Creative Response – Crisis of Identity in Canada

On November 26, 2013, the NHL signed its largest broadcast contract to date. Rogers Communications Inc. agreed to a 12-year, $5.2 billion Canadian TV and Multimedia contract that will give them full rights to all NHL games. In addition Rogers will have exclusive rights to the playoffs and Stanley Cup finals, as well as all special events such as the All-Star game and skills competition. With this contract comes only one incredible exception that will block Canadians from feeling as though they have control and free rights to one of our nations most historic cultural identity elements, hockey. By now if you are wondering what I am talking about, you are about to be informed about Canada’s national identity and public broadcasting.

For years, CBC, Canada’s national public broadcasting radio and television station has carried the rights to Saturday nights Hockey Night In Canada. Generations upon generations have grown up around the programming and it has been embedded into our national identity. Part of the attraction and significant components that makes Hockey Night In Canada such an extensive part of our culture in Canada, is that it is aired on a public broadcasting network in CBC. But now the signing of the new broadcasting agreement between the NHL and Rogers could spell the end of Hockey Night In Canada, a very important part of our national identity.

Under the new agreement, Rogers is only required to air Saturday night games on CBC for the next four years, after that the agreement does not specify in detail which channel(s) and/or network(s) Saturday night NHL games have to be broadcasted on. And if this isn’t bad enough, Rogers will control the production and execution, including editorial content and on-air talent. While, CBC will earn no revenue from those broadcasts, as it will be all handed over to Rogers. This raises a major question over whether or not a large element in Canada’s national cultural, and Canadian identity in general could be in a major state of crisis.

In the past, CBC has struggled to retain rights to Saturday night NHL games, as their offers to the NHL do not even come close when in comparison to those of media conglomerates in Canada, like Rogers or Bell. This is simply because CBC’s revenue streams are only a small fraction to those of the media conglomerates listed above, and in relation, leads to offering the NHL a much smaller figured contract for the rights to broadcast their games. On this past weeks Hockey Night In Canada program, Don Cherry discussed the contracts significance to his show, Coaches Corner, and to the HNIC program as a whole. Don believes that his show should remain status qou. This came as speculation has been swirling about all the changes that could take place for Hockey Night In Canada’s programming. Many feel as though the program is such a considerably large part of our national identity that it should remain just the way it is. Unfortunately changes are inevitable and personally I feel as though this new agreement between the NHL and Rogers will lead to the demise of we consider to be Canada’s game.

Do you feel as though the new broadcasting contract between the NHL and Rogers will lead to a crisis of identity in Canada, or will hockey and Saturday night’s HNIC programming still be a part of Canadian national identity no matter what path the programming goes down?

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