CBC got it Tragically Right

Posted August 2016 | Written By David Seigel

Over the last few years, CBC has received lots of negative press. Their programming has been lambasted. Hockey Night in Canada lost its iconic theme. And little needs to be explained about Jian Ghomeshi.

Among the mandates listed in their 1991 broadcasting act are: be predominantly and distinctly Canadian; contribute to share national consciousness and identity.

Unquestionably, the last two weeks have been a huge success for the CBC. The Olympics have showcased Canada’s next generation of athletic superstars, particularly swimming Gold, Silver and Bronze medalist, Penny Oleksiak, and track sensation and Silver and Bronze medalist Andre De Grasse.

But airing a live broadcast of the final Tragically Hip concert on Saturday, August 20th, was a gold medal decision from the Canadian broadcaster.

For those who aren’t aware, the Tragically Hip is arguably Canada’s most popular band… in Canada. Since 1989, they have released 14 studio albums, a number of additional live and compilation albums, and won countless Juno awards. However, unlike Nickelback, Rush, Celine Dion, Shania Twain or Justin Bieber, the Hip’s success never crossed the border. The Tragically Hip, with songs about the disappearance of the Leafs’ Bill Barilko (50 Mission Cap) and David Milgaard’s unjust incarceration (Wheat Kings), the band wasn’t trying to rake in the international dollars. They were expressing their views on Canadian events and culture. Canada belonged to the Hip, and the Hip belonged to Canada. It was one of the most monogamous relationships of all time, and there will likely never be another one like it.

In May of 2016, the lead singer and face of the band, Gord Downie, revealed that he was diagnosed with an “aggressive, incurable form of cancer called a glioblastoma.” At the age of 52, Gord was given both the gift and the curse of being able to lay out the last few months of his life – something few have the opportunity to do. Gord and his bandmates decided to go on one last tour of Canada – and predictably, the shows sold out almost instantly. The tour would be a month long, starting in Victoria BC and ending in their home town of Kingston Ontario.

CBC leapt into action and secured the rights to broadcast the final show live from Kingston.

Commercial-free.

And with an experienced and passionate team of cameramen and producers, the CBC delivered the final performance to the people the way the band wanted it to be seen. Tastefully and genuinely. They didn’t splash logos or sponsors throughout the show. Nothing was brought to you by anyone. This was pure entertainment brought to you by the entertainers, and a broadcaster whose mandate was “to be predominantly and distinctly Canadian.” And on this night, they knocked it out of the park, bringing the cameras into the most intimate of moments on stage and off. From the emotional moments where it was clear Downie was soaking in every detail to the crying fans to the endorsement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his efforts with first nations, CBC simply delivered an iconic 3 hours to the country via television and online. (and let it be said – with over 130,000 people watching at a time, there was never even a hiccup)

In our business, we’re always looking for angles. How do we maximize the return on investment. How do we take advantage of an opportunity for good press. How do we make the most of an endorsement. For our clients, we’re always on the lookout for ways to make them look their best at all times and spread the message about how great their products and service are. But every so often, we need to back off, pick our spots. This was one of those times – an event so pure, it couldn’t be sponsored or interrupted.

To Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip, thank you for everything and all the best to you and your families. To the CBC, congratulations on a job well done.

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