Concordia University journalism students will be getting a financial boost in the coming years thanks to a $650,000 donation from Rogers Sportsnet.
More than half of the donation will be used for scholarships for students over five years:
- Six scholarships of $3,000 each to undergraduate students
- Seven scholarships of $4,000 each to graduate diploma students
- Two scholarships of $6,000 each to masters students
- Two prizes of $8,500 each to students based on sports journalism portfolios
This works out to $75,000 a year, or $375,000 over the five years of the program. The rest of the money will be used for things like new equipment purchases and other stuff whose details haven’t been finalized, said Concordia journalism department chair Brian Gabrial.
Other than the $8,500 prizes listed above, the scholarships are not specifically sports-related.
The donation, the largest in the department’s history, was celebrated with a wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres event at Concordia’s journalism and communications building on the Loyola campus on Wednesday, with Concordia president Alan Shepard Sportsnet president Scott Moore in attendance.
But while this is great news for the university, it’s worth noting where this money is coming from. It’s not something Rogers is doing spontaneously out of the kindness of its heart, but rather a mandatory funding initiative linked to Rogers’s 2013 acquisition of The Score (which it turned into Sportsnet 360).
When the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the acquisition of the sports news television channel in 2013, it mandated that 10% of its purchase price (valued at $172 million) be spent on tangible benefits, or donations to programs and initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system as a whole. This is the CRTC’s way of mitigating the loss of diversity that comes from consolidation of ownership.
Rogers had originally proposed more than half of that going to something called the “Sportsnet Winter Games”, an annual amateur sports event. But the commission rejected that, saying it was worried that this would be self-serving. Instead, Rogers broke down the proposed benefits as follows:
- $5 million for a Sportsnet Independent Production Fund
- $5 million for a Canadian University Sports Initiative
- $2.5 million for digital media produciton scholarships
- $4.7 million for amateur independent sports production
Moore confirmed that the $650,000 donation to Concordia comes out of this tangible benefits package, which has to be paid out over five years. He said internal bureaucracy at Rogers, combined with some major distractions, caused them to get a slow start on this.
Gabrial credits Bob Babinski for helping get this done. Babinski worked with Moore at CBC Sports, and after Moore moved to Rogers Media, he hired Babinski to launch City Montreal. Moore said he called up Babinski and asked about Concordia’s journalism program, and then Sportsnet approached Concordia asking them to put together a proposal.
Moore referred to the donation as an “investment” in the future of journalism. That’s a nice sentiment, though the CRTC rules prevent any quid pro quo.
Other Sportsnet university initiatives include the Sportsnet U Recruited program. Its first recruit is Julian McKenzie, a Concordia journalism student, former sports editor at The Link and producer at CJLO 1690 AM. After the event, McKenzie had lunch with Moore.
Of course, it’s not at all self-serving to get the photo op and act like it’s some great philanthropic move. The CRTC should require the money (and it’s placement) is handled by a third party with NO strings and NO promotional value at all. You gotta wonder if they get to write this charitable donation off on the corportte taxes….
This kind of thing has been an issue in the past with tangible benefits. The recipients treat it like a donation and offer some reward (usually sponsorship). The commission doesn’t like that. But noting the source of a donation in a press release is kind of hard to avoid, and has limited return value. (Though I might require that the reason for such donations be fully disclosed to the public.)
Nice to see Rogers doing this on their own. I remember Bell wanting to do the same if the Astral deal went through but CRTC said otherwise. Bell could have done it after the fact but didn’t. Again, good job Rogers!