Friday, April 22, 2011

Hockey, Politics, Corporations |

Last week we once  again witnessed politics trumping principle in the swift, complete co-operation of the four main political parties in agreeing to shift the french debates up a day to allow Canadian viewers to watch the Habs game. What does this say about the parties' underlying  attitudes towards and trust of the Canadian public?  Something sadly cynical, I'm afraid:  that Canadians can't be trusted to choose the potential good of their country over a mere hockey game, that "sports" means more than the fate of our country, that the parties fear viewers might just not tune in because most would prefer hockey to the debate?  Alas, they're probably right.

But who else benefited from this particular shift?  RDS and Mother Corporation, of course, both of whom are now probably overjoyed at this opportunity to have  recovered potential lost revenue.  Had the game and the debate taken place on the same night, potentially splitting the viewing audience, the already reduced revenue because of the ad-free debate would have been further eroded, though one could argue that the bulk of that audience for the debate would be Quebec, not necessarily an increased across-Canada viewer-ship, who could still watch the game in comfort if they're not bilingual or interested in the debate. But since it's the Habs, that viewer-ship in Quebec had the potential to be very large.

The financial  relationship between the CBC and the other hockey corporate broadcasters  and the NHL, itself a large  corporation, is also foregrounded here in this decision, and the story in theglobandmail today about the NHL inking a new contract with NBC TV -  a contract, by the way, that might prevent the move by the Coyotes back toWinnipeg - reveals just how insidious that relationship is. Hockey of course is a big ad revenue generator for Canadian broadcasters, but the larger U.S. markets generate much more revenue for both the U.S. broadcasters and the NHL in absolute numbers.  And this corporate driven thinking is the main reason the NHL is resisting any move to the tiny TV market of Winnipeg.

On a personal note,  I have relatives who work in profession hockey operations (who, as Jack Webb would say, shall be nameless to protect the innocent),  and I myself once played in the Leaf organization for a few years when I was a teenager until I got sick of playing what I now see as propaganda, recruiting games in North Ontario in  addition to regular games and practices -- seven days a week.   I wasn't very good, so no big loss for the Leafs. But we all know - that is, my relatives who are still working in professional hockey and I - that the illusion of professional hockey as a “sport” dissipated years ago.  I mark the original expansion from six teams as the day the music stopped.

And aren't most such expansions quite obviously driven by corporate agendas to expand the market and therefore make more money?  Isn't it always about money?  We all know, my relatives and I - especially because of the massive expansion into the U.S. -  that professional hockey, like most professional sport,  is positioned for marketing purposes as undignified entertainment, not sport, and that corporations and their bottom line  agendas are what really matters.  Plain and simple, hockey is deeply inscribed in capitalism:  NHL teams are designed to make money - sometimes they’re successful and sometimes they’re not -- and the players with their outrageous salaries are, as in all professional sport, bought and sold  commodities.

I haven't watched a game since that original expansion.  And I'm just as proud of that political gesture as the fact I never shop at Wal-mart, for, as I learned a long time ago, all shopping is political, and so too, one might argue, is all television watching.

via Hockey, Politics, Corporations |

No comments:

Post a Comment