Saturday, February 14, 2009

Can Con as Endangered Species

So the TV people are all a twitter about the CRTC's proposals to revamp Canadian TV.
"In a move that would reshape prime time television, the federal broadcast regulator is considering placing a cap on how much the country's biggest TV networks can spend to acquire hit U.S. shows, such as Grey's Anatomy, The Office and House.

The proposal, which came as a shock to network executives yesterday, would require CTV, Global, CITY-TV and others to spend the same amount on Canadian programming as they do on U.S. shows. For every $1 spent on programs from outside the country, a dollar would have to be spent at home creating a domestic show."
It's a good idea, because Canadian television needs more exposure and because this is really the last chance. The days when the CRTC can do anything to protect Canadian content are rapidly drawing to a close. Broadcast networks are continuing to lose viewers to cable:
The financial decline of Canada's major commercial television networks accelerated last year, with profits falling more than 90 per cent amid the onset of a slowing economy and the migration of TV audiences and revenue to cable channels.

The national conventional TV networks, including CTV, Global, CITY-TV, and French broadcasters such as TVA, saw their biggest-ever drop on a percentage basis in profits before income tax. Those profits, which are reported each spring by the federal broadcast regulator, fell to $8.04-million from $112.94-million last year.
It should be noted that that's just cable. It doesn't take into account what happens when the media convergence is complete and broadcasters are competing directly with everything on the internet for viewers. Once that happens protecting Candadian Content (except on the CBC) will simply not be possible. In order to compete globally against everything people will have to do whatever works best for them financially. The broadcast audience will simply not be significant enough to continue broadcasting over the air in the traditional sense. Of course the networks, or what is left of them, will also have to supply almost 100% of their own content, so the proposed CRTC regulation will be good for broadcasters in the long run. (I get the sense that most of them would create none of their own content if they could help it.)

The point here though is not about broadcasters or the CRTC. The primary reason I created back in 2005 (and all of the facebook groups, Myspace pages etc) was to hilight the good things going on in Canadian arts and culture. Once the CRTC packs up the Can-Con requirements (probably less than 10 years) the only way that Can Con will survive is with broad public support. If, at that point, there isn't a sufficient audience in Canada or Canadian television, film, music, literature, and art it will simply go away. Canadians who want to work in film and television will go to Los Angeles, Canadians who want to be successful in music will go to New York or London. That means that Canada will cease to exist in media. Canada will not be the setting for films (even if they are shot here), Toronto stories will be rewritten as New York stories, and we'll have to catch Canadian artists as they come through on tour.

There will still be the CBC (if the Conservatives don't kill it) which will have some Canadian content in exchange for their large subsidy but that will be all, or very nearly. So when I watch the Hour and see Tom Cruise or Lily Allen instead of Canadian actors and musicians, or I watch the Scene and see no Canadian arts news at all (there is frequently none unless of the Maple Syrup - Canadian makes it in the States variety) or I visit and see maybe 2-3 Canadian stories out of 10 I take it as a defeat for Canadian Artists and the future of Can Con. On the other hand when it's Feist on the hour, or Ed Broadbent or Rick Mercer or when I listen to the all Canadian all the time Radio 3 I take it as a victory.

Pierre Trudeau famously said of the United States "Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt." I question whether Canada, if it ceases to exist in the media, if it's stories aren't told, if it's artists all go south, if it is never the setting for any story - how long will it really exist at all? How long will it take for the elephant to roll over and smother us completely?

1 comment:

Dwight Williams said...

I think you and I agree that the answer to your question, rhetorical or not, is "Sooner than we want, hope and fear."

Keeping an eye on the situation...