The CBC's bid to launch an all-sports television channel is under attack from media companies that assert the licence application is misleading and contradicts the guidelines established by the federal regulator.
CTV-TSN, Rogers Media, Score Media and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, as well as the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, have appealed to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to reject the CBC application.
Initially viewed as likely to receive a licence, the proposed channel, because of the negative interventions, could be in trouble.
"This is no longer a slam-dunk," a broadcasting source said.
CTRC rules prohibit a licence being granted to a Category 2 digital channel that will compete directly with an existing service.
The media companies say the channel, which is to be called CBC SportsPlus, will compete with TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and the Score, because it will devote 75 per cent of its programming to professional sports, 30 per cent of which will consist of pro sports event coverage involving basketball, baseball, football, tennis, golf and hockey.
"While purporting to offer a service that puts the emphasis on the celebration of amateur athletes, the CBC's programming plans suggest otherwise," CTV states in its letter. "The CBC has failed to comply with the guidelines relating to the application."
In its initial proposal, the CBC said 25 per cent of the channel's content would consist of amateur sport, with 80 per cent of the total qualifying as Canadian content.
MLSE describes the focus on Canadian content as "commendable," but noted that 80 per cent is not a terribly high bar to reach. (About 64 per cent of TSN's programming is Canadian.) The MLSE letter says that a Canadian athlete competing in the French Open, a PGA tournament, an NBA or major-league baseball game would qualify the telecast as Canadian content.
Rogers Media describes the CBC proposal as deceptive.
"[The CBC's]refusal to limit the amount of professional sports programming … is a clear indication that it does not intend to focus on amateur sports," Rogers states. "Moreover, its purported intention to focus primarily on the coverage of Canadian athletes is misleading as it would still allow CBC SportsPlus to focus 75 per cent of its programming on professional sports as long as one of the teams being covered included a Canadian athlete."
The Score complains that there is an "absence of any openness" to the CBC's programming plans for the channel.
CTV's letter asks: "Is SportsPlus a professional sports service in amateur sports clothing?"
For the Score, another issue is the fact the channel will bid against existing sports services for major-league properties and, therefore, push up the price of rights.
On that subject, Rogers writes: "We believe it is highly inappropriate for the public broadcaster to use its taxpayer appropriation to compete directly with the private sector for programming."
Bell ExpressVu, which also filed an intervention, wants clarity on the carriage status of the proposed channel. Carriage of a Category 2 channel by cable and satellite companies is discretionary. However, the CBC has argued in the past that, as a public broadcaster, its channel should have must-carry status.
In a reply to the CRTC, CBC has volunteered to increase the channel's amateur-sports content to 30 per cent. It argues that it needs the sports service to compete with CTV-TSN for the rights to major sports events such as the Olympics. And it believes the marketplace is large enough to include another general-interest sports service, noting TSN, Sportsnet and the Score earned total revenue of almost $400-million in 2007.
The application will be heard by the CRTC on July 7, but the interveners will not be allowed to make an appearance. Several of the media companies have requested that they attend to make their presentations.
If the Euro 2008 host broadcaster had been using its own power source, a generator, at the Basel stadium, instead of the local grid, the world feed of Germany-Turkey semi-final on Wednesday would not have been disrupted by a lightning storm. A generator will be used, as it is by U.S. networks for sports events, for Sunday's championship game.
- Sources say journalist Sasha Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, will work for CBC at the Beijing Olympics.
- Euro 2008's Germany-Turkey semi-final was watched by 450,000 viewers on TSN, up 40 per cent from the first semi-final four years ago (Portugal-Netherlands).