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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DMc had an even more than usually incisive column a couple days ago about the latest proposal from the CRTC. (Those of you outside Canuckistan can skip this post, unless you're interested in Comparative Cultural Policy.)
I missed one very important part. As someone wrote to me:
The main thrust of the CRTC report is that the CTF should be divided in two– the Heritage contribution of $100 million, renewable annually, and the Broadcast Distribution Undertakings’ (BDU) required contribution of 5% of revenue which is about $130 million. The report makes a clear distinction about which projects should be funded from which stream of money. Also there a whole bunch of new governance provisions, etc. for the BDUs’ portion. It is a return to our murky past with different streams of funding and two different boards and policies.

See what happens when I read too quickly?

This is indeed a disaster. Because it's a return to "bureaucrats decide what makes a program Canadian." So the ridiculous, hamfisted values of "visibly Canadian" (you know, wheat and beavers) will rear its ugly head. Also, inevitably, a two fund system will mean one favored fund and one idiot cousin. Wonder which will be which, hmm? The "commercial" fund or the "100% Canadian" fund? It'll be the wild west fighting over the "commercial" fund, while Canadian producers fight over the scraps tossed by Heritage. Feh and fie.
I'm a stout supporter (a little too stout after visiting my parents) of Canada supporting its cultural industries for all sorts of reasons. Like Denis, I am also against regulating what flavor of culture Canada supports. The government is terrible at deciding what sort of culture the public wants; generally it doesn't try, and instead decides what sort of culture the public should want. This leads to a stagnant, politically correct government-supported cinema -- you know, tragic stories of alcohol-fuelled incest in dying fishing towns. Films about how Life is Bad for the Natives.

I think the best cultural policy is to make it easier to produce films by Canadian creative people, and then get out of the way. That means percentage subsidies for Canadian films (and for marketing those films; and requirements that Canadian broadcasters get a certain level of ratings for Canadian content TV drama.

(You can't insist merely on a certain number of hours, or broacasters will air the cheapest possible dramas, and hang the quality. See Train 48.)

If you have a "blind" cultural policy, what do you get? Corner Gas and Trailer Park Boys and Slings and Arrows. In case you've been living in a wikiup, Corner Gas is a hilarious comedy about a bunch of goofy characters hanging around a truckstop and diner in Saskatchewan. It regularly pulls in over a million viewers, and got a US deal recently. TPB is a kind of obnoxious comedy about a bunch of drunk, stoned, losers hanging around a trailer park. It isn't for everyone, but its fans are rabid.

Neither of these would have ever been approved by a government employee looking to promote Canadian culture. (Slings and Arrows, sure, in a hot second.) They're not about Canadian Culture.

They just are Canadian culture.

Of the French Canadian movies I've seen, the ones that stand out aren't the loving adaptations of French Canadian novels, like The Survenant, or the Big Idea films of Denys Arcand. They're Les Boys -- your basic sports movie about lovable misfits who don't stand a chance in the big hockey game -- and Horloge Biologique -- a comedy about three guys whose girlfriends all want to get pregnant, and how it freaks them out. They stand out because they are unapologetic. They're good stories well told about the sorts of people the filmmakers know.

I'm not a believer in Ringo Starr's dictum (roughly, "Everything government touches turns to crap"). But I don't think government can dictate what culture is. Culture is a living thing. It will surprise you. Governments aren't good at surprises.

I hope the CRTC ditches the two-prong approach. What do you think?

You can comment directly to the CRTC using this link. Click on the button for 2007-70 and follow the instructions...

UPDATE: I screwed up. It's 2007-70, not 2007-10. Thanks, Dix.



I wish people would quit dumping on Train 48. Sure, the show had its flaws, but it was as Canadian as maple sirop (yes, I know the concept originated in Australia) and didn't use one single of dime of tax-payer money (they got much of their funding from product placement). It ran for 3 seasons and gave some good, solid work to alot of showbiz people who would otherwise have been unemployed.

KJC (who contributed to the series in many ways)

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 11:55 AM  

Man oh man could this process of lodging a comment to the CRTC be any more confusing or complicated??!!

So, just FYI, it's application opposed to 2007-10.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 2:56 PM  

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