The rise and fall of Canadian Broadcasting Corp. host Jian Ghomeshi is symptomatic of cultural changes at Canada’s national pubcaster that have prioritized star appeal and ratings over public media’s core service mission, said Jesse Brown, the Canadian journalist credited with breaking the Ghomeshi sexual assault story last October.
Current’s new podcast, The Pub, kicks off this week with an in-depth interview with Brown. The CBC fired Ghomeshi over claims that he sexually assaulted, harassed and choked multiple women over a number of years, and now the disgraced former host of Q with Jian Ghomeshi is facing the possibility of jail with five criminal counts filed against him.
Brown, a former CBC journalist, produces a crowdfunded podcast, CanadaLand, which focuses on media criticism. Brown told The Pub host Adam Ragusea that his role in the Ghomeshi story took him by surprise.
“I never imagined I would get a story about allegations of violent crime,” Brown said. “But I guess when you hang your shingle and say, ‘I want to report stories about the media that nobody else is looking into,’ you can’t really control what comes your way. And, this came my way.”
Brown said that before moving ahead with the story, he spoke with three other women who shared similar stories. He eventually went to the Toronto Star and broke the news in a joint story with a Star reporter.
“If I had broken this one on my own, I had been given legal advice that I would probably be sued,” Brown said. “I’m just an individual with a podcast.”
Ghomeshi had became a prominent face of CBC Radio, Brown said, with a show that gained popularity both in Canada and the U.S. The CBC pegged its future to Ghomeshi’s style and brand as a way to modernize itself and attract younger listeners.
“Jian Ghomeshi was somebody who the institution got behind and decided was going to be a star,” Brown said. “They tried many times, and, arguably failed many times to do so.”
Brown pointed out that Ghomeshi had a string of failed shows at the CBC, including Play and Screw the Vote, before hitting on the formula of focusing on largely American A-list celebrities. “Nothing worked until Q,” Brown said. “That became the flagship arts and culture show of the CBC.”
Brown said the CBC has taken great pains to excise Ghomeshi’s affiliation with the network, casting a pall on the future of Q, now helmed by a string of guest hosts.
Can the show survive without Ghomeshi? “That’s a really big, open question,” Brown said. “They invested so much in Q, then Q with Jian Ghomeshi, and making him inextricably linked with the brand.”
You can find new episodes of The Pub here every week and on SoundCloud. To subscribe, use the link currentpubmedia.libsyn.com/rss, and The Pub
will also be available is now available in the iTunes Store shortly.