In defence of Stursberg

Jason Macdonald, Richard Stursberg’s former chief of staff at CBC
Television, writes about the positive aspects of Stursberg’s legacy.

Macdonald writes in the Ottawa Citizen:

“How about this for a legacy?: In an era when Canada’s public broadcaster receives less than half of the public financial support that public broadcasters in other OECD countries receive, Stursberg was able to turn CBC Television into the second-most-watched network in the country.

“In prime time, (the evening viewing period from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. when most Canadians are actually watching television) he was able to secure an audience share of 10 per cent. How significant is that? When he took over as head of CBC Television the network’s share was at an all-time low, at just over six per cent.

“He was able to increase the audience share every year of his tenure because he made CBC Television relevant again for Canadians. And he did it at a time when Canadians have more channels and more foreign programming options than ever before. Canadians had a public broadcaster that mattered; and they had a public broadcaster they actually wanted to watch.

“More importantly, he did it with a slate of overwhelmingly Canadian dramas, comedies, reality, news and current affairs programming. For example, last year’s prime time fall schedule was virtually all Canadian content.”

Macdonald adds:

“Stursberg recognized that the makeup of our country has changed and he tried to build a public broadcaster that would reflect our increasingly diverse population and interests, that could compete for the attention of Canadians, and that took advantage of new media options. He pushed the CBC to improve its online offering and he challenged CBC Radio to reach even more Canadians than it already does. (Today it enjoys the largest share in its history.)”