Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday # 110: Bring Out The Gimp!

(***Warning***: This Sunday’s Sermon contains fire and brimstone!)

A couple of years ago, somebody talked me into buying tickets to a dinner and movie premiere benefiting Tourette Syndrome research. They couldn’t afford a big Hollywood blockbuster, so the film being presented was a Canadian one that didn’t have a distributor yet.

Think of it as a multi-purpose Charity evening.

The dinner was great with half of each table populated by people afflicted with the condition. And you got used to the occasional “inappropriate” outburst. For some reason, those began to escalate as we took our seats in the theatre and the head of the charity approached the mic onstage. The first thing he said was, “If you freaks don’t settle down, we’re not going to show the movie!”

The place dissolved in laughter.

Everybody likes being treated just like everybody else.

Last month I attended a Sportsman’s dinner for a group that sponsors programs for kids whose families can’t afford organized sports. In attendance were several alumni who’d been given the chance to play and had gone on to successful careers in the NHL, CFL and Major League baseball.

Also present were two young men in wheelchairs, preparing to go to Vancouver to compete in the 2010 Paralympics. While everybody sought out the sports heroes to get their autographs, the athletes themselves wanted to meet the Paralympians.

No matter what we’ve accomplished in life, we all want to know what it takes to attain the same goals when the odds against you are “impossible”.

The guys in the chairs shared what they’d endured to achieve their dreams and listening to them was both humbling and inspiring. No matter how tough you think Life is treating you, there’s always somebody being dealt a much tougher hand --- and turning it into something wonderful.

So when the Vancouver Winter Olympics sparked this country as few events ever have, I looked forward to seeing what effect the Paralympic Games would have on us. But unfortunately, most of the events will transpire unseen.


Like the characters pictured above, CTV executives seem to fear what might happen to them when somebody says, “Bring out the gimp!”

Prior to the Games in Vancouver, the network’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium promised the best and most comprehensive coverage ever broadcast. And there is no doubt they delivered --- on the Olympic portion.

When it comes to competition for physically challenged athletes, however, CTV has reverted to its corporate self, flushing all of its recent brand enhancement to get back to its real job --- rebroadcasting shows made in other countries rather than contributions by members of their actual audience.

Initially, it decided not to live broadcast the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympic Games. A decision which Paralympic officials called a “slap in the face” to every athlete in the movement. Eventually, CTV caved to higher principles or the looming PR disaster and did a live broadcast. But only in British Columbia.

The rest of us had to wait for a tape delayed version that aired in the desolate early Saturday afternoon time slot.

It was a move that meant the opening Canada/Italy sledge hockey game, which had originally been scheduled to run live also had to be tape delayed and moved later --- or well after the time anybody with Internet access or a radio already knew the outcome.

A CTV exec said they had no choice. There were “contractual obligations” to providers of other programming which had to be honored.


If you’re a regular reader of what’s posted here at “The Legion”, you may recall a little something that made its way here several months ago. It discussed the redacted minutes of in-camera meetings CTV and Global held with the CRTC last Spring.

During those meetings, our private broadcasters whined about not having any choice as to when programming ran because they were at the mercy of scheduling decisions made by their American suppliers. They also grumped about having to purchase a half dozen ratings dogs from these insensitive American devils in order to get the highly valued programs --- which was also why they didn’t have any room for local product on their airwaves.

Despite admitting that Hollywood actually administers their networks, these same people will be screaming loudest if the government ever decides to open up Canadian broadcasting to foreign ownership.

To any rational person, CTV’s handling of the Paralympic Games comes down to a simple discriminatory and despicable formula:

Olympic Athletes = perfection. Paralympic Athletes = Eeeew! Who wants to see that!!! 


After endless days of cooing over Olympian Alexandre Bilodeau’s brother with Cerebral Palsy and a sight challenged Cross Country skier, CTV revealed it had only been toying with an enlightened attitude. When it came to showing athletes facing personal physical challenges, they just knew we’d find that way too icky!

From the scrubbed faces on “Canada AM” offering chipper lifestyle tips to late night news anchors gushing, “You’re not going to believe this!” before presenting a video clip that’s been on the Internet for days, CTV seems to live in a world where its entire audience resides in a comfy bungalow with a white picket fence and watches them while dining on a white bread sandwich of thinly sliced Velvetta.

Everything about the place reeks of a soccer mom mentality that doesn’t want to deal with the way the world is but the way it would be if we all spent our lives in an upscale Galleria. One without Handicap parking.

“Oh, that’s so gross! They get all the best spots! Doesn’t anybody know I’m in a hurry here?”


What’s also interesting is what CTV didn’t pre-empt in the Eastern time zone for the first Paralympic Games ever held on Canadian soil. “Ghost Whisperer”. “Medium” and “The Bridge”. In other words, people who are mentally odd (as in a woman who communicates with the dead, another who foresees the future and a cop suffering from delusional paranoia) but are still physically “hot” looking.

In other markets, they would have had to pre-empt “E-talk” or “Access Hollywood” both breathlessly covering yet another Hollywood drug abuser who bit the dust. But of course, he was making a comeback, “looked great” and had a bright future of American films before him.

And for those who appreciated Corey Haim, I’m not saying what befell him isn’t tragic. But you gotta wonder how much of what fuelled his need to escape was having to watch talentless humanoids like Ben Mulroney gleefully savage he and his contemporaries on a nightly basis.

Most of us just drink. Artists like Corey needed stronger painkillers.

“The Day of the Locusts” has arrived.


At any rate, officially, CTV just had to keep selling its American and imitation-American programming into the ratings abyss of Friday night instead of spending its own money presenting people who’ve had to find more courage and resilience within themselves than most of us will tap in a lifetime.

Is there any doubt that the Opening ceremonies of the Paralympics would have rated substantially higher than the more or less a million who tune in for “The Bridge”? Of course there isn’t. But that’s why CTV’s business model is broken. The place is run by people as afraid to engage reality as the phantom audience they think is watching.

If you want to see the Paralympic Games live, instead of the occasional tape delay that may or may not turn up on one of the conglomerate’s channels, you can find them streaming at paralympic

And if somebody at CTV wants to learn a little more about how those with physical challenges can inspire and educate, they need look no further than this segment of CBC’s “The Rick Mercer Show”.

Try and treat somebody better today. And Enjoy your Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Ivan Fecan should hang his head in shame.

I first met Ivan when he was a civil servant in the Department of Heritage, Multicultural Secretariat. In 1980.

Saskatchewan was hosting the annual Canadian Heritage festival and I was given the daunting task of running a festival in the summer months as we celebrated our 75th anniversary as a province.

The feds gave us 300,000 dollars to the province's 100,000 dollars to essentially employ 83 people full time, producing 96 live performances by just over 300 performers in 26 different communities over 14 days.

Ivan, in those days was a caring, culturally sensitive, astute player who could gently advise us from Ottawa to assure that everybody performing, attending and working on the festival was treated in an egalitarian, culturally sensitive and co-operative way. His sensitivity to the cultural diversity represented by the troupes from the ten provinces and two territories was inspiring to to this 27 year old sage who actually believed that Ottawa was filled with thinkers and doers like Ivan!

Fast forward to Fecan's tenure at the helm of CTV and I can only sum it up with three letters WTF? ....and that doesn't mean "Wait Till Friday!

CTV, under Fecan's stewardship since 2000, now hosts the most vicious, violent network in North America. More murders occur on their cop culture network than any other network. By my count an average of 38 a week.

When not hosting prime time murders and ambulance chasing on their network, they are filling their time with sycophants; drooling over vapid pretty people and passing it off as entertainment news.

It galls me that CTV's hosts and commentators spent 2 entire days extolling their audience to contact the cross country ski coach who pulled our blind skier and convince him of his error.

This made good television, the super Canadian media giant, pulling for the underdog.

When given the chance to redeem themselves and promote all physically challenged by showing the Para-Olympics live on even one of their 3 cable sports channels, or news channel or network -- their response was absolutely no way!

CTV essentially suffers from an obvious case of overt narcissism. There is growing dissatisfaction out here in the boonies about what we are being fed by this media conglomerate.

So much so, that a tactic successfully used by the religious right who organize boycotts of the products and services advertised on offending networks, is being actively discussed.

In the age of the Internet and consumer advocacy, this tactic has proven immensely successful.

But in order to have CTV deal with its own hypocrisy and its denial, it must pass through acceptance and acknowledge the wrongs. It has not been a kind transformation for Fecan, a caring considerate human to a Profit driven shill!

Ivan Fecan could begin repairing this soulless approach to CTV's treatment of handicap people, by showing some insight into the root of their problem and apologizing and then hanging his head in shame!

John McFetridge said...

Good rant.

And anonymous makes a good contribution, too. But does one guy really have that much influence in as big a corporate organization as the one CTV is part of?

In many ways the TV business in this country reminds me of the Maple Leafs - a profitable corporation run by anonymous, faceless senior management for shareholders uninterested in the core business.

Dwight Williams said...

He could...but would his doing so be tolerated?

Brandon Laraby said...

My God I love that RMR clip -- when I saw it on TV I was utterly transfixed... and even now, re-watching it I couldn't look away.

Brilliant, brilliant Television.

Hell, someone over there should put Rick Mercer's finger on the button -- he obviously knows what time it is.

As far as CTV goes, well if you wanna get mad at someone, call out the shareholders.

'Cause you can have the best CEO in the world but get stuck with a bunch of mean-ass, venomous shareholders and it don't matter who you are.

You do what they say or they'll find someone else who will.

That said, sometimes you gotta hang your balls out on the line for something that matters.

Yeah, you may get'em squashed a bit in the end but at least people'll know you got'em and'll they'll have to respect you for it.

Dwight Williams said...

I wonder how much the people managing RRSPs so many of us are invested in on our collective behalf are part of the problem here?

(I'm thinking Teachers' Fund and the Maple Leafs as a similar example here.)

John McFetridge said...

I keep forgetting, what exactly is "the problem" here? Is it that CTV only airs the amount of Canadian shows the government requires them to or that they choose the wrong shows to air?

Or is it something else?

(certainly I think they should have pre-empted Friday's shows to air the opening of the Paralympics - my episode of The Bridge doesn't air till this Friday ;)

Anonymous said...

Spoke to someone I know who worked the Olympics... he told me "exactly why" CTV wasn't covering the Paralympics properly:


From what I've heard, there was little to no interest from advertisers.

And without that, CTV's not interested either.