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Apocalypse Now II: Being Andrew Coyne


 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Post will join forces to provide top online coverage of the Vancouver Games.

The collaboration, announced Wednesday, is a first for CBC — and one that will allow both organizations to use their resources to the fullest, said Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports and general manager, of CBC media sales and marketing

I told you so. Remember when the CBC and the Post announced a content-sharing agreement that would leverage each organization’s strengths — CBC on sports, Post on Business?  I warned you at the time that this was only the beginning.  Not only that, but I warned you about the problems with broadcasters and newspapers getting together. I see no one is listening to me.

Let’s look at this new agreement.  According to Scott Moore of CBC sales and marketing, this partnership will provide Canadians with “up to the moment coverage of every aspect of the Games, delivered to our audiences whenever and however they require it” and will involve a “co-branded Olympic Winter Games website featuring continuous coverage”.

This is no longer about two organizations leveraging their own strengths in two separate areas of coverage. They have now combined forces on a single issue, for a single event, offering “co-branded” coverage. That is, for the purposes of the Olympics coverage, the CBC and the Post have effectively merged.

This makes no sense.  Isn’t “up to the minute coverage” what all news organizations are supposed to be doing these days? If the CBC isn’t offering us up to the minute coverage in all aspects of news, what does it think it is doing? How can we trust it, once the Olympics are done?

There are two ways of looking at this. One, the National Post, a private newspaper, is now increasingly funded by the taxpayer.

Two, the CBC is being increasingly privatized.

Either way, the implications are profound. As I asked before, should the CBC’s public subsidy be reduced proportionately in line with the amount of privately-funded content it runs? What does the CBC union think of this?

But this co-branding of a single event makes the whole thing even more problematic. It is hard to think of an event that is more of a political minefield than a domestic Olympics. What happens if the CBC runs a column or editorial denouncing Olympics as a pointless spectacle, or what if the Post’s editors find the CBC’s coverage pointlessly boosterish or ridiculously politically correct?  What if there are more allegations about political interference in the Olympics, as there has already been with respect to the Torch Relay and the uniform logo?

What a mess.

I warned you.


 
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Apocalypse Now II: Being Andrew Coyne

  1. It's disgraceful that the CBC is being forced by the Conservatives to climb in bed with a hate rag.

    • What?

  2. What is the point of joining forces? I can only assume CBC and NatPost are understaffed and don't believe they can cover the games adequately. I don't see this as a sign of the apocalypse, it is nice to see both companies doing something other than demanding money from Feds.

    And I have no idea of what CBC union types are thinking but I am guessing they hate it. Union people are often bolshie and I can guess that many will think they are teaming up with fascists or some such.

  3. "What happens if the Post runs a column or editorial denouncing Olympics as a pointless spectacle…"

    I don't see the problem there. I have all kinds of problems with a public broadcaster getting involved in the private sector (merging, competing, selling advertising). But I just don't follow some of the hypothetical minefields you spell out,

  4. The dividing line between the media and the government has been fuzzy for a good long time.

    Consider the issue of political debates. How is the format decided? By having the broadcasters get together and come to an agreement. If I did that in my industry, it's called 'collusion' and I'd be fined and/or jailed. But here we have the media colluding, and not on something like the price of widgets, but on one of our key democratic institutions!

    Which leads me to another point: How the hell does this CBC/National Post arrangement not violate anti-trust law?

    • How the hell does this CBC/National Post arrangement not violate anti-trust law?

      Good point. On the other hand, CTV and the Globe have been a team for a long time. You can make the claim that TV and newspapers are not competitors, although both the Post and CBC maintain internet news sites, so they do compete in that realm.

      • Joint & other cooperative ventures between "competing" corporations who are pretty normal. Look at the auto industry. One company makes parts, motors & even entire vehicles that are sold by another.

        Anti-trust laws come into play when one or more companies use their market power to disadvantage other (usually smaller) companies.

        The IOC or some other organization owns the broadcast rights to the Olympic games and sells these rights through a competitive bid process. Any company or group of companies can bid for the rights. In order for anti-trust laws to be violated, it would have to be proven that CBC or NP was paying too much in order to keep other media outlets from making a successful bid and that they did it on purpose and not because of bad revenue projections, etc. You'd probably also have to prove a history of such behaviour. The bar on proving anti-trust allegations is pretty high.

  5. Remember 'CBC Watch', in which National Post editors would tee off on the CBC's socialist, anti-Zionist excesses? Methinks a private newspaper jumping into bed with the state controlled media would be great column fodder.

    • state controlled or state funded?

      • With apologies if this sounds too rude, but I'm not sure someone who is suggesting the CBC is "socialist" or "anti-Zionist" would necessarily know the different.

        It would also not be someone who is very aware of how the Canadian broadcasting system (which includes CBC, Global, CTV, etc) actually works. I would invite them to read some of the transcripts of CRTC hearings — I know I was able to learn quite a bit because of the research I did to intervene in a recent CRTC hearing.

  6. Woops — should have read "CBC". Canwest is a major sponsor.

  7. I've mentioned this before, but doesn't CBC have a history of this? I seem to recall them sharing up everything from curling to Stanley Cup finals with TSN, and that Strombo talent show disaster was a co-production with some American network. Even running shows like Jeopardy could sort of count as public-private partenership.

    And just to play devil's advocate: how is this arrangement much different from selling advertisements? (Arguably a partenership with private corporations – just not media outlets).

    • "how is this arrangement much different from selling advertisements?"

      And further to this, the cbc does receive about $1 billion a year from government which gets its money from private sector. The cbc exists solely due to private firms, like the NatPost, paying taxes. McClelland has got it exactly backwards but I am guessing his asinine comment reflects what a lot of cbc-types will be thinking.

      • Meh, citizens pay taxes too. I don't think corporations get special consideration as a result of paying taxes.

        But it is worth noting that other media outlets also get direct government support and protection – so perhaps the distinction between public and private was never that great to begin with.

        • "Meh, citizens pay taxes too."

          Ya, I agree, I did not phrase it very well. I was too rushed. Meant private sector creates wealth and cbc spends it. Corps and people keep cbc afloat.

          I am more bothered about what this means for NatPost while many others seem to be focused on what it all means for cbc.

        • yeah, it's a very heavily regulated industry with cultural overtones and an effect on the national interest. the line is pretty blurred.

  8. I wonder if it's too late to send an email to At Issue for tonight's panel.

  9. Actually the most troubling development here is the merging of Andrew Potter and Andrew Coyne.

    • aka The Piggybanker blog (Realm of the Coyne Pottery)

      • awesome!

      • I wish I'd said that. . . .and if the opportunity arises, I will.

    • Soon, Andrew Coyne's Blog will have *real* name …

    • Are you guys the same person?

  10. Lets keep in mind that the CBC lost out in its bid to cover the 2010 Olympics to CTV. And as a result, CTV pilfered some of CBCs Olympic team. So, its not like this is the main event, and Canadian audiences will be starved for traditional coverage from Canadian/American media sources.

    So, its the online CBC/NP joint venture competing principally with the bloggers and cell phone crowd that this is competing against. Also G&M. CTV online to a lesser extent.

    These types of arrangements occur all the time in industry. To use an already overused buzz word – are there synergies – ie is the sum greater than the two parts? Probably in this arrangement, yes, I'd argue.

  11. Hmm, merging the cbc and the post…what could possibly go wrong?
    Mixing honey and vinegar will not likely produce a fine wine.

    • Maybe not, but it makes an excellent sweet and sour sauce.

  12. The Olympic Committee awarded coverage rights not merely to CTV, but to a media consortium (Bell Globemedia), which controls print, television, internet (including mobile internet), and is a cellphone carrier.

    CBC, on the other hand, is television/radio, with a website. No print, no cellphone carrier, no wireless. Its internet presence is not comparable to Bell, which is an ISP.

    Realising this, the CBC has taken steps to provide more comprehensive coverage, by teaming up with a newspaper. I'm surprised they haven't teamed up with a cellphone carrier to provide mobile coverage.

    Those are my two cents, anyway. I expect CBC to further team up with a cellphone carrier.

  13. ''What if there are more allegations about political interference in the Olympics, as there has already been with respect to the Torch Relay and the uniform logo?''

    And you think the CBC have championed all the faux scandals to date?
    Wow, the Media Party of Canada will take up the 'torch' Andrew.
    Not to worry.

  14. I'm not sure what to think about this. I don't think the Post has ever been good for sports, anyway. But in general, it seems like one more reason to eliminate the CBC subsidy.

  15. Maybe The Post will get all those sports nobody wants to read about anyway?

  16. "This makes no sense. Isn't “up to the minute coverage” what all news organizations are supposed to be doing these days? If the CBC isn't offering us up to the minute coverage in all aspects of news, what does it think it is doing? How can we trust it, once the Olympics are done?"

    You really thinks this makes no sense? Isn' this a primarily a pretty straightforward response to news organizations resources? I am more shocked that someone that works in the news industry these days is surprised that a news organization feels that it does not have sufficient resources to cover all aspects of a large event unto itself and as such has teamed with another news organization to provide a better service.

  17. The CTV Owelimpic website won't let you post negative comments about the games. I cannot get "Boycott the Olympics" published in the comment sections under the stories.

    • So?

      Do you feel they have an obligation to keep your comment posted on their site?

    • Not surprising. One of the things that these exclusive media deals do is turn what would otherwise be news reporting into marketing for the event. I know I won't take anything CTV has to say about the Olympics any more seriously than I will any other PR agency, and recognise I have to look for news elsewhere.

  18. Last Wednesday I intervened in front of the CRTC, and as part of my formal presentation http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/5096 I included the following question:

    "We need to ask if the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are two massive government programs, or if they are services that can exist in a minimally regulated marketplace."

    I found it interesting that in response one of the commissioners said, "I think that most of the groups that came before us would think of it as a form of government program".

    I think we should keep this in mind when we try to draw some massive line between our "public" and "private" broadcasters, as well as other media companies. There are some aspects that may be more publicly financed or privately financed, but there are far more similarities than we are generally lead to believe.

    Without this possibly hypothetical difference between public and private broadcasters, would the issue you are bringing forward be different? Just thinking out loud….

  19. Last Wednesday I intervened in front of the CRTC, and as part of my formal presentation http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/5096 I included the following question:

    "We need to ask if the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are two massive government programs, or if they are services that can exist in a minimally regulated marketplace."

    I found it interesting that in response one of the commissioners said, "I think that most of the groups that came before us would think of it as a form of government program".

    I think we should keep this in mind when we try to draw some massive line between our "public" and "private" broadcasters, as well as other media companies. There are some aspects that may be more publicly financed or privately financed, but there are far more similarities than we are generally lead to believe.

    Without this possibly hypothetical difference between public and private broadcasters, would the issue you are bringing forward be different? Just thinking out loud….

  20. Last Wednesday I intervened in front of the CRTC, and as part of my formal presentation http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/5096 I included the following question:

    "We need to ask if the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are two massive government programs, or if they are services that can exist in a minimally regulated marketplace."

    I found it interesting that in response one of the commissioners said, "I think that most of the groups that came before us would think of it as a form of government program".

    I think we should keep this in mind when we try to draw some massive line between our "public" and "private" broadcasters, as well as other media companies. There are some aspects that may be more publicly financed or privately financed, but there are far more similarities than we are generally lead to believe.

    Without this possibly hypothetical difference between public and private broadcasters, would the issue you are bringing forward be different? Just thinking out loud….

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