Biennial dalliance

Why does the Corpse want a brand-new channel for “amateur” sports, CBC SportsPlus?

First of all, the channel won’t really be for amateur sports. CBC’s supplementary brief to the CRTC (dated 2008.02.01) stated the new network would “[d]evote 25% of total broadcast time to the coverage of Canadian amateur athletes.” CBC responded to a question from the CRTC thus (letter from Bev Kirshenblatt, 2008.02.22):

Does the proposed service intend to broadcast any professional sports such as baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf or hockey? If so, please indicate the percentage of the broadcast year devote to these types of sports.

Yes. CBC SportsPlus would include a mix of sports – both professional and amateur. The focus of the service is to profile and celebrate Canadian athletes in all forms of sport. Our commitment to 80% Canadian content across the broadcast day and in the evening period…. If there were Canadian athletes in the types of sport noted above we would carry those kind of sporting events. In terms of how much broadcast time could be devoted to baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf or hockey we estimate that approximately 30% of the services schedule could be devoted to these types of sporting events.

CBC does not promise to limit professional sports to 30% of its airtime. In fact, the only limit is a minimum of 25% amateur sports. Up to 75% of its coverage could be of professional sports. Since they’re defining CanCon as any event with a Canadian athlete, they can air virtually any sport you’d care to name and call it Canadian.

CBC also argued that SportsPlus isn’t remotely similar to existing sports networks, of which, incidentally, I can tell you we already have too many:

  • TSN’s nature of service condition of licence… states: “The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty serviced [sic] which shall consist of programming dedicated exclusively to all aspects of sports…” CBC SportsPlus would be different. It would be primarily dedicated to the coverage and profiling of Canadian athletes. [TSN covers Canadian athletes, too. By CBC’s proposed standard, TSN has almost as much CanCon as SportsPlus would.]
  • Sportsnet’s nature of service condition of licence states: “The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty television service… [and] shall provide programs dedicated to all aspects of sports, distributed using four discrete regional feeds.” CBC SportsPlus would not be a regional sports service. It would be a national sports service. [Sportsnet is seen nationally.]
  • Finally, the Score’s nature of service condition of licence states: “The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty television service that is dedicated to the broadcast of sports results and information in a video and text form.” CBC SportsPlus would not be a news and information service with a focus on sports. [The Score is licensed to run some live events.]

Competitors saw through all these ruses. I’ll spare you the details, but everyone from the Score to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters filed functionally identical objections. Obviously the proposed network duplicates what’s already out there and could run pro sports most of the time.

Interestingly, the Canadian Olympic Committee supports SportsPlus, with qualifications. But they’re also trying to get a licence for an amateur-sports network (two – one in either language). COC letter to CRTC, 2008.05.27:

I note that the CBC proposes to allocate 25% of the programming schedule of the proposed network to amateur sport. The Canadian Olympic Committee applauds any and all commitments to cover amateur sport on television.

My qualification is in reference to the fact that the CBC application may mistakenly be perceived to address the needs of amateur sport as identified by us in our broadcast licence applications submitted… The CBC and SRC support our applications as indicated by letters from each included in our applications. Their support of our applications is predicated on their acknowledgement that the broadcast mission of their proposed network will not compete or measurably overlap with our broadcast mission.

The CBC commitment to the coverage of amateur sport will not, in our opinion, address a very significant outstanding need: amateur sport that is currently underserved and underexposed on television…. [U]nderexposed amateur sport will not benefit, in any meaningful way, from the launch of the proposed CBC network. In fact, in this regard, the CBC’s proposed network will compete with other incumbent specialty sports networks for existing well-served and visible amateur sport including hockey, skating, curling, skiing, and most notably, the Olympics while not competing with us.

The Canadian Olympic Committee wants its own channel dedicated to amateur sports. It supports CBC’s channel because that channel won’t really be showing much in the way of amateur sports.

In other words: No, Patrick Watson, CBC SportsPlus won’t be showing kiddies’ soccer games any time soon.

The Score also pointed out that CBC isn’t using anything remotely close to the maximum allowable hours of sports coverage on CBC Television and Bold (né Country Canada). So why does the Corpse even want this new channel?

I have a theory. Let’s check a few news headlines from last week.

  • CBC announces key details for Beijing 2008: The Olympic Games: “CBC Television will maintain the network’s golden tradition of airing most events live, and, together with… CBC’s digital channel Bold, CBC Newsworld…, RDS and TSN, will bring the Beijing Games home to Canadians. CBC will broadcast more than 2,000 hours of English-language coverage of Beijing 2008… with CBC Television providing 282 hours, CBC Newsworld airing 145 hours, Bold broadcasting 250 hours, TSN offering 150 hours… Radio-Canada will offer 263 hours of content while RDS will provide 206 hours of coverage”
  • TSN announces broadcast schedule for Beijing 2008 Olympic Summer Games: “TSN today unveiled its Beijing 2008 Olympic Summer Games broadcast schedule featuring 150 hours of world-class competition and intense rivalry over 16 days…. This programming on TSN, as well as RDS, is part of a partnership with CBC and Radio-Canada that will deliver more than 2,400 hours of event coverage throughout the Games. TSN’s Olympic programming, airing August 9 to 24, features 50 hours in prime time and includes full-event coverage”

CBC was quite embarrassed when CTV slipped a few francs into the IOC’s pockets and scooped the rights to the Vancouver and London Olympics. (They should have seen it coming – NBC pioneered these overvalued long-term deals, the sort of thing old brownshirt Samaranch described as “creative.” I can’t find the reference for that now, though.) CBC acts as if carriage of the mighty Olympiad is its birthright. It isn’t.

But in order to find even barely enough airtime to telecast the Olympics, the Corpse has to max out CBC Television and Bold, and even put some overflow onto Newsworld (rather pushing the boundaries of “news”). Even that isn’t enough, so the Corpse is forced into a Faustian bargain with its betters. The CBC has no choice but to “partner” with an archrival just to get the show on the air.

Do you think CTV will run its overflow coverage on CBC when the time comes? My answer is “Are you crazy?” They already have a deal set up with Rogers to handle that. Game, set, and match, Corpse.

Thus! CBC wants a 24/7 sports channel that it only really needs to use every two years. (Remember, Samaranch staggered the winter and summer games. The Olympics are not a quadrennial event anymore.) That’s if it can manage to score an Olympic contract in the first place. It can run a bit of amateur sports on the channel in the intervening years, then pack the rest of the schedule with B-calibre hockey, so-called Major League Soccer, and, of course, curling.

(That last will not satisfy the Saskatchewan retirees who caterwauled when curling was shuffled off to Country Canada. They’ll still have to get a digital box and pay for a new channel.)

If this thing takes off, CBC can apply for a French-language licence under equivalent terms, and even under the same name, since SportsPlus is just as much of a corporate nonword in French as it is in English. “French” needs more sports airspace, actually, than “English” does.

The only reason CBC wants a new sports channel is to ensure it no longer has to get in bed with Ivan Fecan every two years.

I put this theory to Scott Moore and Bev Kirshenblatt of the Corpse last week; they did not respond by press time and can leave comments here if they wish.

Additional fun fact

CBC proposes a measly 90% captioning, no doubt most of it half-assed real-time captioning even for prerecorded shows, and no audio description whatsoever. Just like the private broadcasters, CBC mandarins didn’t get into this business to help the cripples.


  1. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 9:33 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    CBC got the licence, but with restrictions (no more than 30% pro sports per week; no more than 10% “stick-and-ball” sports; no less than 30% amateur sports per week).

  2. Fake Ouimet
    Posted July 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I see that I have made a serious mistake. Andrew Jennings’s original research indicates that Franco’s minions actually wore blue shirts. (You may additionally read his books.)

    “We regret the error.”

    Now, wait till you see what’s coming up on Rogge.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted July 27, 2008 at 9:12 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Mind backing up that crack about Samaranch being a Nazi with some facts that demonstrate it’s not a personal attack?

    An interesting post otherwise.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted July 24, 2008 at 8:58 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Another great post FO. Good on you to asking for comment in advance of posting. You’ve got the potential to irritate the powers that be in a way that Original Ouimet was not in a position to do. Power to the crips!

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