Dale Goldhawk, one of Canada's best-known bulldogs for wronged consumers, has had his consumer-advocate feature cancelled by CTV.
After almost a decade on the national news, the consumer-crusader's show, Goldhawk Fights Back, was reportedly shelved for budget reasons.
Yesterday, Goldhawk blamed the cancellation on a "money decision." In a release, the veteran TV journalist said he learned of the decision not to renew his contract Aug. 28 after 10 years on the air at the private network.
"I was shocked. I'd already had discussions [with CTV brass]about what was going to happen next season . . . and suddenly, without warning, I'm handed a notice saying the contract for Goldhawk Fights Back will not be renewed. I think I have a responsibility to the people who put their faith in Goldhawk Fights Back. We get about 500 e-mails, phone calls and faxes a week."
Goldhawk, 58, said he hopes to mount the show someplace else. "But it's too early for anything to be reported at this point."
"Well I guess that leaves poor old [CITY-TV reporter]Peter Silverman holding the fort all by himself," said Globe and Mail columnist Rick Salutin. "Once there were two, and now there is one." Like Goldhawk, Silverman operates as an ombudsman, helping people find justice in disputes with private- and public-sector organizations.
"Unfortunately, coming at this time when other networks have budgeted for new shows, the cancellation means there may not be a future for Goldhawk Fights Back, or for any good advocacy program for the Canadian public," Goldhawk said in his statement. "The fraud artists and red-tape bureaucrats will be overjoyed."
Goldhawk's Web site, which uses the tagline "Comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable," posted a bulletin announcing that CTV News had cancelled his show. Goldhawk said, over the years, he has been contacted by thousands of Canadians and has helped them recover millions of dollars in refunds, compensations, awards and pensions.
CTV officials declined comment yesterday.
Recently, the broadcaster announced it will spend more than $53-million to expand and upgrade its news operations, as well as open five new foreign bureaus. The funds are coming from new corporate owner BCE Inc. (BCE Inc. controls Bell Globemedia, which also owns The Globe and Mail) as a condition of the regulatory Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approving BCE's takeover of CTV.
Goldhawk began a career as a consumer advocate in 1967 when he co-wrote the Action Line column with originator Frank Drea in the old Toronto Telegram. He brought the now-familiar video ambush first to CBC and then to CTV as a national news segment.
Prior to joining CTV, Goldhawk had hosted Cross-Country Checkup, a popular national phone-in show on CBC Radio. During his tenure there, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) had officially opposed the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement, a subject that was discussed frequently on Cross-Country Checkup. CBC had complained that Goldhawk's duties as spokesman for the union compromised his work as a journalist -- and told him to quit his union posts. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that CBC violated the Canada Labour Code by doing so.
When it hired Goldhawk, CTV said his mandate was to stand up for "average Canadians . . . who find themselves involved in sad, tragic, unfair or outrageous situations -- individuals who've explored all other options and have nowhere else to turn."