CBC faces budget, security challenges at World Cup

·Chris Zelkovich
CBC faces budget, security challenges at World Cup

Trying to win the 2014 World Cup in soccer-mad Brazil will be a monumental challenge for all visiting teams. Trying to cover the event will present an equally challenging task for visiting broadcasters, too.

Severe budget cuts mean that the CBC has a lot fewer boots on the ground than it did four years ago in South Africa, a challenge compounded by serious security woes fostered by violent protests in Brazil, the huge distance between host cities and the usual problems with unfinished venues and facilities.

Oh yeah, and then there's the latest match-fixing scandal, which no doubt will add to the story editors' and reporters' work loads.

``It's been a challenge," executive producer Paul McDougall said in reference to the recent budget cuts that followed the loss of Hockey Night In Canada. ``Compared even to (the Sochi Olympics), we have minimal people on the ground and have cut back in various ways that I'm hoping as executive producer is not going to show up on the air.

``That's my job, to take the budget cuts and work through it and create the best experience."

The cuts mean fewer reporters and camera operators will be chronicling the events that surround the World Cup, including the riots that are almost sure to happen and could affect the games.

McDougall says CBC's original plan called for about 15 more people to be in Brazil. It will still have reporters David Amber stationed in Rio de Janeiro and Brenda Irving travelling around the country, but should things blow up elsewhere CBC could be scrambling.

McDougall says he's confident that the CBC has covered its bases by sharing things with other English-language networks and making more use of FIFA's 32 embedded electronic news gatherings teams.

``If it looks like there wasn't any budget impact, then I'll have done my job," he said.

Adding to the budget woes are concerns about safety in a country wracked by crime and protests. The CBC and FIFA have spared no expense to ensure the safety of reporters and crews.

``I'm concerned about the amount of unrest we've seen and the stuff that's been happening at times," McDougall said, adding that there have been weekly safety briefings to keep everyone on alert. ``I don't think there's anything to worry about around stadiums. But these things tend to creep up and they're not planned necessarily so we have to be prepared."

Reports and camera operators will travel with ``fixer" drivers -- locals who know their way around trouble -- and be accompanied by security when needed. They'll also stay away from unsafe areas.

``We're telling our people to be aware of their surroundings, be in contact with the people on the ground … so they know when things are going to occur," he said. ``There will be protests, they're happening every week right now and we're going to do everything in our power to ensure safety for our people."

While CBC is stretched a little thin in some areas, viewers shouldn't notice anything lacking in game coverage. That will be business as usual -- carrying the main FIFA feed including the British announcers Canadians have come to expect. In fact, the experience could be even better thanks to a more favourable time zone and some technological enhancements.

With Brazil in the same time zone as Atlantic Canada, viewers will have the luxury of being able to watch games played in the evening and late afternoon.

``It's going to help us a ton," McDougall said, pointing to a daily 6 p.m. ET feature game followed by a two-hour daily wrap-up. ``That's the best schedule we've seen in a long time."

The afternoon pre-game show will include familiar faces such as Craig Forrest and Nigel Reed along with host Andi Petrillo. The evening cast will feature John Collins working with host Scott Russell and either Forrest or national women's team coach John Herdman.

For those who prefer the small screen experience, or who plan to watch the afternoon games at the office, CBC is offering what McDougall calls the ``coolest, most advanced digital app I've seen."

The app, which will be available for iOS and Android devices starting June 5, offers viewers the ability to watch games and replays from six different angles. The video player on CBC's FIFA website will also include the multi-angle feature.

The CBC will carry all matches live with Sportsnet showing daily replays. When the schedule includes conflicting matches later in the tournament, one game will appear on CBC and the other on Sportsnet.

TLN will also carry the tournament live in Italian and Spanish.

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