Tag Archives: TSN

TV monopolies and Canadian football


On Saturday November 25, the Canadian university football championship was held in Hamilton between the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and Laval Rouge et Or, with the former prevailing 39-17 . The Vanier Cup, attended by 10, 754 fans, was not broadcast on either CBC which featured an Alpine skiing race, an elite sport, or CTV, which featured the Hollywood doomsday movie Armageddon. Instead, it was relegated to TSN 3. (TSN is owned by Bell Media, with EPSN holding a 30 per cent share; Bell owns CTV.)

Sport in Canada has been commercialized, privatized, Americanized and colonized by private empires, reinforced by the sports media monopolies. To watch a Canadian championship, one has to be a cable TV subscriber. But even that is no guarantee. About ten years ago, CIS sports had to quietly pay the then Score TV cable channel $50,000 to come to Halifax to broadcast the semi-final and the final of the college basketball finals. (Score was later bought out by Rogers Sportsnet.)

Is it little wonder that the Vanier Cup is plagued by low attendance?

None of the big Toronto newspapers and across Canada  most if not all daily newspapers regularly report on university sport, let alone amateur sport. The report on the match in the Sunday Toronto Star was reprinted from the Hamilton Spectator. Once again the question of relevance was raised. Reporter Scott Radley writes, “One way or another, the game deserves to be seen. The past seven Vanier Cups have all been terrific. A couple have been even better than that. This one wasn’t as tense yet it was a clinic to appreciate.” His solution? To package it with the Grey Cup and hold it on the same weekend wherever in Canada it is being played.

In contrast, on Saturday three US networks – Fox, CBS and ABC – were broadcasting college games one after the other from noon to late evening. The Auburn University stadium alone was packed with 87,000 people. TV contracts rule American sports, including university sport. The NFL is in the middle of a $26 billion deal for TV rights.

Then there is the Grey Cup, the championship of the Canadian Football League (CFL) which was held in Ottawa as part of the colonial Confederation 150 “celebrations.” Opening the festivities on Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau proclaimed that the Grey Cup “brings the nation together.” The CFL cannot be said to be an instrument of nation building. After 105-years, this private sports empire still does not have a franchise east of Montreal (the Alouettes are the former Baltimore Stallions, owned by an American capitalist) in Atlantic Canada, yet it vainly tried to expand into the United States between 1993 and 1996. Doom was brought upon all the American CFL markets except Baltimore due to the CFL’s capitulation to U.S. franchise owners’ demands affecting the originality of the Canadian game.

Despite notable differences with the American game such as the size of the field and the football, placement of the goalposts, the number of downs, the rouge and offensive motion, CFL rules nevertheless refer to Canadian players in negative terms as “non imports.” According to the CFL website, the number of imports and the definition of a non-import in the CFL has undergone 32 significant changes since 1936. This in fact refers to residency and where a player has received his training, not just Canadian citizens; a quota system stipulates that teams are made up of 42 players, including three quarterbacks and 39 other players, of which 19 may be imports. A mere seven of the 24 starting players must be “non-imports,” with skill positions such as quarterback reserved for imports. American cadre overwhelmingly dominate management and coaching positions.

Once again, Canadians had to have a cable TV subscription to watch the match held in Ottawa on Sunday November 26 between the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts and/or the festivities in Ottawa, which was confined to TSN and Shaw, a corporate sponsor of the CFL.

“We are ambassadors of the NFL”

The TV monopolies are a main instrument for spearheading the marginalization of Canadian football.

It is worth remembering that Rogers Communications, owners of Sportsnet, the Toronto Blue Jays (“Canada’s team”)‚ and a majority co-owner with Bell Media of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE – owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors [“We the North”], TFC, Toronto Marlies, Air Canada Centre, operators of BMO Field, etc.) and the Buffalo Bills of the NFL signed a five-year deal in 2008 to bring one “home” game a year to the Rogers Centre in Toronto, along with three pre-season games (later reduced to two). The Rogers’ group included Larry Tanenbaum, minority owner and chairman of MLSE. Despite the manufactured hype, price-gouging and lacklustre attendance, the deal was renewed in January 2013 for another five years.

“Rogers Media is committed to producing and delivering premium sports content and experiences for fans,” said Keith Pelley, President, Rogers Media, at the time.  “We are ambassadors of the NFL and are continually assessing the market to bring that true NFL experience to Canadians.  We created a benchmark for our game last season with a first-rate pre-game festival and half-time show, and look forward to building on that over the next five years.”

The deal was suddenly terminated in March 2014. “Upon hearing the news of its death,” reported the Toronto Star, “fans rejoiced on social media.” When Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson died, Tannenbaum headed a new group that vainly attempted to buy the franchise with a reported offer of $1 billion and eventually move it to Toronto.

MLSE now owns the Argonauts who have been moved from the Rogers Centre to BMO Field, assisted by a $10 million government grant for stadium renovations.

Meanwhile on Sunday the CBC was broadcasting alpine skiing and . . . a bobsleigh competition.

CTV, which had already broadcast two NFL games in the afternoon, was showing “Football Night in America” – the Sunday night NFL game between two U.S. cities, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

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Sochi 2014: The NHL’s blatant provocation against the Olympics

This article, first published on February 21, 2014 during the Sochi Winter Olympics, exposes both the aim and the method of how the NHL, hand in hand with the sports media, began creating the conditions to justify launching its own private “World Cup of Hockey.”

The discourse runs like this: we poor owners have been victimized and our fans short-changed and held hostage by the Olympics, because “the best league in the world has been shut down” (Prime Time Sports, Rogers Sportsnet, February 18, 2014). “Just look at our empty buildings.” It is reminiscent of the old saw about the thief crying “stop thief!” | TONY SEED*

The NHL can only drool over the figures. The Canada-U.S. men's hockey semifinal drew a television audience of more than 15 million for CBC on Friday. Photo: Corey Perry of Canada tries a wraparound on Jonathan Quick of the USA as he is defended by Cam Fowler during first period action in the men's hockey semifinal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, February 21, 2014 | Jean Levac/Postmedia News

The NHL can only drool over the figures. The Canada-U.S. men’s hockey semifinal drew a television audience of more than 15 million for CBC. (Photo) Corey Perry of Canada tries a wraparound on Jonathan Quick of the USA as he is defended by Cam Fowler during first period action in the men’s hockey semifinal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, February 21, 2014 | Jean Levac/Postmedia News

SEEMINGLY out of the blue, the National Hockey League (NHL) based in New York sent their fabled Stanley Cup trophy to Sochi. The media slavered when it made its appearance at Canada House on Monday, February 17th. The iconic silver trophy had seemingly fallen from the sky or appeared as if a gift from the gods of sport with a spiritual significance comparable to a burning bush.

In the media euphoria, Canadian Olympic members were organized to pose with the trophy and world champion figure skater Patrick Chan to bless it with a kiss.

Four-time Olympian skier Brian Stemmle, also a CBC analyst, denounced the maneouvre, rightly asking: “Why is the Stanley Cup at Canada House in Sochi? Other athletes don’t bring their trophies. Hate when hockey tries to overshadow other sports.”

A new diversion began. Continue reading

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US NCAA: Poster boy for corruption and exploitation

usaid-cashThe annual US college hoops hysteria known as March Madness generates a multibillion-dollar wave of revenue – but the players don’t receive a dime of it. And this includes the 25 Canadian youth being hyped by TSN, which does not broadcast Canadian college games, as “the next generation of basketball” for self-serving reasons.

Dave ZirinThe Nation (April 1, 2013) – THE corruption extends to the college sports media industry. Over the past decade, the number of college football and basketball games broadcast on ESPN channels has skyrocketed from 491 to 1,320. ESPN now happens to be both the number-one broadcaster of college football and basketball and those sports’ number-one news provider. Covering sports and shilling for the industry have become carnally intertwined. Nationally credited journalists from ESPN and other media outlets reportedly show up at the Fiesta Bowl a week in advance, where they stay at the finest resorts and receive a different expensive present every day, courtesy of the tournament’s corporate sponsors. Continue reading

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Sochi 2014: Respect for one’s opponent in sport (2)

juegos-olimpicos-de-Invierno-2014Mike Babcock’s rant: “And the other thing that happens for the NHL player, and probably for you in the media, is the respect you have for the opposition.” Welcome to the G-20 Winter Games and the Harper agenda for a “new patriotism.” | TONY SEED* Continue reading

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Sports channels profit from NHL lockout

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Dome to nowhere (I)

TORONTO’S SKYDOME is the mother of “public-private partnerships” (P3) championed by neo-liberals as the template for economic development. It siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars in public money to benefit private sports teams, the coffers of the construction monopolies and the finance capitalists who own Ontario’s debt. Whether the SkyDome ultimately came in “on budget” or not was irrelevant to the monopolies that were guaranteed their profits. As author/journalist Neil deMause reveals in his indepth exposé, when the budget was exceeded, in 1991 the financial oligarchy quickly swooped in to lend yet more money guaranteed by the state. The SkyDome reflects a medieval character of spending for the pleasure of a tiny aristocratic elite leaving the people to be spectators of the narcosis of American professional sport and consumers of a giant circus in which they participate only in a marginalized way. – Tony Seed Continue reading


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