STAROWICZ, MARK

Canadian Broadcast Journalist/Producer

During his 25 years in radio and television with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mark Starowicz has produced a number of the more influential current affairs and documentary programs in Canadian broadcast history.

After beginning his career in newspaper journalism, Starowicz assumed the role of producer within the current affairs division of CBC radio at the age of 24. During the 1970s Starowicz produced a total of five CBC radio programs, including Radio Free Friday, Five Nights and Commentary. Starowicz received particular critical acclaim for his reworking of As it Happens (1973-76) and creation of the Sunday Morning (1976-80), a three-hour weekend review.

CBC news programming chief Peter Herrndorf provided Starowicz's entry into television in 1979 by appointing him chair of a committee examining the corporation's news programming strategies. This resulted in the controversial move of The National news broadcast to 10:00 P.M. from its 11:00 P.M. slot, and the creation of The Journal, a current affairs and documentary program with Starowicz as executive producer. This move sought to take advantage of the larger audience numbers available at 10:00 P.M. (a difference between 10 and 4.5 million) and was part of CBC's strategy in the 1980s to move its decreasing resources into its traditionally strong area of news and current affairs.

Despite Starowicz's lack of experience in television journalism, The Journal was a great success--both critically and in terms of viewership--and served to establish Starowicz as Canadian television journalism's new star. The Journal achieved an average 1.6 million viewers in its first year and comparable numbers during its ten-year run. Rather than decreasing the audience shares of its competitors, The National (22 minutes) and The Journal (38 minutes) combination actually increased the number of total viewers during the 10:00 P.M. time slot.

To deliver The Journal Starowicz compiled a young staff, many of whom, like Starowicz had previously only worked in radio. Hosts during the broadcast's life included Barbara Frum (formerly of As It Happens), Mary Lou Finlay, Peter Kent, and Bill Cameron. Under Starowicz's leadership The Journal produced a total of 2,772 broadcasts between 1982 and 1992, consisting of 5,150 interviews and an amazing 2,200 documentaries. The Journal was notable for the depth with which it would develop stories, dedicating an entire broadcast to a single documentary if the subject required. For the interview segment of the broadcast Starowicz successfully re-invented the "double-ender" technique, (originally employed during the 1960s on CBS's See it Now), wherein the anchor would interview guests that appear to the viewing audience to be projected on an in-studio screen. The high quality and volume of material was made possible by factors such as a staff of over 100, a budget of approximately $8(CDN) million per year (1980 dollars), and by providing producer-reporter teams with as much as one month lead time for story preparation.

With the cancellation of The Journal in 1992, Starowicz accepted the position of Executive Producer, Documentaries at the CBC. Starowicz oversees the weekly documentary prime-time series Witness (1990-), as well as CBC's new documentary unit. This one-hour broadcast consists of acquired, co-produced and in-house documentaries dealing with a diverse array of often socially and politically charged issues. Although Starowicz's role as executive producer utilizes his capacity to orchestrate talent he has produced and directed his own documentaries including The Third Angel (1991) and Red Capitalism (1993), and is expected to contribute a minimum of two per year for Witness. Starowicz sees this series as an opportunity for the CBC to aggressively continue the strong documentary tradition in Canada started in the 1940s by John Grierson and the National Film Board. Significantly, Starowicz was able to get the CBC management to agree to the broadcasting of "point-of-view" documentaries, breaking free of the somewhat mythological pursuit of journalist "objectivity".

In numerous magazine and newspaper articles and public lectures, Starowicz has expressed his concern about the erosion of a uniquely Canadian sense of identity. He cites the absence of Canadian content in its own mass media and the dangers posed by U.S. cultural industries, as key threats. To remedy this, he has proposed the introduction of a tax on U.S. media imports, continued public support for the CBC, the development of a second public national network, and the extended financing of independent film and television production. Starowicz has argued that public television should not be produced for a small cultural and political elite, leaving private television to the "masses." Perhaps in illustration of his own goals, Starowicz is currently working on a co-production with the BBC on the history of public broadcasting.

-Keith C. Hampson

 


Mark Starowicz
Photo courtesy of Mark Starowicz

MARK STAROWICZ. Born in Worksop, United Kingdom, 8 September 1946. Educated at Loyola College High School, 1964, University of Grenoble, 1964, McGill University, B.A., 1968. Married: Anne, 1982, children: Caitlin-Elizabeth and Madeline Anne. Reporter, Montreal Gazette, 1964-68; editor, McGill Daily, 1968-69; reporter, Toronto Star, 1969-70; co-founder and writer, The Last Post magazine, 1969-73; producer, CBC Radio series 1970-79; chair, Task Force to Reform CBC TV News and Current Affairs, 1979; executive producer, television program The Journal, 1982-92; executive documentary producer, CBC, since 1992. Member: Association of Toronto Producers and Directors. Recipient: Canadian Broadcasting League's Cybil Award, 1973; Ohio State Documentary Award, 1973; Anik Award, 1987; Gemini Award, 1987.

TELEVISION SERIES (producer)

1979-92 The National
1982-92 The Journal
1990 Witness

TELEVISION DOCUMENTARIES

1991 The Third Angel
1993 Red Capitalism
1994 Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo (co-producer)
1994 Escaping from History (co-producer)
1994 The Gods of Our Fathers (co-producer)
1994 The Tribal Mind (co-producer)
1994 The Bomb Under the World (co-producer)
1994 The Body Parts Business (co-producer)

RADIO (producer)

1970-73 Five Nights
1970-73 Radio Free Friday
1970-73 Commentary
1973-76 As It Happens
1976-80 Sunday Morning

FURTHER READING

Boone. "CBC Resignation Means There's Room at the Top for Starowicz." Montreal (Quebec, Canada) Gazette, 25 June 1994.

Thosell. "Turning Your TV to the Final Nation State-" Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), 10 April 1993.

"CBC Producer Promoted." Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press, 28 November 1992.

Quill. "Starowicz Stays with CBC-TV As the New Boss of Documentaries." Toronto (Canada) Star, 26 November 1992.

Underwood, Nora. "Twenty Years After." Maclean's (Toronto, Canada), 21 March 1988.

 

See also Canadian Programming in English; National/The Journal