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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

[Canadian Politics]

Using the recession for political cover, the Conservative Government has cut (or failed to cover) about $170 million in funding to the CBC. The CBC is responding by cutting 800 jobs and reducing the number of episodes of many shows.

Meanwhile, the CRTC is proposing gutting rules that require local news coverage and programming, and is considering giving the private broadcasters "relief" from Canadian content regulations.

I think Canada needs and deserves to have its own popular culture, rather than just being a cultural backwater of the United States. And that costs money. And I think the private broadcasters ought to support Canadian content in exchange for the protection they receive from US networks.

But the Conservative policies are also economically dumb. It's a dumb idea to cut government spending during a recession. The US government is spending trillions to provide a stimulus to the economy. Canada's is looking for ways to save money?

Meanwhile, gutting Canadian content requirements would amount to shipping Canadian jobs to LA. Instead of requiring Canadian broadcasters to spend some money in Canada (currently they spend about $1 on Canadian drama for every 12 they spend on US drama), they would be able to spend all their acquisitions money in the US.

Hey, I know! Let's abolish our automotive protections, so people can buy their cars directly from the US! Want to guess what would happen to any government, Conservative or otherwise, that tried that during a recession?

75,000 people have signed this petition to save the CBC. Maybe you could, too. And then you could pass it along to your friends.

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There's a real irony in the idea that buying American makes a Canadian industry "more competitive."

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 5:31 PM  

Completely unrelated to the cut, I had decided earlier this week to start watching more Canadian television. So far, I'm PVRing little mosque, wild roses and being erica.

After, granted, a very limited sample, I have to ask, what am I missing here? Are these shows really representative of Canadian culture? Would more government funding really make Canadian TV any better? Put these shows side-by-side against the best from HBO or AMC - do they measure up? If not, is this a budget issue? I feel horribly guilty asking these questions, but I think we have to confront that Canada hasn't done as well as, say, Australia (similar sized market), in terms of telling our own stories. I'm not sure we can lay all the blame on SH.

I'm very happy to receive counter-arguments.

By Blogger tnt, at 10:56 PM  


And no, you can't compare to the "best of HBO." It is partly a budget issue. Our budgets are roughly 1/5 of HBO's budgets. They can pay actors more, so the most talented Canadian actors go South.

Yeah, more funding would make Canadian TV better. It doesn't have to come directly from the government. Requiring CTV to spend more money on domestic product would work, too.

But I think LITTLE MOSQUE is a show that you wouldn't see on US television (though I believe you now can). And so is THE BORDER. The differences are subtle, like the differences between the cultures, but they're there.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:28 PM  

Canada has a problem that other countries do not, in trying to tell their own stories. A little someone to the south. Sure, all countries, especially english speaking ones, have the problem of competing with American culture, but Canada's problem is magnified by two facts. The first is that Americans sound, more or less, the same as we do. Speaking the same language is one thing, but Australians, English and others have a much different accent, and far more colloquial differences, than Canada has with the US. Most Americans on television and movies, simply don't sound that much different than Canadians do. It not only makes for less demand for shows sounding Canadian, it only highlights the difference in quality, which unfortunately there still is.

The other problem is that other countries' industries have been able to grow up more isolated than Canada. Sure, Hollywood has always been a big influence world-wide, but at least in, Australia, you felt somewhat isolated from it. When I lived there for a year, in my youth, you really felt far away from North America. They got American movies and television, but you weren't inundated with the media like you are here.

An example is the NBL. The Australian basketball league. They actually had, and still have, although I gather it's starting to suffer, a viable basketball league. It didn't have to compete with the NBA because the time difference, as well as the distance, meant that it was not easy to watch NBA games. You could never do that in Canada because any Canadian league would have had to compete directly with the NBA, an impossible task.

Things may have changed with the times, but when I lived there, they had a pretty vibrant film and television industry in Australia, and were able to build it simply because they were more isolated.

And while more government funding isn't necessarily going to crate better programming, what it does is allow talented people to stay and improve while staying in Canada. If there's not enough money in Canada, where do you think the most talented people will go? That's certainly not going to help the Canadian industry.

Imagine if people like Dan Ackyroyd, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, James Cameron, Donald Sutherland and Ivan Reitman, had stayed in Canada, instead of having to go the US to make a living?

By Blogger Tim W., at 12:31 AM  

It's interesting (and sad) to observe Harper's tactical similarities to the Republicans'. This year, he's de-funding the CBC; next year, he'll be complaining about how broken down the CBC is. (And if the CBC's news coverage slides, then oh well.) It reminds me of Al Franken's line: "Republicans run on the idea that government doesn't work. Then they get elected and prove it."

My observation has been Canada's politics aren't as polarized as the US's. That's good and bad. One way it's bad is that a lot of liberal Canadians I know seem very indifferent to what Harper's doing. They loathe Bush, but when I point out that their Prime Minister is taking his cues from Bush, they're don't care or don't get it.

By Blogger David, at 8:34 PM  

All too true in some respects.

In others, it's that we don't know as a certainty exactly who and what we want to replace Harper with. Thanks to "first past the post" and other factors, that will continue to bedevil the country and benefit Harper and company.

By Blogger Dwight Williams, at 7:22 PM  

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