Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Blow for CanCon

Remember when Jim Shaw had his little tantrum last winter over how much money he had to pay to the Canadian Television Fund to help pay for stupid Canadian shows like Trailer Park Boys?

The CRTC responded almost instantaneously, and recently published the recommendations from their CTF task force. None of it's good for Canadian television. I won't get into all the gory details here - let Denis over at DTOS explain it to you.

In summary, the task force recommends that the CTF be split into two parts: a 'Canadian Heritage' component that would fund 100% Canadian, 'cultural' productions for the CBC and other broadcasters, as well as aboriginal and educational productions, and a more 'market-oriented' fund for commercial productions that would only have to be 80% Canadian.

Two problems with this:

1) Separating 'cultural' from 'commercial' television productions is like picking the green peppers off your pizza and asking a three year old to eat them. They're presenting Canadian Content like it's some nasty vegetable that nobody wants to eat, when in fact it's very tasty when cooked right.

2) The 8/10 CanCon point system for the second, larger fund? Given past history, chances are excellent that those two points will be handed to American writers. And there goes the creative control.

The CRTC is accepting public comments on this proposal until July 27th. The boys of the Writers Cabal are all over this one - Will Dixon explains where and how to submit your own comments here, and McGrath posted his own submission on his blog today. It's long, passionate, very detailed, and states the case far better than I ever could. Read it.

I'm not in the business and not nearly as well informed (or as eloquent) as Denis, but for what it's worth, here's what I sent in today:
As a Canadian and a devoted viewer of Canadian television, I am alarmed at the CRTC task force’s recommendations regarding the CTF. Splitting the Fund in the way that has been suggested and handing the bulk of the money over to productions that will likely have no Canadian creative input at all will take an already bad situation and make it infinitely worse. Despite what the private broadcasters and cable companies might be telling you, trying to generate ‘commercially successful’ television by allowing American writers to assume creative control through the proposed 8/10 point system can only have the opposite effect.

It should be apparent to anyone looking at the success of shows like Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Trailer Park Boys, Degrassi, or Da Vinci’s Inquest, that when given the choice and something good to watch, Canadians love Canadian television. The immense popularity of these shows illustrates quite clearly that the key to success, however elusive, does not lie in the presence of American stars, or in emulating generic American shows. Each of these shows is unique, well written, and 100% Canadian in their production and their perspective. They are also selling extremely well in the U.S. and international markets, precisely because they look nothing like American shows.

If the CRTC goes forward with these recommendations, shows like these will be replaced with more Canadian copies of American reality shows and more bad, generic sitcoms and detective series. At best, we might be treated to the hideous spectre of ‘CSI: Vancouver’ starring Luke Perry.

This is NOT what Canadians want. It is only what we will settle for when there is nothing else to watch.

It is the mandate of the CRTC to protect the interests of the Canadian public. By putting these new recommendations into practise, the Commission will only serve to protect the short term interests of private broadcasters and cable companies who do not, in fact, need any protection at all. In the long run we will all lose, because nobody will be watching at all. We’ll be downloading all those wonderful BBC shows instead.

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Smith
Milton, Ontario

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