George Orr - BCIT Broadcast Program graduate; CKNW radio and TV reporter for both BCTV and CBC Vancouver; editor/producer CBC Television Vancouver; public affairs host Knowledge Network; Jack Webster Foundation award for broadcast journalism 2001; recipient 2nd Jack Webster Foundation Telemedia Fellowship for Broadcast Journalists 2002; instructor Broadcast Journalism British Columbia Institute of Technology; independent film producer




1996 The Vancouver Sun


George Orr is talking about a passion close to his heart. The daily news business, he says, is about exploiting conflict, seizing on the crisis of the moment, chewing it up and spitting it out in easily digestible sound bites. Orr, a professor of broadcast communications at the B.C. Institute of Technology and a 20-year veteran of the news (first CKNW, then BCTV, then, for nine years, CBC-TV and Newsworld), wants to put the day's news events into perspective, and he hopes the Knowledge Network's new current-affairs program, Studio BC, will do just that. He hosts the live one-hour broadcast every Wednesday night (at 8 p.m., repeats the following Monday at 11 p.m.) with former BCTV reporter and producer Colleen Leung.


The pacing is deliberately staid, their conversation often self-consciously serious. Orr sees Studio BC as an intelligent exploration of the issues affecting British Columbians today -- everything from the forestry renewal fund to increasing incidences of prostate cancer -- and he makes no apology for the lack of glamor.


``We want to provide information dispassionately enough that people can listen, hear both sides given equal sway, and then act intelligently as citizens and choose which side they tend to believe. At the very least, I want the viewer to be able to say, `I am more informed than when I watched that discussion.' The downside of this is that we are not doing `Must See TV.' There are no jolts. It's thoughtful television. Thoughtful and television can work together, in context, but the viewers have to try to get it.


``I believe there is an audience for thoughtful discourse - if we can stay on top of issues that resonate with people, that they actually care about. This is not a show where people are going to be lectured about how stupid they are about fisheries or forestry abstractions.''


Orr said that in discussing an issue like the forestry renewal fund, for example, Studio BC will be actively looking to talk to residents of communtities from around the province that are likely to be affected by existing policy, rather than trotting out the usual assortment of politicians and special-interest groups.


``This is not a Lower Mainland show. There will be times when it will be a little bit dull locally, because we are going to talk about forestry from a forester's perspective, not from an urban perspective. We're not talking to the IWA union heads. When we talk about resource issues, we'll talk to the people whose lives revolve around these resources, not the big-city experts. We have a built-in audience of 180 communities.''


``Broadcast journalism is about finding the points of conflict and amplifying them,'' Orr said. ``As long as it owns up to that, it's fine. But when it starts masquerading as `all the information you need to know to make decisions,' then it's pretending to be something it's not. I don't think there's anybody in this market, in television, that sits down and says, `Now what's at issue here? What do people need to know in order to make decisions?' TV news has masqueraded as that provider of information for decades. Maybe I'm just getting old and sour, but from my perspective - and I have worked most of my adult professional life in the daily news business - the reality is that TV news is where we examine conflict. It is not where we examine issues.''




BC Radio History