The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC

Hardcover | April 5, 2012

byRichard Stursberg

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A Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2012

The ultimate CBC insider exposes the controversies, successes and dead ends of his time at the top.

In 2004, CBC television had sunk to its lowest audience share in its history. That same year, Richard Stursberg, an avowed popularizer with a reputation for radical action, was hired to run English services. With incisive wit, Stursberg tells the story of the struggle that resulted -- a struggle that lasted for six turbulent and controversial years.

Shortly after Stursberg arrived, the corporation locked out its employees for two months. Four years later, he signed the most harmonious labour contract to date. He lost the television rights for the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games. He won the biggest NHL contract in history. He had unprecedented ratings successes. He had terrible flops. He enjoyed the best radio, television and online ratings in CBC's history. He fought endless wars with the CBC president and board about the direction of the corporation and ultimately was dismissed.

This is the story of our most loved and reviled cultural institution during its most convulsive and far-reaching period of change. It is for those who think the CBC has lost its way, those who love where it is, and those who think it should not exist in the first place.

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From the Publisher

A Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2012The ultimate CBC insider exposes the controversies, successes and dead ends of his time at the top.In 2004, CBC television had sunk to its lowest audience share in its history. That same year, Richard Stursberg, an avowed popularizer with a reputation for radical action, was hired to run English ser...

Richard Stursberg is the former head of CBC’s English services: television, online and radio. Before that, he was executive director of Telefilm Canada and achieved the largest share for Canadian movies at the domestic box office in history. He was also chair of the Canadian Television Fund (now the Canadian Media Fund), CEO of the sat...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:April 5, 2012Publisher:Douglas And McIntyre (2013) Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1926812735

ISBN - 13:9781926812731

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the effort to read Whether you are a Charter Member of the CBC Constituency or an enemy of state broadcasting, you need to read this book to understand where this unique Canadian entity is going and what prevents it from being great (mostly its own self defeating behaviours) . Many things about today's CBC are revealed by Stursberg, who was a top executive in the organization. So he should know something about what he speaks of. My main criticism of this book is I wish that he had spent more time describing his relationship with, and the views of the Presidents of the CBC while he was there. Also he could have given us some more insights on who the people are that constitute the CBC Board of Directors because both the Directors and the Presidents of the CBC have a very large and undue influence on where the Mother Corp goes and performs. So the choice by the Privy Council (Federal Cabinet) on who the President is and who is appointed to the Board of Directors are VERY important decisions. Ultimately these appointments represent the only occasions the politicians have of any hope of influencing how the state broadcaster is going to be managed, prodded, coaxed and evaluated to perform in the best interest of all Canadians. We can and must demand that our elected leaders make the best decision possible of who is appointed to lead the governance of and provide the vision for this unique organization.
Date published: 2012-11-22

Extra Content

Table of Contents

1. The Situation in 2004Audience share is lowest in history. Nobody seems particularly troubled.2. The Lockout 2005Management "sociopaths" lock out the employees for two months.3. Sports: 2006The largest NHL contract in history is negotiated in Harlem and parked cars. The Olympics and CFL are lost.4. Entertainment: 2006-2009Cultural elites denounce "dumbing down." Little Mosque on the Prairie is inducted into the TV Hall of Fame and TV has its highest share ever.5. Radio 2007-2009Classical music fans go berserk. Radio has its highest share in 75 years.6. News: 2009Peter Mansbridge stands up. CBC News is "Americanized."7. The French: Now and Forever8. The CutsThe financial collapse forces massive cuts; the government says to get lost9. Government and GovernanceThe sad folly of it all10. The FutureReally?

Editorial Reviews

"As this fascinating historical detective story unfolds, new pieces of an old puzzle are put into place, providing fresh perspective on the traditional discovery narrative . . . [An] important contribution to the scholarship of exploration history." -- Booklist "Far from being a dry account of day-to-day business, this book provides an informative, and rarely flattering perspective of the confused inner workings of Canada's public broadcaster...Stursberg, despite being a first time writer, has a knack for story telling, and is able to effectively translate his experiences into a gripping and entertaining narrative..."The Tower of Babble" [is] a great pleasure to read and an excellent resource for anyone looking for further insight into the CBC." -- Vancouver Weekly "Stursberg cooks up a book that will raise the blood pressure of his former employees and their many and well-spoken supporters across Canada...Lovers of a good battle story will be glad that he didn't [go gently]." -- Winnipeg Free Press " an entertaining memoir, [Richard Stursberg] dishes out the inside story of his epic battles…" -- National Post "Why read 'The Tower of Babble'? It is a rare opportunity to see inside CBC management. It is an amazing look at one of the most controversial, confrontational characters to work in media in Canada. And it actually does provide many examples of what's wrong with our national broadcaster and the difficulties inherent in trying to keep it running."  --  The Canadian Journalism "Richard Stursberg's rage dominates his crackling autobiography -- as does his grief for the lost network's unfulfilledpromise." -- Globe & Mail "Stursberg's creativity rests in making things work. And that's the sense one gets from 'The Tower of Babble' -- Stursberg really wanted the CBC to work, to be the best it believes itself to be, not because it should, but because Canadians needed it to be. So, while a tell-all -- the circumstances and atmosphere surrounding his end at CBC loom mysteriously over the book until the final chapter -- Stursberg doesn't come off vindictive. With his memoir, he's still trying to help save the CBC." -- Telegraph Journal "Tower of Babble...fires several broadsides at the power brokers and 'chattering classes' who take a proprietary view of the public broadcaster, while at the same time providing highly readable accounts of his showdown with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the all important broadcast rights, his attempts to transform the CBC News department (which he describes in the book as 'Fort News'), and his continued attempts to make CBC relevant in a country where the majority of TV viewers prefer foreign programming."  -- Marketing Mag "Stursberg, now a Toronto-based consultant, has written 'Tower of Babble, Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC', which spills beans on shenanigans he observed while in 'the job I had loved more than any other in my life.'" -- Vancouver Sun "To cut to the chase, the liveliest parts of 'The Tower of Babble', Richard Stursberg's anxiously awaited new book about his six turbulent years as head of CBC's English services, are the passages where he goes after his perceived enemies with a hatchet..." -- Toronto Star "By all accounts, Richard Stursberg is not one to mince words. Judging by his book, 'The Tower Of Babble: Sins, Secrets And Successes Inside the CBC', he's not one to hide from conflict or shrink from espousing unpopular views, either." -- Calgary Herald "'The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC', is Stursberg's lively, one-sided account of his highlytempestuous time at the Mother Corp, which began with an employee lockout and ended with massive cutbacks due to the recession." -- Toronto Star  "...a breezy, insightful and unabashedly self-serving business-book-cum-memoir of his tempestuous tenure. He convincingly outlines just how difficult his job was, and succeeds in making you truly care about the CBC -- an impressive feat…" -- Point of View