Is “alternative programming” a good idea?

I just finished listening to CBC Unplugged from Studio Zero. And I got to thinking about CBC workers generating “alternative programming” during the lockout. What does that really mean? And is it necessarily a good idea?

As far as I understand, the lockout has prompted two different programming strategies. There’s the “business as usual” camp, which thinks CBC reporters and newsreaders should continue doing what they do best: reporting and reading the news, covering the same stories they ordinarily would were they inside the building. I would put Toronto’s (as yet unheard) World at Six replacement podcast and Calgary’s Eyepatch Radio in this category.

There’s also the “lockout propaganda” school of programming — reporting on the lockout itself. This seems to be what Vancouver’s CBC Unplugged is — “music, comedy, commentary, and the latest news in the labour dispute.” I would also include the various podcasts produced by CMG locals in this category.

What kind of message does this alternative programming send to the public? Advocates say it says, “We still care about public broadcasting. We care about telling Canadian stories. We want to work… we just can’t.”

On the other hand, critics say it undermines the Guild’s efforts, sending the message, “Hey look at us! We can still generate programming, even without any CBC resources!” Some say that picketing — not working — is a much better alternative, and sends a more powerful message. As Curious Monkey says, “Why not just walk back into the building and do it right?”

By generating alternative programming, are we shooting ourselves in the foot? I’m not sure yet. Personally, I don’t think the “business as usual” programming is the answer. And frankly, I worry that few outside of the CMG care about “lockout propaganda” programming.