fifth estate, The

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Debuted September 16, 1975. Aired weekly.

Peter Herrndorf and Glenn Sarty created this hour-long news/documentary series. Their intention was to create an “aggressive, candid and iconoclastic” program of investigative journalism. In the 19th Century, the Press was known as the Fourth Estate. The fifth estate was so named for the 20th Century as the age of electronic media.

For the CBC, the fifth estate (lower case was used by the CBC as the program's 'logo') became its flagship public affairs program. Its intent was to offer viewers  human stories where individuals were affected by the decisions of institutions, and to hold those institutions accountable. Over the years, the fifth estate told some important stories about legal injustices, including those of the wrongfully convicted Guy Paul Morin in 1992, and Steven Truscott in 2000. The show  also looked at international stories, including a documentary called “To Sell A War” [1992] which demonstrated that the Public Relations firm of Hill & Knowlton was hired to sell the Gulf War to the American public by any means necessary.

Occasionally, the fifth estate would co-produce documentaries with the American public affairs program Frontline on PBS. “Al Qaeda’s New Front” was a co-production by CBC and The New York Times, which looked at terrorist activities in Europe. To a certain extent, the fifth estate continued the tradition of investigative journalism first started by early CBC programs like Close Up, This Hour Has Seven Days and Take 30.

It continued to be one of the most important programs on CBC Television, and the series returned  on September 24th 2010 for a 35th season.  In February 2011 the CBC confirmed that fifth estate would return in their 2011-2012 schedule, and on June 8th it was reported that the series would make its fall debut on Friday September 16th at 9 pm. 

On April 5th 2012, the fifth estate went to air five times in a unique experiment that combined live TV, online interactivity and social media connectivity.

The show was broadcast live in separate time zones across the country to allow viewers to interact with the program in real-time, with audience input being collected, collated and incorporated into the presentation.

Program host and reporter Bob McKeown  anchored this live and interactive special edition of the fifth estate, called Kidnapped, based on the real life story of a B. C. kidnapping and the criminal investigation that it triggered. By incorporating social media elements into the on-air storytelling, the CBC was able to allow viewers to weigh in as the drama unfolded.

On April 19th 2012 the CBC announced that the fifth estate would return for yet another season in the Fall.

Over the years, hosts/reporters included Adrienne Clarkson, Warner Troyer, Ian Parker, Eric Malling,  Linden MacIntyre, Bob McKeown, Hana Gartner, Francine Pelletier, Trish Wood, Sheila MacVicar, Victor Malarek, Stevie Cameron, Gillian Findley, Bob Johnstone, Peter Reilly and Anna Maria Tremonti.

On July 12th 2012, CBC News announced that Mark Kelley would join the fifth estate in September, complementing the award-winning team of Linden MacIntyre, Gillian Findlay and Bob McKeown. With this news, Kelley returned to his investigative roots at CBC.

A multi-award-winning journalist, Kelley had won five Gemini Awards for his work with CBC News: Disclosure and The National, and most recently for his hosting of Connect with Mark Kelley.

On April 3rd it was announced that he fifth estate would be returning to the CBC schedule for its 39th season in 2013-14, and the series resumed on October 4th 2013, with the same team of hosts.

 On April 4th 2014 the CBC announced that the fifth estate would return to the CBC schedule for the 2014-15 season.

 Executive Producers were Jonathan King, Paul Green, Jeffrey Skoll, Richard Sharkey and Jim Williamson.

On May 7th 2014, 24-year co-host Linden MacIntyre said that he would be retiring by the end of the summer. Following on after the announcement earlier in the year by the CBC of a $130,000,000 budget cut, which would involve 657 redundancy notices going to CBC staff, MacIntyre was reported as saying that he believed that his departure "... would do the least damage possible, while prompting viewers to register the severity of the cuts".

fifth estate executive producer Jim Williamson said: "We admire Linden, we love working with Linden, but it's hard to argue with his genuine altruism, which is evident in this decision."

When the CBC announced its Fall Schedule on May 29th 2014, fifth estate was scheduled to return on Fridays at 9:00 pm, marking its 40th season and hosted once again by Gillian Findlay, Mark Kelley and Bob McKeown.





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