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Brace yourself: Sometimes I feel sorry for the CBC

Today, just down the street from the TV cranny, there's a meet-and-greet thingy happening at CBC HQ. In the building formerly known as Fort Dork, the CBC News division will "unveil its new look, new hosts, new programming and the 2009 fall schedule." Pastor Mansbridge will be the host. Execs and all your favourite on-air CBC types will be there. Possibly there will be tea, coffee and tiny sandwiches.

I regret I cannot attend. I have a wicked cold and as much as some people think it is my mission to bring the CBC to its knees, I will not infect the custodians of our national broadcaster's news-gathering service with this virus. Now, if it was NBC, which just cancelled Southland without even airing a single episode of the new season, that'd be different. But I digress.

Brace yourself here. There's a big statement coming: Sometimes I feel sorry for the CBC.

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Oh it's true. See, on the day when CBC News is busy unveiling itself, there's an e-mail doing the rounds which casts light on the kindergarten atmosphere of spite, complaining and backstabbing that infects CBC on a perpetual basis.

The e-mail has been floating online for a few days and yesterday made its way to this paper's Ottawa bureau, whence it came to me. It is a masterpiece of whine. It is anonymous but purports to come from "Concerned Staff" and is addressed to CBC President Hubert Lacroix. It opens: "Dear Mr. President, A concerned group of staff are writing to inform you that CBC English Radio and Television are in a state of crisis and desperately require intervention."

There follows a poorly written, grammatically challenged litany of complaints about "management structure," personal attacks on managers, gossip, the suggestion that the departure of some guy from CBC Edmonton is a national disaster, considerable sucking up to Mr. Lacroix, a declaration that "Rome is officially burning" and a call for "more fire fighters and less fiddlers throughout CBC's management system."

Indeed. Fiddlers and firefighters. In the middle of it, Mr. Lacroix is breathlessly informed that some guy was overheard making disparaging remarks about him behind his back.

Typical. Just typical. Here's the CBC busy streamlining and buffing up its News division and there's a gaggle of nitwits occupied with sending anonymous, backstabbing complaints to the head honcho. Enemies outside and enemies within. As for the authenticity of the e-mail, I'll tell you I think it's the real deal. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the e-mails I get from certain persons at CBC who take umbrage at something I've written. The classic CBC complaint has three elements. First, there's the smarmy bit: "I love your column/I admire your work." Followed by the anger: "You took a cheap shot at my show/me." Then it concludes with a dark threat: "I know your boss and I'll be talking to him/her."

Usually I write back saying something like, "Dear So-and-so, someone has written to me recently using your name but expressing views so eccentric and at variance with your usual good sense that I know it could not possibly be from you. I felt you should know about this."

Anyway, CBC News needs some buffing. The numbers for The National are cause for concern. Some nights the viewing numbers resemble the population of my neighbourhood in Toronna, not counting pets who are devoted to Pastor Mansbridge's dulcet tones. Newsworld is dozy, repetitive and appears to be aimed at the residents of rest homes - nothing too exciting, thrilling or shocking will be announced to ensure that the viewers are not unduly disturbed. Right now they could more accurately call the channel "Niceworld."

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Exactly what will be unveiled is a mystery to me. We'll all see it soon enough. The souped-up National will begin next Monday, October 26th. Amanda Lang will join it and be the cool business news reporter she has always been, one supposes. On the list of CBC "on-air personalities" to attend today's event I notice the name Anne-Marie Mediwake, recently of Global. No idea what her new gig might be.

Things change and CBC News must change. No doubt there will be exhortations to use Facebook and Twitter to connect with CBC News. And, no doubt, Rex Murphy will continue to do his regular sermons attacking celebrities for having an opinion about something, that being his specialty. Perhaps they should unleash Rex Murphy on the malcontents who send anonymous, whining e-mails about CBC and rant about firefighters and fiddlers. In the meantime, I do feel sorry for CBC. Just a teensy bit. We'll see how long it lasts.

Also airing:

Jeeves & Wooster (Vision, 9 p.m.) might be one reason why Vision is having an upswing in viewer numbers this season. It's old, it stars Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves and it is jolly good fun. Tonight, ordered by Aunt Agatha to marry Honoria Glossop, Bertie is perilously close to marriage when Jeeves saves the day.!

Glee (Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) involves a mash-up at McKinley High and high jinks ensue. Cool show. Always smart and joyful.

Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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