Since covering the Banff World Television Festival and hearing the town hall there on the future of Canadian television, and since starting the TV, Eh? What's Up in Canadian Television website, I've taken more of a personal interest in the state of Canadian television today. But now that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is undertaking a review of the industry that could profoundly affect the quality and quantity of Canadian programming, I find myself incapable of writing anything intelligent about it. Because I don't get it.
I don't understand what the CRTC is for if not to protect the public interest in the use of our airwaves. And I don't understand how allowing Canadian broadcasters to make money duplicating the content we get on American channels and burying Canadian series is in our best interests.
If I can watch House on FOX, why should I care if Global's got it? You know what I can't see on my American stations? The Jane Show. Falcon Beach. How sad is it that those are the only two Canadian series I can think of on Global, our #2 Canadian network? And neither are currently airing.
The broadcasters want to increase our cable bill so the formerly free channels like CTV and Global get a piece of it. They want to get rid of the 12 minutes per hour limit on advertising, a proposal even advertisers don't support. None of this will improve the quality or quantity of programming for the public.
Creative groups want networks to increase the amount they spend on Canadian drama to a "whopping" 7% of their advertising revenues, an increase that will help get more and better homegrown programming on the air without adding to the taxpayer or cable bill burden.
One member of the CRTC, a man some are apparently saying will soon lead the regulatory body, dismisses the suggestion that they should mandate how much money and airtime is budgeted for Canadian content:
"You know, I know the purposes for all those recommendations and, you know, I see the happy coincidence between your members’ interests and the Canadian public interest," said Richard French, "but I submit to you that there is not a hell of a lot left for a programmer to do after you or we have told them to do all those things, is there?"
There is no brain cell in my head that can make sense of that. Does that mean he sees no problem with the Canadian television industry as it currently stands, or that the CRTC shouldn't be in the business of fixing it? Remind me again what their purpose is – to protect the interests of broadcasters? Wait, no, "communications in the public interest" is the slogan they trumpet on their website.
It's not just the CRTC or the broadcasters I can't figure out. It's the audience, too. If one more person tells me, even in jest, that Canadian TV sucks – someone who hasn't seen a Canadian show since The Beachcombers – I'm going to club them over the head with a piece of driftwood.
Over the last year we've seen Intelligence, Corner Gas, The Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Trailer Park Boys, Slings and Arrows, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Instant Star, Dragons' Den, Canada's Next Top Model, Canadian Idol, Whistler, Kenny vs. Spenny, ReGenesis, Robson Arms, and Alice, I Think, among many others. I don't love them all, haven't even seen them all, but if there's nothing on that list that appeals to you, you should not be allowed to handle a remote control.