My Tower of Babble book review (pulled by

Commentary, Economy, Peter Holle

With my recent purchase of an Ipad I have discovered the easy to shop world of ebooks.  I have accumulated some terrific books for my reading list including one written by a former top CBC Honcho named Richard Stursberg called Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes inside the CBC.  Stursberg, who was appointed in 2004 to revitalize our national broadcaster, details the severe challenges involved in modernizing a large, moribund government organization in an enlightening discussion of internal politics and intrigue.

Here at Frontier, we saw how the local CBC radio morning show began to engage real local policy issues around 2005 – not coincidentally after Stursberg had arrived to shake up the Mother Corp.   (Check out this 2005 prime time morning show appearance for example). His description of the local CBC radio morning show in Toronto was eerily bang on about our local station pre-Stursberg:

The show had become a little self-righteous.  It championed endless social causes, from environmentalism to public transit and bicycles. It was preoccupied with social ills: bullying at school, unhappy teenagers, abused dogs, the lack of bicycle paths.  These were all worthy, but the tone was relentlessly earnest and hectoring.  So many ills, so little time.”

Stursberg was fired last year for pushing the envelope at the CBC a little too far.  I listen to CBC radio all the time and find the quality of most of its programs unparalleled in the world.  One has to fear the inevitable slippage that will occur if the organization turns inward once again.   The local morning show, once again, is becoming a grievance forum for the usual interest groups – back to the occasional dull, predictable and negative dribble of past.  The audience for this is more limited and don’t be surprised if its listenership erodes again.

Anyway, I can heartily recommend the book if you are student of the adventures involved in shaking up sleepy government bureaucracies.

To close, I proudly posted my first book review on the website a few weeks ago.  For some reason they pulled it down.   Perhaps a CBC old timer moderates these outside reviews on the side and didn’t like what I had to say.   For what it’s worth I end by reprinting my short review for Mr. Stursberg’s book:

As a long time CBC radio fan, Stursberg’s book provides an entertaining insiders’ look into Canada’s public broadcaster. I have watched the CBC up its game over the past several years and its clear to me that Stursberg was the driving force behind the place’s rejuvenation, or better said modernization, against a backdrop of a rapidly changing media marketplace. One has to fret that his departure may lead Mother Corp back to the tedious left wing predictability that made it so irrelevant to a great majority of Canadians. In which case, the place’s future again slips toward jeopardy.”