an attempt to mirror the huge success of the U.S. program 60
Minutes, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 1975
inaugurated its weekly public affairs program The Fifth Estate.
Following the "four estates" of respectively, the clergy, nobility,
the legislature, and print journalism, the "fifth estate" refers
to the role of electronic broadcasting in society.
At the outset, the program's stated format and mandate was to be
a weekly hour of innovative and inquisitive personal journalism.
As such the program adapted the American style of segmenting individual
stories, introduced and narrated and from time to time produced
by one of the program's hosts. Dubbed a magazine-type show The
Fifth Estate typically runs three such segments per show. Although
based on American forms of public affairs programs The Fifth
Estate maintains a distinct link with Canada's tradition of
documentary film-making. In particular, as a CBC produced program,
whose mandate is to foster Canadian national identity, The Fifth
Estate's subject matters are drawn from all regions of the country.
The program, therefore, also serves to educate Canadians about their
own nation, its distinctive geography, cultures, languages and social
under the public affairs section of CBC programming The Fifth
Estate's stories are framed within the language of contemporary
news journalism. Not unlike the evening news or beat reporter The
Fifth Estate's sees its role as a watchdog of government and public
policy. And not surprisingly the program's hosts are usually drawn
from the ranks of Canada's metropolitan daily newspapers. Similarly,
hosts such as Hana Gartner have used the program as a stepping stone
to prestigious anchor positions with the networks flagship newscast
journalistic experience on The Fifth Estate's staff has resulted
in an aggressive and topical approach to public affairs in both
Canada and abroad. From time to time this stance has raised the
ire of individuals in question. In September 1993, for example,
The Fifth Estate made front page news when an entrepreneur
unsuccessfully petitioned a Canadian court to place an injunction
banning the broadcast of the prime-time program. At the international
level The Fifth Estate's documentary segment "To Sell a War",
originally broadcast in December 1992, received widespread attention
and acclaim for its detailing in no uncertain terms, the Citizen's
for a Free Kuwait misinformation campaign in the months leading
up to the Gulf war. In 1993 "To Sell a War" was awarded the International
Emmy for best Documentary.
The Fifth Estate
Photo courtesy of CBC
Clarkson, Eric Mailing, Ian Parker, Bob Johnstone, Peter Reilly,
Warner Troyer, Hana Gartner, Bob McKeown, and others
Sarty, Ron Haggart, Robin Taylor
September 1975- One Hour Weekly, Fall/Winter Season
Stewart, Sandy. Here's Looking at Us: A Personal History of Television
in Canada. Toronto: CBC Enterprises, 1986.
Programming in English