Canadian content in the Internet age, and then start acting on it.