Sideshow Don and the great CBC conflict of interest

Good luck trying to lodge a complaint with the CBC about Cherry

Who knew Grapes could swear so much? (NSFW-ish)

Don Cherry does and says what he likes on the airwaves of this country’s national broadcaster, and there isn’t really a damn thing you can do about it. Be it visors, Quebecers, hard hits, soft Swedes or Canada’s non-involvement in the Iraq War, Cherry has run of the roost. It’s part of his schtick: a rhinestone-encrusted version of Canada’s lunchbucket everyman, a plain talking rube with a chip on his shoulder and a buzzsaw for a mouth. Bully for him if this schtick is worth at least $700,000 a year, making Cherry the CBC’s highest paid contract worker, by far. He’s incredibly popular, after all, and success, even when draped in velour and hubris, deserves to be rewarded.

As it turns out, though, Cherry’s schtick actually isn’t a schtick at all. Cherry really can literally say whatever he wants on CBC, on hockey or otherwise, with very little fear of reprisal. Despite having a comprehensive third-party complaints process worthy of any governmental body—and despite the fact that Cherry is, practically by definition, a walking liability—any complaints about Cherry are likely to fall on deaf ears. That’s because those who field complaints about him have a vested interest in keeping him, and his very profitable words, on the air. More on this rock ‘em, sock ‘em conflict of interest after the jump.

The CBC’s ombudsman role is to act as an arbitrator in complaints involving the corporation. The idea, of course, is that those in charge have a vested interest in what they produce/emit, and therefore can’t be trusted to properly handle complaints against said productions and/or emissions. CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin produces thoughtful if somewhat ponderous reviews of complaints received by the Mother Corp. Notably, Mr. Carlin took CBCNews.ca to task in 2008 for a spittle-showered Heather Mallick column/takedown of then-U.S.V.P. contender Sarah Palin. “It’s possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she’s a woman,” Mallick wrote at the time.

Carlin shook his finger at Mallick for her broadside against men of the right: “[T]here is no factual basis for a broad scale conclusion about the sexual adequacy of Republican men,” he wrote at the time (rest easy, Mark Steyn!). He saved his powder for the CBC in general, however, for having published a righteous lefty screed without printing a similarly righteous righty screed. (You know, perhaps something about how all Democrats are gay.)

However, public funding is one of the reasons the CBC has fairly elaborate policies—there is an obligation to acknowledge the necessity of operating differently than a private entity.  As the policy implies, the CBC should not shy away from pointed opinions, but it should seek out the broadest range that can be found.

He concludes:

CBCNews.ca should have appropriate resources to ensure that a wide range of opinion and analysis is available.

To sum up: Mallick wrote a column, over 300 people complained, Carlin wrote a report and CBC apologized. In short, the system worked.

So what does this have to do with Don Cherry, you ask? Actually, not much–and that’s precisely the problem. The ombudsman only deals with CBC News, and covers only those who report and comment on the news. It makes for a bizarre dynamic: if you are a reporter or a news analyst or commentator (like this guy), you fall under the jurisdiction of the ombudsman. Ditto if you are a sports reporter. But a sports analyst or commentator? Neh.

Ah! I hear you say. That’s the way it should be. Uncle Don only comments on hockey, which has about as much to do with current events as Sarah Palin has to do with quantum physics. It’s a game, not news.

Except not. Forget for a second that Don regularly talks about a range of issues beyond the game of hockey: how Canadians should have gone to die in Iraq, just because the Americans were doing it; how “supporting the troops” necessarily means staying in Afghanistan; how Anglophone residents of Sault Ste. Marie “speak the good language.” Also, forget for a second that all of Don Cherry’s hallowed clichés, including his “beloved Anglo heritage,” his inability to “resist taking a swipe at Quebec,” as well as his disdain for “left-wing pinkos,” are hyped to the nines on CBC’s own website. It is his most recent foray into the headlines, and the ensuing blind support of his supposed minders, that shows how wide an institutional birth berth CBC gives to one of its biggest money-makers.

Cherry likes hard hits and big smashes in hockey. He has produced 21 volumes of his Rock’em, Sock’em hockey series in as many years. His mantra is simple: mess with a star? You deserve to get smacked. Play with your head down? Get smacked. Celebrate excessively after a goal? Get smacked. “Turtle” during a fight? God help ye, son, you deserve every inch of the beating coming your way. (Check this video, in which Cherry admonishes starting Chicoutimi goalie Bobby Nadeau for not fighting back against perennial Remparts third-stringer Jonathan “son of Patrick” Roy when the latter viciously attacked Nadeau from the other end of the rink, unprovoked.)

Which is all fine and good, I suppose. Everyone has the right to be a chickenhawk, even on TV. Again, bully for Cherry if you can get paid doing it. Only, this: it is exactly this kind of punchy, retaliatory, smashy-smashy hockey that is damaging the people who play the game—the very players, lest we forget, for whom Cherry constantly declares his man-love. It is the kind of hockey that likely turned Reggie Fleming‘s brain into Swiss cheese in the sport’s bad old days, and for which Keith Primeau, who is all of 39 years old and who has been retired for four years, suffers everyday. It is the kind of hockey just about everyone important, from NHL commish Gary Bettman to the NHLPA to a raft of NHL general managers, are slowly turning against. (Though Bettman, as this Globe fellow notes, is a tad late and a slight bit disingenuous in his criticism.) Yet when Dr. Charles Tator, a recognized expert on spinal injuries, called Cherry out, and when Cherry was subsequently confronted with Tator’s words by a Toronto reporter, Cherry could only respond by reaming out the reporter by using the word “f–k” as a noun and a verb six times in 30 seconds. (Click the above link for the full taste. Someone should set it to music.)

Violence in hockey is a newsworthy topic, something affecting thousands of amateur and professional players across the country, and to have the biggest and loudest voice regularly championing it on the country’s national broadcaster with nary a dissenting voice (except maybe for this guy, on occasion) is absurd. At the very least, Cherry should have some sort of disinterested oversight, like Carlin. But if you want to lodge a complaint to CBC about Cherry, good luck: I contacted three different people at the mother corp and got a variety of answers.

Vince Carlin himself told me complaints go to Audience Relations and are “under the supervision of the Executive Vice-President of English Networks, Richard Stursberg.” CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay said complaints go the various department heads; in Cherry’s case, this is CBC VP Scott Moore, for whom Don Cherry is very important, ratings-wise. Arguably the most important sports commentator on the network, actually. Yet Moore couldn’t exactly say how many Cherry-related complaints he fields every year. “I don’t keep a running tab, but my guess is it’s less than 100 in a year,” Moore wrote in an email. “Compared to the goodwill he creates every time he does a public appearance, and his overall popularity, his value is very clear to us as a network.”

Yes sir. Very clear indeed.




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Sideshow Don and the great CBC conflict of interest

  1. But..but.. this doesn't make sense.

    Everybody knows CBC is the mothership of the Lefty MSM Bias™ and only cares about Liberal Values and getting paid from the Public Purse.

    So by that, they can't be protecting Cherry. He's a Stand-Up Guy, after all.

    Why.. they keep this up, some of our more dedicated knee-pad wearers for Harper might have to think as opposed to regurgitating.

  2. Don Cherry

    He's what all Canadian men are, and not one man in a million ever is

  3. It's clear to me that there is something sexually deranged about Don Cherry (the broadcaster, not the jazz virtuoso). It's not that he's straight or gay or God's knows what; it's the way he dresses. It's the sartorial equivalent of overdosing on Viagra. I would seriously like to know how much Viagra the man consumes every week, and why.

    • Could Cherry be our very own Liberace? Only the velour knows.

    • It's because he's a man's man. Real men aren't afraid to wear colourful, floral-patterned suits!

      • "To throw oneself into the thick of the battle can be a sign of cowardice." — Nietzsche, Daybreak 299

  4. Years ago, I knew someone who knew Cherry. My acquaintance said Cherry started out his pundit career as normal person, did lots of charity work, and his suits were just way to create persona and get noticed but Cherry changed a lot as he became more famous and influential.

    • I suspect that may be why the CBC keeps him. Not only is he popular, but he is a goofball caricature of the blessed right-wing. It lets the CBC claim "balance" while holding up nut-case Grapes as the prototypical right-winger. Which isn't exactly balanced at all.

  5. Martin, you're missing the obvious point. Don Cherry is to the CBC what diversity training is to big business: something to point to when someone complains.

    Tell a CEO that he doesn't have enough women/gays/people of colour in senior management and he'll say "Pshaw, my company spent $18 million on diversity training last fiscal year. We are the model of an integrated business."

    The same goes for the Ceeb. If someone complains about too much negative converage of the PM, or a Liberal/NDP friendly bent in the selection of news items, the bosses just say " The CBC never bends to government pressure and we've got Don Cherry on every Saturday night. The rest of our coverage just balances things off."

    Enjoy: http://tiny.cc/8tU3b

  6. "Don Cherry is to the CBC what diversity training is to big business"

    Best sentence I have read today. And you include a link to Yes, Minister – a show I find equally funny and alarming.

    "Anyway, Minister, I am sure you know what you are doing"
    "Sir Humphrey … you only say that when I've made an appalling cock-up"

    hahahahahahahahahahahaha

  7. "Don Cherry is to the CBC what diversity training is to big business"

    Best sentence I have read today.

    And you include a link to Yes, Minister – a show I find equally funny and alarming.

    "Anyway, Minister, I am sure you know what you are doing"
    "Sir Humphrey … you only say that when I've made an appalling cock-up"

    "It is not in my interest. And I represent the public, so it's not in the public interest."
    "That's a novel argument … "

    The more things change …..

    • Doesn't bother me; Don Cherry's political opinions are about as weighty as a dog's fart. What bothers me is when otherwise intelligent people take delight in them.

      • My point as well.

        • Eh bien, are you comparing Andrew Coyne and Don Cherry?

          • No, I was posting the link to show what a buffoon Cherry is, in keeping with the original post. But, I knew it would draw some flack due to the nature of the subject (maybe I should have put gold in quotations). The fact that the studio audience cheered speaks to the nature of his fans.

          • Well done, and well illustrated. He's such a friggin' freak show.

            I've been meaning to apologise to you for my intemperate rhetoric the other week, btw. I hope you will just file it under "invective"; it goes without saying, I hope, that, e.g., I do not really think you are "intellectually bankrupt" vel sim.: quite the reverse.

          • I'll apologize too, if he stops referring to me as "the frog".

          • Really? Man, you never get what you pay for these days.

  8. Ombudspersons are the scourge of the western world.

  9. If you honestly want to complain that Cherry issues a blanket approval to violence in hockey, you obviously know nothing about the game OR his views.

    Hits are part of hockey and you're a fool to believe otherwise. Don Cherry is one of the biggest advocates of CLEAN hits, meaning that the spinal doctor who tried to call him out on his opinions was looking for media hits and nothing more. Hits to the head and hits from behind are clear examples of what Cherry thinks should be banned from the game and his support of the "STOP" program is proof of that. If you've watched just a couple of Coach's Corner, you'd know that. He hasn't stopped promoting it. (http://www.ontariohockey.com/story/27/Minor%20Hoc

    I hate when people who know nothing about hockey try to comment on it. No wonder CBC had no time for your complaints. If you aren't the audience, you don't matter.

  10. "Hits to the head and hits from behind are clear examples of what Cherry thinks should be banned from the game"

    Fist, meet face. The facebone is connected to the head bone; the head bone is connected to the brain bone.

    • I googled the anatomy of the human head, and I could find no "brain bone," and "face" and "head" bone seem unnecessarily vague…

  11. Rather over the top reaction to a former hockey coach swearing off air. I don't care much for Cherry's commentary, but am aware that many people do. However, Cherry's view that excessive protective gear makes the game UNsafe is backed up many studies, some not related to hockey. People are more reckless when they are cocooned in protective armour. The current ski helmet debate is a case in point; people ski faster wearing a helmet than without.

  12. Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, Brian Burke, brontosaurus, petrodactyl, … ya you bet Don is a great role model, had he been around when Plante wore the first goalie's mask, he would have called him chicken, but sure go ahead and defend the dinosaurs cause when the meteorite hits …

  13. Don Cherry is an example of what we need more of: people willing and able to speak their minds in the mainstream media without having to parade out a talking head from the other side to create "balanced" coverage (as if any issue has only two sides). He's also a money maker, he brings revenue to CBC, which is something the network isn't that good at with most of its shows. (HNIC itself is a profit driver for CBC, and Cherry is the highest rated personality on HNIC.)

    That said, a lot of this is nonsense. Cherry doesn't and has never supported dirty hockey, hits from behind, or elbows and sticks to the head. Fighting? Sure. But acting like he's to blame for everything is silly, he was one of the leading supporters of the campaign against hitting from behind (and is still against touch icing, which causes numerous injures every year).

    He's no worse then Steyn is, and I don't see Macleans writers campaigning for their own ombusdman.

    • Two things:
      1) You think Primeau's many chronic ailments are all due to "dirty hockey" or Touch icing? Check the highlight reel.
      2) Maclean's isn't a public broadcaster. The CBC is. This discussion wouldn't be happening were Cherry on TSN.

      • I don't find the "Cherry is on a public broadcaster" line convincing at all. If what he's saying is actually wrong, it would still be wrong on TSN.

        CBC should not exist as a platform to spread political correct dogma. HNIC is not a public information show that needs government handouts. It's the bread and butter hockey telecast that pays for a good chunk of the rest of what CBC TV does. The people running it should put on a program that people want to watch, and people want to watch Cherry.

        Frankly, I consider it a good thing that in one area ratings actually matter to CBC.

      • what in God's name difference does it make whether Cherry is on TSN or CBC, opinions on him will not change.

        Or do you mean because the CBC is a public broadcaster they should be more sensitive to political correctness ? Hey , its a hockey show for C___t sake. I'm not against Cherry because he isn't politically correct, I just think he's a terrible role model for kids and his grammar is appalling but I recognize he appeals to a lot of people who speak that way and who sincerely believe only good tough kids frm Sudbury or Moose Jaw can play hockey. They are a dying breed, so is Cherry and so are the ratings for HNC.

  14. Don Cherry is racist and stupid.cbc support it. Money talk.

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