The CBC walks back its Olympics censorship, a bit at least

It turns out that quite a few people were upset that the CBC stopped producing news podcasts (completely) and streaming Radio 1 outside of Canada “due to Olympic rights restrictions.” It’s been heartening to see the largely positive response to my Globe and Mail article. People really do like their CBC: I’m not alone in worrying about the short- and long-term effects of allowing an outside group, in this case, the International Olympic Committee, dictate how its news division operates.

It’s also nice to see that the CBC has decided to reinstate its news podcasts, as of Friday, judging by the World at Six page, with Olympics coverage cut out, according to this Toronto Star report. Stripping out Olympics reporting would still be a bit odd: I’d assume that reporting could be covered by fair dealing exceptions in Canadian copyright law, unless the CBC signed away its rights to report here, too.

 I’d also note that the CBC is still not streaming Radio 1 outside Canada. Not good, but at least people who want to get (non-Olympic) news podcasts will be able to, now.

There are still questions, of course. If the CBC thought it had to block podcasts and Radio 1 due to “Olympic rights restrictions,” which were presumably set out in a contract, what changed? If they weren’t required by the IOC to go to such villainous lengths, why did they, and who was responsible? Why not free the Radio 1 livestream? Most importantly, what has the CBC learned from this debacle, and will they undertake not to compromise their news operations in the future?

As I tried to make clear in my article, this is not really a CBC story: these kind of nasty deals is what the IOC does. It’s who they are. I’m happy to see the CBC belatedly own up to their mistake; they should be congratulated for it, even if they have not gone as far as they should.

The IOC’s bad behaviour, in this and other areas, will only stop when the media, viewers and athletes signal they won’t put up with it. Hopefully the awareness that there are some lines that CBC listeners won’t let their public broadcaster cross will strengthen all media organizations’ hand for the next round of Olympic contracts, and all our news media will be less willing to betray their core principles for the sake of the Olympics.

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