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Posted: Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:34 am Post subject: CBC axes executive VP for ratings success
CBC axes exec for ratings success
By DAVID AKIN, Parliamentary Bureau Chief
Richard Stursberg was canned by the CBC on Friday after nearly six years as executive vice-president of English-language services. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency File Photo)
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OTTAWA – By the measure that matters to most television executives, Richard Stursberg was a big hit at CBC: A lot more people are watching now than when he started.
And yet, Stursberg was canned by the CBC on Friday after nearly six years as executive vice-president of English-language services, apparently because he was too good at getting more people to watch the programming that Canadian taxpayers subsidize to the tune of $1 billion a year.
He was “the most disruptive and hated V.P. of CBC I can ever remember,” former TV producer Howard Bernstein wrote on his blog.
And yet, when Stursberg arrived at CBC in October 2004, an average of 215,000 Canadians were watching the main network at any given minute during the day. For the 12-month period ending July 10, CBC was drawing an average minute audience, as it’s called in the trade, of 328,000, a jump of 52%.
As for CBC television’s overall market share, it grew 34% over the Stursberg’s tenure.
At CBC, that kind of ratings success doesn’t get you a bonus, it gets you a pink slip.
During Stursberg’s tenure, he fought with the union and locked them out; he made Peter Mansbridge stand up to deliver the news; and had ratings winners with Dragon’s Den and Battle of the Blades. News programs got new looks and new time slots but there was little money, if any, for new reporters to find new scoops.
Mansbridge's newscast still draws only half of what Lloyd Robertson does over at CTV National News but still, compared to when he started, Stursberg leaves Mansbridge with 14% more viewers.
Now that he’s gone, the focus turns to Hubert Lacroix, CBC’s CEO since 2008 and the man who let Stursberg go. Until now, Lacroix has yet to make his mark on the public broadcaster.
“There’s now a sense he’s willing to stand up for the public side of broadcasting,” a news executive said, speaking on condition he not be identified.
In CBC-speak “the public side of broadcasting” is code for the kind of non-commercial, public interest role that CBC’s critics say is elitist and out-of-touch.
Stursberg’s departure, the news executive said, will likely be seen as an opportunity to “roll things back” to the days when CBC cared less about ratings.
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