I'm all for the CBC brass stepping out of their ivory towers and walking among the people, but I'd also like a sense they have a vision themselves. A vision that can be shaped by public feedback, perhaps -- but a vision nonetheless. Because if you ask a hundred people what they want from the CBC, you'll get a hundred different answers.
Does digital activism against MacLean, Cooke, and Sterling provide real tools to force change? Or, is it merely a technologically-enabled show of customer-generated publicity that is either entirely self-serving or destined to be co-opted by the very sports-entertainment businesses against which its putative anger is aimed? I say the plusses win out.
I agree when Strombo says that he can leave his personal biases aside when talking about teams other than his beloved Montreal Canadiens, but do sports journalists really have less serious reporting to do than traditional journalists? Is Strombo right that the fan and journalist roles in sports are unlikely to clash? Recent events say no.
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.