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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The big question in the wake of the Canadian election is whether the Conservatives will gut the Canadian-content regulations in the Canadian broadcast industry. Since Canadian shows really can't compete head-to-head with American TV content, these regs are the only thing keeping Canadian drama alive.

I'm of two minds about culture regs. On the one hand any time you start handing out money to creative people, they will think of creative ways to get their hands on the money. The result may be more what they're interested in doing than what people want to see.

On the other hand, governments starting with ancient kings have known that culture is what binds a society together. And you don't get culture if you don't pay for it. And there are synergistic benefits to having culture that add up to more than individuals are willing to pay. In other words culture is like the roads: if each person had to pay for their own section of roads, we'd have dirt paths and no bridges. If you hand culture off to the free market, you wind up with an impoverished society.

So I'm hoping the Conservatives won't have enough clout with their minority to gut all the Canadian-content regs in broadcast TV, as they surely would love to do.


Are you saying that American programming has more popular appeal, even to the Canadian audience, but on some level, because American programming is in the hands of the free market, America is an impoverished society?

Or, would you argue that American programming is in some implicit way, actually benefitting from what amount to minimum content regulations in the form of hidden tax breaks, irregular accounting, and effective political lobbies (not to mention copyright extensions on things like Mickey Mouse) -- and that this explains America's ability to produce more appealing content?

Or are you saying that, no matter how good or bad American content is, what Canadian society (and every other society) needs to stick together is its OWN content?



By Blogger albert braun, at 5:59 PM  

I'm saying there's a benefit to Canadian society of having Canadian programming in addition to the American stuff. I'm saying it's worth spending tax money to support specifically Canadian cultural content.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:14 PM  

thanks for clearing me up on that.

i know we produce a hell of a lot of programming in the US. at the same time, i think a pretty strong case could be made that American society is impoverished. but America's problems seem even bigger than that: American society seems to be fragmented, fractured, disintegrated.

i wonder if even Japanese or Scandinavian levels of public arts funding could help this country forge a common culture in which everyone could participate and feel ownership.

it seems like things that work in other countries just don't work here.

By Blogger albert braun, at 10:59 AM  

There actually is a fair amount of government funding of the arts in the US (think PBS and the NEH). But more importantly, American culture is the dominant culture in the world, so practically, the rest of the world buys enough American product to support American culture. Moreover, the American home market is gigantic. So while a Canadian show needs protection to survive in an American-dominated market, HBO doesn't need support to produce its excellent shows. It's selling in a home market of say 280 million Americans with cable.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:12 AM  

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