Because I’m a Bell TV subscriber, I haven’t been watching much Sun News recently — like most everyone else in the country.
But the few times I’ve tuned in while at work, I’ve heard a rotating casts of Sun hosts railing about a nefarious deal between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to hog the TV rights to the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. The feds sold the rights to the show to itself, the Sun alleged.
“Heritage Canada inked a deal with the taxpayer-funded CBC worth an estimated $600,000 to air a star-studded line-up of Canadian greats, including Sam Roberts, Great Big Sea, indie rocker Dan Mangan, pop star Pierre Lapointe and salsa princess Florence K.,” the Sun reported.
The Sun pins the blame on Heritage Minister (and moderate Tory) James Moore. “Moore said Sun News could have bid for the broadcast rights, but chose not to. But what he didn’t say is that CBC has an unfair advantage because it receives federal funding and can afford commercial-free broadcasts, unlike private networks which rely on advertising dollars.”
The Sun’s campaign sounded torqued, so I made some calls to CBC to find out what was really going on. It turns out the $600,000 figure is, apparently, pulled out of thin air.
The CBC is not paying Canadian Heritage $600,000 for rights to broadcast the Canada Day show.
Instead, the networking is providing production — cameras, trucks, switching, lights, blah blah– and is also sharing other unspecified costs of the show, but not at $600k.
For their part, Heritage lined up copyright permissions from the 106 scheduled performers that allowed CBC to legally broadcast it.
If you’ve ever been to a Canada Day show, you know that it is not — how to say this kindly? — a particularly attractive television property. Of the acts listed by the Sun, I’ve heard of only Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea. For me, Canada Day will forever evoke images of CanCon crap like Rene Simard and Patsy Gallant, as well as lots of native dancing and fiddlers.
So, not surprisingly, when Canadian Heritage cast around for broadcasters interested in carrying the show, only the CBC showed any real interest.
After they inked the broadcast deal, however, we learned that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine, would be attending the event. Add the Royals, and suddenly other broadcasters — Sun TV, come on down — wanted a piece of the pie.
But because negotiating copyright clearances is a huge pain in the ass, there’s no time to do that for other broadcasters.
And, besides, CBC had already won the rights fairly by being the only bidder, fair and square.
The Sun’s gripe, it appears, is just sour grapes over not getting the video rights to Wills and Kate.