CBC Q’s Jian Ghomeshi, a witty entertainer oozing with indie charm, is also a sharp mind overflowing with insight into Canadian art, culture and – yes, even politics. At first, he explained during a Q and A period Friday, March 9th in the Althouse Auditorium, the CBC took a while to warm up to his program.
“There’s still a snobbery that comes with the CBC. They were like, this is going to be a pop culture show, isn’t it?” Ghomeshi joked, “Isn’t that the end of the world?”
In fact, CBC’s two-year-old “art and culture” program Q aims to eradicate the division between “high art” and “pop culture,” the host explained to a smitten audience consisting of FIMS journalism students and members of the London media community. The program is meant to combat the notion that classical visual artists, writers, and musicians require more “serious” discussions about their work than graphic artists and rock bands do.
“Q is about breaking down the silos,” said Ghomeshi, accompanied on stage by Keith Tomasek, FIMS professor and former news producer and filmmaker. “We’ve found people can handle variety and are interested in it.”
While often characterized as culturally elitist, the CBC is able to take risks typically avoided by corporate media outlets, Ghomeshi noted. For example, the public broadcaster is a “truly multimedia” information outlet. It has been able to explore relatively new media, such as podcasts, because of the financial cushion provided by government funds, the host said. Unlike most news and entertainment sources, the network is not solely concerned with maximizing profit.
In fact, the CBC provides Canadian audiences with a vital connection to information typically marginalized by private media. Ghomeshi used recent coverage about Tori Stafford’s death as an example, saying private broadcasters were worried about offending their audiences and were therefore unable to provide full disclosure.
Nonetheless, several private news sources including The Globe and Mail have since released detailed accounts (warning: disturbing) of defendant Terri-Lynn McClintic’s graphic testimony.
During the previous night’s broadcast from London’s Grand Theatre, Jim Chapman, among the three “sharp media minds” recruited by Q for a discussion of media ethics, protested against news media’s provision of gruesome details upturned by the ongoing Stafford trial.
Associate FIMS professor Alison Hearn, another “sharp mind” selected for the discussion, advocated for the freedom of information. Opposing Chapman’s view, Hearn explained that in order to avoid censorship, there should be information coming out of the courtroom as long as it is open.
Ghomeshi seems to share this hunger for full disclosure; the interviewer revealed to Friday’s audience that he asks Q guests “relatively tension-filled questions” in a non-threatening manner in order to open up discussion on topics they may not have intended to cover. Otherwise, he explained, the interview can become a merely promotional outlet for the guest, which is not what the CBC strives to provide.
The energetic host has no plans to abandon the show, provided its fresh and invigorating format doesn’t “flatline,” he says. “As long as the content keeps getting richer and stronger, I’ll be here.”