Stursberg: loved and loathed

Seems CBC head of English programming Richard Stursberg ruffled a lot of feathers during his six-year tenure. He was hired in 2004 as new blood to “shake the damn place up.” The Tea Makers, a blog run by someone who purports to be an anonymous CBC insider, captured some tweets and posted a video likening the leader to another infamous leader. Toronto Life’s “Eleven reasons CBCers loved/hated Richard Stursberg” includes: losing the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, revamping Radio 2 by ditching its classical bent, the 2005 lockout that gave CBC “pretty much what it wanted”, losing broadcast rights to the Olympics and the Grey Cup, making anchors stand while delivering news in a new CNN-style format, and bumping Marketplace for Wheel of Fortune. One of the only positive reviews of Stursberg’s legacy was penned by his former chief of staff, who credits Stursberg for turning CBC Television into the “second-most-watched network in the country.”

Toronto Life‘s list of successes attributed to Stursberg are largely commercially driven: winning the bid for the World Cup and creating reality TV smash hits Battle of the Blades and Dragons’ Den and sitcoms Little Mosque on the Prairie and Being Erica. The Toronto Star quotes Canadian Media Guild president Lise Lareau: “His view of a good program was one that had good ratings. People felt that he didn’t support news, as a result. How public is a public broadcaster if you make it so commercial?”

Will CBC change much under new leadership? Now-retired long-time TV critic James Bawden doesn’t think so: “Stursberg’s schedule is very much the one CBC will be using this fall –it’s too late to change much…That means a reliance on hour long dramas patterned after American series will continue on the new CBC schedule. It takes at least a year to program new TV series.” Meanwhile, Howard Bernstein was so happy to see Stursberg go he announced “Ding dong, the witch is dead.”