Now that “Hockey Night in Canada” has heard the final buzzer for the season, perhaps now it’s time for CBC to have a hard, cold look at itself going foward.
As the last incoherent mumblings of Ron MacLean and the red-necked rants of Don Cherry fade into the ether, the largely taxpayer-funded public broadcaster can first examine why it finds itself in southern California desperately looking for Canadian angles to an all-American team Stanley Cup final.
You see, Hockey Night in Canada’s days may be numbered.
With no Canadian teams left in the final rounds of the playoffs, there were diminished advertising revenues as a result.
Richard Stursberg, CBC’s former executive vice-president for English services, told the Globe and Mail recently the chances of CBC keeping the most valuable TV brand in Canada are gloomy.
“I think the chances of (retaining the contract) are low,” Stursberg said as he promoted his book, “The Tower Of Babble.” “It’s going to be very, very difficult. The sports networks are jacking up the prices, so they’re going to have even deeper pockets when they come to the table. TSN and Sportsnet have proven that they can get big TV audiences as easily as the CBC does. And that’s very hard to fight against. Especially when their owners are very keen to have the property.”
Experts and observers such as Stursberg explain that the business model for pro sports has changed significantly since CBC won the last contract in 2005.
We agree and we’re just not too concerned if CBC loses the HNIC contract, as the games will still be available on a private network.
This is the type of serious conversation about the future of the CBC that is taking place right now.
The beleaguered CBC is seeking tenants for office space it owns across the country in a bid to generate revenue that would help it cover a multimillion-dollar shortfall, The Canadian Press reported last week.
Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, said Thursday the broadcaster hopes to generate $50 million through various measures that include putting ads on Radio 2 and leasing more than 74,000 square metres of real estate by 2017.
Now while we’re not sure if we want the public broadcaster in the commercial real estate business, we are thankful that at least it’s looking for ways to start trimming the fat and start paying more for the services it provides.
Lacroix noted that budget cuts from the Harper government will have “a significant impact” on staff and programming, and that the public broadcaster cannot “be all things to all people.”
That said, he added that the public broadcaster still aims to “mean something very special” to Canadians.
Earlier this year, the federal government said it was slashing about 10 per cent of CBC’s subsidies over the next three years, amounting to about $115 million, CP reported.
While we believe there is a place for a version of CBC, and that some of its programing is truly priceless, we don’t believe it needs to continue to “be all things to all people.”
And we don’t think it ever was.
CBC programming has always been regarded as a trifle elitist, with a dash of snob; a bit too left wing, as the country veers centre-right.
There are many models of public broadcaster around the world the CBC can look to for inspiration as it reworks its operations.
One that relies less on the public purse, and more on users of the service would be a good place to start.
And one that doesn’t have an expensive team of Canadian broadcasters criss-crossing the United States in June covering American teams playing ice hockey.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 13, 2012