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Friday, December 19, 2008

I got a very thoughtful letter from a friend and colleague:
Hi Alex,

Interesting points about CTV and arguments to reduce Cancon.

I agree with your analysis. That is, that in poor economic times, broadcasters cut jobs because of the recession, but then again in better economic times, broadcasters still cut jobs because of .... consolidation, streamlining, operating efficiencies, [insert your rationale of choice here]. When you compare private TV broadcasters' profit margin with layoffs in broadcasting, there just isn't much of a link. So, layoffs in good times, layoffs in bad times:



The simple truth is this: having caved to unsupported claims that laissez-faire reliance on the marketplace will achieve all of Parliament's objectives for our broadcasting system, the CRTC is on the tipping point of accepting broadcasters' claims that what we really need is not more Canadian content, or even the same amount of Canadian content but .... wait for it ... high-quality Canadian content.

So please, just let us spend the same amount of money on less Cancon, attract more audiences, make more ad money that way, and we will all be better off. And then we will really really really try very very very hard to put more Cancon on air. Honest, we will.

Naturally this argument entirely ignores the last twenty years of broadcasters pleading to become bigger ... so they are better placed to fund more Cancon with more money .... and face fewer competitors (having bought them out) ... and can make more money .... and history continues to repeat itself. I can accept that few people remember the Aird Commission, or the Massey Commission, or the Fowler reports.

But doesn't anyone remember in 1967 and 1968 when Parliament finally decided that Canadians should run Canadian broadcasting, and give Canadians Canadian programs about themselves? Doesn't anyone remember that in 1967 Quebec's only private TV stations (CFCM-TV and CKMI-TV) were both controlled by non-Canadians (Famous Players, 51.8% owned by Americans), and that some American cable companies were running cables (literally) across the river to serve Canadian subscribers?

Yet here we are: CRTC is going to be renewing OTA TV licences next year (early 2009). Some 70 TV station applications will be heard in April, which means that Canadians will have the chance to comment in either February or March on these applications.

The CRTC has the legal authority to enforce Parliament's objectives, but only conditions of licence and regulations can be enforced. "Commitments", "expectations", "promises" and "undertakings" are simply not enforceable in law or under the Broadcasting Act.

Broadcasters will claim they must cut more Cancon to survive. They will commit to do more, sometime, when things improve to some unknown degree.

Will Canadians comment? Will they ask for more and better Cancon? Will they ask for their local news to be reinstated? Will they ask for more than one (one!!!) hour of Canadian drama a week at night? Will they even be aware of this issue? Who knows. But it's good to see people such as yourself writing about this.
Excellent points, thank you!

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3 Comments:

M wife used to work for CityTV (she actually left voluntarily), and she saw first hand how they reduced not only the Canadian content, but the budget FOR the Canadian content. By the time she left, all they had left was a three hour Breakfast television. But having fired the hosts, the show was badly done, which she felt, was on purpose. If they could point to how badly the Canadian content was doing, they might be able to get rid of it altogether. I don't know if that logic works, but when she left, they were actually not showing enough Canadian content, but no one seemed to notice. They know where they make their money.

By Blogger Tim W., at 4:32 PM  

Enough.

We've endured this long enough.

By Blogger Dwight Williams, at 9:43 PM  

Yes...very good points, thanks.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 11:04 AM  

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