Isn't it Ironic? Cultural Support Works.Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unlike Canadian TV, where Canadian networks have been able to finesse the Cancon regulations, the Canadian music industry has strong requirements for airing Canadian music. And look at the results:
According to The Atlantic magazine, Montreal has the third highest concentration of music business establishments in North America, after Nashville and LA. Canada has four cities in the North American top ten: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Quebec City.

It's no surprise that Québec has two cities in the top ten: Québec's support for its own culture is phenomenal. (That's one reason why yours truly lives here.) And it's no wonder that acts like Alanis Morissette and Arcade Fire come out of here.

I'm looking at you, CRTC!



Allanis came up in Ottawa I believe.

By Blogger Hepworks, at 11:37 AM  

If the creators of film and television could build up to a world class level of production values by sitting and practising in their bedrooms for thousands of hours- all without breaking the budget of your average twenty-something holding down a job at Starbucks... well then this model might actually work for those creative markets as well.

If you have the innate talent, the barrier for entry into the very pinnacle of musical capability is at most a few thousand dollars for your instrument and the dedication to practice for the thousands of hours it takes to master it. You do that, you can get together with a few other like minded people and produce content that rivals the very best on the planet.

The musicians are making themselves world class completely outside the purview of the government rules, regulations and mandates.

The CanCon rules give the musician an easier shot at getting the airtime needed to make a better income at their preferred job- but if it was as expensive to become world class in music as it is in the creation of film and television then we would have a very different scenario.

We would have the musical equivalent of our paucity of quality film and television.

The problem isn't that we don't throw enough tax dollars at film and television, or try hard enough to keep it from having to compete with higher quality foreign content.

The problem is that we've shackled ourselves to the idea that we are weak and that we need the government to force the audience to pay so we can tell "Canada's stories". This leaves us at the whim of the bureaucrats who are deciding just what Canadian Content entails. At best this ends up delivering bland works that nobody wants to watch but that managed to fill out all the right boxes in all the right forms. At its worst it is crass cronyism where the people that attend the right parties and kiss the right asses get to make bland shows and movies that nobody wants to watch.

It isn't that we don't give them a shot either. A million or so of us keep tuning in to watch the pilots- and then we tune away.

Our market is only limited to Canada when we opt into the CanCon ghetto, we need to tell the government to go pound snow and then go create for the world. Write, produce, direct and act in films and television shows that we really, really want to see ourselves.

If a little cable channel like AMC can put out more quality television than all of Canada we are doing something seriously wrong. And it sure the hell isn't due to the size of our market or bank accounts.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 12:40 AM  

@Clint, I guarantee you that without Cancon restrictions, there would be no English Canadian TV production at all, except for lifestyle shows pretending to take place in America. No 18 TO LIFE, no LESS THAN KIND, no SLINGS AND ARROWS. The only Canadian TV shows would be French.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:51 AM  


I grew up watching Canadian TV. In the States. I didn't know, until years later, that SCTV was Canadian, or that the original Saturday Night Live crew was heavily Canadian.

Being American, I just assumed that comic actors like John Candy, Jim Carrey, and Seth Rogen were American too, because they made American movies and TV (just as I'm sure U.S. kids today assume Rachel McAdams, Michael Cerra, etc., are American.)

It's only now that I live in Canada that I'm aware of how many U.S. shows are written by Canadians expats.

Canadian actors and writers have definitely honed their talents to world-class levels by "sitting and practicing in their bedrooms for thousands of hours." The problem is that there isn't enough opportunity for them to USE their talents here. That's why Canada has been propping up U.S. comedy for decades.

By Blogger Lisa, at 9:21 AM  

@Alex, you're saying if it weren't for the CanCon rules, the broadcasters and cable networks would just roll over and go out of business? You can't drop the CanCon rules while protecting the broadcasters and networks cash grab of simply buying their schedule in Los Angeles. Drop simultaneous substitution and the rules against American networks casting directly to Canadian and the Canadian networks will have no choice but to produce shows we want to watch or go out of business.

As much as you like 18 to Life, Less Than Kind and Slings and Arrows, I don't think that the tens of millions who do not want to watch it should be forced to pay pay up so you and a couple hundred thousand other can.

The highest rated show in Canada last week wasn't a crappy reality show, it was another sitcome, Big Bang Theory, that earned an audience 14 times the size of 18 to Life. If CTV lost that back to CBS for broadcast into Canada you don't think they would take the money they spent on it and try to produce a show that just might get half that viewership?

They spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to be the parasitic middleman to American content. They say it is so they can make enough money to create their own shows- then they create the very least that they need to do to live up to the CanCon rules. Creating these shows is simply another cost of doing business to them, like office space rental or the electic bill.

Deregulate so that their business has to become creating shows that we will watch- not maintaining a protection racket so they can flying to LA and buy the shows we will watch.

Even if they do pretend to be somewhere they aren't.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 2:12 PM  

@Lisa, they aren't honing their craft in their bedroom, the tax payer is ponying up the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes for them to hone their craft to the point where they can move to America to work on shows that people do want to watch.

Some very talented people stay in Canada (or move here) but it is because they prefer to live in Canada - I don't think there are too many of them that think they have more opportunity or better prospects here than in Los Angeles.

If our regulations are designed to create a farm system for American production then they are doing a bang up job.

Politics is the world of smoke and mirrors. Ignore what they say they are doing and why they profess to be doing it- look at what is actually happening. What is happening is a protected system that ensures that the networks make billions of dollars by flying to Los Angeles and bidding on American shows. CanCon is just an expense item that they will minimize as much as they possible can.

Under the current regulations, it is fiscally irresponsible for the networks to gamble any more money than they have to on Canadian shows when it can more responsibly be spent on buying the rights to American shows.

If our regulations are designed to make sure the corporate boardroom keeps getting their seven figure paychecks - well, once again, bang up job.

Canada has the talent and the networks have the money but the system is rigged against creating great shows here.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 2:58 PM  

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