MONTREAL — Canada’s television industry has its very own tape-delay controversy.
Pubcaster CBC will broadcast “Coach’s Corner,” a popular segment of its flagship “Hockey Night in Canada,” on a seven-second delay after host Don Cherry insulted French-Canadians on air on Jan. 24 by saying that the only NHL players who wear protective visors on their helmets are “Europeans and French guys.”
“Hockey Night in Canada,” which broadcasts on Saturday nights, has been one of the most popular shows in Canada since it went on air in the 1950s.
The government’s official languages commissioner, who upholds the Official Languages Act (supporting both French and English), launched an investigation into the remarks, to see if they insulted French-Canadians.
Cherry’s comments are also under investigation by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which regulates the TV biz, and the CBC ombudsman.
Insulting French-Canadians and Europeans is nothing new for Cherry. That’s the essence of the character he plays on “Coach’s Corner” — a gruff, no-nonsense straight shooter who is supposed to represent old-fashioned (English) Canadian values.
But Cherry’s most recent comment has ignited a firestorm of reaction all round the country. Executives at Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language arm, have vociferously complained to the CBC about Cherry’s attacks on Francophone Quebecers.
In a statement released Friday, CBC Television exec veep Harold Redekopp stressed that the broadcaster does not support Cherry’s views.
But the statement also notes that Cherry “has been an important part of the Canadian hockey scene as a player, coach and commentator over the past five decades.”
Cherry refused to comment on the CBC decision.