Infotainment king Richard Stursberg leaves CBC

Maybe you've found yourself switching the radio dial more frequently from CBC 690 to News 1130 or to Co-op Radio in search of substance.

Or perhaps you've drifted away from the CBC National because the stories are too fast-paced with not enough depth.

You remember the days when CBC would run those feature-length documentaries by the likes of Terence McKenna, and prefer that type of programming to Peter Mansbridge's quick chats in the studio with various reporters.

You could be among those who miss the hard-hitting political investigations that used to appear more frequently on the fifth estate.

This program probably did more than any other media outlet to advance the Brian Mulroney-Karlheinz Schreiber story.

Meanwhile, classical-music junkies and Jurgen Gothe fans rue what's happened to CBC Radio Two, which now plays much more commercially appealing music.

If any of the above applies to you, you'll likely be pleased to hear that the head of CBC's English-language services, Richard Stursberg, has resigned.

It was sudden and unexpected, and suggests that CBC's increasing emphasis on delivering infotainment might have peaked.

After being hired in 2004, Stursberg brought the English radio service into the fold of television and the CBC Internet service.

TV tends to be a lower-common-denominator media outlet, which relies on ratings to generate revenue from advertisers.

CBC Radio, on the other hand, doesn't sell advertising, and has traditionally been a little more highbrow.

Under Stursberg's leadership, radio was the junior partner and increasingly became a bulletin board to promote whatever might be appearing on English-language television.

That included everything from local television newscasts to the World Cup soccer matches to Hockey Night in Canada to CBC TV's election coverage.

Meanwhile, TV news thrives on crime because it provides sensational pictures, which attract audiences that advertisers crave.

As a topic, crime doesn't work nearly so well on radio because there are no pictures. And in the morning on the way to work, radio listeners generally aren't in the mood to hear people talk about their murdered relatives.

But with the integration of CBC television and radio, it happened anyway. That's because the radio programs were increasingly called upon to work with their television colleagues on crime series. And management encouraged more crime coverage.

Stursberg was also in charge when CBC gave George Stroumboulopoulos a one-hour program on Newsworld in pursuit of a younger demographic.

People who enthusiastically embraced Stursberg's approach have risen up the ranks, so his influence will remain within the CBC long after his departure.

But there is a chance that those with other views might find there's more room for public-interest journalism.

If this ultimately results in more substance and less fluff on the CBC airwaves, there's reason to cheer Stursberg's resignation.

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Aug 7, 2010 at 7:22pm

Excellent summation of what has happened to cbc under Stursberg. It has made my day to know he's gone however I am sad to say you're right about Stursberg clones who remain. I suppose they are just stupid enough to bring the cbc to its complete demise. I, and most people I know who were once avid fans of cbc radio, no longer tune in. I stopped listening when Gothe got booted and I won't be going back. If cbc radio shuts down given it's dismissal ratings, I for one won't object.

On a lighter, gossipy note, I was surprised to hear that Carol MacNeil is married to Stursberg. I wonder if that is why she still has a job at the cbc despite Sunday Morning being cancelled.

Michael K.

Aug 8, 2010 at 6:23am

I so do hope that the CBC finds back to it's old form. I have stopped watching the CBC almost five years ago and my CBC Radio listening these days is a handful of podcasts of their shows.

A shame really. I remember how great the CBC was when I first came to Canada, now it seems like the childrens version of a US Network instead of the Junior version of the BBC.

ex-Haney guy

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:36am

Let's hope CBC sticks around it's the closest we've all got to real objective
reporting -on anything-and that goes especially for political stories, here in the current "I want to be american" econmic feudalism that used to be a sweet little country.

Allan Sorensen

Aug 11, 2010 at 7:30pm

Charlie, please name two people that you know of whom it could be said - "People who enthusiastically embraced Stursberg's approach have risen up the ranks".
Name ONE person who rose up the ranks due to their endorsement of Stursberg's vision.
Or are you just talking out of your ass.

Charlie Smith

Aug 11, 2010 at 10:30pm


After I wrote the post, a CBC employee contacted me to say I had "nailed it". The same person said "so many" of Stursberg's people have climbed the ladder.



Aug 12, 2010 at 12:44am

What about Kirstine Stewart?

Ruth Nicholl

Sep 8, 2010 at 6:21pm

Canada, in a business sense, oughtn't to exist I suppose. We have barely enough people to occupy the land mass, an indefensible border between us and the most powerful military nation in history, a former colonial master that ignores us in its history books even though something like a hundred thousand of us died for Mother Britain in two world wars. Media empires who fill our dreams with ads for tropical vacations. Now we have a government headed by a man who, frankly, despises us unless we agree with him on every little thing.
Our (rather brutal) national game is big business so it's gone south. Our national railways (built to tie us together, and the way most of our ancestors got around here) are now too costly for most of us to use as a way to see our country. It costs more to fly from Vancouver to Montreal than to Hawaii, even though we still have a nominal 'national airline'. CBC was one thing that still tied us together - so, considering the selling off by successive governments of our many other national institutions, we can't claim to be surprised that it's been under attack. Not just by Stephen Harper, but by several governments ever since Trudeau. Like Canada, CBC shouldn't exist in a business sense. I hope (but doubt) that CBC's probable demise is not prophetic for Canada's survival.
My point (I do have one) is that every Canadian has a part to play in defending Canada and Canada's institutions, Canada's way of life. We are certainly under attack, but not by Al Quada. The enemy is much closer to home.