CBC and Intelligence: subversive TV in Canada


Richard Moore

Chris Haddock, creator & writer of the show "Intelligence", asks with apparent 

       "The question is why would they [CBC] be so hostile to the show?
         I can't for the life of me put my finger on it..."

Ha ha! Then he then tells us, in seeming innocence:

       "One of the many story lines in 'Intelligence' focuses on
        efforts by powerful interests to bring about ³deep
        integration² of the U.S. and Canadian political and economic
        systems. Part of that plotline is the infiltration of
        Canadian institutions by U.S. intelligence agents."

Clearly Chris is jesting with us. Which of the following points is he pretending
to be unaware of?

     1) His 'plotlines' (deep integration and infiltration) are
        actually happening right now for real in Canada.

     2) These are covert activities, not activities that the US
        or Canadian officials want the general public to be aware of.

     3) From the official perspective, the show is downright
        subversive, revealing state secrets and describing ongoing

My comment to Chris: "How have you gotten by with this for so long? Good man!"


Original source URL:

CBC wants 'Intelligence' dead, says show's creator
by Murray Dobbin
December 4, 2007

Intelligence tells the story of a Vancouver drug lord (Ian Tracey) who has been 
forced through circumstances to become an informant for the female head of the 
Pacific Region of CSIS (played by Klea Scott). The tense and atmospheric drama 
is so complex you have to pay close attention or get lost pretty quickly.

The plot thickens, as well, around whether the show will survive on the CBC 
(where it airs Monday nights at 9). Intelligence writer/producer Chris Haddock 
told The Tyee he believes the network is gunning to ³bury² his program, despite 
its popularity in markets around the world.

One of the many story lines in Intelligence focuses on efforts by powerful 
interests to bring about ³deep integration² of the U.S. and Canadian political 
and economic systems. Part of that plotline is the infiltration of Canadian 
institutions by U.S. intelligence agents. Intelligence is set in Vancouver, just
like Haddock's two previous series Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall.

While Intelligence has fiercely loyal fans and has received rave reviews from 
critics (and eleven Gemini nominations; with one win) its relatively low 
audience numbers, at about 250,000, provide CBC management with the excuse to 
dump the show. And plans are afoot to do just that, if Globe and Mail TV critic 
John Doyle, and others with access to the insiders at CBC, are reading things 

But Haddock suspects that the low numbers are in part a useful problem 
deliberately created by those who have their own reasons to change how drama is 
done at the network. ³Somewhere in the CBC someone is saying 'do not promote 
this show.'²

³The question is why would they be so hostile to the show? I can't for the life 
of me put my finger on it because it is broadly appealing and has had such 
success internationally.² (CBC officials have denied any decision has yet been 
made about a third season.) In the past decade the CBC's trademark has become 
excellent drama and high quality production. Reality TV is for the other guys. 
On the face of it ‹ superlative reviews, sales into 143 foreign markets, a 
fiercely loyal core audience to build on ‹ you might expect the CBC to be proud 
of it and push it for all it's worth. But that would assume those running the 
CBC are actually dedicated, heart and soul, to public broadcasting. Haddock is 
not so sure.

During our conversation, here's what else he had to say:
On deep integration and the issue of water exports:

³I was looking for an idea which I could discuss practically because deep 
integration is a process of infiltration that is sometimes so slow that you 
don't really see it as it is occurring. So I needed something that everybody 
across the country could understand. If you go to the CSIS web page, they say 
the number one threat to Canada is economic. I wanted to know ‹ how do you make 
that exciting? How do you articulate that?

³I had realized before how passionately Canadians care about their water, the 
idea about being the caretaker of water, I thought, 'This is the perfect 
metaphor for losing the country.' Everybody knows about it, it's a common 
everyday item, but yet it has great levels of conspiracy behind it.²

On being good and popular:

³When you work in a mass medium, you find that all the networks and distributors
and the sponsors want programs to appeal to everyone. What I discovered is that 
rather than trying to appeal to absolutely everybody in the world, if you draw 
something that is very particular and very specific, it becomes universal. 
Because one of the universal things about people is that they are curious. We 
seek sometimes to identify through parallel recognition.

³So if I work very specifically about a corner store in the Downtown Eastside, 
people universally recognize a corner store. If I write specifically about 
what's going on in Canada, the paradox is that people understand ŒOh yeah, yeah 
we have a spy service in Turkey too¹ or Œwe have a big dope industry in Turkey 
too¹ so people go Œright, I understand those things and here are the specifics 
of it in this country.¹

³The casting is a huge part of believability. Because people look at the cast 
that we've brought together and they appear real. They don't appear as in 
Hollywood either too young or too pretty for the job. The leading men and women 
have character in their faces. Then in terms of what comes out of their mouths, 
the dialogue has to appear natural even though it is obviously heightened.²

On everyday 'intelligence':

³Intelligence is something we all experience in our everyday lives. If we have 
the right stock tip, we are going to make out, if we don't we're just guessing. 
Everybody is using intelligence in their everyday life and feel like they know 
what it's like to have the inside scoop on something.²

On doing a U.S. version for Fox:

³There are no barriers to doing a third season and to also launching a U.S. 
version for Fox. In the sixth season of Da Vinci I was doing a series for CBS at
the same time. One of the things that I battle as a writer/producer is that we 
don't see the film and television industry in quite as sophisticated a way as 
they might in other parts of the world. Which is to say, this is built like a 
manufacturing process and if the demand for your product increases, you just 
adjust for higher capacity.²

On the CBC's decision not to promote the program:

³I've been told with previous projects that the most effective time to promote 
is in the two weeks prior to the start of the season. Yet we went into the first
two weeks before the show with zero promotion anywhere. That isn't accidental. 
That is a very well planned 'bury' by someone. It is somebody high up in the 
food chain who has the power to say, 'Do not mention this show.'

³We were nominated for eleven Geminis. Prior to the Geminis, there was an 
episode of The Hour about the nominations but there was not one mention of 
Intelligence. The story became how Little Mosque on the Prairie had not been 

On who might be pissed off:

³The question is why would they be so hostile to the show? Who is feeling 
threatened by it? Is it the fact that I'm talking about dope, the narco-economy?
Well, there are lots of people who would be offended by that. Or is that I'm 
talking about money-laundering? Well, there are lots of people who don't want it
talked about because they're practicing it. Is it the deep integration theme? Is
that too politically sensitive for Harper's Ottawa? Is it personal? Who knows?

³So who holds the power to try to stop it? I don't know. But who holds the power
to keep it on the air is the public. There's a good campaign to keep it now 
because CBC has overplayed its hand in trying to dismiss us and they have done 
it so obviously.

³I also wonder if it isn't part of a move to disenfranchise independent 
producers right across North America as media monopolies get bigger and bigger. 
In Canada, it's very difficult to survive here as an independent producer and 
there are lots of big guys who don't want the independents around because they 
want to suck up whatever government subsidies there are out there.²

On regime change:

³All I can say is that it has been a very difficult time with the regime change 
when they brought in a bunch of new people at the CBC. That's often the case 
with any studio, is that when a new regime comes they want to start with a clean
slate and be able to take credit for any new successes that are on the network. 
They tend to dump other people's projects that have been coming along. But under
no circumstances with a public broadcaster should one person be allowed to make 
such decisions. Then you simply become a corporation like any other.²

On preparing the CBC for privatization:

³I would argue that the most valuable resources that the CBC has are its 
audience, and that is its number one value is that there are so many people who 
trust it, rely upon it, adore it. It's a spot of clarity and a counterpoint to 
what's going on out there. If you look at the sports franchises that are being 
given away to other networks and other things that are being done, you can say 
without question Œyes, we are seeing at the CBC a privatization of trying to 
drive its audience and its advertising money to other places.¹

³Television as a general medium is losing numbers and going down. But the 
audience that watches the CBC tends to be a little bit older, tends to be very 
faithful in its viewing, and tends to have a little bit of dough so they are 
really an ideal target demographic. So that's the audience the private networks 
would like to capture and if the CBC is in some ways cooperating in that, it 
doesn't actually surprise me.

³It's obvious that many Crown corporations have been and still are targets for 
takeover by the private sector. What makes it different is in the media 
landscape we have today in Canada where media monopolies are getting bigger, 
something like the CBC which is a non-biased entity is under fierce attack.

³And unfortunately it seems that whatever regime is in power federally the CBC 
is then brought to heel to some degree, and I think that's what we are seeing 
now with the Conservatives who really can't completely dump the CBC because it 
is the national broadcaster and appeals to a lot of their constituency. But they
do also see it as a critical entity which exposes their government. It did that 
with the Liberals as well, and the Liberals didn't hold it in high esteem 

On needing the original CBC more than ever:

³The CBC was born out of similar circumstances many years ago when there was a 
media monopoly and a feeling amongst people that it was necessary to have an 
alternate source of information and intelligence for the Canadian people. And 
now in exactly the same times I think it is really essential. The CBC is a 
threat because it's able to warn us of things that are going on in Canada that 
some of the other private corporate interests in Canada wouldn't want to warn us
of because they may benefit from them.

³So I think we are really on that train. But I do think that there are a lot of 
people out there who are passionate about the CBC and curious about what's going
on too because there have been so many changes, a lot of them not for the 
better. And we frankly need to figure out some way to get more funding back into
the corporation while at the same time looking who in the CBC is making the big 

On ordinary people saving the CBC:

³Everyone might have a different strategy. I think it includes voicing it in CBC
radio call-ins, the writing of letters both to the CBC board and to the CBC 
public relations department, e-mailing, speaking to local political 
representatives. Because so many things get affected as the CBC gets hurt. We 
have encouraged a whole generation behind us and given them hope to think that 
there are careers in film, television, and radio and of course the Internet and 
if we do not have infrastructure within the country they will be lost.

³It is just a strong industrial strategy to have a strong public broadcaster 
that can continue to educate all these people as it educated me. It's where 
intellectual creations are tested, talked about, held up to review. Television 
and radio are where the public has conversations with itself these days. It's 
essential that we maintain the CBC as an independent place to do this otherwise 
you don't know what those conversations are.²

Murray Dobbin writes from Vancouver. This column has appeared in The Tyee.

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