Radio / Television News

CATHERINE TAIT: Canada’s athletes have CBC/Radio-Canada in their corner

By Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada

In 2021, more than 7.7 million Canadians watched Julia Grosso put away the game-winning goal to clinch gold for the Canadian women’s soccer team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It was an incredible moment that united Canadians from coast to coast to coast. But as any athlete can tell you, an Olympic or Paralympic medal comes only after years and years of less-than-glamorous effort that often goes unnoticed. What we don’t see makes these athletes who they are.

And that’s why the public broadcaster does sports differently. We show you today’s athletes but also showcase tomorrow’s greats — playing where the puck is going to be, rather than where it is, in the words of Wayne Gretzky — by focusing on Canada’s high-performance athletes at all levels, not only the professional level.

Getting ahead of the play is also why we invested so heavily in women’s sports. In 2020, CBC Sports was proud to commit to achieving gender parity in its sports coverage, and four years later we consistently meet this target across all our platforms. Our focus on women in sport is paying off as we’ve seen with record audiences and sold-out games for the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). To date, 4.4 million viewers in Canada have tuned into the PWHL’s inaugural season on CBC TV.

It’s also why we committed to para-sports. We cover a variety of para-sport world championships such as those for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and para-alpine skiing. At the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, CBC/Radio-Canada will celebrate 10 years as Canada’s official Paralympic broadcaster. That’s a decade of telling the stories of para-athletes in ways that recognize their excellence as high-performance athletes.

The public broadcaster’s year-round commitment is critical to hundreds of athletes right across the country. We team up with dozens of national sports federations to give athletes maximum media exposure when they compete at national and world championships. Volleyball Canada, Swimming Canada, and USports are among the many organizations we support. We also support the Arctic Winter Games, the PanAm Games and the North American Indigenous Games. In fact, more than 50 sports organizations and hundreds of Canadian athletes receive national profile and attention that only comes with CBC/Radio-Canada coverage.

Nothing brings Canadians together like a shared passion for sports. As the national public broadcaster, that’s why our bid to bring Canadians the Olympic Games for the next four Olympic Games through Brisbane 2032 was so critical. We’re connecting Canadians through sport not just for the 16 days of the Games, but for all 365 days a year. Last year, we broadcast over 11,200 hours of live sports coverage on our digital platforms, including youth sports and regional, national and international competitions. So when Canada’s athletes enter the Olympic stadium, you already know their names and their accomplishments.

We want all Canadians to be able to take part. That’s why we bring the Olympics and Paralympics to Canadians in English and French, several Indigenous languages, closed captioning, described video, American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language. For us, all Canadians really does mean all Canadians, regardless of language or accessibility needs. Three in four Canadians — 28 million people — watched our Tokyo 2020 coverage on CBC TV, ICI TÉLÉ and our broadcaster partner networks.

Coverage of Canadian athletes is critically important to sport in Canada. It is critical to creating fans and audiences on dedicated channels, it is critical to bringing investment into sports and to athletes, and it inspires the next generation of Canadian medal-winners. Nothing builds enthusiasm for swimming or track and field like seeing Penny Oleksiak or Andre De Grasse at the top of the podium.

Our teams at CBC/Radio-Canada are working hard to prepare for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024 and to capture the excitement of the first Games held before an international in-person audience since 2018. As the nation’s public broadcaster, we will showcase the journeys of Canada’s high-performance athletes, female athletes and athletes with disabilities as they compete in Paris, France — and as they compete year-round, as part of our commitment to following today’s sports heroes and presenting tomorrow’s champions.

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