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Statement on CBC Stanley Cup Coverage


CBC Stanley Cup Coverage

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, it’s an exciting time to be a Manitoban. This spring marks 25 years since a Canadian NHL team has hoisted the Stanley Cup. With eight-to-one odds, the bookmakers will tell you the Winnipeg Jets are Canada’s best bet this year to end this quarter-century drought.

As columnist Paul Wiecek said in the Winnipeg Free Press:

What a story that would be — a small Prairie city with the smallest market in the NHL loses its team in 1996, gets another in 2011 and seven years later ends the longest Stanley Cup drought in this country’s history.

That sounds like exactly the kind of quintessentially Canadian story we as taxpayers in this country are paying the CBC $1 billion a year to tell.

However, colleagues, that is not the story the CBC has decided to tell. Our public broadcaster has instead been showing the all-American series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

For Canadians, the only way to watch this team thrive is to pay an additional $10 per month to subscribe to Rogers’ own Sportsnet.

CBC has continued, however, to broadcast the Toronto Maple Leafs series. Wiecek states:

Jets fans, predictably and justifiably, are outraged: why do we have to pay extra to watch our team play, while also paying via our taxes — the annual CBC subsidy works out to about $27 a year for every man, woman and child — for Leafs fans to be able to watch their series free?

It is exactly the kind of story that touches every raw nerve we have in Winnipeg: it seems like we are being gouged, it seems like we are being disrespected and it seems like, once again, Toronto is laughing at us.

Sportsnet has stated, as a reason for this that “. . . Winnipeg is a key priority for Sportsnet.”

Wiecek rightly contends that:

. . . the idea that Sportsnet chose the Jets series because they love us so much is laughable. The Jets were relegated to Sportsnet because the Leafs draw bigger national ratings and so it only made sense to stick that series on the network that has the maximum reach, CBC.

Colleagues, the purpose of a public broadcaster is to tell Canadian stories that private broadcasters will not tell, or to fill a market gap or a market failure in private broadcasting, in order to benefit Canadians. However, they are continuing to reap taxpayers’ dollars to air the same content one can find on private American networks, or on, as Wiecek says, “. . . an inferior Canadian imitation, with a few ‘eh’s’ added in for authenticity.”

He concludes:

Put it all together and I’d suggest the question that arises from all this isn’t, “Why are we being forced to give $10 bucks to Sportsnet?” but rather, “Why are we giving anything at all to the CBC?”

Incidentally, colleagues, the Jets are leading their series against Minnesota three games to one, while Toronto is losing theirs two games to one to Boston.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

An Hon. Senator: Shame on the CBC.

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