Thursday, December 10, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Can you smell what TSN is cookin'?
In the past few weeks, TSN has either been pre-empting or editing WWF Raw. Like quite a number of Canadian fans out there, I wondered what the heck was going on. After all, there was supposedly a contract to show Raw at 9:00 sharp every Monday night and there are apparently mature versions of the show to appease those fans wanting the whole deal.
The fact is that TSN is doing nothing wrong. In a detailed discussion with one of the members of the audience relations staff, I learned several important facts which did not seem to present themselves in the public release statement which I have put below.
First off, although TSN announced that Raw would be shown every Monday night at 9:00 p.m., there were some stipulations that somehow did not manage to make it to the viewing public. The major one encompasses the true nature of wrestling, that is, sports entertainment. Although TSN is committed to showing sports entertainment, its primary goal and mission is to broadcast true sporting events, such as hockey and boxing (which regularly is shown in place of wrestling). The WWF has agreed to this stipulation and has no intention of changing their minds on this.
Next comes the obvious censorship that has occurred in the past little while. Although TSN is a cable network, the station adheres to the Canadian Announcers and Broadcasters guidelines, which stipulate that gratuitous sex and violence, in the name of entertainment, mind you, is not within the mandate of the association and should not be shown. As I discussed with the representative, there seems to be a double standard between wrestling and boxing but, due to the WWF's insistence that they are sports entertainment, their content falls under different regulations. Once again, the WWF is fine with this. Oh, and how does TSN know when to censor? Well, that has to do with the Outline of Raw they receive each and every week. Unlike boxing and other sporting events where you don,t know the outcome, TSN is given some advance warning as to what might be coming. There is no script, per se, but wrestler history and previous actions (such as the Godfather and his ho's) are a definite indication of a potential breach of the guidelines.
There is something else about which TSN informed me. WWF Raw is one of, if not the biggest draw when it comes to audience viewership and potential advertising. They know that there are quite a few people out there watching and they know that if we do see something we don't like, like say, an obvious promotion of Monday Night Football during the Sportsbreak, we do have the option of calling in and reporting these events knowing that there will be action taken. We just have to do two things: 1) get all the facts before writing in and 2) write in a responsible manner with an appropriate return address so that the audience relations people can contact you for further discussion.
Just to let you know, I'm not a TSN mark. When I wrote them, I was fuming mad at what I thought was their total disregard for the wrestling audience. I was ready to lay the smack down on the whole TSN audience relations department. Now that I have the facts and have discussed it, I am more understanding of TSN's situation and will give them the benefit of the doubt. Oh yeah, and make sure I have my VCR programmed for Monday night at midnight EST. Raw's always on then.
The public release statement is as follows:
Dear Wrestling Fans:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding wrestling on TSN. Realizing that wrestling is extremely popular in Canada, TSN has come to an agreement with the WWF to bring Raw is War live on Monday evenings beginning in November when our schedule permits. If Raw is War can't be seen on Monday evenings live, it will be shown later in that week. TSN is proud to be able to bring WWF Raw is War to our viewers.
With regard to the live editing of Raw is War, TSN complies with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' voluntary code regarding violence in television programming.
For live broadcasts of Raw, late night in Eastern Canada is prime-time in Western Canada and therefore we consider the industry regulations for prime time viewing. TSN will broadcast a version of Raw is War for a "mature audience" during the midnight eastern - 9 pm pacific timeslot. TSN and the WWF are working together to bring Canadian wrestling fans the most comprehensive wrestling coverage possible. Thank you for contacting TSN. We always encourage correspondence and appreciate your feedback. Thank you for tuning in and logging on!
JASON TETRO is the Executive Assistant of the Centre for Research on Environmental Microbiology at the University of Ottawa. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org