Tower of Babble, The: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC Hardcover – Apr 5 2012
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.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.... (Martin Levine Toronto Star 2012-04-11)
.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.. (Michaela Pontellini Vancouver Weekly 2012-04-23)
.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].. (Duncan McMonagle Winnipeg Free Press 2012-04-28)
....in an entertaining memoir, [Richard Stursberg] dishes out the inside story of his epic battles.... (Adrian Humphreys National Post 2012-04-28)
.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.. (Belinda Alzner The Canadian Journalism Project 2012-04-25)
.Richard Stursberg's rage dominates his crackling autobiography -- as does his grief for the lost network's unfulfilled promise.. (Peter C. Newman Globe & Mail 2012-04-20)
.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.. (Mike Landry Telegraph-Journal 2012-05-05)
.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 2012-05-02)
.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 2012-05-14)
.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.. (Eric Volmers Calgary Herald 2012-05-12)
.The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC, is Stursberg's lively, one-sided account of his highly tempestuous time at the Mother Corp, which began with an employee lockout and ended with massive cutbacks due to the recession.. (Nathan Whitlock Toronto Star 2012-05-14)
....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.... (Nik Sheehan Point of View 2012-10-03)
About the Author
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 satellite television company Star Choice, president of the Canadian Cable Television Association and Assistant Deputy Minister for Culture and Broadcasting. He lives in Toronto.
Top Customer Reviews
I really liked this book for a number of reasons.
As a CBC consumer I found a lot of his stories touched me through my personal experience watching the CBC
Stursberg writes well and clearly. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. And that makes for an exciting read.
And the CBC continues to occupy a key place in Canadian culture and his role is worth reading about.
His account stretches across many areas of interest. For examples begins with is enough inauspicious start in 2005 which leads quickly into the CBC strike and cutbacks. He is particularly good at discribing the bysantine world of internal CBC politics and the protectorates that had grown up at the CBC.
For those students of media bias in particular is worth reading to sections: first his part about the extremely unfair coverage reporters gave him during the CBC strike, and secondly his efforts to convince the Harper conservative government that English CBC was no more biased than the other two main networks. )This did not go well)
Hockey fans will be fascinated to read about the bidding war the rights to hockey night Canada and how CBC was outbid by CTV for the Olympic games rights.
Perhaps the most striking part of this book for me was how much I continue to consume of the CBC in my household-for example the CBC show "Heartland" is a big hit in my household. We have purchased several seasons of its DVDs. It turns out heartland was a key part of Stursberg's plans to make the CBC more relevant.
I can't attest to the accuracy of this first-person account. It certainly seems as if Stursburg is an excellent self-promoter. But, with that in mind, I think that his audacity has made for agreat read.
"public" broadcasting as important in Canadian society. His story illustrates very clearly the difficulties faced by
anyone charged with deciding what the CBC should or can be doing, and how to do it. The first difficulty is that there seems to be no consensus among the Canadian public, politicians and the CBC board and executives as to what the purpose of
the CBC is.
When Stursberg took on the job, the CBC audience, especially for English TV, had been decreasing for years to a pitiful
level. "Why should public money be spent on such a minority audience" was a fair question. Some CBC tradionalists would
answer "the mandate", "quality" and "a higher purpose", which Stursberg calls "drivel". His answer was to promote popular
entertainment shows. "I have only one rule. Audiences matter." To the question "Why compete with the commercial stations
in producing light entertainment, which is already available in super abundance?" he answers that the popular shows on the
commercial channels are almost all American, because that's the cheapest way to make a profit. He did have significant
success in pushing the creation of Canadian shows, such as "Little Mosque on the Prairie" and several others, that gained
much larger audiences. This surely was a positive change. But he did also introduce "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune".
He felt that Radio 1 was doing well, having a substantial audience, mainly because commercial radio offered little besides
light music. But he did shake up news gathering and presentation on radio and TV.Read more ›
I can't attest to the accuracy, completeness and impartiality of the CBC/SRC historical passages, but don't have any reason to doubt them. These accounts are used to frame his own personal experiences and provide excellent background and context. Even though I work there now and know something about the organization's evolution, I found it very educational to learn how his striving to drive change related to past events.
While I used to watch Richard Stursberg lead our "town hall" meetings, I was impressed by his swagger and confidence. It's amusing in the book how he demonstrates he's fully aware that some people view him as pompous. It's interesting to consider how likeability relates to his drive to both define success and to then succeed.
There are many funny passages that you don't have to be a CBC "insider" to understand and enjoy; the book is very accessible. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has strong feelings about CBC. Though it doesn't leave one hopeful about the organization's future, it provides an excellent snapshot of management struggles behind the scenes and how they link to the audience experience.
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