Another in a series of postings on CBC captioning (also see the separate page on the topic)

What I do when I find an interesting blogger – and how very pedestrian I feel writing that, as “blog” remains an ugly word – is to read his entire archives. They’re almost always boys, except when they are or are not, as with A. Ouimet of the Tea Makers, the in-house CBC anonybloggeur(se) (q.v.).

I had already read everything at Tea Makers as it was freshly written. There were, and still are, days when I checked it twice just to be one up on my RSS. Yesterday I decided to reread the archives. (I do indeed “have that much time on my hands”; it’s called research, and it’s one of the things I do so you don’t have to.)

I’ve been thinking for a long time – since well before my three-year, and still ongoing, mission to document “CBC fuckups,” as Ouimet calls them – why the fuck I care about these fuckups.

  • I am an unusual CBC supporter in that I don’t give a shit about English radio, which I find nearly unlistenable. (Nothing is worse than Michael frigging Enright or the theme songs for As It Happens and Quirks & Quarks, unchanged since I was a boy.) I’m not like Weisblott or Maffin; I don’t love radio. I listen to dance music on Internet streams all day (ETN, Afterhours, Bassdrive). I used to have extended powers of listening concentration, but not anymore. Nonetheless, I think that any programming hated by the traditional CBC Radio listenership, most of them senior citizens now, is probably on the right track.

  • I don’t do much checking of the CBC Web site, though I have done minor paid work on it and I appreciate its recent unfailed redesign.

  • I have almost no knowledge of French radio beyond a dim recollection that it sounded sepulchral. I channel-surf occasionally through the two French TV stations. I watched Les Bougon and nearly underwent cardiac arrest in my first episode. (Then in the next one, they nuked Montreal!) I went so far as to get the first-season DVD from Zip and tried to struggle through CNST’s shitty “captioning.” Nonetheless, this is a series about serial welfare abusers in which a doughy layabout lobs Molotov cocktails at a Wal-Mart–manqué construction site while yelling “Fuck yeah!”

  • What I am a fan of is what CBC-haters want to kill: CBC Television and Newsworld. Speaking broadly, I’m attracted to CBC-TV, as we are discouraged from calling it. That’s how I describe it: I’m “attracted.”

    • Three years ago I lived for Da Vinci’s Inquest, a show I adored. How do you go wrong with two girl cops named Kosmo and Kurtz? They even managed to make a black girl detective credible – in Vancouver, where so few blacks live (0.9%) that the guys on the old NBA team nearly cried when they found out.

      I sat and watched all my tapes, but I managed to blow two full recordings of the final episode, which I ultimately never saw. Then its mercurial creators changed the show yet again, turning it into Da Vinci’s City Hall. I still taped it, but I found it tough slogging because of two annoyances – the captioning fuckups that I had told the captioners about when I visited them years ago and the alternately amateur female voice and BOOMING RADIO-GUY VOICE of the description narrator. (I watch the whole show; I’ve got everything on at once.)

      Then this year CBC killed it. They killed their only good show, really the only one. A public broadcaster bereft of Ian Tracey’s facial crags is a public broadcaster impoverished.

    • I actually support Nancy Lee in her zeal to put amateur sports on air. (Not children’s soccer.) She won’t show anything that’s boys-only – except, I guess, the lacrosse that was telecast in the last three weeks. Nobody else puts the Paralympics on TV, you know. I even applied for a job as on-air commentator, only to be told the lie that such jobs are decided years in advance. Please don’t lie to me again.

And actually, when it comes to accessibility, I got nothing but lies and obstructions from CBC.

  • I got lied to – twice – about a promised meeting with the then–chief of staff. Three years later, he acted all surprised that I filed a complaint and asked why I hadn’t brought it up before. I tried to!
  • There’s a manageress in there who totally busted the work of my broadcast-designer friend Melanie Goux in designing a generic audio-description symbol that anybody can use. The manageress and her private-sector friends, none of them qualified broadcast designers, forged right ahead and reinvented the wheel.
  • I’ve been blocked left and right by CBC’s Ottawa lawyer and, by proxy, the head of the captioning department. (I’m sure she recognized me on recent visits as I walked through her sweatshop. Lower-tier captioners work out in the open at bare desks shoved together; it isn’t even a cube farm.) Even while they concede my data, they keep telling me they “dispute… most vehemently” or “disagree strenuously” with my conclusions. Vehemence is a reason to see a psychiatrist, not a negotiating position.
  • The oldest captioner there, who started out really liking me, picked a fight as we sat together in the Barbra Frum Atrium. (Despite having her own office, she chose that venue, the most conspicuous in the building, ostensibly so she wouldn’t get fired for meeting me.) She would later proceed to put me on her shitlist, and I’m pretty sure she was the authoress of personally defamatory comments on other blogs. I don’t know her, but I think I know her type, and I fear that even if I ran a ferret-rescue operation or cured cancer I’d never get off her shitlist.

I’m not the problem here. I’m not trying to gut your budget. I’m not signing up the Corpse for simulcast reality TV shows or shitcanning entire departments. I’m on your side, people. I just want things done right.

The last time I was in the building, I walked by a sign tacked up on a door (why, oh, why didn’t I take a picture?) stating that highest transmission quality was job one. And I suppose it is, though no TV station in the country save for PrideVision in its early years has a shitty transmission signal. (Really, they economized on bitrate so much that the station looked like a second-generation VHS tape. I’d never seen that before and haven’t since.)

If you take programming as a given (there will always be programming on any network), and then accept that some shows are good and others aren’t but they all need to be accessible, you are then left with a set of questions. If you’re concerned about transmission quality, why are you not concerned about your perfect transmission of shitty captions? How about perfect transmission of shows without any captions, in direct violation of a legal order?

I don’t get why CBC management are flinchers on so many topics (like alleged liberal bias) yet so stubborn about other things (like demonstrable captioning defects). People, I’ve got the facts and I’ve been publishing them. Not only that, I’ve got tapes. I can back this shit up. Nonetheless, despite all the “CBC fuckups,” you’re still doing better than the for-profit broadcasters. You would not believe the shit they are getting up to. But I’m not keeping extensive notes on them. I’m not. Because I care less about them. I care about the Corpse.

I am still trying to figure out why the CBC – in the form of a chief of staff who was scared of me, an icy head of captioning, an old captioner who holds grudges, and a dismissive lawyer – cannot accept what I’ve been plainly and explicitly stating for months. I’m not doing this because I hate your shit. I’m not CBC Watch. I don’t want CBC harmed, reduced, or eliminated. It’s just that I’ve been in this business a long time and I want you to quit blowing it. It is well within your power to do so.

If you really want CBC to be preserved, you have to be massively better than the for-profit broadcasters in some ways. This is one of them! You’d have a bulletproof argument for preservation at your disposal if you could say “We can prove we’re serving viewers with disabilities better than anyone else in Canada. You’ll never get that from the private sector.”

CBC’s petulant, damn-the-torpedoes, not-invented-here bullshit is getting in the way. I’ve got all the data, you refused to listen to me when I tried to use back channels, and now I’m making a commotion because I’ve got no choice.

You thought Maffin was colluding with the opposition for writing an important blog during the lockout, but you turned around and hired him to set up podcasting, then as official blogger. Doing so proved that spite is not a motivating force for everybody at the Corpse. It’s time for you to join the group that is grown-up enough to work with the critics you fear the most. At the very least, you can stop being so goddamned angry and resentful and start talking.

If anybody’s supposed to get accessibility right, it’s the public broadcaster. Don’t let anything, including your own attitude, get in the way.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.07.30 12:58. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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