Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This might be the fastest second round in Stanley Cup History. Montreal, New York and San Jose hangin' by a thread (along with Sean Avery), as the cord has been fully cut in Colorado. The injury riddled Av's didn't have much chance against Detroit and that's sad as it means we may have seen the last of Joe Sakic, one of the best the game has ever had.

Meanwhile in Montreal, Carey Price has gone from hero to zero, sportscasters are realizing they should have spent more time figuring out who's playing in Dallas and the Rangers Sean Avery will spend the rest of his season hitting on nurses instead of opposing players. And I'd like to see a replay because I think Avery's ruptured spleen didn't come from a hit on the ice but from the muggers Gary Bettman probably hired to get him off the sports pages.

By the time Dix gives you the next update on Monday, we could be prepping for the conference finals. Man, if we're headed for a Philly-Dallas showdown, the updates are gonna get awful repetitive around here.

This week's standings feature Callaghan still hangin' by a thread as well.

1 John Callaghan 128
2 Scotty William 126
3 Jeff Martel 125
4 Laurie Nyveen 121
5 Will Pascoe 118
6 Brian Stockton 117
7 Michael Foster 115
8 Juniper 112
9 Denis McGrath 108
9 Mark Askwith 108
11 Peter Allen Rowley 106
12 Will Dixon 102
13 Wil Zmak 97
14 Larry Raskin 96
15 Mark Farrell 92
16 Robert de Lint 73
17 Jim Henshaw 56

And as the NHL once again stalls play to drag this marathon out as long as possible, you might want to spend one of your non-game nights here, where Maxim magazine has Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller doing an insiders blog on the series. It's really well done -- and when Ryan bobbles one, there's always pages of puck bunnies to keep you entertained.

Good luck in the hunt.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Last Sunday, CBC's weekend news programs "CBC News: Sunday" and "CBC News: Sunday Night" featured an examination of allegations of police corruption within the Metropolitan Toronto Police Drug Squad.

The case profiled was the biggest investigation into police corruption in Canadian history. In January, 2008, a Toronto judge threw out charges against six Toronto officers, accused of robbing drug dealers of massive amounts of drugs, money and guns, saying the case had simply taken too long to come to trial and had to be dismissed.

You can watch the CBC report here as a team of journalists try to discover if deliberate efforts were made to undermine the prosecution and why key players did nothing about it.

It's a fascinating piece of television journalism. But far more fascinating to me, is a second allegation made by the CBC that one member of the drug squad was betting on races at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack that had been "fixed". Because that barely touched upon element of the report might just be the missing piece that could illuminate what was really going on here.

I grew up around horses. I might not fall into the "could ride before he could walk" category, but the timing would be close. I've also always been a fan of racing and live amid one of the largest populations of thoroughbred breeders and racing stables in the country.

One of my neighbors used to run his horses regularly at Woodbine (Canada's largest horse track). And you could always tell when he'd won a race. Sometime around midnight, his truck would swing around the corner of our rural road and he'd lean on the air horn the rest of the way home, signaling that daddy could buy news shoes and a fresh bag or two of oats.

Now, fixing a horse race is tough. Doing so either requires the co-operation of most, if not all, of the jockeys and trainers in the race but often the owners as well. It's true that you can drug a horse to enhance its chances of winning or ensure its likelihood of losing, but that's not a foolproof system, with far too many ways the cheats can screw up, be caught by a drug test or damage livestock so that the continued practice is even less certain of returning a profit.

But, according to the CBC, a crooked cop was getting tips from a confidential informant who worked at the track when fixed races were being run. That implies that the practice was somewhat regular and frequent.

Interestingly, however, is that even though these alleged "fixed" races happened a couple of years ago, there have been no mass banning of cheating jockeys or trainers at Woodbine in recent memory, nor any other indication that the Ontario Racing Commission even took a detailed look at the situation.

Perhaps they did and couldn't turn up anything. Perhaps an investigation is ongoing. I don't know. What I do know is a fixed horse race is a great place to launder money or to cover the sudden deposit of a significant amount of cash into your bank account if your regular deposit is a detective's salary.

See, if you've got a lot of money from a source you need to hide, or "wash" in the parlance of the trade, gambling establishments are places where hefty cash transactions garner less official attention. Obviously, gambling such money is not a smart choice if you don't know the outcome of the game. But it's perfect if you have absolute knowledge of what number's coming up at the roulette table or who's finishing first, second and third in the trifecta.

Now, I've also had occasion to spend time with some corrupt cops. In four years of ride-a-longs for "Top Cops" I spent time shadowing Internal Affairs units as they tracked and collared corrupt officers, and more than a few nights in smoky bars listening to good cops tell stories about former friends or partners who went bad.

If there's anything a good cop dislikes more than criminals and liberal judges, it's a bad cop. Because bad cops not only sully the reputation of every good officer, they make the public less trustworthy and the daily process of pushing the evidentiary envelope to get what you need on the bad guys tougher to do.

A crooked cop knows this as well as anybody. He also knows he can trust the "blue wall" of his fellow officers' loyalty to protect his reputation before and during trial because so many police are falsely accused of one thing and another. And he accepts the certainty that a single shred of reliable evidence will crumble that fortress mentality completely and his former comrades will then show him no mercy.

So the crooked cop usually has a superb cover for the extra money he's making. Sometimes that's a bet on the ponies. More often it's the protection of somebody higher up who's getting a piece of his action.

The Toronto case parallels the New York Drug Squad scandals of the 1970's profiled in Robert Daley's brilliant book "Prince of the City" made into an equally brilliant film by Sidney Lumet. It also smacks of the upper echelon conspiracy of silence and delay recorded in Peter Maas' epic true story of police corruption "Serpico", also a landmark film by Lumet.

Simply put, it's hard to imagine that what took place in Toronto could have happened without a lot of people in high places making sure the truth wouldn't come out. And in the way power in Canada tends to congeal into little pockets of privilege, you just might find some connection between a police investigation that never made it to court and a race track investigation that's been similarly silent.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Honest, I'm not late with this. I'm being thorough. We're through Round One of the Playoffs and I wanted to make sure all eight remaining teams had time to play their first game of Round Two so the standings would reflect the full complement of possible pool picks -- especially all you guys who loaded up on New York and Dallas.

Who was that again -- uh -- nobody?

I also had to make sure there wasn't another victory riot in Montreal that might threaten their next outcome. I'm sure Dix was broken hearted after Game Seven there, but luckily for humanity, the Bruins reverted to form in time.

However, I understand shaken Montrealers have been moving to Toronto, where the chances of any victory of any kind are slim.

And thanks to Brian Burke for turning down the Leaf management job. It's saved me six months of listening to Vito from Woodbridge talking about the Leafs going all the way next year.

But back to the important stuff...

This week's Leader, John Callaghan, and about the top half of the pool survived Round One pretty much unscathed. The rest of us are hurting from believing in too many Ducks, Devils and future Hall of Famers who'd been on season ending streaks.

But the Hockey Gods are fickle and there are many twists and turns waiting in the weeks to come. So nobody get too cocky just yet. Although you can be confident in the fact that I'll be anchoring the bottom slot the rest of the way.

The standings as of this morning:

1 John Callaghan 96
2 Brian Stockton 94
3 Jeff Martel 93
4 Juniper 92
5 Scotty William 89
5 Laurie Nyveen 89
7 Will Pascoe 88
8 Michael Foster 85
9 Denis McGrath 80
10 Peter Allen Rowley 78
11 Mark Askwith 77
12 Larry Raskin 76
13 Will Dixon 75
14 Mark Farrell 70
15 Wil Zmak 61
16 Robert de Lint 52
17 Jim Henshaw 47

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I watched the Shaw Cable presentation to the CRTC Wednesday and have to confirm that I remain a fan of Jim Shaw and his company. Now, I admit my viewpoint is blinkered since I don't reside within the Shaw Cable semi-monopoly and don't have to deal with the boneheaded program packages I'm sure they offer, idiot billing minions who'd drive me nuts or greed-centric net throttling like I get from my own broadcast delivery unit.

No, I'm sure if I had to deal with Shaw on a daily basis, I'd detest them as much as all my friends and neighbors detest Rogers and Bell Expressvu.

And as I've said right from the start, Jim Shaw is just another puffed up and self-important "Al Swearengen" born on third base and figuring he got there on merit. And like his foul mouthed brothel owning and saloon keeper fictional twin, our pal Jim isn't above shooting off his mouth and then hiding behind some paid muscle (or a Prime Minister) who'll do his dirty work.

I also know we don't have similar programming tastes and that he's a little less than forthright about programming services either competitive to his own or that don't share his societal views.

But I admire Jim and his gang because they very clearly speak some important truths to power and seem far more wrapped in the mantle of what it means to be "Canadian" than any of the broadcasters, including our own Government mandated public one, who all preceded Shaw in speaking at this latest regulatory round.

Despite what the hearings are supposed to be about, we all know they're really about "fees for carriage", the desire of broadcasters to start charging cable and satellite companies for what have to date been "free to air" services.

Broadcasters have been very clear that they won't improve or enhance current programming, nor do they feel they should have to add more Canadian drama or comedy to get this perk.

Nope, they're in big financial trouble if this doesn't happen. Just like they're always in big financial trouble if the CRTC doesn't see things their way.

Mostly, they're in trouble because of their own inability to read the changing TV landscape which has left them non-existent libraries with which to access the new online revenue streams. In other words, they forgot that their core business was creating programming instead of re-broadcasting somebody else's stuff.

They've also fallen victim to the pro-sports malady of paying far too much for their franchise players (ie: American series) in order to make sure the competition doesn't get them. And of course, they needed to gobble up the competition, CTV with CHUM and CanWest with Alliance, (acquisitions and the inevitable downsizing that follows always hide poor profit numbers) discovering too late that the cost of becoming and remaining a bigger dog was more than the new assets can generate.

No matter how much the broadcasters claim the cable/satellite guys could cover the "fee for carriage" costs if they were good corporate citizens, we all know this is really just another opportunity to charge TV viewers an additional $5 or $6 a month to watch the exact same programming they're watching now.

Here's how Shaw phrased that in their presentation...

"The CBC already receives $1 billion from Canadians in annual Parliamentary appropriations. It also enjoys nearly another $100 million from Canadians every year from the CTF... The large private broadcasters have made it absolutely clear during this hearing that the demand for a fee is about only one thing: increasing their profitability. They have strongly resisted making any commitments to incremental spending on local programming or drama.

It is unacceptable for these large, well‑financed and profitable conglomerates to demand a fee from consumers that will subsidize their own costs of doing business, their increasing expenditures on U.S. programming and their recent multi billion dollar acquisitions."

It's amazing how similar that last bit is to what the creative guilds and unions argued before the commission last week. Like I've always said, Jim Shaw and us creative types are on the same side when it comes to forwarding the cause of Canadian drama.

As a result of past hearings, the CRTC has already granted our Broadcasters:

Free spectrum
Simultaneous substitution
Mandatory carriage
Additional commercials in prime time
License fee subsidies through the CTF
Tax credits that further support Canadian production
And freedom from drama expenditures granted in the 1999 Policy Review

Now they want to be paid simply for being on the air.

Okay -- so, imagine for a moment that you're Jeff Zucker at NBC. Easy for me, tough for those of you with a discernible waistline or a conscience.

Jeff's had a tough year. Profits are down. Audiences are disappearing. Those internet billions are still a couple of years distant. The Z-man's ass is in trouble! Surfing the net for ideas, he happens on CPAC and sees what Global and CTV are wringing from the same BDU's who carry two different time zones of NBC.

Well if they can get paid for rebroadcasting his shows -- how come Jeff can't ask for the same?

The identical local broadcast arguments the private broadcasters are using apply to NBC. So Jeff calls Jim Shaw and Ted Rogers because he also could use 50 cents per subscriber per local station to help his bottom line. That's a buck a subscriber in total and suddenly Shaw is sending $3.3 million per month to NBC and CBS and ABC and Fox, not to mention anybody else who might want in on the action.

Even if it's only the Big 4, that's another four or five bucks on your cable bill and $13.2 Million a month going South to assist the profitability of the competition for CTV, CBC and Global and also $13.2 Million a month that doesn't get "taxed" as a share of profit paying into the CTF, further reducing the funding for Canadian drama.

According to the numbers Shaw presented to the Commission, the final number paid to American broadcasters alone could be $570 Million a year.

Given the Canadian apetite for American Prime Time shows, this could mean subscribers would opt for the US services rather than paying twice for virtually the same program schedule. So there's a chance that winning "fee for carriage" could put CTV and Global out of business for good.

Now, go to the other end of the scale. You're a guy running the Rogers cable Community channel in Mississauga or the Shaw Cable Community channel in Red Deer. If the truth were told, you're delivering more "local programming" than CTV, CBC and Global combined.

I travel a lot and can honestly not see much difference (beyond weather and traffic) between the local broadcasts of any of our big guys. Test it out for yourself. Watch the six o'clock CBC news from Halifax, watch it again from Toronto and then catch the same supper hour broadcast from Calgary. Upwards of 60% of the stories will be identical right down to the wire service copy, the video and the graphics. Sometimes all that changes are the bad ties on the newscasters.

But those guys in Mississauga and Red Deer are broadcasting junior hockey the network affiliated locals won't touch even at the National championship level. They're talking to anti-gang crusaders about what parents need to do at specific local malls and schools or producing a gardening show about vegetables that'll actually grow in their part of the country.

How about we give all of them 50 cents a month for actually producing "local" programming? Seems fair. Unlike the network locals, they're not allowed into the ad market. And to be honest, they offer the only real alternative in the early prime hours when your network choices are Global's Cheryl Hickey shoe-horning one or two Canadian references into the American celebrity gossip that couldn't make it onto the A-team version of "ET" -- or Ben Mulroney doing the same damn thing on CTV.

Let's face it, this play by the broadcasters has nothing to do with local programming. This is a problem of mismanagement by companies who had it so good they never really had to figure out how to best run their operations. Now, like the guys who used to drive stagecoaches and sell DDT, their salad days are over. It's not up to us to keep their companies in profit.

And if they can't do the job they're licensed to do, there are plenty of people waiting in the wings who can.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

TERRY HENSHAW 1950 - 2008

I first met Terry Henshaw when I was 15 months old. My parents had told me I would be getting a baby brother and explained that it would be my job to protect him, look after him and teach him all the things I knew about life. Unfortunately, somebody must've screwed up, because the kid that turned up clearly hadn't been told the rules and just refused to get with the program.

From the beginning, Terry was completely independent and single-minded. He was a rebel before he even knew he was supposed to have causes. And any rights and privileges due an older brother simply went right out the window.

He would not countenance such concepts as later bedtimes or toys he wasn't old enough to play with. If I took up baseball, he had to make the same team. When I got my first bike, he rode it after wheedling the old man into adding some blocks from the wood shop so he could reach the pedals.

And you didn't want to be the carnival carny trying to explain that you "must be this tall to ride".

Terry simply didn't accept that anybody else was somehow better, more deserving or more privileged. And instead of me looking out for him, it was always the other way round.

I'll never forget the humiliation only a nine year old can feel, facing off with some kid on a baseball diamond as he glared at me and said, "You wouldn't be so smart if your little brother wasn't here!"

Embarrassing me became half of Terry's life work. The torment was endless as he and his gaggle of reprobate friends constantly found new ways to cause trouble.

The other half of his life became devoted to drawing and painting. He entered University around the time I was getting out, studying with a group of Prairie Masters known as "The Regina Five" and becoming their star pupil.

One afternoon a female professor collared me in the halls. "You're Terry Henshaw's brother, aren't you?" By this point, I knew you had to be careful with that question, but nodded. "Well, he hasn't been to my class for two weeks and I need to speak with him." I offered that Terry was probably in his studio painting and showed her the way. He was hard at work on a canvas as she walked up to give him a piece of her mind -- stopped -- stared at the work in progress with wonder -- and told him he could skip her class for the rest of the semester because he had passed.

As we grew into adults, my brother and I lived at opposite ends of the country, and at times on opposite sides of the world. I used to urge him to travel but he was content on his island home with his dogs and horses and a parade of some of the most beautiful women I've ever had the pleasure to know.

And as much as I wanted him to see more of life, I'd take one look at his paintings and realize that he was exploring worlds I couldn't even imagine.

Yet he had another side too, still a rebel and a brawler who refused to accept injustice or undeserved respect. Whether you were richer, more powerful, or feeling completely worthless, Terry treated you exactly the same.

At his funeral, those reprobate friends (still best friends almost half a century later) and I shared the many adventures and misadventures that could have taken Terry from us long before a death that was as quick and painless as I believe we humans are allowed. We all admitted that we were amazed he'd lasted this long.

I'll miss my brother. But I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who lived a fuller life, so my only regrets are the future adventures that will never be.

The last time I saw him, a Christmas ago, I stopped by his home on my way to the airport. The place was spectacularly decorated yet with an artist's sensitivity for the season that set it apart. Out front stood two perfectly trimmed trees. And as we talked on the step, a pair of elderly women stopped on the sidewalk to admire his handiwork.

One of them commented that she'd never seen more beautiful Christmas trees and asked who had created them. Terry threw his arm around me, hugged me close and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. "Well, Jimmy strung the lights, but we both handled the balls!"

I'm not sure who was more mortified, me or those poor women.

When I drove away, my brother was still on his front step helpless with laughter and that's how I will always remember him.


If there's one thing I've learned to expect in life, it's that nothing ever happens the way you expected. There's always a twist and even when you think you can see it coming, it still arrives with a surprise -- and sometimes a smile.

In the end, there really is nothing to be afraid of...

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Okay, Poolies -- Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking this is the best first round of the playoffs in years. My condolences to those backing Ottawa, but frankly, what were you smoking? It's Ottawa! They fold quicker than a CRTC Commissioner in front of a broadcaster. In the end, a geezer like Gary Roberts scored more points than any of the vaunted Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line.

In Toronto, the joy at Ottawa's collapse is boundless. It's like that old Broadway adage about the only thing sweeter than success being the failure of a friend. Yes, I know they're a Canadian team and will all be featured on next season's CTV version of "Dancing With The Almost Stars" -- which will be shot in Ottawa to get a regional tax break. But on the streets of the Big Smoke, the joke is that for all their griping about CBC coverage, in the end, they won just as many playoff games as the Leafs.

Yet, if you want to put Toronto in its place, you need to look no further than what's going on in Nashville. Man, that astonishing crowd would be tossed out of the Air Canada Centre for making that much noise during a hockey game. I mean, who can eat sushi or grease a politician with that kind of racket going on? If you haven't been watching the Nashville/Detroit tilt, start, because it is not only awesome hockey but proof positive that Nashville deserves to be an NHL city.

For a rinkside view by a Predator fan and some spectacular game photos, visit Paul Nicholson's blog. Paul led the gang of passionate Nashville bloggers who played a huge part in saving the Nashville franchise from a Canadian predator last season and they're loving this to pieces!

The other Western series are also far tighter than anyone expected. Sunday night, I was on a Westjet flight from the coast and every one of those in-seat TV's was tuned to the game. When we boarded, the Flames were down 3-0. But every time Calgary scored, the plane went nuts and we created our own turbulence. When they finally won, we were bouncing all over the sky.

And then we've got an emerging star in Carey Price, Sean Avery finding new ways to annoy the League, not to mention Don Cherry telling "all youse kids" how to wake up with wood. I can't imagine what new twists the next week will bring. Is this fun or what?

The standings as of this morning:

1 Jeff Martel 63
2 Scotty William 62
3 Brian Stockton 61
3 Juniper 61
5 Denis McGrath 60
5 John Callaghan 60
7 Laurie Nyveen 59
8 Will Pascoe 58
9 Peter Allen Rowley 56
10 Michael Foster 53
11 Larry Raskin 49
12 Will Dixon 48
13 Wil Zmak 47
14 Mark Farrell 46
14 Mark Askwith 46
16 Robert de Lint 36
17 Jim Henshaw 28

Good luck to everybody, although it SEEMS I need it the most.

And finally -- my China hits dropped off the minute I referenced Tibet. But if a few of you guys are still getting through, CBC Sports has begun streaming some of the games in Mandarin. Simply go here and click on the Mandarin feed. Maybe next year, we'll get a few of you in the pool.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


First of all my apologies for being less prolific of late. I'm on the left Coast. Back soon and all will be explained.

Additional apologies for the glitches that some members of the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool experienced in the first days of the playoffs. The original access codes I sent you are now operative. And since I'm also in distant last place as the first week ends, there's proof for the conspiracy theorists that no funny business was going on.

However -- now that the first great playoff tradition (The Pool) is underway, it's time to participate in the 2nd great tradition. This one you can share with the players you're watching. Because they're doing it too. Yes, it's time to grow your playoff beard.

The tradition of the playoff beard in hockey is long and storied. Initially, they were a simple convenience for players whose faces were scraped, chipped or covered with stitches from the rigors of the marathon of competition that is the Stanley Cup. You see, in the old straight razor days, shaving had a tendency of opening stitches or re-tearing old wounds. So players simply stopped.

Initially, the "suit and tie" establishment of the NHL opposed the process, but in time, they came to see it as something they couldn't legislate. In time, the beard evolved to become a personal record of just how far you'd made it in the Cup run.

And thus, the hockey beard became a symbol of survival, a hirsute record of one's tenacity and accomplishment.

This year, Molson's, the Canadian brewer most closely associated with hockey, is offering fans the opportunity to grow their own Playoff beard -- whether or not they are capable of growing one in real life.

Simply go here and upload a photograph. The scientists at Molson will then magically add facial hair on a daily basis, so as the playoffs progress, your beard will begin to rival those of the players you're following.

You can then post your beard on Facebook, your own blog or send them here and we'll reveal them to the world.

Enjoy your Sunday -- and don't worry, the Legion will be back soon.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Changes in the Canadian TV world are beginning to come thick and fast as our Broadcasters scramble to hold onto or entice an ever diminishing audience.

To be clear, the Canadian audience is actually becoming larger and exhibiting more diverse tastes. They're just not meeting their entertainment and information needs by way of what's been the norm on Canadian television.

More and more of our networks are jettisoning long running shows and established formats to chase a younger demographic, somehow missing the reality that these traditionally desired groups have less disposable income and more eclectic tastes that they find better served by Youtube, portable podcasts and assorted downloads. And very few of them park in front of a television Friday through Sunday.

In my own neighborhood, satellite dishes point in opposite directions to the "Expressvu" and "Dish" birds. Our growing immigrant population has quickly learned what any second generation Portuguese or Italian has known for decades, what they make here is white bread.

The business reality of the above plus alternative viewing options in the general population, compounded by the PVR driven self-scheduling mean our broadcasters can only count on original and finely targeted programming to make a dent in the national psyche.

Unfortunately they forgot to make any, or didn't realize they had to promote it when it came along.

So now they're down to scrounging for nickels and dimes to keep going.

Wednesday's online version of the Toronto Star featured an entertainment news article that should have been more honestly labeled as marketing spin. In it, CTV Executive VP of Corporate, Paul Sparkes, fired the first public salvo in the next Canadian broadcasting Cause Celebre -- paying for the right to "Time Shift".

Last year, the CRTC denied our Free To Air networks the right to begin charging cable companies (and in turn the viewers) for their services, gaining some additional commercial time as a trade off. But that apparently wasn't enough for them, so they're back, looking for a mere 50 cents per month per local station to allow their distribution beyond their home locales.

To this end, Mr. Sparkes tugs at our heartstrings as he lauds local broadcasters as the "backbone" of the Canadian industry and begs that we establish a "sustainable future" for these, our tireless friends and neighbors, who labor to bring the same news, weather and sports you can get from a dozen other advertiser supported sources to your home through their own, now finding it tough to compete, service.

Try not to get teary eyed as you read the following:

"Local newscasts do as much to forge the Canadian Identity as any other form of story telling, because after all, they chronicle our daily lives."

Forgive me, if I don't put the failed goalie turned sportscaster or the hot weather girl or those interchangeable meat puppets who show us how donuts get made or what it's like to be a school crossing guard up against Alice Munroe, Neil Young or Rick Mercer.

What Mr. Sparkes is tugging at isn't our national sensitivities but something else as he concocts this latest Broadcaster handjob for the CRTC.

Time Shifting is a cable/satellite initiative providing the television audience who don't own a PVR (something like 90% of us) with the ability to watch our favorite shows if the local broadcast time doesn't fit our schedule. But now that small comfort is in jeopardy so the Broadcasters can squeeze a few more dollars from the system.

In his pitch for mere nickels and dimes from cable companies that he hopes won't be billed to us, Mr. Sparkes conveniently ignores the fact that Time Shifting does more than almost any other element of the current TV landscape to increase the number of people watching a particular show on his network. And in increasing the overall ratings, it increases what CTV can charge its advertisers as well as providing the opportunity to produce more news releases bragging about how much better those numbers are than the competition.

This is already making them a ton of money at no cost. But faced with a capricious public and either disinterested in or incapable of creating programming to attract them, the Broadcasters see a new "fee" as their best chance of remaining solvent.

A couple of things really bug me about proposing that Cableco's pay Broadcasters 50 cents per local station per month to distribute them nationally, a process that would cost an maximum of $2.50 per subscriber per month. The first is that even if the CRTC admonishes Jim Shaw and Ted Rogers not to pass those costs onto us, they'll find a way, encouraging even more people to reduce the number of channels they currently purchase.

But what really gets me is this attempt to pretend providing mandated local news coverage also fulfills the Broadcaster's commitment to the culture. I mean, how sad is it when the spokesman for Canada's largest private network has so little homegrown story-telling on offer that he has to pretend footage of a Seniors sing-a-long or a truck in the ditch on Rural Route 2 are "The chronicle of our daily lives". God, even my life isn't that boring!

Nobody in their right mind or parts distant tunes in to the CTV Calgary affiliate to see who got punched out in the parking lot at "Cowboys". Likewise, I don't dial up Halifax to hear how the seal hunt's going or drop in on Vancouver to find out if it's going to rain this afternoon. I go to those places because there's a program I can't get here or watch when I'm available to watch it.

Somebody needs to let Mr. Sparkes in on a secret. With the arrival of the internet, the entire planet and near space is the new "local". In the last 24 hours, I watched a satellite dock with the space station, streamed unedited feeds from the NATO conference in Bucharest and caught a practice run for the Grand Prix in Bahrain!

I'm also beginning to wonder if the fall-off in local news viewing has something to do with the fact that we no longer have to be chained to the plasticized, gelded and otherwise cliched talking heads you find there who barely equate to anybody in the real world.

Sometimes I fall asleep watching "The Colbert Report" and wake up with the cast of "Canada AM" in my bedroom. Who are those people? Have you ever met anyone like them in real life? And why are their clones on every local newscast in the country?

Even when there's somebody reflecting the emerging face of our country, be they Asian, South Asian, Latino, Aboriginal or Black, some unbearable whiteness of being has been imprinted over them. Trust me, Mr. Sparkes, local news is the last thing reflecting, let alone chronicling our daily lives.

Through this 50 cent initiative, Canadian consumers are simply being milked to fund a corporate elite who long ago forgot the concept of providing value for money and now looks on cable subscription fees as their rightful monthly tithe. As a good friend of mine is fond of saying "Don't let the rich nickel and dime you. In most cases, that's the only reason they got rich."

Perhaps our Broadcasters should simply stop trying to sustain a broken business model and either find one that people will gladly pay for or move aside so somebody else can.

And for those who missed any local Toronto news. Here's about the only interesting thing a local broadcaster did all year...