Opinion: TSN needs to bring back a radio-specific broadcast for Grey Cup

Photo: Arthur Ward/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

For the first time in recent memory, this year’s Grey Cup game did not feature its own radio broadcast production.

Instead, listeners tuned into local radio rights holders across Canada and heard the television broadcast feed of the Toronto Argonauts upsetting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as it was simulcast on the radio.

Although an arrangement like this isn’t new to live sports radio broadcasting in Canada, it is considered the latest of a number of blows to an industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rights holders — in this case, TSN — have traditionally had a separate broadcast crew do the game by radio. Radio is its own medium and needs to be narrated differently than television, which has always been the case.

This year, however, TSN opted for the same model that rival sports broadcasting giant Rogers Sportsnet followed during the pandemic when Toronto Blue Jays radio play-by-play was scrapped in favour of simulcasting the audio feed from the television production.

Dan Shulman was simultaneously the TV and radio voice of the Blue Jays and never appeared to be enthusiastic about the arrangement. Given the fact that his son, Ben, is on the now-restored radio-specific broadcast for Blue Jays games, it would be reasonable to assume that Dan is happy to focus on doing a proper TV-specific broadcast rather than calling games to suit both viewers and listeners.

The CFL and Bell Media, TSN’s parent company, don’t appear to be concerned with such matters.

It’s a similar step to one the Toronto Argonauts have been phasing in for years to the dismay of some Argos fans.

No TSN, Argos or Blue Bombers broadcasters contributed comment for this story, but it should be easy to assume that none of them are happy about this latest development.

Broadcasting a Grey Cup would be a dream come true for just about any live broadcaster in this country, particularly those who have been calling every down for their respective teams all season long.

Sources involved in this discussions have confirmed to 3DownNation that several proposals to do a radio-specific broadcast were submitted to TSN and Bell Media but were ultimately rejected.

It remains to be seen whether or not this will become a trend for future Grey Cup broadcasts. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.