Saturday, February 26, 2005

CBC paints a giant bullseye on its back

(While this article has only cursory Hockey info, it does revolve around Hockey Night in Canada's former play by play ace Chris Cuthbert, hence it's inclusion in HockeyNation!)

You would think that in a week that the Federal Government increased its budget and smiled kindly on the Mother Corporation of Canadian Broadcasting, that they would be feeling pretty good. But nope at the CBC it's circle the wagons time as they find incoming shots from all directions.

First there is this curling fiasco, now in normal times the status of the roaring game would hardly generate the kind of negative press that the CBC is suffering these days, but with no NHL hockey to broadcast the glare of sport beats down on the corporations Curling Coverage and the judgment is that the CBC is messing up a pretty good game. I'll direct you to the seanincognito site for the wonderful expose of CBC incompetence in covering a rather easy to follow sport, sean has been having a field day over the last week or so tracking the backlash, the backlash, the backlash and the backlash over the unusual broadcast strategy employed by CBC Sports regarding curling. Did I mention there was a bit of a backlash!

But should one think this is a one time only faux pas, think again. Perhaps it's the disappointment over losing the rights to the Olympics to those evil specialty folk at TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and Bell Globe media (including arch rival CTV) but the CBC are on a serious losing streak. If this were Vegas even the pit boss would suggest they move on to the lounge for a break and rethink their plans.

In the last month the CBC has cancelled the most popular Hockey Day in Canada feature, which was one of those feel good tell a story about Canada that is supposed to be the network's mandate. Citing a lack of hockey and lack of revenue the suits in the Barbara Frum broadcast centre said small town Canada could do without a tribute to the grassroots this year.

Of course, one idiots decision is another guys brainstorm and the folks at TSN were quick to jump on the idea and put together their own version of Hockey Day, called Canada's Game: Hockey Lives Here. And it was just as good if not better than the previous versions on the CBC and that's without benefit of the triple header of professional hockey. In fact, the absence of the pros was hardly noticed as we traveled from coast to coast to coast to celebrate the great game. Why the CBC didn't think this would be a worthwhile idea is beyond me and beyond their own employees, or in the latest development their ex employee.

It seems one of the CBC broadcasters who spoke out loudly against the cancellation of the day of hockey was Chris Cuthbert, who spoke his mind in a planning meeting, no doubt suggesting that perhaps in a year without hockey this would be the perfect vehicle to show the game was more than just a bunch of professionals making obscene amounts of money.

For his intervention, Cuthbert was cut adrift earlier this week. The head of Sports Nancy Lee sending him packing, supposedly due to the lack of NHL hockey on the network this year. An interesting decision, as Cuthbert not only was on Hockey Night in Canada, he also was the voice of CFL football on the CBC. The CFL of course now can claim to be the only professional sport left on the CBC, with ratings rising over the last number of years, Cuthbert and Chris Walby brought the Saturday broadcast into prime time and made it every much as popular as the Hockey boys did on Saturday nights for the NHL.

The CBC fired Cuthbert without even bothering to inform it's partner in CFL broadcasts, the league. Something that no doubt will be addressed when the CFL contract comes up for renewal. The CFL has made great strides in its presentation due in no small part to Cuthbert's contribution, they won't be happy with his departure. For the CBC to eliminate such a versatile and talented broadcaster as Cuthbert under such a feeble excuse, smells of something that reaches far deeper into the politics of the CBC.

The Cuthbert firing has once again brought the CBC to the newspapers and like the Curling mess, the CBC comes up on the losing side of any PR agenda. With the various mis-steps of the last few months, one has to wonder if the people that run the CBC are really paying attention to who is getting fired around there, seems to an outside observer that the folks at the top of the food chain should be walking the plank before the network suffers any further embarrassment.

And unlike Cuthbert who shouldn't be out of work for any length of time (unless he wants to be) ,the bureaucratic morons making these questionable calls won't fare quite as well. Having taken a much respected department into this state of farce will not look particularly good on a CV. Many times the criticism of the CBC is unwarranted, bordering on a blood lust from it's private industry competitors. But in this case everyone so far has been spot on,

CBC sports is a mess, there's no vision, no competence and if things keep up like this there will be no viewers.

The above item first appeared in my A Town Called Podunk blog, for more of my general interest items check it out!

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