CBC Newsworld cancels The Lens

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is canceling its acclaimed doc strand 'The Lens,' and it's a move that has some in the Canadian independent production community worried.
July 20, 2009

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) will be canceling two documentary strands, including Canadian doc series ‘The Lens’ and ‘Wild Docs,’ devoted to left-of-center subject matter. Although the Ceeb says the plan is to roll projects from those series into a newly-expanded version of another of its popular doc series, ‘The Passionate Eye,’ which will run four nights a week, it’s still a move that has some in the Canadian independent production community worried.

‘We understand the financial constraints all broadcasters are under but the documentary genre should be better represented and funded by the broadcasting sector,’ said Norm Bolen, president and CEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA), in a statement. ‘Canceling this outlet for one-off, point-of-view documentaries by independent producers will further reduce the diversity of voices and stories told to Canadian audiences.’

CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay told realscreen that the Canadian public broadcaster is under considerable financial pressure, but ‘we remain committed to docs as a genre and intend to remain Canada’s premier source for documentaries.’ Still, while Keay said there were ‘nine or ten productions in the pipeline, [we] are not at this time commissioning any more.’

Meanwhile, The Canadian Press is also reporting that there will be ‘minimal’ layoffs from the axing of the two series. The Nature of Things and Doc Zone, two other CBC doc-oriented series, remain on the sked for the nights in which ‘The Passionate Eye’ doesn’t appear.

‘The Lens,’ formerly known as ‘Rough Cuts,’ has showcased close to 175 Canadian documentaries from independent filmmakers over the past 16 years. Docs that have appeared on the series since its inception have won 53 national and international awards. Among those projects are such acclaimed docs as Saving Luna, Flight from Darkness and The Boy Inside.

”The Lens’ was the only CBC documentary program devoted exclusively to the works of independent producers,’ said the CFTPA’s Bolen. ‘This cancellation will have a significant negative impact on the independent documentary production community and deprive Canadian audiences of seeing important and thought-provoking stories.’

Keay reiterated that it’s not the cancellation of ‘The Lens’ in and of itself that will negatively impact independent documentary production in Canada – ‘Our current financial difficulties (i.e. an approximate $171 million budget shortfall) [are] the problem. Having said that, we will still have 77 hours of new docs in our schedule this coming season and fully intend to spend our full CTF [Canadian Television Fund] documentary envelope.’

updated at 3:56pm, August 5

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