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What recession? Profits, greed and gifting thrive in TV land by John Doyle

Nov 7, 2011

Source: Globe and Mail

Crazy world we live in, isn’t it? That’s why we watch TV. To escape. Or to look out on those crazy things happening in the world from the comfort of the couch.

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Toronna. Occupy every street except Seasame Street. Tax the rich. Blame the bankers and their obscene bonuses for driving entire countries into the ground. I get it, I get it.

The 99 per cent with their poorly paid jobs, enormous debt, student loans and no prospect of it getting any better. The 1 per cent with their vast wealth, tax breaks and loopholes to avoid contributing to the running of a civil and ordered society. I get it. It’s obscene. Crazy stuff.

Unemployment rising, savings disappearing and pensions evaporating. Pawn shops thriving and food banks begging for donations to help feed the poor. I get it. Nobody’s laughing right now. Too many things to fret about.

Except in the TV racket. You think they’re fretting in the TV racket? Ha bloody ha.

Recently the CRTC released figures about the commercial Canadian TV racket showing that its operating revenues in broadcasting came to $2.15-billion in 2010. That’s an increase of 9 per cent from 2009. As a result, profits before interest and taxes (PBIT) improved significantly from a deficit of $116.6-million in 2009 to a profit of $11.5 million in 2010. Yes, peaches, you read correctly, things are going fine in the TV biz.

And, jiminy, but how are they doing in the pay-TV and specialty-channel sector? You know, those channels you pay the cable company to receive, some of which you never watch? In the pay and specialty area, operating revenues increased 11.1 per cent over 2009 to reach $3.5-billion. PBIT for this sector jumped to $877-million in 2010 from $728-million in 2009. Yes, loads of money coming in.

Where to start with this information? Let’s start with So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Just as a for instance. No money that. Nope. Had to go. Same for Arts & Minds on Bravo. No money for that. Over in the Rogers empire, no money for Murdoch Mysteries. Nope, not a sausage. It had to go. Times are tight, don’t ya know? Is there a Canadian-made scripted show on Global in prime time any night of the week? No money for that. Let the CBC do that stuff and then let’s complain to the government that the tax-payer funded CBC is unfairly competing with private broadcasters! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Commercial broadcasters want the ad revenue CBC. Don’t say it out loud. They would seem greedy. It’s not about greed, it’s about fairness. Yeah, for sure.

Oh, this crazy world. Occupy Wall Street. Make the rich pay. Why? To make the banks and the super-rich behave as good citizens, like the rest of the population. How do they get rich? Capitalism. All good and fair in a capitalist system. Right on. But – and you can take this to the bank – Canadian commercial broadcasters do not operate in a free-market capitalist system. They are protected by countless regulations in place to ensure Canadian broadcasting continues to exist. They’re coddled. Go figure. Go tell the Occupy Toronna crowd they’re barking at the wrong crowd of rich slickers when they bray at Bay Street. Go occupy some broadcasters.

And another thing: Selena Gomez. You think this is off topic? No, peaches, it ain’t. Not in this crazy world.

See, if you wonder how Selena Gomez feels about the crazy allegation that boyfriend Justin Bieber engaged in coitus backstage in L.A. with a 20-year-old femme fatale – and I know some of you wonder – put your frazzled mind at rest. Selena can forget her troubles with a new Swatch Touch 2011. Plus an Xbox 360 console with Kinect sensor and games, a Fatman MKII iTube Amplifier and Speakers, a Rimowa suitcase, M.A.C make-up boxes, Butter London nail varnish, WOWee Speakers and Bushmills whisky.

Plus 20 other items in the MTV EMA Artist Bag, a swag bag given to all the presenters and performers at the 2011 MTV European Music Awards last weekend. Selena was the host. A list of the free stuff for showing up was announced proudly by MTV last week.

And if you think the Bushmills whisky was an odd thing to give to Gomez, there’s an explanation. The awards were held in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Bushmills distillery, the oldest in the world, is down the road. Here’s another fun fact about the area – in Northern Ireland unemployment among young people, aged 18 to 24, is 18 per cent.

Perhaps Selena gave the Bushmills to one of the unemployed. Or perhaps she sought solace in it herself because of the crazy Bieber-boinking backstage rumours. It’s a crazy world, isn’t it? So let’s watch a little TV and escape. The broadcasters need the eyeballs and the moolah anyway. Crazy.

© Globe and Mail