Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tech, Money & Sports: CBC is Sinking Man, And I Don't Want to Swim...


The full measure of the most extensive financial cuts in CBC/Radio-Canada's history have finally been released today. We won't mince words: the news is bad all around. Every single sector of the CBC's operations has been hit hard by the $171 million shortfall the Corp(se) faces, and sports coverage is taking a major hit in all this.

First, the somewhat palatable news the CBC will completely drop all Blue Jays telecasts. While this is pretty crappy news for anyone who prefers broadcasts sans Jamie Campbell on Sportsnet, it's not as if the CBC was actively involved in baseball coverage as is. It's sort of tolerable, in other words.

The real bad news is the CBC's cutbacks to amateur sports coverage, namely a complete scaling back or wholesale cutting of international figure skating, the CONCACAF Champions League soccer, Skiing, World Aquatics and -- wait for it -- World Athletics.

There's no way to describe this other than bad for all those amateur athletes who depend on the CBC for coverage of events that private broadcasters would never, ever cover. Unlike professional sports (and in CTV's case, the Vancouver Olympics), there's little money to be made in covering alpine skiing events or track and field events (unless, of course, they're Olympic events, in which they're apparently ideal for TV, which just goes to show how hypocritical people are when it comes to the sporting events we watch and how hype is a dangerous thing).

I know there's CBC haters out there who will say 'hurray' for these cuts, as if the people losing their jobs -- all 800 of them -- don't matter. You're entitled to feel, sometimes rightly, that the CBC has a tonne of waste in it that needlessly and ineffectively spends taxpayer dollars for programming people do not want.

This being said, there's a real sense of loss today that not only are average people losing their jobs, but a part of Canadian culture has died today too. Amateur sports may not be sexy to beer companies or generate the same kind of knee-jerk lunacy that infects Canada like a sickness every four years during Winter Olympics hockey games, but it means a lot to a lot of people who struggle everyday -- mostly on below poverty-line wages -- to play, compete and strive for better.

Now, we've lost the ability to see those people compete. And that's just awful, awful news for all of us.

18 comments:

Big V said...

too bad...
A lot of folks at cisfootball.org felt CBC would be the ones who broadcast CIS football and bring it into some kind of spot light.

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Terrible news.

kinger said...

Have to disagree on the "who cares about baseball, won't somebody please think of the soccer fans" part. CBC was the only way for the Jays (a team people *actually* care about) to get true national exposure (believe it or not, there is a good chunk of the populace who doesn't have/want cable or satellite). That a legitimately nationally popular team in the Jays is being dropped, while considered sacred are telecasts of a minor league, god-awful soccer team (TFC), about whom few outside of Toronto (and few outside BMO Field at that, despite their self-delusions of a 'national' team) care.

Plus Jim Hughson's great at baseball play-by-play. When Sportsnet and CBC were bidding for his exclusivity, he reportedly chose CBC in part because he'd get the chance to do baseball. You have to wonder how he's reacting to all that; and whether Sportsnet made a mistake by not just putting Hughson on the baseball beat themselves.

sager said...

Tyler,

You're right on one thing: Hughson got hornswoggled.

Beyond that, you're reading something into this that isn't there. Toronto FC wasn't even mentioned in the post until you brought it up. You have to get over this complex you have about MLS.

It's minor-league soccer that caters to the footy fanatics living here; it doesn't even need to win that many converts. Move on.

kinger said...

I know TFC wasn't mentioned in the post, but it is something the CBC is maintaining instead of keeping its Jays broadcasts (and even before this, it was something they dedicated more resources to despite its far lower popularity). Their priorities are wrong.

Plus the post indicated the elimination of CONCACAF coverage (which will depress only obscure-acronym lovers) was a more pressing concern.

sager said...

Well, what are the rights fees, per game, for MLS vis-a-vis the Blue Jays? Probably far lower. If you're a taxpayer, you might say the CBC's priorities are right.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Some TFC games may be gone as well. The "CONCACAF Champions League" cuts mentioned may include the Canadian championship games between Vancouver, Montreal and TFC, as I pointed out over at The 24th Minute. That's unfortunate, given that those were some of the most exciting games last season and did well in terms of viewers (particularly the Canada Day game).

kinger said...

Real exciting. Both their viewers must've been thrilled.

Anonymous said...

I notice the Liberals are crying about the possibility of their shills....er...national network going down.

sager said...

Tyler,

We get it.

Mike Radoslav said...

Tyler, your anti-soccer bias really shows when you blast TFC coverage yet make no mention to the fact that, from all appearances anyhow, Raptors games will still be broadcast on this channel despite being covered by 4 other stations.

The CBC SHOULD be focusing on amateur sports and the smaller league sports since the other networks cover all the major leagues. So MLS and NLL should be getting some love from this channel.

I'm very disappointed to see amateur sports take yet another blow, I hope another sports network steps up to help out but doubt that will happen.

Greg said...

Right on, Mike.

kinger said...

The CBC has a unique opportunity to broadcast material nationwide. They shouldn't waste that opportunity on junk nobody wants to see. I'm as big an amateur sports fan as anybody, but I still thought it was a way better idea for them to pursue their idea of a digital channel dedicated to those sports instead.

You can't forcibly expose people to a niche sport and expect to expand that niche. People will just switch to something else. But if you gave it its own exclusive home like they were hoping to do, and the sports themselves step up (looking at you, do-nothing CIS administration), you've got much broader possibilities.

By the way, Mike, I have no anti-soccer bias. I have an anti-bad soccer bias. I don't bitch about the premiership and the like... I watch them.

sager said...

Then Tyler, why aren't you kvetching about the existence of League Two and the all the fourth-division teams, if you're taking such a stand against bad soccer?

Anonymous said...

As for amateur sports--was there not supposed to be a new cable channel on tap dedicated to amateur sports, with some suggestion that the CIS might get coverage on that channel?

Does anyone know what the status of that project is?

OttawaFan

kinger said...

Neate, I'm not kvetching about that because nobody's force-feeding us that stuff on a nationally available TV channel. It has the right to exist, just not to be televised.

sager said...

Tyler, your ability to make the point you're arguing seem narrower and narrower is unsurpassed. No one's force-feeding you anything; that's why a TV comes with an on/off button.

Mike Radoslav said...

Agree with Neate! Plus I'd say that the Leafs consistently on Saturday night's HNIC, regardless of where they rank, is force feeding a product, TFC is not on this level (never broadcast consistently enough anyways to reach that point).

Saying that MLS is "junk nobody wants to see" is your opinion as well, not necessarily reflective of everyone.