Time for talking is done

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- It's safe to say everybody wants to do something about the current television deal between the Canadian Curling Association and the CBC.

Now we just need someone to say what they can, or will do.

The CCA held a news conference yesterday to address the firestorm of criticism over the unpopular TV deal that debuted here at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

The CCA is obviously concerned about the widespread resistance to the move of televised curling from a TSN-CBC combination to CBC and its affiliates The Score and Country Canada and executives are even more worried about threats of fan boycotts involving prime big-event sponsors Scott Paper and Tim Hortons.

Everyone involved was in full damage-control mode yesterday, but as has been the case since angry phone calls and e-mails starting pouring in last Saturday, nobody had any real answers or solutions.

"All we will say is that the steps we will be taking involve upcoming meetings with the CBC," CCA chief executive officer Dave Parkes said. "What we are trying to do is let people know that we've heard what they've said."

So what might they talk about at these forthcoming meetings?

Most fans would say they shouldn't bother unless plans are afoot to move all prime-time draws from Country Canada and The Score to the main CBC network.

And that will almost certainly be discussed, although Parkes admitted there is a low probability of that change coming before the Brier in Edmonton, March 4-13.

"There is an assignment clause and that's in the agreement to address the movement of the prime-time evening draws," he said in an interview after the press conference. "That was put in intentionally and that will be an argument we discuss with the CBC now. Having said that, there has to be a carrier that is prepared to take it at this point in time, so that may well be a long-term adjustment rather than something that can be facilitated within the next few days."

The backlash against the TV coverage has been the talk of the tournament this week and the furor could grow when the Brier begins next week.

Which brings us to the toll this is taking on the sponsors. Scott Paper has been at this business for 24 years and is confident it can weather the storm.

Tim Hortons is brand new to the sport and executives there must be wondering what they have gotten themselves into.

"Many people have been contacting sponsors of our sport in an attempt to leverage pressure upon them to influence the outcome of this situation," CCA president Barry Greenberg, a Winnipegger, said in a prepared statement.

"People should understand that threats of boycotts will only potentially serve to alienate sponsorship of our sport and the outcome of that could be no television of our sport whatsoever."

Sounds like a veiled threat in itself, doesn't it?

But it did serve to placate at least one sponsor, for now.

"We are happy that the Canadian Curling Association has recognized the concerns of Scott Paper and, more importantly, our curling fans across Canada," said Scott Paper marketing director Stephen Blythe. "There is an issue here that we have to co-operatively work towards fixing, because we cannot have a repeat of this in 2006."

Therein lies the rub.

The sponsor will be patient, but only to a point. They're willing to put up with a little short-term pain for long-term gain.

But they need improvement to this four-year deal.

Curling needs it.

Get it done.


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