Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Oh, snap!

A couple of days ago I wrote about the CBC's inane decision to a) squabble over rights to use "The Hockey Theme", one of the most iconic tunes in Canadian culture; b) take the argument public when things didn't go their way; and c) announce (before negotiations were even over) that they weren't going to use the song anymore, whipping up the sort of public frenzy that only this kind of tempest-in-a-teapot over something that people are emotionally attached to can cause.

Following that post, the CBC bollocksed things up further by putting out a press release - dated 4:59 pm on a Friday, children - that announced they were bringing in a mediator to help settle the dispute... and they were launching a contest to find a new tune.

I'm not sure what the network hoped to achieve by taking the whole thing public in the first place. I mean, the company representing the songwriter - an 80-year-old woman, just to hand them another card in the public-sympathy game - had no reason to be influenced by public pressure. The CBC, on the other hand, relies on public support not only as viewers, but for its very funding. And since response ranged from revilement to ridicule of the Corporation, the whole thing already looked like a pretty impressive gaffe.

And then, while CBC executives were busy pitching their public hissy-fit, this happens.

If you're not Canadian, you won't understand the significance of the song itself or of CBC's public bickering over negotiations to use it for another year. You certainly won't understand the irony of CTV being the network that slipped in and scooped the song up. CTV and CBC are bitter rivals; CBC is the dowdy public broadcaster who keeps serving you healthy Canadian whole grains because they're good for you, while CTV is the lipsticked commercial network who smokes and drinks and dates Americans in fast cars. A lot of Americans in fast cars.

CBC says CTV should be forced to develop more Canadian content instead of simply buying and rebroadcasting hit US shows. CTV says they could be all high-cultural-minded too, if they were living off the taxpayer's teat.

CTV also owns TSN (The Sports Network, Canada's version of ESPN), which shows NHL games throughout the week, another point of rivalry between the two networks. Once TSN appeared, CBC lost its role as Canada's sole hockey network. Knowing that the famous theme will now open TSN hockey games has got to be like salt in the MotherCorp's wound.

All in all, you have to admire CTV for the coup. I can only imagine the faces around the CBC boardroom table when this news broke yesterday afternoon. CTV wasn't even on anyone's radar in this dispute, which had been between Copyright Music and Visuals, which represents the theme song's author, and the CBC. In branding terms, this is a screw-up of epic proportions.

Don't worry, though. CBC, like a cat who falls off a shelf and then grooms itself calmly as if to say, "I meant to do that", is moving boldly forward with the aforementioned absolutely brilliant idea of holding a contest to write the new Hockey Night in Canada theme. To quote the Calgary Herald's Bruce Dowbiggin, "This is like launching a search for a new bride in the same press release that says your former wife has run off with your best friend. No one was fooled."




Blogger Brent McKee said...

Thing is though that the CBC couldn't win. As it is they're being criticized for letting the theme go. On the other hand if they had spent the 2.5 to 3 million dollars that the rights holders wanted for the music they'd have been ripped apart by their friends and enemies. Their enemies - the Conservatives and the private broadcasters - would be yelling about the profligate use of taxpayer money (the word "waste" would inevitably be used). Their friends (like Friends of the CBC) would be complaining about the corporation spending that much money just months after they eliminated the CBC Radio Orchestra. And both sides (for entirely different reasons) would be saying that the CBC shouldn't be showing sports in the first place. There is no way that the CBC could win in this. Me, I don't blame the CBC or Dolores Claman, I blame the management company that essentially tried to extort the CBC.

2:55 a.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

oh, goody! hockey fight hockey fight!! in the interests of all of the chicken-hearted who love to watch other folks clobbering each other....why don't you add a little youtubery of the hockey song to this post? then we could go around humming it down here. it's been a long time since i heard anyone whistle yankee doodle. we're losing our heritage, too.

10:14 a.m.  

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