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The Olympic Muzzle

There’s a new Olympic sized media brouhaha that’s popping up at CTVglobemedia. It appears that CTV and The Globe are so fearful of criticism of their Olympic coverage that they are willing to muzzle their own people.

A few days ago I asked Bruce Dowbiggin, The Globe’s sports media columnist, why his column has disappeared. He did not really answer my question instead changing the subject. This is not the Bruce Dowbiggin I know who is one of the straightest shooting media people in Canada. He tells it like he sees it no matter what the circumstances. Just ask Don Cherry.

Then I saw this blog by William Houston. He is the former sports media columnist for The Globe and Mail and perhaps has an insight that is unavailable to the rest of us. Here’s what Houston had to say:

Where’s the Globe’s media critic?
“Curiously, Bruce Dowbiggin, the sports broadcast columnist for The Globe and Mail, has not written a word of analysis about Vancouver Olympic TV coverage.
Chris Zelkovich, who writes on sports television for The Toronto Star, has been filing daily columns. I’m writing for Yahoo! Canada in addition to filing to this webpage. There seems to be interest in what CTV and NBC are doing.
But Bruce? He’s cobbling together quotes about the Winter Games from the international media. His Feb. 18 collection consisted of seven quotes from sources such as an NBC news release and newspaper stories in the United States and Britain.
Why isn’t Dowbiggin critiquing the coverage of CTV and NBC? I emailed him and asked, but he didn’t respond. So, let’s guess:
Bruce decided to take some time off and just enjoy the Games on TV. Or the Globe didn’t feel it necessary to analyze the CTV telecasts. (Saturday’s edition includes a short feature by sports writer James Christie on Brian Williams and announcer Rod Black.)
Or perhaps it was decided Bruce would be in an untenable conflict of interest by being required to critique the Olympic coverage of a network (CTV) that is owned by the company (CTVglobemedia) that also owns the Globe.
But, that can’t be the reason. After all, he writes about TSN and TSN2, which are owned by CTVglobemedia. Other media writers comment all the time on the work of outlets owned by the company for which they work. Phil Mushnick, the sports broadcasting columnist for The New York Post, comments on Fox Sports. Both Fox and the Post are owned by News Corp. Howard Kurtz writes on media for The Washington Post and regularly critiques his own newspaper. It can’t be a conflict of interest issue, can it? The mystery continues.”

There’s really no mystery is there. CTV is afraid of a little honest commentary. I am led to believe that while Bruce Dowbiggin is collecting quotes, John Doyle was supposed to be critiquing the coverage. Well John is missing in action on that front. Oh, like Bruce he’s in the newspaper every day but I guess he doesn’t think Olympic coverage is worthy of a column or two. Give me a break. It is all too obvious that the muzzles are on and the journalism, on this subject for sure, has been shut down.

The bigger point is that it is a nutty decision. CTV and the Olympic consortium are doing a very good job. The network, along with TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, APTN and the internet have covered the Olympics better than they have ever been covered before, anywhere. Brian Williams is doing his usual masterful job of staying on top of everything and keeping the viewers well informed, I wish CTV used Brian more often and all year round.  On Sportsnet and TSN they are doing a very credible job covering events live. The internet coverage has been excellent providing both live action and add-on information never before available at an Olympic event.

There have been some surprise stars too. James Duthie has proven to be an excellent host whose wit and presence has brightened our screens. Sale and Pelletier are the best figure skating analysts I have ever heard. Their honesty and friendly family bickering have been a breath of fresh air. Jamie Campbell has been a revelation. For several years the far too stoic voice of the Blue Jays, he has come alive at the games. His call of Canada’s first gold medal will be most memorable for years to come.

Importantly, while the Canadian athletes have “blown the podium” the CTV coverage has been as close to flawless as can be expected. These Olympics are a huge enterprise. The technology and the partnerships have made almost total coverage possible. The consortium has put it all together in a way that will spoil us for anything less in the future. Will Canadians ever settle for single channel coverage of high-lights with the odd bit of live action thrown in again? We have seen the future and we like it. No, we demand it. All you have to do is tune in NBC to see the old style coverage. I guarantee you will be back to our Canadian channels very quickly.

The consortium gets a gold medal. CTVglobemedia gets a DNF (did not finish) for their fearfulness.

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7 Responses

  1. Steven Rugger says:

    I can’t even fathom how you think CTV is doing a great job, although they are getting somewhat better. Sure, they are broadcasting on many more channels than we’ve seen before, because they own the whole damn shebang here. Why wouldn’t they utilize it all. Olympic morning is something to run from rather than embrace it. The MuchMusic folks should shut the hell up. CTV should quit running from one event to the other and covering none of them well. Thank goodness for the real sport commentators at TSN. They are the only ones that make the coverage bearable. And Brian Williams …. as soon as he comes on my channel changes, that’s how much I think of his yattering and yammering. So, you may like their coverage but there are others who think it stinks. Check out #ctv on Twitter. You’ll see a lot more like me.

  2. Mark Dowling says:

    “CTV coverage has been as close to flawless as can be expected.”

    “The network, along with TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, APTN and the internet have covered the Olympics better than they have ever been covered before”

    How have you missed the corrosive influence of Much, etalk and the rest of the trash introduced by CTV?

    Put CTV into Twitter. Plenty of critics out there even if the Globe is MIA.

    • hlbtoo says:

      Mark, Steven…I hear your complaints and I admit I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at Much and etalk. TV is a subjective medium. I appreciate that you dislike some of the things you are seeing. I though, am marveling at how a disparate group of channels has pulled together to provide blanket coverage of the games. Postponements, time differences and technological challenges have been overcome. If you want to watch ice dancing and skip the hockey game all you have to do is change the channel. This is new and exciting. Real choice is being offered for the first time. Considering it’s the first time, I am amazed at how smoothly it is going. Trying to fill when there are no events running on half a dozen channels is a daunting task. Sure there are some inane comments, nobody wants to see Ben Mulroney talk sports, but on the whole I am more than impressed. And Steve, we will agree to disagree on Brian Williams.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mondoville: William Houston, and Howard Bernstein, wondering where CTV are hiding the ‘Globe’s sports media critic during Olympics: http://j.mp/c7wccH

  4. Margaret says:

    I also cannot phathom how anyone thinks CTV is doing a good job. Fine, great that they are broadcasting loads of sports on other channels Bell media group owns other than CTV, but not everyone has access to those channels. If you’re stuck with just CTV the coverage has been far worse than CTV have done in the past. CTV can go for more than an hour in prime time and not show any sport. That is not good coverage. And they are endlessly repeating things. They repeat whole races that have just seconds previously been broadcast if a medal was won. I’ve heard commentators mock athletes names and outfits as well, it’s not funny.

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  6. This post was mentioned on Twitter by mondoville: William Houston, and Howard Bernstein, wondering where CTV are hiding the ‘Globe’s sports media critic during Olympics: http://j.mp/c7wccH

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