The Olympics start today and that’s great news for anyone who has attempted to watch CTV for the past three months. Hopefully when the coverage starts the endless repetitious promos stop. CTV has managed to make me tired of the Olympics before they have even started.
More good news, CTV News and The Globe and Mail actually covered what could be called negative, and dare I say newsworthy, Olympic stories this week. There was one item on the search for doping athletes and another item on the possibility, or as some may think, the probability, of more cheating by figure skating judges.
Let’s not get too excited though. CTV News and The Globe have not stopped shilling. Page three in The Globe still belongs to the interminable in-house torch relay. CTV stars and management along with Globe reporters still get their cute white uniforms and moment in the sun while former Olympic gold medalists like Kerrin Lee Gartner are still shut out. Heavens, Lloyd Robertson found five minutes on a heavy news day to interview his co-hosts for the opening ceremonies, Brian Williams and Catriona Lemay Doan. The special insights they offered were that Canadian athletes are ready to win some medals and that our days as genial Olympic hosts are over. That took up more than 20 percent of a national newscast.
Jeffrey Dvorkin, who was an important player at CBC News for years before going to the states to head up NPR (National Public Radio) News, reminds us that CBC also oversold the games when they had the broadcast rights. I was at CBC for the Calgary games and at CTV for the Montreal games but I don’t remember this much over the top, unabashed and unashamed selling ever going on.
Is it only me and cynical types like me that are turned off by so much hype? I hope not. I’d like to think my reaction is fairly representative of the audience at large. In any case, now that the actual games have started we can all cheer for our favorites and begin to forget the excesses of the Canadian Olympic broadcast consortium.
As if the end of the Olympic promos was not enough good news, CBC this week finally acted by chopping half of Mark Kelley’s abysmal CBCNN program, Connected with Mark Kelley. While I am certain that most Canadians would have far preferred complete cancellation, we will have to make do with the show being cut from two hours to one hour. A new producer was hired to run the show and perhaps to make sense of ludicrous format that depended on news nobody else cared enough about to air. It is my guess that CBC will eventually kill Connected when they can figure out a way to walk away from the show without losing too much face. The CBC brain trust also has to figure out what to do with the likable host who is responsible for creating the worst news and current affairs show on Canadian television.
In the meantime I hope the brass are going back to the same focus groups who told them they didn’t care for Connected to find out that CBCNN’s morning fare needs a lot of help. Heather Hiscox, Anne-Marie Mediwake and Suhana Meharchand are not helping viewership with their rehashes of yesterday’s news coupled with rip and read wire copy stories. If you are sick in bed and have run out of the kind of cold medicine that makes you drowsy, mornings on CBCNN are the perfect way to induce sleep.
People, CBC types, I don’t, or at least shouldn’t have to tell you: a television program needs content to attract viewers. Three or four hours of the next best thing to dead air doesn’t sell TV’s.
So incrementally it’s been a darn good week, meaning that progress has been made. It’s not time to celebrate yet but it is time to be optimistic that some sense may be beginning to return to Canadian broadcast journalism. At least I hope that’s the case.