Kim Clark: CBC Sports and Diversity with Joel Darling and Saphia Khambalia

September 2nd, 2010

This month, Kim Clark, Director, Inclusion & Diversity, at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Toronto, invites her colleagues Joel Darling and Saphia Khambalia from CBC Sports to talk about the role that sports programming has on diversity.

Saphia Khambalia -Reporter, 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM
Saphia Khambalia brought her diverse experience to the interactive Pulse of the Nation desk during CBC’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM. She joined the CBC in 2009 and has produced and written stories for the CBC News Network, The National and Power and Politics. She has also worked as a reporter/videographer for CBC News in Windsor Ontario.

Joel Darling – Director of Production, CBC SPORTS
Joel Darling, an award winning producer, was appointed to the position of Director of Production for CBC SPORTS in August 2007, after having been the Executive Producer for CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA for the previous seven years. A sports television production veteran, Darling was the Senior Executive Producer for CBC Sports for three years, from 1997-2000, and he was also the Executive Producer of the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Tell us about the role of diversity at CBC?

Kim Clark, Director, Inclusion & Diversity, CBC:

Well, as a national broadcaster, CBC sees our role as reflecting Canada back to Canadians and so diversity is an essential part of that mandate.

CBC has incorporated diversity as part of our strategic focus and over the past 5-7 years we have had some real successes with both radio and television through great work of teams and individuals like Susan Marjetti, Managing Director CBC Toronto and Alden Habacon, Manager Diversity Initiatives CBC Television.

For instance, in Toronto Susan Marjetti made deliberate decisions in programming the station 99.1 and specifically the morning radio show, Metro Morningto be more reflective of the city’s changing population and saw the show’s ratings soar. It is now the number one show in the city.

Internally, CBC renewed and expanded the Inclusion & Diversity Steering committee and created the role of Director, Inclusion & Diversity to make sure we are able to build on existing successes and have a team that also reflects the face of contemporary Canada.

And our sports programming is part of that.

Diversity initiatives in television programming are ultimately about building audiences. Can you tell us how the CBC approaches this and the success that they have had? How much do you know about the preferences of Canadian immigrant communities? Does everyone love hockey equally?

Kim Clark:

To better understand the interests of our audience, we recently did a research survey that examined the media consumption of ethnic Canadians. This provided us with a sense of what sports programming they were watching, how often and through what media platforms. Soccer and hockey were the top sports in all ethnic communities –in fact, soccer is slightly more popular.  This would not be the case for Canadians in general, where hockey is clearly the #1 sport.

Joel Darling:

We have now completed two full seasons of Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi. Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi has allowed us to directly connect to a new community in their own language and through our sports coverage. The response had been incredible. Families are sitting around watching hockey in their own language and the older generation now has a chance to enjoy something “Canadian” with the younger generation. We believe that is a wonderful thing to offer people.

Our success with hockey has allowed us to expand to basketball as well offering soccer coverage in Punjabi as well as Farsi. We have also been able to expand the hockey coverage to Mandarin, Cantonese and Italian.

How is sports programming different than other genres of diversity programming?

Joel Darling:

I think sports differs because of the “live” aspect. We are creating live sports experiences that can build allegiances, create new fans and inspire the next generation of athletes. Our hope is to not only build our fan base, but to also reach an audience that may eventually help grow the game in their community.

CBC TV has had great success in bringing “mainstream” Canadian sports to more diverse audiences. How about success the other way? Is cricket catching on with Canadian viewers?

Joel Darling:

We have been exploring cricket and are very interested in trying to find some programming to air. We had some success with a cricket weekly magazine show that we aired a few years ago. With the changing culture in this country, cricket has a place in the CBC sports line-up – it’s just a matter of time.

Saphia Khambalia:

I have high hopes that cricket, its terms and players, will become household words for many viewers. Why not? in a diverse country like this we have the perfect foundation to groom and nourish all types of sports!

With the entire world participating in the same online conversation its only a matter of time before interest is perked for sports like cricket, that are very popular overseas.

The World Cup has been described as the ultimate in diversity programming, and is enjoying incredible media coverage in Canada. Why is that?

Joel Darling:

The World Cup has been an incredible platform to reach new viewers. The sport is so well loved across many different countries and cultures that no other sport can compare.

The event has grown so much over the years and especially in Canada where record number of people are watching games. The diverse population of Canada has really added to the growth and popularity of the event by creating enthusiasm and excitement that has been felt coast to coast. Sports television is a wonderful example of how people become heavily involved in an event. More than 25 billion will watch the World Cup this year around the globe. It is the “World’s Game”.

Saphia Khambalia:

Well, it’s the greatest sporting event on the planet hands down. Not only do entire nations get to come together all across the globe as they witness their teams battling it out on the pitch but [here in Canada] as an incredible, diverse multicultural country, we all get to take part in each other’s heritage.

Canada did not have a national team playing this year but from coast to coast flags from every other participating nation could be seen waving proudly on street corners.

It is not the just the game that makes people take the day off work to gather around the TV set, it is the history, the pride, the generations of family from the motherland … that’s what the world cup is. It’s life.

Can large scale sporting events like the World Cup and how they are covered by media have an impact on public attitudes about diversity and community cohesion? Or is that expecting too much from sports?

Joel Darling:

I am not sure what the impact is in the end. I think there is a “copy cat” type of mentality sometimes with sport. People tend to get involved in things if they know others are passionate about it and they want to be involved. The support many countries have had inside Canada has been incredible to see and the popularity of this event continues to grow because of people’s passion and emotion. People are able to stand up and cheer on their team or a team from another country they have adopted. It seems to bring people together in a wonderful way. Sport can bring communities together unlike anything else and this event is no different.

Saphia Khambalia:

I don’t think that is too heavy a statement at all. Cohesion and inclusion are part of the beauty that our World Cup coverage brings. It mirrors the experience Canadians are having this World Cup.  And I’ve seen it first-hand. As the host of CBC’s Pulse of the Nation segment, we’ve been able to show traditional Ghanaian meal celebrations before world cup games, we’ve been able to show Brazilian folklore music, Korean cheers -you name it. I’ve never seen community cohesion like I have this World Cup.

It’s a great honour and privilege to talk to fans from every ethnicity, whether on the social media forums, or on the street as they cheer on their home nation.

[During the World Cup,] as far as one can see everyone is reveling in the same moment, the same coverage. Every television set is on the same CBC Sports shot and with every kick of the ball entire communities come together. Win or lose, they’ve experienced the same moment and will go home feeling their family just got a lot bigger coast to coast.

Do you have a favourite?  Which team are you supporting in the World Cup?

Joel Darling:

I was pulling for England. Mainly because they are the birthplace of soccer and I thought it would be exciting to see them in the final.

For now, I am pulling for the Dutch, as they have been close before. Would be nice to see them win it.

Saphia Khambalia:

I knew this question was coming! Well I’m torn really. First of all my heritage is Indian/East African, so I really wanted an African team to do well this year. It is the first finals on African soil, after all!  However, every time I meet another group of fans from a different nationality, I’m totally over-taken with their passion and emotion for their team and their home country. I’m easily swayed – how about that?

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