Saturday, October 17, 2009

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging...

My dad recently asked me to explain the "Local TV Matters" / "Stop the TV Tax" ad wars to him. I developed brain lock and suddenly couldn't remember any of the information I'd read over the past few months regarding the CRTC hearings and the complex fight over fee-for-carriage.

Tonight I'm sending him the link to this op-ed in the Montreal Gazette, written by Robb Wells of TPB fame. Impressive. He's managed to summarize the entire ludicrous battle in two or three easily digestible paragraphs, while at the same time drawing our attention to the real elephant in the room:

Ever wonder why we have Canadian cable companies and Canadian broadcasters, if all they air is American programming and still charge us a fortune? Couldn't we just cut out the middle-man and pay NBC directly for their TV shows?

... Being able to tune into Canadian TV drama and comedy is critical to the cultural health of our country. How do we know what it is to be Canadian if we can't see and share our experiences, our own lives, our communities, our heroes, and our history on TV, the most popular and pervasive cultural medium in history?

So what can be done to make sure Canadian TV is actually Canadian?

Revenues from fee-for-carriage must be seen on the screen in the form of new, original local, dramatic and comedic programming - broadcasters can't be handed a bag of money to take on their L.A. shopping sprees.


When I started this blog almost three years ago (!), it was with the intention of discussing matters such as the disappearance of Canadian television dramas and scripted comedies. Shows like Da Vinci, The 11 Hour, ReGenesis, Made in Canada, The Newsroom, Wonderland - I loved them all, and one by one I watched them die after not nearly enough seasons.

Such is the life of a TV fan. But instead of being replaced with other Canadian dramas and scripted comedies, they were all replaced by American police procedurals and Canadian clones of U.S. talent shows.

Today, there's nothing left. Even Corner Gas is gone. CTV still has 'Flashpoint' for at least as long as CBS keeps paying for it, but will probably drop 'The Listener' now that NBC isn't. CBC has nothing new this year except for more reality show knock-offs and the Ron James Show, which is sorta, kinda scripted comedy. Global has 'The Guard'.

And that's it. Literally. Even if you count reality TV (I don't), that's two hours of prime time Canadian content per week on Global and three on CTV. CBC is legally bound to run something like 80% Canadian programming, but even they manage to get away with only 5 1/2 hours of scripted comedy / drama per week - and that's counting The Tudors, which as far as I can tell has no actual Canadian content whatsoever.

All of which brings us back to Robb Wells' opening question: if the Canadian commercial television industry produces nothing, creates nothing, and simply serves to re-package and re-broadcast another nation's stories as expensive backdrops for their clients' advertisements, what exactly are we paying them for?


  1. TV's dead.  Pull the Plug.  Cancel your cable.  You can find it ALL and some online.

  2. <div id="post_message_140"><span style=""><span style=""><span style="">From Canadian Press:</span></span></span>

    <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">On another ethical front Friday, a non-partisan group asked the ethics, lobbyist and elections commissioners to investigate a fundraiser organized for Tory MP Rick Dykstra.</span></span></span>

    <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">Democracy Watch said Dykstra hosted 60 "friends" last month in the owner's box at Toronto's Roger's Centre for a Blue Jays baseball game. The donors got tickets to the game, access to the owner's suite, food and drinks, an opportunity to attend batting practice and meetings with unidentified federal cabinet ministers and Blue Jays players.</span></span></span>

    <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">The group wants to know what, if anything, Dykstra or the party paid for the various perks - particularly the owner's box which can't be rented and is only used with permission of owner Rogers Communications Inc., a company which lobbies the federal government.</span></span></span>

    <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><!-- controls --></div>

  3. Not ALL of it - I can't get 'Fringe' and some other US-only shows because of regional blocking.  I downloaded something to get around it, but it hardly ever works.

  4. <span>"Not ALL of it"</span>

    Yes you can M'dear


    Unethical? Maybe
    Illegal? A copyright violation under the letter of the law but if the networks are sending it out with regional blocking then not much different than a well placed antenna and a VCR.

    Give me a high quality download or stream direct from the source and I will watch it ads and all. Heck just let me pick the damn channels I want on cable or satellite rather than some pre-determined "package" designed purely to maximize profits.

    TV is dead.