Strange things happen when a country loses its voice. Take the case of Robert Fenton. He is a blind lawyer, and he is angry at Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC, because of the way they telecast a football game. A blind man criticising television? Read on. Mr Fenton cannot see, but he loves Canadian professional football so much that every weekend he joins his friends in a local sports bar to watch his favourite team. He enjoys the atmosphere, and he follows the action on the screen by listening to the play-by-play commentary. Last week, however, as the Toronto Argonauts played the Edmonton Eskimos, Mr Fenton got a rude shock: there was no commentary. You see, the CBC is in the middle of a labour disruption; its 5,500 unionised workers, including the sports commentators, are off the job, and carrying picket signs on the street in a bitter dispute with management. But CBC management, unwilling to forsake the advertising dollars, decided to air the football game anyway - without announcers. Imagine a cooking show without a talking chef, or a newscast without a presenter, and you begin to see the problem. Mr Fenton filed a complaint with Canada's broadcasting regulator. He feels his tax dollars entitle him to full service from the public network, sound and all. His case is exceptional, but Mr Fenton is one of millions of Canadians bewildered and annoyed by the fact that the national broadcaster, which they are paying for with their tax dollars, has been silenced. Well, not exactly silenced. The CBC broadcasts a lot of movies, old documentaries, and endless reruns of Antiques Roadshow and Coronation Street. In return, the network receives its regular funding from the national government, and CBC managers get a bonus for working a little harder to keep the airwaves filled. It sparks the question: does the country really need a public broadcaster at all? Even when it is in full production, CBC television attracts less than 10 per cent of the English-language audience. The CBC promotes Canadian music, Canadian drama, Canadian films and Canadian books, and nobody watches. Meanwhile, Canada's private broadcasters get huge audiences, and huge profits, by showing American blockbusters. One of the few Canadian-made programmes that makes healthy profits is Hockey Night in Canada, but last year a labour dispute shut down hockey and the CBC lost millions of dollars. Nationalists say that if we do not protect our distinctly Canadian institutions and values, we will soon become carbon copies of Americans. But Robert Fenton has a more personal concern: he just wants his football back.