The world of televised sports was hit by an earthquake last week, and almost no one saw it coming, especially Canada’s public broadcaster.
Rogers Communications rose to the top of the heap, concluding a blockbuster deal which gives them total control of NHL hockey in Canada. It’s a 12 year agreement worth $5.2 billion. Up in the great hot stove league in the sky, Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan must be shaking their heads in wonder.
The folks at Rogers will get to call all the shots, including the wardrobe Don Cherry will wear, if Coaches Corner is still part of the package. The CBC was blindsided, but there was almost nothing they could do once Gary Bettman and the boys got to licking their lips over the mega-bucks that Rogers put on the table.
In the fights for ‘scraps’, the CBC will carry some Saturday games and some playoff games for four years, but it won’t earn them any revenue. Some are predicting it will be the death knell for public broadcasting in Canada since hockey represents half of their commercial revenue.
Full disclosure here .. I was a fulltime employee of the Corporation from 1987 to 1991, and I’ve done lots of freelancing for CBC since then. Many of my friends in commercial broadcasting probably toasted the hockey deal with champagne, or at least Molson’s Canadian.
They won’t miss the CBC, nor will most people in government. But Canadians who appreciate the need for thoughtful news coverage with some depth should be alarmed. The Corporation is not perfect by any means, but the journalism they present on radio and television is the gold standard in this country.
It would be troubling and sad to see it disappear. It would also be troubling to lose much of the other creative energy that goes into CBC programming, providing jobs for hundreds of our best and brightest young people.
The CBC needs a strong champion, and they need it now.
I’m Roger Currie