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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In the ongoing hearings about the Canadian Television Fund,
Cable giant Rogers broke silence on CTF, telling CRTC that distributors need a separate fund to turn out shows that will click with audiences...
I don't need to read the rest of the Playback article to know where that's headed. This is Jim Shaw's dumb idea that there should be one television fund supporting "entertainment" programming and one supporting "cultural" programming.

The hidden agenda here is that the "entertainment" subsidy will be media-giant-controlled rather than artist-driven, and will mean more fresh, original programming like CANADIAN IDOL, e.g. SURVIVOR: MUSKOKA and THE AMAZING CANADIAN RACE. Meanwhile the "cultural" subsidy will only go to "worthy programming" like ANNE OF GREEN GABLES remakes.

Five years down the road, they'll axe the cultural programming on the grounds that no one is watching the shows.

Let's get one thing straight. Culture = Entertainment. Entertainment = Culture.

Shakespeare was writing for the audience. Not for the Queen. (Ben Jonson was writing masques for the Queen, and none of them are still put on. Look what happens to "cultural" programming.) That's why you have the moments of high drama and the detours for silliness. He was writing for the groundlings and the box seats.

Aristophanes was simultaneously trying to win awards (yep, the Greeks had awards ceremonies) and pack the crowds in. Euripedes, same thing.

A cultural event is only cultural because it affects the culture of the place it occurs. That means people have to see it. If a play is not entertaining, no one sees it. If no one sees it, it does not have an impact on the culture. It neither preserves nor disturbs the culture.

SLINGS AND ARROWS is successful cable TV. It is also successful highbrow culture (which satirizes highbrow culture). TRAILER PARK BOYS is successful TV. It is also successful lowbrow culture. If you don't believe me, wait until "the boys" come round for a signing and see how many people are lining up in the cold. If people waiting in the cold to see actors isn't a sign of vibrant culture, you tell me what is.

The Academy Awards are a cultural event -- a cultural event explicitly intended to sell tickets in an otherwise dead part of the year. (Why do you think they hold them in February?)

All entertainment is cultural. What we see on TV and in the movies and hear on the radio affects how we perceive ourselves and the society we live in. Cop shows tell us what the laws are and what is supposed to happen when they are broken. Doctor shows help us deal with our fear of decrepitude.

Culture = Entertainment. Entertainment = Culture.

As soon as the cats in Ottawa get that straight, we'll have a better Canadian cultural policy.

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I recently got a reply to the email that you suggested we send regarding this issue. I'll summarize what it said:

"Blah, blah, blah, we don't care, blah, blah, blah."

It was actually a paper document which was then scanned as a TIF and attached in an email to me. Sure, simply typing out an email would use no paper and save time, but it is the government, after all.

By Blogger Tim W., at 1:48 PM  

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By Blogger gezgin, at 2:28 PM  

Hah! It seems, the tendecy of subsidizing "art" with government funds is a cross-cultural epidemic. There have always been (and will always be) some people whod controls state funds and who feels that the culture is detoriorating. Some part of it is, in fact. But the solution to this is not subsidizing "real" art. And who are they to determine what is real art and what is not?!Art flourishes in freedom, an environment which states usually refrains from granting to artists.

(Irrelevant note: Some of my analyses of movies can be found here:

By Blogger gezgin, at 2:30 PM  

Apparently the original audience for play competitions that included the likes of Oedipus would show up to the open-air theatre en famille with a picnic and make a whole day of it.

By Blogger Stephen Gallagher, at 4:49 AM  

And, to bring the point sort-of full circle, the annual Athenian dramatic competition -- the City Dionysia -- was also a religious festival.

So it was everyone's civic duty to attend. But because the Athenian government knew that not everyone could afford to pay the two-obol admission fee, it was subsidized. If a citizen needed the two obols, they were provided.

The result of this ancient Greek "rampant socialism"? Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. Vibrant, popular, entertaining plays. Tragedies and comedies that are still performed 2,500 years later.

So yeah. Art is entertainment. And government support for it works.

By Blogger Unknown, at 10:19 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger "The Book of Don", at 4:02 PM  

actually Alex - this time I don't agree with you. I think you've got the equation wrong.

To equate "culture" with entertainment diminuishes it. It makes it sound discretionary. Like something you might check out once the hard work of building a society is over for the day.

Culture might embrace entertainment but culture is much more fundamental to social development than the industry of entertainment.

I posted a little note today which essentially said CULTURE = SEWERS, ROADS, AND AIRPORTS.

I'll be interested to see what kind of response I get from my 50 or so readers. :)


By Blogger "The Book of Don", at 4:05 PM  

I'm sorry but, Alex and Don your both wrong. Culture does not equal entertainment, nor does Culture equal sewers, roads and airports. Society is Roads, sewers, airports and government ect. In other words society is the infrastructure created by government ect.

Culture is how we act within society. So I would say that entertainment is one part of culture, but not the only part. Culture also includes the way we drive out cars, how much we tip waiters, the way we queue at the bank.

"Culture = Entertainment. Entertainment = Culture." is an altogether too simple approach to understanding Culture.

By Blogger George, at 5:18 PM  

George...sorry for my silly shorthand equation.

What I was trying to say was that I think that TV shows and books and films and songs are as important to the process of nation building as roads and railways and sewers and airports are.

Culture is not the fat of a bourgeois society but the MUSCLE of a healthy community.

Issues of cultural public policy should be equally as important as deciding whether or not to build a new freeway - or whether or not to extend the military mission in Afghanistan.

By Blogger "The Book of Don", at 5:25 PM  

For the purposes of running a funding agency for TV culture=entertainment. TV is supposed to be entertaining after all.

If someone pitched Corner Gas under the proposed rules, you couldn't make it. It's not cultural, it's about people talking at a gas station. And if it's entertainment better get an American star.

Would CG have been better with Pauly Shore?

Corner Gas wasn't actually a CTF show but that's neither here nor there.

By Blogger someguy, at 5:28 PM  

wouldn't anything be a better show with pauly shore in it? or yahoo serious.

By Blogger Frank "Dolly" Dillon, at 12:30 PM  

George, I think you are missing the point - of course culture is more than TV programs. I don't think Alex was suggesting that (though writers are actually the centre of the universe). What's being said here is that shows that are "entertainment" are part of culture, not separate from it. I would like to say that America's Next Top Model isn't culture, but unfortunately, it is. Good and bad alike, it's all culture.

By Blogger Trevor Finn, at 10:45 AM  

Hi Trevor, rereading my previous post I don’t think I made my point very clear. I do think that television, and entertainment in general, is an important part of culture. Without knowing the ins and outs of the Canadian situation I can sympathise with it. In 03/04 New Zealand in Air, the New Zealand funding agency for local television content, spent a huge amount funding an Idol show. Drama lost out, comedy lost out, documentary lost out and current affaires lost out. To top it all off NZ Idol: not so great.

However, what worried me about this post was the equation “Culture = Entertainment. Entertainment = Culture.” To say entertainment is equal to culture implies they are the same. But as we all, I think, agree entertainment is only a part of culture, all be it an important part.

I hope I’ve made my point clearer, in my hast to post earlier I think it got lost. And of course writers are the centre of the universe, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

By Blogger George, at 2:29 PM  

As a (part-time) comic book artist, I might be inclined to argue against the idea of writers as the centre of the cultural/entertainment universe, but they're certainly an integral part of that centre!

As for the rest of it, I'm in agreement with Alex.

By Blogger Dwight Williams, at 9:45 PM  

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