Saturday, December 13, 2008

What about CANCON?

I will not be the first to comment on the state of Canadian television, which already is crap. But I have to say this anyway.

In the extremely crowded market where both Canadian and American networks compete for viewers one would expect a certain amount of differentiation, a certain amount of Canadian flavour, to our broadcasts. The private broadcasters have an almost exclusively American prime-time schedule with very few Canadian developed and produced shows if ever. Two notable exceptions in the Toronto market are OMNI 1 and 2 which must produce original programming in prime time (usually, newscasts in non-official languages between 8 and 10 pm); and CTS, the Christian station run by 100 Huntley Street, which has the guts to have a talk show at the 8pm hour.

The CBC is mostly Canadian but ever since North of 60 left the air and their news and currents events department has a certain amount of respect (especially The Fifth Estate) but their drama schedule has been crap -- really, crap. And with Air Farce leaving the air on New Years', the only two programs left watching will be Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Border.

When you have a business model where a block grant from Parliament plus Saturday night hockey, as well as first-run episodes of two American shows (Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy) as well as reruns of The Simpsons, funds a devoid set of programs, it's going to lead to disaster.

The CRTC was quite right a few weeks back to deny the networks' demands for carriage fees to be paid by cable and satellite subscribers. People would have just disconnected so as not to pay them -- it's not like they were going to miss HBO or CNN anyway. But Canadians should expect a certain amount of Canadian programming, and I do not buy for one minute the excuse the current rash of layoffs at the networks is because they were denied a steady slush fund.

Canadian produced shows don't have to be bottom feeder stuff like The Trouble With Tracy, but if it is intelligent enough or funny enough there will be an audience for it. CANCON rules need to be enforced in prime time -- which should be redefined as it is in the States, 8-11 Eastern Monday to Saturday, 7-11 Sunday. It's hard to believe that two of the best Canadian shows ever, ENG and Street Legal, went off the air in 1994 and The Road to Avonlea in '96. Even Ready or Not which ended in '97 had a lot of charm in it. What have we had since then? Crap, crap and still more crap. Canadian produced segments of professional wrestling do not count.

Every other major democracy outside of the US, even English speaking ones, have a thriving domestic television industry which still has room for American imports. There is simply no reason why we can't insist on good television here. There's a huge difference between music, where our system of producing new stars has gotten so good that we probably don't need content rules anymore on radio stations; and television where rules are still needed and must be enforced.

For what it's worth, the same applies to the movies but that's for another post (actually, I think I wrote one on it!)

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: