I love the CBC. In fact I think more tax dollars should be devoted to the CBC and all its ancillary programming. For an educator like myself, the Fifth Estate, and all of the CBC documentaries in its Doc Zone are invaluable resources in the classroom. CBC has a wonderful educational portfolio ,and delivers timely regional news. Personally, I can take or leave some of their prime time programming, but there is not doubt that it does a very good job of promoting Canadian talent. Hockey Night in Canada is the cornerstone program of not only the CBC but also it is the benchmark for all other hockey broadcasts in Canada, be it Rogers Sportsnet or TSN.
There! Someone had to say it because the CBC has become everyone's favourite whipping boy. The CBC took a severe hair cut in the last budget and seems to get attacked from every angle, particularly the extremely skewered Sun TV, a right-wing Fox News Wannabee that seems to use CBC bashing as its cornerstone programming.
Admittedly, they are an easy target. When you are tax-payer funded, all of a sudden everyone becomes a programming director and complains that their tax dollars are not representative of what they want to see in a government ran television network. Realistically it is hard to please everyone. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham probably had it best when he promoted the concept of utilitarianism which is the fundamental principal of trying to please the most people possible, with the full knowledge that unanimous support was simply not feasible.
Hockey Night in Canada has borne the brunt of the complaints and really serves as the inspiration for this blog. Now in the interests of full disclosure, there may be a wee bit of a bias as, like any fledgling sports broadcaster , I do have a life long dream of working for Hockey Night in Canada, one of the first programs that I embraced when I came to Canada at the age of 8. Of course when you are in living in a one TV household and there was a steady diet of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Knots Landing and Dallas on the TV, you tended to gravitate towards and hold on to the alternative that Hockey Night provided.
This season has seen personalities Ron MacLean and Don Cherry leap from controversy to controversy, be it from Cherry's perceived xenophobia and his hasty and necessary apology to Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson for calling them out at the beginning of the season to MacLeans recent attempt to link hockey to 9/11.The Coaches Corner Duo have become popular targets to their exorbitant salary and their tendency to sprinkle more opinion than people care for. Panellists and colour commentators PJ Stock, Kevin Weekes and Glen Healey have all come under heavy criticism. Even the normally reliable Jim Hughson and Mark Lee, two of the CBC's strongest voices have also received their fair share of less than stellar opinions. None, however, have been as polarizing as veteran Bob Cole. The signal caller is approaching 80 and is seen as both CBC's link to the past and at the same time their hesitancy to become as contemporary as other broadcasters. Cole, who does miss his fair share of names, does have the wonderful pipes and can still call the game as it should, but do not tell that to many who have made him a consistent trending topic on Twitter, mostly for negative reasons. While everyone is entitled to their opinion and someone's own personal style may not be for everyone the criticism of other hockey broadcasters seem to pale in contrast to the avalanche of criticism that Hockey Night in Canada seems to receive
However, with a rights negotiation looming for the beleaguered corporation, not only have some eulogies been written for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, but the ashes have already been sprinkled across the prairies through Ontario and out to Newfoundland. Please do not roll the credits on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC yet. There is a lot of vibrancy and potential left in the CBC Hockey Department and does remain a desireable location to work at even in the face of still competition from Rogers Sportsnet and TSN. Gary Bettman, the diminutive commissioner has himself tacitly endorsed Hockey Night in Canada and its tradition, even though it is certain that tradition in this round of negotiations will come at a heavy price.
There are many who do not like the fact that tax payer dollars are used to as a bargaining chip and negotiating tool for things such as the lucrative Saturday night NHL hockey package, but it must be said that he revenue that CBC generates through hockey are very beneficial to the bottom line. Plus it could be argued that the demise of CBC sports could result in the demise of the rest of the CBC. While some may celebrate, I would see it as an absolute catastrophe. The rest of the networks could not come even close to replacing what the CBC offers, and that includes programming which goes beyond sports
I hope that the CBC uses every available resource to retain Hockey Night in Canada. It is too important of a Canadian tradition to simply pass off to another network.