The biggest loss to the CBC is that it will no longer be able to access a working-class crowd because this very important Canadian audience only gravitated to CBC for HNIC and the presence of Don Cherry. The loss of Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada is a lost opportunity for CBC to escape its uptight Waspish politically correct, elitist/urban/sophisticated Toronto-centric shtetl.
What's the solution to the CBC dilemma? Maybe what needs to be done is that the CBC, which has mutated over time into a multi-platform mega corporation, should be divided into semi-autonomous parts. By breaking the CBC into smaller, tighter organizations (but still associated with the whole) it might actually eliminate a lot of bureaucracy.
So no more hockey for the CBC. For 60 years the mother corp has been permitted to blow millions of tax dollars providing the nation with this redundant subsidized "service" anyway, a more-than-half-century absurdity whose bluff is only now being called. Far from being a stirring symbol of CBC success, Hockey Night in Canada has long been the single most wasteful monument to the network's fundamentally confused mandate.
As predicted in this space several months ago, the CBC has lost the rights to NHL hockey to Rogers media. Without hockey and the 320+ hours of Canadian content it provides, CBC will now have to go back to square one and figure out what it is supposed to be. It has the opportunity, now, to become what it should have been all along: a publicly-subsidized broadcaster serving its audience as citizens rather than as consumers. With the CRTC currently in the process of re-thinking the entire broadcast regulation environment and seeking public input, this may be the best opportunity in a generation to finally do something to rescue the CBC from oblivion, on both television and radio.
In my view, the CBC simply cannot survive so long as it continues to rely on commercial sponsorship, and thereby makes itself essentially indistinguishable from its commercial competitors -- indistinguishable, and therefore irrelevant and unnecessary. And so, NHL hockey has to go. If it is true that by carrying NHL hockey the CBC is "bringing communities, and the nation, together," it will be unfortunate if the corporation has to abandon this opportunity in order to serve the greater purpose of becoming a true public broadcaster, one whose first priority is to serve citizens rather than advertisers.
That the CBC should celebrate Hockey Night in Canada's birthday, and not its own, is emblematic of the dire straits in which the broadcaster finds itself, having reached the end of the line in its quest to make a success of the hybrid, commercial/public service model it was saddled with at birth, like a club foot.
I fail at being Canadian. I don't know the first thing about curling and I don't care for hockey. Last Friday night, at an incredible burlesque show, while there were a number of hugely talented people doing a fundraiser for the arts, attention was riveted to a bunch of ice-skating gorillas. I can't say I'm surprised, but I am a little bit disappointed in my Vancouver brethren.
The CBC is hooked on hockey and the NHL lockout could be just a bitter foretaste of the future for the national public broadcaster. Friends' calculates that the CBC will suffer a devastating financial loss of as much as $200 million annually if it loses the rights to Hockey Night in Canada in 2014 when its agreement with the NHL expires. All told, the loss of hockey would be much worse than the most recent round of cuts announced in the federal budget last March. It would amount to a game changer for our national public broadcaster. Friends is not proposing that CBC television drop hockey, but our national public broadcaster must prepare for this scenario, which could open new and exciting possibilities to operate more like a public broadcaster.
Ron Maclean of Hockey Night in Canada, stood in a classroom told the story of Frank O'Dea, the co-founder of Second Cup, who was at one time a homeless panhandler living on the streets of Toronto. Ten students listened carefully to the account and watched as Maclean simultaneously jotted a phone number on the blackboard. "Frank got off the street," the hockey commentator said, "because he had mentors who helped him. "This is my home phone number."
Listen, if Don Cherry believes that the Leafs should sign players from Ontario just to sign them, he's wrong. There is no benefit to trying to kid yourself that somebody will help your team just because he's from your neck of the woods. The Wings win with Swedes, not Michiganders. The Bruins won with Canadians, not Bay Staters