The CBC has been accused of being too cozy with the entertainment industry and of not doing enough to protect the rights of viewers.
But the answer to that question is always “we’ll do whatever you tell us to do,” says The Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife.
The CBC has come under fire in recent years over its relationship with the television industry, which includes a longstanding partnership with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).
And its current contract with Netflix (NFLX) expires in 2022, meaning the CBC can no longer rely on the streaming service to carry its programming.
But Fife says the public broadcaster’s new digital strategy will allow it to make its own decisions about programming, including whether to renew the existing contract.
The key issue is how the CBC handles its new digital platform, says Fife, who was hired as the CBC’s chief content officer in August and took over from former executive producer Jim Balsillie.
Fife wants the CBC to “focus on the future, not the past,” and to “keep the CBC as the most reliable source of news and information in the world.”
He believes the CBC will use its new platform to launch a number of initiatives to ensure the public understands how it’s being funded and how it is run.
For example, the CBC plans to launch an app to “identify and manage its own digital assets,” which could provide a means of tracking and reporting news stories, and a “public-private partnership” to bring digital journalism closer to the CBC.
“This is the only way we can build a truly independent public broadcaster,” says Fisher.
But he also says that the CBC needs to focus on ensuring that its digital platform can remain a credible source of information for Canadians, and not just a place where advertisers can purchase content.
Fife says he will work closely with the CBC leadership to ensure that the broadcaster’s digital strategy is “aligned with the digital strategies of our partners.”
For example: the CBC may “develop a more transparent digital strategy that will be consistent with the news coverage and analysis that the public has come to expect from the CBC,” Fife said in an interview.
“We have to be clear about that.”
The CBC could also look to create a new digital arm of its newsroom, which would be tasked with developing and running digital content that is not part of the CBC News Network.
Fisher says the CBC is in the process of “creating a digital team to help us build the digital news and analysis capability that will deliver Canadians the most accurate, timely, and up-to-date information available to them,” and that “the digital team is in place to help guide the development and deployment of this new digital news team.”
Fife, whose mandate is to “create value for Canadians,” says the new digital initiative should also be “in line with the values and principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
“The charter is very clear that Canadians’ rights and freedoms are fundamental to the survival of our country,” he says.
“It’s our job as the public broadcasters to serve the public and protect their rights.”
The new digital approach is “not going to be a free ride for the CBC and its partners,” he adds.
“The Charter requires that we give priority to the interests of the public, the interests and rights of Canadians, not only in digital terms, but also in content terms, because that is how you grow the public service.”