Source: Centretown News
If the recently released results of the CRTC’s ongoing public consultation are anything to judge by, Canadians like to complain.
The document outlines comments from more than 1,300 Canadians submitted last fall. It’s part of an effort by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to engage the public in TV’s future.
The summary covers a range of opinions – and most contradict each other. Some want more diversity in Canadian programming, while others want better quality. Some want more original Canadian shows, while others want more international content.
Commenters also criticize industry norms such as bundling channels, repeating programs, and having too many commercials.
With such a convoluted critique, what path should the CRTC actually take?
An obvious step is to embrace technology. Many complaints centred on lack of access and choice with programming – shows on demand available on the internet would solve this problem easily.
The reality is that online streaming is gaining more traction. Along with pirating, video-on-demand and other new services, they are transforming the definition of TV. It would be foolish of the CRTC not to acknowledge and embrace the integration of the internet into television-viewing.
Then, of course, there is the question of Canadian content.
CRTC requires networks to have 60 per cent Canadian content, but the quality of that content is questionable.
Canadian programs can be clearly identified by their lower quality, say commenters in the review. The storytelling is lacklustre, the acting falls flat and the content is unoriginal. Many shows are just spin-offs of their American forefathers – Canada’s Next Top Model, Canadian Idol, The Bachelor Canada, Canada’s Got Talent.
To add to the problem, some producers try to de-Canadianize their content in hopes of making more money on international markets – U.S. companies buy Canadian shows because they garner decent ratings at a low cost subsidized by the CRTC.
Some commenters said they didn’t care about Canadian content. With national shows losing their Canadian flair and American shows appealing to a wider audience base, why would they?
Some argue that we should abolish CanCon rules entirely. Agreed. A change is needed.
Canadian content has a place on Canadian television, but not as a desultory drama or a copycat reality show. Removing or reducing obligations towards Canadian content would force Canadian shows to be viable both in the finance and ratings departments.
But the idea of lowering the mandated percentage for CanCon puts some on edge. Won’t American shows take over, forcing out our Canadian television identity?
Saying that American shows will fill airwaves if CanCon mandates are lowered is underestimating Canadians. American programming may fill more spots at first, but Canadians want a Canadian perspective regardless of regulations.
Subsidies can still be a part of this system. They will just have to be more selective. Money won’t go to any old show – it will go to a quality Canadian program that will attract viewers.
In moving from protecting to promoting, Canadian content can be worthy of prime viewing times, instead of relegated to the early morning hours or the afternoon lull. Shows would be broadcasted not out of obligation, but audience enjoyment.
It’s a full circle – at the very least, if the CRTC is adamant on promoting mediocre Canadian television, they should shift the burden to online providers like Netflix and Apple TV as well.
Moving towards quality Canadian programming accessible on multiple platforms is a road full of debate and discussion, compromise and creation. We must wait until the public review this spring to see whether the CRTC is up to the challenge.
© Centretown News