Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can somebody lend the CBC $500 bucks?

"The song has a long and storied history in Canadian sports and has become ingrained in the hearts and minds of hockey fans across the country. It is an iconic tune, embraced by Canadians everywhere, and we felt it was imperative to save it."

"It's an honour and a privilege to own such a cherished piece of Canadiana."

Anyone want to play a guessing game with The Voice? Who said the above? Was it Steve Harper, Prime Minister of Canada? Stephan Dion, leader of the official Opposition? Oh, I know. It must have been Hubert T. Lacroix, President of the CBC! Nope... the answer is - wait for it, Rick Brace, President - Revenue, Business Planning and Sports at CTV Incorporated.

For readers outside of Canada, let's do a quick recap. Since 1931, Canadians have tuned in their radios and later their televisions every Saturday evening to Hockey Night In Canada. Since 1968, the Hockey Night theme composed by Dolores Claman has been the sound of hockey in Canada. HNIC is broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A publicly funded company equivalent to the American PBS. With a 1.5 billion dollar budget, the CBC receives 950 million dollars from the Federal government. The CBC's mandate is to reach all Canadians in all parts of the country. In February 2009, television broadcasters will only send out a digital signal, making the CBC unavailable to some Canadians and increasingly irrelevant in this satellite age.

News of the abandonment of Canada's second national anthem came from the copyright holder. Did the CBC in their wisdom, assume that the viewer - taxpayer / bosses would not notice October 1st that Nickelback or some other clone rock band's song was opening the show? A company spokesperson said HNIC was planning on going in another direction anyway and they will now hold a contest to choose a new theme. A contest? Paid for by the taxpayers I assume? I hope they are flooded with DJ remixes of the Hockey Night theme or variations of it.

That leads me to another point... Is the CBC really bumbling enough to shelve such an instantly identifiable song? Hum the start of the song in any cafe around the world and the chances are good someone will join you before you're done. If the plan all along was to retire the theme, then renew the rights for another forty years and lock it away and maybe we'll forget about it.

To allow your direct competition, TSN, to buy the rights to your theme; Canada's theme, goes beyond poor management. It borders on on the insane. TSN can now claim, and they are, on all their various media outlets - "we saved the theme". There is a new six year deal between TSN and the NHL guaranteeing a Wednesday night double header with at least one Canadian team in each game. Now those telecasts will be opening with the sound of hockey. How long until Wednesday night feels like the traditional hockey night in Canada? This is like the Yankees giving, not selling, the naming rights of their new stadium to the Red Sox. RED SOX Stadium - Home of the Yankees, people would go ballistic.

The CBC has already lost the rights to the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup, the Olympics and now this? Not to mention already losing legends Brian Williams and Chris Cuthbert to CTV. With shows like "Intelligence" and " Secret lives of hockey wives", I want to know why the Prime Minister of Canada went over the heads of the CBC Board of Directors and instead of letting them do the hiring as usual, Harper hired a man with no broadcasting or marketing experience. Mr. Lacroix's area of expertise is in acquisitions (can you believe that?). Since the CBC is a mess, I assume his talents are to be used in the slow dismantling of the network.

This is the beginning of the end for our public broadcaster. That seems to be the directive from the politicians in charge. If it is the end, stop the money drain now. If the CBC is to continue I want to know where my 950 million dollars went if there is not enough money to keep the Hockey Night theme. You threw away forty years of tradition and more importantly, forty years of brand recognition to save $500 a game. It's shameful and as a Canadian it's embarrassing. Bravo to TSN for a brilliant corporate move. Absolutely brilliant!!

CBC head Lacroix and anyone else responsible should be fired, but then you'd cost us more money with a generous CBC severance package. I know; you should have to watch your own programming as punishment.

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