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Let us watch what we want

The best way to save the TV networks? Get rid of CanCon quotas.


 

Let us watch what we wantIf Canadian broadcasters were capable of producing a decent drama, this would have the makings of a pretty good pilot: “In a world turned upside down . . . as an empire lies in ruins . . . the name of the game is survival. One man has the power . . . to decide who lives, who dies, and who pays. They call him . . . The Commissioner.”

Naturally I’m referring to the industry’s own abundant troubles. By now you will have heard and read a great deal of the losses the networks are suffering, the jobs that have been cut, the stations that have been closed. And, these being broadcasters and this being Canada, it will have been impressed upon you that the solution to the industry’s woes lies in the hands of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and its chairman, Konrad von Finckenstein.

For his part, the chairman has been sympathetic. The industry’s business model, he declared in a recent speech, is “broken,” torn apart by the combined destructive force of the global economic downturn, the fragmentation of the audience among competing channels, and the rise of the Internet. He has promised to respond with what the commission evidently regards as quite reckless speed. Special hearings are promised for later this month, at which the broadcasters will be awarded temporary licences on one-year terms instead of the usual seven—plausibly enough, since it’s not clear any of them will be around much longer than that. Indeed, at least one, Canwest Global, may not even make it as far as the hearings. Further hearings are scheduled for this summer to set the terms of licence for the longer run, with yet a third set of hearings next April to focus on . . . whatever’s left.

But it’s clear we live in revolutionary times. As the commissioner has observed, the crisis means “we have an opportunity and an obligation to rethink our traditional assumptions.” It is time, he said, to step forward with “bold and creative ideas.” So far these have included more money from the government—a new $150-million fund, perhaps, on top of the $60-million Local Programming Improvement Fund, on top of the $285-million Canadian Television Fund, etc.—or better yet, more money from the cable and satellite industries, for carrying their signals: fee-for-carriage, as it’s known in the trade.

In the spirit of free inquiry and blue-sky thinking, then, allow me to make a truly radical suggestion: let broadcasters show programs that people want to watch. I know, that’s a lot to digest, but what the hell: while we’re at it, let them charge the cable companies for their signals if they like—but let the cablecos choose whether they wish to carry them. And let consumers decide whether they wish to subscribe to them.

In place of the tight corset of regulation in which the industry is currently confined, where consumers must pay for channels the cable companies must carry showing content the broadcasters must make—a vast, roundabout system for transferring income from consumers via the carriers to the broadcasters to television producers—just let viewers watch what they want to watch, broadcasters show what they want to show, cable and satellite providers carry what they want to carry.

Okay, baby steps. For now, let’s just deal with Canadian content quotas. If the industry’s crisis is as existential as everyone says it is, and if we’re as liberated to rethink traditional assumptions as the commissioner says we are, then it is worth discussing whether the industry should still be required to devote 60 per cent of its broadcast day, and 50 per cent of its evening schedule, to Canadian programming. To be sure, the industry has many other issues on its plate than just CanCon. But the constraint is clearly binding: the regulations exist because broadcasters, given a choice, would rather show other programs—because viewers, given a choice, would rather watch other programs. And to the extent that broadcasters are prevented from showing the programs viewers would prefer to watch in favour of the programs the commission would prefer they show, that’s a cost to the broadcasters—a point von Finckenstein has conceded by offering to temporarily relax the requirements at this month’s licence hearings.

Yet it’s clear that, nearly 50 years after they were first introduced, CanCon regulations remain an integral part of the commission’s vision for broadcasting’s future. Even the advent of the Internet, and the blurring of the line between conventional TV and “new media,” has only prompted it to muse about regulating the Net. This, despite the policy’s enduring failure even to define what it is trying to achieve, let alone actually achieve it.

We all know the mantra: without content quotas, and similar regulations designed to protect Canada’s “cultural sovereignty,” Canada would be swamped with foreign cultural products. Regulations are required to make “space” for Canadian content, to ensure Canadians can “tell ourselves our own stories.”

It all sounds terribly persuasive, if you don’t stop to unpack all the assumptions hidden inside: among others, that it is possible to define with any coherence what is “Canadian” and what is “foreign” content; that American culture is imposed upon Canadians, rather than something they freely choose; that there exist great differences between the two countries, that watching American TV will erode these, that there would be terrible consequences if it did, and that there is some public purpose in preventing it.

But in fact none of it is true. For all the seeming objectivity of the CRTC’s complex formulae for determining if a program is Canadian, they are based on a series of arbitrary judgments and valuations: how many of which sorts of creative personnel are Canadian, what proportion of production costs are incurred in Canada, and so on. Even as simple a matter as the rule that the producer must be Canadian is fraught with difficulty. Canadian based on residence, citizenship, or both? Suppose a corporation is involved. Is the nationality of the owners what counts? Or the location of the head office? What if that corporation is a subsidiary of another corporation? If it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, recall that it was exactly this process that resulted in Universal Studios being classed as a Canadian corporation because it was owned by (New York-based) Seagram, and because Seagram was controlled by the Bronfman family.

Even if we could find our way through any of this, we come up against the reality that much of what counts as CanCon amounts to repackaging foreign programs (Canadian Idol) or commenting on foreign celebrities (all those interchangeable entertainment “news” programs) or performing in a foreign idiom (Country Music Television, for example). Or else it is produced for export to the U.S.—Flashpoint, Stargate SG-1, it’s a long list—and consciously tailored to erase any distinctly “Canadian” features. How does this count as “telling ourselves our own stories”? For that matter, much of the “foreign” programming from which we are to be protected is produced, written or acted by Canadians working abroad. Aren’t they telling Canadian stories?

It is true that they have left Canada to work in New York, or Hollywood, and perhaps that’s a shame. But it’s just as true of artists from Alabama, or Nebraska. Are the people who live in these states not just as “swamped” as Canada? Indeed, the cultural differences within each country are at least as great as those between them. Research by the Pew Center, for example, has found broad agreement on social values between English Canadians and people in much of the United States. The really sharp dissents from that continental consensus are to be found in the two outliers: Quebec and the South.

Suppose, over time, those differences were to fade. Would that be a tragedy? The point of protecting Canadians (as opposed to Canadian television producers) from being flooded with imported programming is presumably that such programming, being alien to our way of life, cannot speak to us with the same resonance. But were our differences to disappear, that objection would surely disappear with it. Assimilation is in this regard its own defence.

If that sounds harsh, consider that this is what happens all the time—as immigrants bring change, and are changed by the receiving population; as new generations replace the old; with each technological revolution. Or consider a more fundamental paradox: a big part of the Canadian identity we are supposed to protect from the influx of American television was and is formed by . . . American television. That’s who we are—the people who watch another people’s television.

Cultures are not hermetically sealed boxes, or frozen in time: they are perpetually heaving seas, mongrel mixes, combining and commingling with promiscuous disregard for political projects like nationalism. Canadian TV producers who adopt the language of economics, talking of the necessity of protectionism because of the smallness of our market, overlook one thing: what is “our” market? Canada? Or, as our burgeoning export trade suggests, the world?

Or suppose we accept their point: that national markets, and national differences, are what count. Does that not still undercut their complaint—that American producers, by virtue of the economies of scale they enjoy, enjoy a prohibitive price advantage? For it is only useful to compare the prices of things that are essentially interchangeable, substitutes for one another. And the whole premise of the exercise is that Canadian and American programs are not substitutes, but profoundly different—apples and oranges, culturally speaking.

To put the matter another way: some forms of cultural expression, like news, are specific, of interest only to the people in a particular place and time—and as such have no foreign competition. Others, like art or drama, speak to the universal, to people in all places and times—and as such are at no disadvantage to their foreign competitors. In neither case is protection necessary.

CanCon, in short, never had much point to it. For a long while, it was something the broadcasters could put up with, even if it meant the rest of us had to suffer through The Trouble With Tracy and similar outrages. But now it is a cost they cannot bear. It is time this show was cancelled.


 

Let us watch what we want

  1. C'mon AC, are you seriously suggesting that programming that Canadians have chosen to watch and even mythologize – beachcombers/ Da vinci's inquest et al. would have seen the light of day without some form of cultural content rules? We may have chosen to watch such programming, but in a world of heartless bottom lines would they have gotten made, or would we have just blithely accepted more littlest hoboe, Partridge family, while guys like you assured us it was after all, what we wanted.

    Some Quebeckers say: Canada isn't a real country, that we have no culture, because unlike Quebec we don't fight hard enough to support our culture ; articles like this make me feel we no longer have the will to fight anymore, and maybe their right afterall.

    It's a strange arguement coming from you, who i have noted in the past as one of the clearest voices for national unity, one Canada and a strong sense of identity; how on earth are we to accomplish this with no real sense of who we are – even if it has to be at a premium. I think you would agree that rumours that the market was in fact god, have lately been proved to be unfounded.

  2. Isn't it ironic that Canada is heralded as a multicultural melting-pot, while CanCon's goal is to protect Canadian culture by excluding foreign influences, and marginalizes foreign cultures to specialty channels.

  3. Didn't an almost identical article run only a few weeks ago?

  4. Coyne makes a good point. There must be some way to protect "Canadian content" and Canadian TV production without crippling our broadcasters. Maybe we shouldn't do away with quotas altogether, but it might help to relax the current quotas a bit.

  5. What channels are you forbidden from accessing exactly?

    "Some Quebeckers say: Canada isn't a real country, that we have no culture, because unlike Quebec we don't fight hard enough to support our culture ; articles like this make me feel we no longer have the will to fight anymore, and maybe their right afterall."

    it's going that way, yes, sadly :(

  6. It was never about protecting Canadian culture. Not really. It is about protecting corporate welfare in film and broadcast industries.

  7. C’mon AC, are you seriously suggesting that programming that Canadians have chosen to watch and even mythologize – beachcombers/ Da vinci’s inquest et al. would have seen the light of day without some form of cultural content rules? We may have chosen to watch such programming, but in a world of heartless bottom lines would they have gotten made, or would we have just blithely accepted more littlest hoboe, Partridge family, while guys like you assured us it was after all, what we wanted.
    Some Quebeckers say: Canada isn’t a real country, that we have no culture, because unlike Quebec we don’t fight hard enough to support our culture ; articles like this make me feel we no longer have the will to fight anymore, and maybe their right afterall.
    It’s a strange arguement coming from you, who i have noted in the past as one of the clearest voices for national unity, one Canada and a strong sense of identity; how on earth are we to accomplish this with no real sense of who we are – even if it has to be at a premium. I think you would agree that rumours that the market was in fact god, have lately been proved to be unfounded.

  8. Isn’t it ironic that Canada is heralded as a multicultural melting-pot, while CanCon’s goal is to protect Canadian culture by excluding foreign influences, and marginalizes foreign cultures to specialty channels.

    • No the real irony is that Cancon should be a concept that any Canadian nationalist could get behind. But in this country the conservatives are ashamed of the country, or so it seems to me. I’ve lived in a number of countries, and this is the only one where the cons aren’t the nationalists. Go figure – don’t bother, it was all Trudeau’s fault.

      • You’re right : it’s weird that nationalists in Canada tend to be lefties, and to some extent, the fact that we do not have a strong, unique and national cultural identity is Trudeau’s fault. I believe the first is easily explained by the proximity of the United States. As the Left opposes power and capital, it is the natural enemy of the most powerful and economically successful capitalist country ever known. The Right feels itself more culturally akin to the Yankees for exactly the same reasons the Left rejects their values.

        I think the second is more complicated. Trudeau’s vision of Canada was one of a ‘just society’ where both equality of rights and opportunities and equity of outcomes created a citizenship and national identity. In order to affirm the right of both founding nations, English and French, bilingualism was adopted. Multiculturalism was a way to break down this duality, creating a polity which has a big stake in tolerance and equality rather than in conflict and prejudice. Trudeau abhorred the sort of ethnic nationalism which fuelled the two World Wars. As a result, we have created a society with a remarkable absence of political violence and conflict given where we started from.

        But this has come at a price : we just don’t have a ‘national identity’ like the Yankees, British, French and others, although we do have a certain ‘constitutional patriotism’ and affirmation of common values. Our history is downplayed for fear of causing offence : for example, when was the last time you ever heard anybody sing “The Maple Leaf Forever” ? The recent Plains of Abraham re-enactment cancellation is another example. History taught in school is made as dull as possible. We’re not allowed to have a history. In comparison, the British know exactly who they are. They revel in both their successes and their failures as part of being British. We sure don’t – we tend to ignore anything which is inconvenient in our history or which doesn’t fit with our present conception of our values.

        I have never been convinced that the presence or absence of a ‘national identity’ has anything to do with making good culture. The best cultural product is about telling good stories in an excellent way. Stories about controversial or sensitive issues will certainly sell. The problem with subsidy of cultural endeavour is the mediocrity it encourages. Nothing offensive, always lowest common denominator, usually derivative. Every time I watch CBC drama all I can hear is a droning Soviet era jazz band, no character, no taste, no hooks, no riffs, about as dull as dishwater. That doesn’t mean we should lock our ‘artists’ out of economic prosperity by taking away CanCon rules. We just need to become more demanding and more critical as a people. We must reject mediocrity and demand excellence in everything we do, whether it be cultural product, academic research or whatever. Anything which is excellent will sell.

        • “Anything which is excellent will sell.”

          This may be just about the most stupid comment I’ve read in a long time.

          • Why ? That is what the free market is all about, isn’t it ?

          • If you inject corporate welfare into production, the resources go towards securing corporate welfare rather than concentrating on the product. After all, corporations (and businesses in general) will concentrate on what makes them money.

            You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that people should be given money simply because they are Canadian despite the fact that they can’t compete with superior entertainment products and then expect them to create works of genius that will have mass appeal.

            No, they’re going to create works that appeal to what gets them funding. In other words, your “dull as dishwater” artistic works are skewed towards dull as dishwater, very left wing, bureaucratic sugar daddies. They want things that they think will be inclusively nice, have a particular “progressive” message and which will hire as many people as possible (which is why we also subsidize Hollywood).

          • They want things that they think will be inclusively nice, have a particular “progressive” message and which will hire as many people as possible (which is why we also subsidize Hollywood)

            Yes, you have just summed up Canadian television rather accurately.

            I agree with your points. Canadian television is geared towards the bureaucrats, not the viewers.

          • Terry/ Mulletaur
            In a odd way i think you’re both right, if that’s possible. I can see the arguement for not sudsidizing mediocre products, but i also think Mulletaur is correct, in that you have to support and encourage your homegrown artists. Show me a country anywhere in the world that doesn’t protect, in some way of other its cultural institutions [ including the US] And someone please tell me why the BBC consistently produces quality programming using a similar model to the cbc ; while the cbc, as M says consistently produces pap?
            My problem with a number of AC’s pet projects is that nobody else is doing them, so why the hell should we? For instance: ending political subsidies, not one major first world democracy is dependent on private donations to political parties ; and in this case everybody else supports their cultural industries, one way or another.
            However, the fact remains that we do not produce good entertainment in this country, for some reason – but this not a reason to abandon our own stories – it’s not as if the flood of US cutural entertainment is even uniformly good – much of it is appalling. So what can we do to raise the standard of our tv/ cultural industries – not simply tear down the walls as some argue, just to be swamped by trashy, cheesy crap from down south – we know now that we’re perfectly capable of making our own crap, thankyou very much. In my earlier post i alluded to how Quebeckers feel about their culture, they guard it jealously and if we not prepared to make the effort to promote and defend our own culture, in ways that don’t promote mediocity and produce bland stories,[ that lack vitality] about who we are up here on the roof of the world, then we deserve to be slaves to someone elses culture.

        • This is a very fine little essay. I hope you’re saving these.

          • Thanks, Jack.

        • Mulletaur,
          You are far too insightful to be reading this kind of right wing crap, published, by the way by Rogers Communications.

          Remember; they invented negative options!

    • It’s possible to have multicultural programming that is cancon. As long as the people behind the program are Canadian, whether they be immigrants or descendants of immigrants or not. Canadian content is merely about telling Canadian stories, which can be done by employing Canadians. There’s no real regulations stating the subject has to be about Canada.

  9. Didn’t an almost identical article run only a few weeks ago?

  10. Coyne makes a good point. There must be some way to protect “Canadian content” and Canadian TV production without crippling our broadcasters. Maybe we shouldn’t do away with quotas altogether, but it might help to relax the current quotas a bit.

  11. What channels are you forbidden from accessing exactly?

    “Some Quebeckers say: Canada isn’t a real country, that we have no culture, because unlike Quebec we don’t fight hard enough to support our culture ; articles like this make me feel we no longer have the will to fight anymore, and maybe their right afterall.”

    it’s going that way, yes, sadly :(

  12. "a vast, roundabout system for transferring income from consumers via the carriers to the broadcasters to television producers"

    These beloved consumers are people who watch television. Television! Nobody respects television as the preeminent leisure activity. What's the big deal?

  13. It was never about protecting Canadian culture. Not really. It is about protecting corporate welfare in film and broadcast industries.

    • Terry, where’s the evidence?That statement is so absurd if you really think it through.

      • Terry’s comment is bang on.

        When’s the last time any individual Canadian made a representation to the CRTC on behalf of the CanCon that supposedly produced for his/her benefit?

        Year after year, ACTRA, DGC. WGC etc pop up at the CRTC, with some B-list actor in tow to dazzle the Commission with “star power” and propose the same solution to the problem of the day.

        New media eroding TV viewership? Give us more of someone else’s money.

        Nobody’s watching prime time Canadian drama? Give us more of someone else’s money.

        In fact, ACTRA was so bold at the recent New Media hearings then when pressed by commissioners as to how they would propose to structure the new fund they were begging for, their president actually said, for the record “we don’t care, we just want the money.”

        Producers, unions and guilds are forever appearing in front of the CRTC and parliamentary committees with their hands out, and very rarely have to justify why, after 50 years of subsidy, they are still incapable of producing anything anyone wants to watch. They don’t care. They just want the money.

      • All I see is a business that cannot compete on its own merits. Of what difference is if it is airplane parts or entertainment?

        If a cultural practice or idea is attractive I’ll assimilate it. If something is already a part of my culture, I’ll practice it. I do not need the state to tell me what my identity should be any more than East Germans needed to be told by their media how wonderful the communist party was.

        • So, we’ll be cancelling the tax-free status of the churches, then? After all, if they can’t compete with Seinfeld commercially . . . Oh no?

          • I don’t have any problems with donations to arts and culture being tax free. I would mind if churches were given funding by the state (as it is in several European countries).

          • Well, that’s generous of you, but rather inconsistent. Tax exemptions are government interference in the market. My point being that all of us, except maybe oompus boompus, want a modeled society; it’s just that free-marketeers want a society modeled on the market. Model away, but don’t pretend you’re not modeling.

          • Yes, but what kind of interference? With tax free contributions, you don’t penalize people for contributing to the well-being of public life and cultural expression, but the institutions still have to be relevant to life of the public they are trying to enlighten in order to be funded by that public. If it is funded by the state, these institutions are generally staffed by intellectual lightweights and bland incompetents who only have to be relevant to the bureaucrats handing out the dough. Churches and cultural institutions alike.

          • My solution, for what it’s worth, would be to make the process far less fair, far less evenhanded: far more dependent on the personal whim of arrogant cultural dictators. It works for Hollywood and it worked for 16th C Rome; perhaps because it’s just consumer choice writ large. Of course it would contradict modern cant, but that’s why I like it.

          • Oh, so things are pretty much working as you want them too then. What is considered “Canadian culture” is pretty much decided by arrogant cultural dictators. That’s probably why I don’t resemble it, even though I was born and raised in Canada.

          • It’s not at all decided by arrogant cultural dictators. It’s generally decided by committees, in consultation with stakeholders, in compliance with the legislation, etc. etc. etc. Enough with the rhetoric.

          • Fine, fine, mandarins not dictators.

            It is still money that is taken from me, for cultural activities that aren’t representative of me, and can sometimes be used to promote public sentiment that is the detriment of me and my cultural groups.

          • Gee, that’s tough, my heart goes out to you. Any other complaints?

          • Well, that and state sponsored culture is usually awful to watch, read and listen to… but nobody seems to be disputing that much.

          • Yeah, well, most people are pretty ugly.

  14. Terry, where's the evidence?That statement is so absurd if you really think it through.

  15. No the real irony is that Cancon should be a concept that any Canadian nationalist could get behind. But in this country the conservatives are ashamed of the country, or so it seems to me. I've lived in a number of countries, and this is the only one where the cons aren't the nationalists. Go figure – don't bother, it was all Trudeau's fault.

  16. Or we just compromise and ban TV altogether. We've banned heroin, and TV is just as destructive of family life, independent thought, and spirituality generally as heroin is. But perhaps AC thinks we should allow people to choose the needle freely too and let the Invisible Hand sort out the nation of junkies we might well become.

  17. Your comment made me think about the Black Flag tune "TV Party" and now I have a song tumour …

  18. U.S. cultural industry oligarchy + vertical integration = impossibility of Canadian cultural innovation to enter market. If you need an example, the film industry is a perfect one. Cultural protectionism is the only way we can guarantee our cultural workers a share of the market. Otherwise, we are all doomed to watching Simpsons reruns.

  19. “a vast, roundabout system for transferring income from consumers via the carriers to the broadcasters to television producers”

    These beloved consumers are people who watch television. Television! Nobody respects television as the preeminent leisure activity. What’s the big deal?

  20. Or we just compromise and ban TV altogether. We’ve banned heroin, and TV is just as destructive of family life, independent thought, and spirituality generally as heroin is. But perhaps AC thinks we should allow people to choose the needle freely too and let the Invisible Hand sort out the nation of junkies we might well become.

    • Your comment made me think about the Black Flag tune “TV Party” and now I have a song tumour …

      • Don’t talk about anything else, we don’t wanna know!
        We’re dedicated to our favourite shows!

  21. U.S. cultural industry oligarchy + vertical integration = impossibility of Canadian cultural innovation to enter market. If you need an example, the film industry is a perfect one. Cultural protectionism is the only way we can guarantee our cultural workers a share of the market. Otherwise, we are all doomed to watching Simpsons reruns.

    • There’s a very strong argument to be made that this is true but I’m not sure that’s Coyne’s point (and I’m literally not sure, Coyne writes long and I usually just skim everything after the first few paragraphs). Is Coyne saying that Canadian content would survive more easily in a freer market, or that it doesn’t matter that it wouldn’t?

      • He is suggesting that we should not fear the outcome of the change that would result. Cultural protectionism produces particular results, removing it will produce some other results. The change will be painful for some, liberating for others. I am confident that Canadian artists of all kinds will manage just fine without this security net, but I am sympathetic to those who have built careers around the current setup.

        It all matters in different ways to different people. Why this should all be governed by the Commissioner and his committees is the question Coyne is asking. I would suggest that we just get rid to the lot of them and see what transpires.

        • For what would happen, see above by Mulletar

          • This is arguable on every level, as Coyne asserts. But it always seems end up like this when we talk about government support or protection for “cultural workers” (not sure Iike that phrase – was Glenn Gould a “cultural worker”? Yuk.) – there are those who believe firmly that they would not survive in the market on their own, and others (like myself) who think that they should be cut loose to sink or swim.

            There doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support either view and I accept that mine is just that -a view. The only trouble is that I am being asked to subsidize the other view!

    • That makes no sense. US conglomerates will go anywhere and do anything to make movies that will sell. If they think Canadians can do the job, then Canadians will get their chance. We already have loads of examples of Canadians doing well in music, both domestically and internationally, because it is not subsidized like TV.

      • It makes no sense if you live in Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland. If you live in the real world, where real people make real decisions, and where Hollywood did everything possible since the Second World War to wreck the domestic movie industry in every Western country (with a great deal of success) in order to secure their Yankee oligopoly, backed of course by the U.S. State Department, you would know that you are totally, utterly wrong.

        By the way, perfect competition doesn’t exist either. Except in Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland.

      • No, they won’t and never have. They have, however, done everything possible to secure their oligopoly by any means possible, as they have done in the film industry since the Second World War, with the support of the U.S. State Department during the Cold War, in the process destroying the domestic film industries in every Western country.

        Sorry to burst your balloon, but Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland doesn’t exist. Neither does perfect competition.

        • Sorry, my comment didn’t appear the first time and I ended up repeating it. WordPress appeared to eat it the first time.

  22. Would anyone like to list some programs that have been made in the last 10 or 20 years that are deemed to be culturally valuable to our Canadianism and can be ascribed to Cancon?

  23. …and who is the judge of 'culturally valuable'? You? For the record, EVERY Canadian program is a result of regulatory rules such as CanCon. They wouldn't be made without it.

  24. There's a very strong argument to be made that this is true but I'm not sure that's Coyne's point (and I'm literally not sure, Coyne writes long and I usually just skim everything after the first few paragraphs). Is Coyne saying that Canadian content would survive more easily in a freer market, or that it doesn't matter that it wouldn't?

  25. I have no interest in judging this. I was hoping for others to suggest some programs that might fit the bill since I can't really think of any offhand.

    Can you think of any that might have been made without Cancon? Corner Gas?

  26. He is suggesting that we should not fear the outcome of the change that would result. Cultural protectionism produces particular results, removing it will produce some other results. The change will be painful for some, liberating for others. I am confident that Canadian artists of all kinds will manage just fine without this security net, but I am sympathetic to those who have built careers around the current setup.

    It all matters in different ways to different people. Why this should all be governed by the Commissioner and his committees is the question Coyne is asking. I would suggest that we just get rid to the lot of them and see what transpires.

  27. For what would happen, see above by Mulletar

  28. This is arguable on every level, as Coyne asserts. But it always seems end up like this when we talk about government support or protection for "cultural workers" (not sure Iike that phrase – was Glenn Gould a "cultural worker"? Yuk.) – there are those who believe firmly that they would not survive in the market on their own, and others (like myself) who think that they should be cut loose to sink or swim.

    There doesn't seem to be much evidence to support either view and I accept that mine is just that -a view. The only trouble is that I am being asked to subsidize the other view!

  29. Corner Gas was only made because of the CRTC's Benefits Policy. Essentially, CTV are required to spend a specific amount on Canadian drama over a seven year period as the trade off for being alowed much greater degree of media concentration then is allowed in the U.S. Like I said, NO Canadian program is made without some kind of government regulation or support.

    Interesting though isn't it. Corner Gas was one of the most successful shows ever broadcast on Canadian televsion, never dropping below one million viewers per episode during its entire run. Yet it would never have been made without regulations and CanCon rules.

  30. Terry's comment is bang on.

    When's the last time any individual Canadian made a representation to the CRTC on behalf of the CanCon that supposedly produced for his/her benefit?

    Year after year, ACTRA, DGC. WGC etc pop up at the CRTC, with some B-list actor in tow to dazzle the Commission with "star power" and propose the same solution to the problem of the day.

    New media eroding TV viewership? Give us more of someone else's money.

    Nobody's watching prime time Canadian drama? Give us more of someone else's money.

    In fact, ACTRA was so bold at the recent New Media hearings then when pressed by commissioners as to how they would propose to structure the new fund they were begging for, their president actually said, for the record "we don't care, we just want the money."

    Producers, unions and guilds are forever appearing in front of the CRTC and parliamentary committees with their hands out, and very rarely have to justify why, after 50 years of subsidy, they are still incapable of producing anything anyone wants to watch. They don't care. They just want the money.

  31. Being someone who does not watch any of these Canadian shows, I totally agree with Mr. Coyne. I have no problem with the CBC being mandated to show these programs but allowing other, viable businesses to flounder because of these rules is assinine. When these Channels disappear, due to people like me tuning in to CBS, ABC and the like, the conversation will be over but we will have lost the truly valuable services they provide such as the local news.

  32. If Canadian broadcasters don't want to show Canadian programs, what do we need them for?

  33. Don't talk about anything else, we don't wanna know!

    We're dedicated to our favourite shows!

  34. I'm pretty sure corner Gas also gets $ even apart from the policy and the tax credits.

  35. You're right : it's weird that nationalists in Canada tend to be lefties, and to some extent, the fact that we do not have a strong, unique and national cultural identity is Trudeau's fault. I believe the first is easily explained by the proximity of the United States. As the Left opposes power and capital, it is the natural enemy of the most powerful and economically successful capitalist country ever known. The Right feels itself more culturally akin to the Yankees for exactly the same reasons the Left rejects their values.

    I think the second is more complicated. Trudeau's vision of Canada was one of a 'just society' where both equality of rights and opportunities and equity of outcomes created a citizenship and national identity. In order to affirm the right of both founding nations, English and French, bilingualism was adopted. Multiculturalism was a way to break down this duality, creating a polity which has a big stake in tolerance and equality rather than in conflict and prejudice. Trudeau abhorred the sort of ethnic nationalism which fuelled the two World Wars. As a result, we have created a society with a remarkable absence of political violence and conflict given where we started from.

    But this has come at a price : we just don't have a 'national identity' like the Yankees, British, French and others, although we do have a certain 'constitutional patriotism' and affirmation of common values. Our history is downplayed for fear of causing offence : for example, when was the last time you ever heard anybody sing "The Maple Leaf Forever" ? The recent Plains of Abraham re-enactment cancellation is another example. History taught in school is made as dull as possible. We're not allowed to have a history. In comparison, the British know exactly who they are. They revel in both their successes and their failures as part of being British. We sure don't – we tend to ignore anything which is inconvenient in our history or which doesn't fit with our present conception of our values.

    I have never been convinced that the presence or absence of a 'national identity' has anything to do with making good culture. The best cultural product is about telling good stories in an excellent way. Stories about controversial or sensitive issues will certainly sell. The problem with subsidy of cultural endeavour is the mediocrity it encourages. Nothing offensive, always lowest common denominator, usually derivative. Every time I watch CBC drama all I can hear is a droning Soviet era jazz band, no character, no taste, no hooks, no riffs, about as dull as dishwater. That doesn't mean we should lock our 'artists' out of economic prosperity by taking away CanCon rules. We just need to become more demanding and more critical as a people. We must reject mediocrity and demand excellence in everything we do, whether it be cultural product, academic research or whatever. Anything which is excellent will sell.

  36. "The people own the airwaves." Some essence of government control / license made sense at the time. Now, with cable, internet and satellite, the media have flipped the bird to the publicly-owned airwaves. And, naturally, government control continues. Not to encourage competition between media outlets, oh no. Rather, to RESTRICT entry of any new media outlet if it should at all threaten the success of the established players who have agreed to play this racket. All the while paying social engineers with stopwatches and tests of citizenship of various actors in the labour pool that produces what ends up on these media outlets. And, naturally, sucking tax dollars ("helping themselves to other people's stuff") to see that this insanity continues.

    The next Bryan Adams release, can it count for the Maple-Leaf column of radio stations' playlists to satisfy Big Brother? What if we hire the sound guy who is one-eighth Canadian, instead of this other guy who is only one-32nd? Well, no, the sound studio is in New York. But we can serve poutine at lunch, is that ok? And that photo op with the Canadian Consul General: no problem. So, do we have a deal?

    We can't keep making stuff no one watches, we'll have no advertisers! Don't worry, we'll force cable and satelite to put your signal over the American signal so you can force a higher price from your advertisers when you simulcast what they will watch; they can then pass that higher price on to their customers. Oh well, all right then: force us to lose money supporting a production market no one cares about, as long as we make a killing overpricing the delivery of what's popular.

    But then, this country sees fit to have government control distort the agricultural economy (dairy / eggs / western grain / etc.), good luck having them get out of "culture."

    All the above is, of course, absurd. Culture is what people do, what they enjoy. Culture is not what Canadians pay (through coercive taxation) to have produced to then not be consumed. Well, no, I take that back. That's what passes for culture around here, apparently. Not a real country indeed.

  37. Would anyone like to list some programs that have been made in the last 10 or 20 years that are deemed to be culturally valuable to our Canadianism and can be ascribed to Cancon?

    • …and who is the judge of ‘culturally valuable’? You? For the record, EVERY Canadian program is a result of regulatory rules such as CanCon. They wouldn’t be made without it.

      • I have no interest in judging this. I was hoping for others to suggest some programs that might fit the bill since I can’t really think of any offhand.

        Can you think of any that might have been made without Cancon? Corner Gas?

        • Corner Gas was only made because of the CRTC’s Benefits Policy. Essentially, CTV are required to spend a specific amount on Canadian drama over a seven year period as the trade off for being alowed much greater degree of media concentration then is allowed in the U.S. Like I said, NO Canadian program is made without some kind of government regulation or support.

          Interesting though isn’t it. Corner Gas was one of the most successful shows ever broadcast on Canadian televsion, never dropping below one million viewers per episode during its entire run. Yet it would never have been made without regulations and CanCon rules.

          • I’m pretty sure corner Gas also gets $ even apart from the policy and the tax credits.

        • It’s too bad we cannot make a list of the shows that were never made because of Cancon.

          • Because there wouldn’t have been any more shows. Ever wonder why there’s no TV produced in Georgia?

  38. "Anything which is excellent will sell."

    This may be just about the most stupid comment I've read in a long time.

  39. Ditto Jim – if CTV and Global don't want to air Canadian programming, then what do we need them for? Stop thinking being a broadcaster is a right and get out of the business. That's the only thing we need them for – if I want to watch Lost I'll tune into Fox, thanks.

    The fact is – airing Canadian programming is the cost of doing business as a broadcaster. Yes it is mroe expensive to produce becuase they actually have to PAY full price for it. The reason they make so much money off of US programming is because the US networks make their money back on it in their domestic market – then they sell it off to CTV and Global at bargain basement prices.

    You know why Canadians 'want' to watch US programs? Becuase they're stuffed down our faces at every turn, cross-promoted on multiple networks, on endless talk shows and entertainment 'news' shows. And they're on at convenient times when people want to watch TV, and scheduled in a regular time slot instead of shuffled around where ever there's an opening.

    Flashpoint proves that when broadcasters put in some effort we can produce shows that Canadians want to watch. (Oh and clearly Mr Coyne hasn't even bothered to check it out – if he had he'd know that it unabashed about being shot in Toronto.)

    I'd be interested to hear Mr. Coyne respond to this question: Why don't we just do away with Canadian magazines like Maclean's? What's wrong with Time?

  40. Being someone who does not watch any of these Canadian shows, I totally agree with Mr. Coyne. I have no problem with the CBC being mandated to show these programs but allowing other, viable businesses to flounder because of these rules is assinine. When these Channels disappear, due to people like me tuning in to CBS, ABC and the like, the conversation will be over but we will have lost the truly valuable services they provide such as the local news.

  41. Why ? That is what the free market is all about, isn't it ?

  42. If Canadian broadcasters don’t want to show Canadian programs, what do we need them for?

    • Yeah! Who needs Canadian stores and restaurants! Or Canadian food, for that matter. Or Canadian cars and airplanes. Let’s just buy all our stuff from Belize from now on.

  43. Does Macleans get money from the government ?

  44. I have heard there is some sort of printing subsidy. Bigcitylib soemtimes covers it at his fine blog.

  45. This is a very fine little essay. I hope you're saving these.

  46. I can't believe it :

    "As it turns out, Macleans Magazine gets a cool $3,000,000-plus from the Canadian Heritage Publications Assistance Program (PAP), which offset[s] the mailing costs of Canadian content magazines and non-daily newspapers mailed within Canada." – from BigCityLib's blog entry of 29 May 2008.

    That's a lot of money. Huh. Public subsidy. For Macleans. We are not making this up.

  47. “The people own the airwaves.” Some essence of government control / license made sense at the time. Now, with cable, internet and satellite, the media have flipped the bird to the publicly-owned airwaves. And, naturally, government control continues. Not to encourage competition between media outlets, oh no. Rather, to RESTRICT entry of any new media outlet if it should at all threaten the success of the established players who have agreed to play this racket. All the while paying social engineers with stopwatches and tests of citizenship of various actors in the labour pool that produces what ends up on these media outlets. And, naturally, sucking tax dollars (“helping themselves to other people’s stuff”) to see that this insanity continues.

    The next Bryan Adams release, can it count for the Maple-Leaf column of radio stations’ playlists to satisfy Big Brother? What if we hire the sound guy who is one-eighth Canadian, instead of this other guy who is only one-32nd? Well, no, the sound studio is in New York. But we can serve poutine at lunch, is that ok? And that photo op with the Canadian Consul General: no problem. So, do we have a deal?

    We can’t keep making stuff no one watches, we’ll have no advertisers! Don’t worry, we’ll force cable and satelite to put your signal over the American signal so you can force a higher price from your advertisers when you simulcast what they will watch; they can then pass that higher price on to their customers. Oh well, all right then: force us to lose money supporting a production market no one cares about, as long as we make a killing overpricing the delivery of what’s popular.

    But then, this country sees fit to have government control distort the agricultural economy (dairy / eggs / western grain / etc.), good luck having them get out of “culture.”

    All the above is, of course, absurd. Culture is what people do, what they enjoy. Culture is not what Canadians pay (through coercive taxation) to have produced to then not be consumed. Well, no, I take that back. That’s what passes for culture around here, apparently. Not a real country indeed.

  48. If you inject corporate welfare into production, the resources go towards securing corporate welfare rather than concentrating on the product. After all, corporations (and businesses in general) will concentrate on what makes them money.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't claim that people should be given money simply because they are Canadian despite the fact that they can't compete with superior entertainment products and then expect them to create works of genius that will have mass appeal.

    No, they're going to create works that appeal to what gets them funding. In other words, your "dull as dishwater" artistic works are skewed towards dull as dishwater, very left wing, bureaucratic sugar daddies. They want things that they think will be inclusively nice, have a particular "progressive" message and which will hire as many people as possible (which is why we also subsidize Hollywood).

  49. A good case in point, and I'd be interested to hear AC answer your question too. Lessee, $3 million / year, 30 million Canadians, that's $10 cents each a year to have a national magazine that keeps our weekly political discourse sharp. (Not to mention providing a common online watering hole for debate between all schools of thought.) And it costs about twice that to open the fridge once. Something of a bargain, then.

  50. Thanks, Jack.

  51. Don't forget his gig at the CBC! I threw the same stats at AC during the last election's culture funding ("galas') dust-up on one of his blogs (where Jack and I first got to know each other via Bourdieu, if I recall!). Anyway, the short answer is that he'd gladly see magazine funding eliminated along with arts, broadcasting, etc.

  52. All I see is a business that cannot compete on its own merits. Of what difference is if it is airplane parts or entertainment?

    If a cultural practice or idea is attractive I'll assimilate it. If something is already a part of my culture, I'll practice it. I do not need the state to tell me what my identity should be any more than East Germans needed to be told by their media how wonderful the communist party was.

  53. So, we'll be cancelling the tax-free status of the churches, then? After all, if they can't compete with Seinfeld commercially . . . Oh no?

  54. I think if Maclean's can't succeed in keeping our national discourse sharp on its own, then to hell with Maclean's.

    Sure, you can argue that we need a voice that isn't driven by advertising and corporations, but when that voice is bureacratic mandarins and corporations that they give money to, I'm not exactly reassured.

  55. It's one of the subjects on which AC can't see reason and just does his Mr. Spock routine. As Bourdieu would put it, he stakes out an anti-cultural position so as to enhance his cultural power. Or something. : )

  56. I don't have any problems with donations to arts and culture being tax free. I would mind if churches were given funding by the state (as it is in several European countries).

  57. "I think if Maclean's can't succeed in keeping our national discourse sharp on its own, then to hell with Maclean's."

    Read rightly, this means "then to hell with our national discourse." The fact is that in a free market unaffected by patriotism, Canada would simply disappear. Fortunately one of the things acting on the free market in this country is me and my armed-to-the-teeth citizen militia. Metaphorically.

  58. Well, that's generous of you, but rather inconsistent. Tax exemptions are government interference in the market. My point being that all of us, except maybe oompus boompus, want a modeled society; it's just that free-marketeers want a society modeled on the market. Model away, but don't pretend you're not modeling.

  59. @ Jack:

    I still tend to side with AC on this one. In the particular case of television, I think it will soon be as difficult to govern as the internet, as the latter essentially becomes the delivery system (or put another way, we won't need local satellite or cable companies to get it, and broadcasters will be faced with the same existential challenges as newspapers in the near future).

  60. They want things that they think will be inclusively nice, have a particular “progressive” message and which will hire as many people as possible (which is why we also subsidize Hollywood)

    Yes, you have just summed up Canadian television rather accurately.

    I agree with your points. Canadian television is geared towards the bureaucrats, not the viewers.

  61. That makes no sense. US conglomerates will go anywhere and do anything to make movies that will sell. If they think Canadians can do the job, then Canadians will get their chance. We already have loads of examples of Canadians doing well in music, both domestically and internationally, because it is not subsidized like TV.

  62. Yes, but what kind of interference? With tax free contributions, you don't penalize people for contributing to the well-being of public life and cultural expression, but the institutions still have to be relevant to life of the public they are trying to enlighten in order to be funded by that public. If it is funded by the state, these institutions are generally staffed by intellectual lightweights and bland incompetents who only have to be relevant to the bureaucrats handing out the dough. Churches and cultural institutions alike.

  63. It's too bad we cannot make a list of the shows that were never made because of Cancon.

  64. Yeah! Who needs Canadian stores and restaurants! Or Canadian food, for that matter. Or Canadian cars and airplanes. Let's just buy all our stuff from Belize from now on.

  65. Actually, truth to tell, I agree with both you and AC on the specific point; and with Mulletaur about Canadian consumers needing to raise their standards; I'm generally on-side, I just get bogged down on the ideologies. I just support reevaluating CRTC control and tactics, seeing what can be done (if anything) to promote a healthy Canadian TV culture, backing off if nothing can be done, trying something new if something new occurs, etc. I don't think Canadian culture can necessarily be made great by government oversight, but I don't think it necessarily can't be, either. I do have my back-pocket plan for installing 10 Arts Dictators who would pick their aesthetics Maecenas-style, but I know that drives MYL up the wall . . . Anyway, I'm glad we're all talking about it.

  66. I think I disagree with everything you said, I don't think believe I like anything that is stuffed down my face.

    I like the Simpsons, not because it is stuffed down my face, but because it is funny, it is funnier than all things made on Canadian television in history combined. I think you can say the same about Canadian movies as well. They suck. Period.

  67. If Canada is a real country, with a real culture, it will produce and produce its own cultural works.

    If we're a bunch of brainless fat people who need to be told what to think and feel to protect us from ourselves, it is no big loss if that fails.

    In other news, I doubt if we'll be annexed by the states is an Ontario-centric news magazine goes under, or if we don't pay people to play Stan Rogers songs on the radio, or if the CBC produces bad imitations of American network shows.

  68. My solution, for what it's worth, would be to make the process far less fair, far less evenhanded: far more dependent on the personal whim of arrogant cultural dictators. It works for Hollywood and it worked for 16th C Rome; perhaps because it's just consumer choice writ large. Of course it would contradict modern cant, but that's why I like it.

  69. er.. CBC doesn't produce bad imitations.

    My kingdom for an edit button!

  70. Come on, we can't let the best be the enemy of the good. I believe the right course of action for obesity is to start exercising, not to stop eating completely. Besides, "my country thin or fat."

  71. sf – not a patriot.

  72. Oh, so things are pretty much working as you want them too then. What is considered "Canadian culture" is pretty much decided by arrogant cultural dictators. That's probably why I don't resemble it, even though I was born and raised in Canada.

  73. So we are generally told by our cultural masters.

    That's why I like the monarchy. Not because I'm an Anglican or British, but I can swear loyalty to something that doesn't involve me holding the appropriate "Canadian values" or "Canadian identity".

  74. It's not at all decided by arrogant cultural dictators. It's generally decided by committees, in consultation with stakeholders, in compliance with the legislation, etc. etc. etc. Enough with the rhetoric.

  75. Yeah, but we can't have the mediocre be the enemy of the good and the best either.

    There is only a finite amount of resources that the public has. The more you take away through taxes to shovel at the cultural industries by bureaucrats and for bureaucrats, the less money the public actually has for culture that they actually participate in.

  76. What a joke that the public participates in Hollywood movies. You might as well say that chickens participate in egg production.

  77. Fine, fine, mandarins not dictators.

    It is still money that is taken from me, for cultural activities that aren't representative of me, and can sometimes be used to promote public sentiment that is the detriment of me and my cultural groups.

  78. Gee, that's tough, my heart goes out to you. Any other complaints?

  79. See Jack, that's the problem. You presume to tell people what form their culture should and shouldn't take, largely based on how much it resembles your views and preferences. You shouldn't be surprised when people tell you to stuff it, and pay for it with your damn money.

  80. Well, that and state sponsored culture is usually awful to watch, read and listen to… but nobody seems to be disputing that much.

  81. Andrew, I heard you suggest on At Issue a couple of weeks ago that those who want to watch the CBC should pay for it via their cable or sateliite provider. I was against this, since we pay already. I think the CBC should be totally publicly-funded to produce educational, information programs and comedies / dramas reflecting Canadian values or created and produced by Canadians. The CBC should be accountable to an "auditor general" – like body which is unaccountable to the government of the day. No advertising. Just fund the thing. We can bail out auto companies and banks, so we can do this.

    Secondly, relative to this article, I would love to just pay for the channels I want (the CBC everybody gets). That way, I would not have to surf through the reality shows and other junk put out by the networks. (I would probably still have to get channels that provide Oprah and The Doctors, if I want to stay married :)).

  82. Actually, Terry, that's not my problem at all. I'm not telling anybody what to watch. I'm telling them they're stupid if they watch stupid shows. Many of those shows are state-sponsored; many more are not. The fact is that most people have no taste and they deserve every inch of opprobrium (in the generality) for it. I'm a completely unrepentant cultural elitist and will go to my grave denouncing popular taste as it currently stands. There's nothing free in life, and people aren't born with good taste, and they shouldn't expect to be congratulated on how friggin' wonderful their choice of eighth-rate art is of a peaceful Thursday evening. And I couldn't care less if they whine all month about how they're forced to watch sixth-rate art instead. But I must say I'm surprised that you, a cultured person, are aligning yourself with such cant.

  83. Terry/ Mulletaur

    In a odd way i think you're both right, if that's possible. I can see the arguement for not sudsidizing mediocre products, but i also think Mulletaur is correct, in that you have to support and encourage your homegrown artists. Show me a country anywhere in the world that doesn't protect, in some way of other its cultural institutions [ including the US] And someone please tell me why the BBC consistently produces quality programming using a similar model to the cbc ; while the cbc, as M says consistently produces pap?

    My problem with a number of AC's pet projects is that nobody else is doing them, so why the hell should we? For instance: ending political subsidies, not one major first world democracy is dependent on private donations to political parties ; and in this case everybody else supports their cultural industries, one way or another.

    However, the fact remains that we do not produce good entertainment in this country, for some reason – but this not a reason to abandon our own stories – it's not as if the flood of US cutural entertainment is even uniformly good – much of it is appalling. So what can we do to raise the standard of our tv/ cultural industries – not simply tear down the walls as some argue, just to be swamped by trashy, cheesy crap from down south – we know now that we're perfectly capable of making our own crap, thankyou very much. In my earlier post i alluded to how Quebeckers feel about their culture, they guard it jealously and if we not prepared to make the effort to promote and defend our own culture, in ways that don't promote mediocity and produce bland stories,[ that lack vitality] about who we are up here on the roof of the world, then we deserve to be slaves to someone elses culture.

  84. Whose Canadian values?

    I could get behind the government providing educational content though, as long as the program was suitably vetted by academic peer review. There could be lots of information that can be presented for the public, and then provided on a public archive.

  85. You're right "Canadian values" was a poor choice of words. Thanks.

  86. Terry, i respect your right to hold that opinion, but as a born and raised Brit myself, i'm completely baffled why you – a Canadian – would choose to swear allegiance to a foreign Monarch. I not atacking the Monarchy per se, i think the Queen has been an anchor in a very turbulent world ; but we aren't a colony anymore for god's sake – we're Canadians with stories of our own to tell.

    If the right in this country doesn't like the stories that the Canadian establishment tell, then go out and tell some new ones. Just stop forever whinging about cultural oppression from the left.

  87. Ditto Jim – if CTV and Global don’t want to air Canadian programming, then what do we need them for? Stop thinking being a broadcaster is a right and get out of the business. That’s the only thing we need them for – if I want to watch Lost I’ll tune into Fox, thanks.

    The fact is – airing Canadian programming is the cost of doing business as a broadcaster. Yes it is mroe expensive to produce becuase they actually have to PAY full price for it. The reason they make so much money off of US programming is because the US networks make their money back on it in their domestic market – then they sell it off to CTV and Global at bargain basement prices.

    You know why Canadians ‘want’ to watch US programs? Becuase they’re stuffed down our faces at every turn, cross-promoted on multiple networks, on endless talk shows and entertainment ‘news’ shows. And they’re on at convenient times when people want to watch TV, and scheduled in a regular time slot instead of shuffled around where ever there’s an opening.

    Flashpoint proves that when broadcasters put in some effort we can produce shows that Canadians want to watch. (Oh and clearly Mr Coyne hasn’t even bothered to check it out – if he had he’d know that it unabashed about being shot in Toronto.)

    I’d be interested to hear Mr. Coyne respond to this question: Why don’t we just do away with Canadian magazines like Maclean’s? What’s wrong with Time?

    • Does Macleans get money from the government ?

      • I have heard there is some sort of printing subsidy. Bigcitylib soemtimes covers it at his fine blog.

        • I can’t believe it :

          “As it turns out, Macleans Magazine gets a cool $3,000,000-plus from the Canadian Heritage Publications Assistance Program (PAP), which offset[s] the mailing costs of Canadian content magazines and non-daily newspapers mailed within Canada.” – from BigCityLib’s blog entry of 29 May 2008.

          That’s a lot of money. Huh. Public subsidy. For Macleans. We are not making this up.

          • A good case in point, and I’d be interested to hear AC answer your question too. Lessee, $3 million / year, 30 million Canadians, that’s $10 cents each a year to have a national magazine that keeps our weekly political discourse sharp. (Not to mention providing a common online watering hole for debate between all schools of thought.) And it costs about twice that to open the fridge once. Something of a bargain, then.

          • Don’t forget his gig at the CBC! I threw the same stats at AC during the last election’s culture funding (“galas’) dust-up on one of his blogs (where Jack and I first got to know each other via Bourdieu, if I recall!). Anyway, the short answer is that he’d gladly see magazine funding eliminated along with arts, broadcasting, etc.

          • I think if Maclean’s can’t succeed in keeping our national discourse sharp on its own, then to hell with Maclean’s.

            Sure, you can argue that we need a voice that isn’t driven by advertising and corporations, but when that voice is bureacratic mandarins and corporations that they give money to, I’m not exactly reassured.

          • It’s one of the subjects on which AC can’t see reason and just does his Mr. Spock routine. As Bourdieu would put it, he stakes out an anti-cultural position so as to enhance his cultural power. Or something. : )

          • “I think if Maclean’s can’t succeed in keeping our national discourse sharp on its own, then to hell with Maclean’s.”

            Read rightly, this means “then to hell with our national discourse.” The fact is that in a free market unaffected by patriotism, Canada would simply disappear. Fortunately one of the things acting on the free market in this country is me and my armed-to-the-teeth citizen militia. Metaphorically.

          • If Canada is a real country, with a real culture, it will produce and produce its own cultural works.

            If we’re a bunch of brainless fat people who need to be told what to think and feel to protect us from ourselves, it is no big loss if that fails.

            In other news, I doubt if we’ll be annexed by the states is an Ontario-centric news magazine goes under, or if we don’t pay people to play Stan Rogers songs on the radio, or if the CBC produces bad imitations of American network shows.

          • er.. CBC doesn’t produce bad imitations.

            My kingdom for an edit button!

          • Come on, we can’t let the best be the enemy of the good. I believe the right course of action for obesity is to start exercising, not to stop eating completely. Besides, “my country thin or fat.”

          • Yeah, but we can’t have the mediocre be the enemy of the good and the best either.

            There is only a finite amount of resources that the public has. The more you take away through taxes to shovel at the cultural industries by bureaucrats and for bureaucrats, the less money the public actually has for culture that they actually participate in.

          • What a joke that the public participates in Hollywood movies. You might as well say that chickens participate in egg production.

          • See Jack, that’s the problem. You presume to tell people what form their culture should and shouldn’t take, largely based on how much it resembles your views and preferences. You shouldn’t be surprised when people tell you to stuff it, and pay for it with your damn money.

          • Actually, Terry, that’s not my problem at all. I’m not telling anybody what to watch. I’m telling them they’re stupid if they watch stupid shows. Many of those shows are state-sponsored; many more are not. The fact is that most people have no taste and they deserve every inch of opprobrium (in the generality) for it. I’m a completely unrepentant cultural elitist and will go to my grave denouncing popular taste as it currently stands. There’s nothing free in life, and people aren’t born with good taste, and they shouldn’t expect to be congratulated on how friggin’ wonderful their choice of eighth-rate art is of a peaceful Thursday evening. And I couldn’t care less if they whine all month about how they’re forced to watch sixth-rate art instead. But I must say I’m surprised that you, a cultured person, are aligning yourself with such cant.

          • It’s one of the subjects on which AC can’t see reason and just does his Mr. Spock routine. As Bourdieu would put it, he stakes out an anti-cultural position so as to enhance his cultural power. Or something.

            Or perhaps Mr. Coyne could be considered a principled conservative intellectual who sometimes challenges the Canadian orthodoxy with opinions that are controversial, yet extremely rational.

          • Hey, what can I say? I generally feel that genuine, authentic culture cannot be imposed. I also have little sympathy for the attitude of people who generally feel that it is their job to “improve” people’s cultural habits.

            Besides, lowbrow culture has been with us since Aristophanes, so I don’t think it is a terrible tragedy to have lowbrow culture. Cultural life of all forms will always be hungered for by people, and the state largely perverts that by taking the resources of many to skew the cultural funding to a the viewpoints, stories, and culture of a parochial few. It blunts creativity and artistic freedom, it doesn’t support it. Especially, of course, when you dictate or restrict the transmission of certain cultural content that you don’t approve of, or demanding a certain amount of cultural content that you do.

          • CR: “Or perhaps Mr. Coyne could be considered a principled conservative intellectual who sometimes challenges the Canadian orthodoxy with opinions that are controversial, yet extremely rational.”

            I don’t see how ideology = principle or logic = reason. On this subject, as on several others, he admits no caveats, such as “provided that Canadian culture is not annihilated” or “given that, all things being equal, it is better for Canadians to watch Canadian content.” No no, it’s the same boring-ass utilitarianism every single time, the kind that a 12-year-old is capable of running with, the kind that ends every argument with a “So what?” or a “But how do you know?” It’s not a grown up opinion, such as would take into account various empirical details, like “Verdi is better than Seinfeld” or “the Group of Seven is better than Turner.” It amounts to nihilism, to saying that nothing matters to the extent that we should value it more highly than anything else. That’s the opposite of conservatism, it’s teenage Whiggery. Coyne basically ceases to be an adult once he gets his teeth on a “principle” and can start applying his Economics 101. It’s a shame, to say the least, that his philistine opinionating resonates with many readers.

          • Terry: “I also have little sympathy for the attitude of people who generally feel that it is their job to “improve” people’s cultural habits.”

            But a LOT of sympathy with those (like priests & theologians) who generally feel it is their job to “improve” people’s morality. Ergo, you feel there is no connection between “cultural habits” and morality. People can spend all day watching porn, as long as it’s not on your dime, and if (God forbid) someone utter a peep to say that porn ain’t all that edifying, why, you’ve got your utilitarian answer: “Who’s to say it doesn’t improve you? What is truth?”

            Or perhaps my reasoning is faulty somewhere. Hmm, no, that’s it, baldly put.

            “lowbrow culture has been with us since Aristophanes,”

            Indeed it has, and it can take care of itself. But highbrow culture has not always been with us, to say the least, and it can’t take care of itself. Only a nihilist or a rube would therefore deny its validity; or somebody who was so insanely selfish that they prefered to pay $5 less in taxes per annum so that this country could have an independent culture. Though I suppose none of those categories are mutually exclusive.

          • Is Coyne guided by utilitarian principles? Yes, probably. You equate it with childish reductionism, but that seems harsh, because it really comes down to the fact that Mr. Coyne does not share your values on this issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cheerfully agreed with you about his alleged philistinism. He certainly doesn’t seem to value the orthodox notion of Canadian culture as something that must always be existentially distinct from American culture (a fairly radical view, IMHO.)

            Personally, I value Canadian cultural output as an important part of our national identity. I also believe that cultural works possess an intrinsic value that is unrelated to its market value or popular appeal. But I don’t have a problem with Mr. Coyne’s contrarian, “philistine” challenges to government-imposed cultural protectionism, particularly when it is clear that the current policies aren’t working.

          • I too take his criticisms seriously and think he makes his point well. I just wish he could resist the itch to frame it (and much of his stuff) in terms of utilitarianism. I’ve nothing against “the greatest good for the greatest number” per se but when it becomes an all-purpose stick for sneering at value-driven arguments he happens to disagree with, I’m infuriated.

          • JM
            Hey Jack, you’re more of an educated swine than i am. How many Canlit authors do do think wouldn’t have made it without the encouragement of our subsidized cultural programmes?
            A. Munroe ?
            A. Purdy ? [ loved him]
            M. Laurence?
            W. Blanchet?
            T. Highway/
            T. King?
            E. Robinson?
            R. Vancamp?
            Just a few i know wouldn’t have made it. Munroe – maybe?

          • I bet you know as much about Canadian literature as I do, kc, or more! So I can’t say, but I’d bet your whole list goes to show what government support can achieve. Total fan of Purdy, too, btw — was even at the unveiling of his statue in Queen’s Park in Toronto last year — great occasion. Incidentally I’m reading “The Tailor of Panama” right now; finally finished “A Perfect Spy.” And I have my copy of “Our Man in Havana” standing by, on your recommendation!

          • Kind words Jack. But im pretty much a self educated man, consequently there are large gaps in my literary education.
            Glad to see you’re enjoying Lecarre – oddly i was surprised to hear M. Attwood is a fan of his.
            If you do develope a taste for Greene [ not everyones cup of tea – a little bleak ] i would particularly recommend The Quiet American – best novel i’ve read about Vietnam. Also, The Commediens, a novel set in Haiti, at the time of Poppa Doc Duvalier – a brillant but bitter novel. Our man in Havana stands up still as satirizingthe spy business.
            In all honesty i believe Greene was the better novelist – but i’ve always had a soft spot for Lecarre – A Murder of Quality, is superb, but may seem a litte dated now. Perhaps a sure sign of Greene’s durability is that he rarely seems dated, even when he is, if that makes any sense.

    • I think I disagree with everything you said, I don’t think believe I like anything that is stuffed down my face.

      I like the Simpsons, not because it is stuffed down my face, but because it is funny, it is funnier than all things made on Canadian television in history combined. I think you can say the same about Canadian movies as well. They suck. Period.

      • sf – not a patriot.

        • So we are generally told by our cultural masters.

          That’s why I like the monarchy. Not because I’m an Anglican or British, but I can swear loyalty to something that doesn’t involve me holding the appropriate “Canadian values” or “Canadian identity”.

          • Terry, i respect your right to hold that opinion, but as a born and raised Brit myself, i’m completely baffled why you – a Canadian – would choose to swear allegiance to a foreign Monarch. I not atacking the Monarchy per se, i think the Queen has been an anchor in a very turbulent world ; but we aren’t a colony anymore for god’s sake – we’re Canadians with stories of our own to tell.
            If the right in this country doesn’t like the stories that the Canadian establishment tell, then go out and tell some new ones. Just stop forever whinging about cultural oppression from the left.

          • Hey, if you don’t like the British monarchy, we can always found a Canadian monarchy. As long as it isn’t elected, as we’ve seen how disastrous that is south of the border. :) Maybe Prince Edward would give being the King of Canada a go. Or maybe we can just make the Governor General a hereditary position.

            Anyway, the issue isn’t whether the left or the right produces cultural content. It is whether or not they should do it with my money. I know that they are going to produce cultural content that I find abhorrent and paints me as abhorrent, but I don’t see why I should pay for it.

          • And I don’t see why I should have to pay for your churches, as I do. So let’s call it even.

        • Patriotism has nothing to do with it. It’s called taste. Canadian music is generally quite good – not because of our stupid radio rules, but because the talented musicians are rising to the top with the music people want to hear.

          There is no reason, other than the distorted market we have in Canada, that we cannot have good Canadian movies. The CRTC is killing Canadian TV and movies.

          Most Canadian content is generated by grants handed to people with no talent, or (like Terry said) producers generating content that is likely to get grants rather than viewers. Meanwhile, the people with real talent and good stories to tell are shut out.

          • Even when good Canadian movies are made, they generally aren’t shown in mainstreet theatres ; American companies own both the means of production and marketing, and the movie chains. It’s all about market share and the bottom line. You’re dreaming if you think the playing field is in any way level. Why do Quebeckers support their homegrown movie industry; [ apart from the obvious cultural reasons ] because their Provincial govt [ and the Feds ] think it’s important enough to do so.

          • Eh, the strong state support for culture in Quebec is what I would use as a textbook case of how strong state support kills genuine culture, and replaces it with a parody of what people think culture should be. Quebec used to be Quebec, now it’s a second rate France.

          • No, Quebecers support their movies for the obvious cultural reasons. The government has nothing to do with it.

            And really, there is not much difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada, bilingual Quebecers watch the same shows as the rest of us. Unilingual quebecers watch Quebec shows. The movies french Quebecers support are “Les Boys” and similar stuff that is hardly cultured stuff, it just happens to be french.

          • I was responding to KC. And in response to Terry, I agree, what local content Quebecers get on TV is mostly a goofy combination of horrid attempts at clones of American sitcoms, game shows, and some pretty bad comedy. It’s quite poor – all of it.

            The stuff in Quebec that is worth seeing is the stuff that is open to the world, such as Just for Laughs or the Jazz fest – not the crappy subsidized local content they put on TV.

          • KC, you should try to spend a day watching television/movies generated in Quebec before you start praising it. Most of it is garbage. They watch it because it’s their native language.

          • Well onQuebec i guess i’m busted. A real Q will have to make their case – i just happen to like the passion with which they support their culture ; I believe Harper made an error in this regard last election.
            Terry do you have any evidence for your assertion that Q culture is merely recyled, second rate French culture? Was there some golden past era, i think not!

  88. Great point, Sean. We get so focused on the US competitive challenges to Canadian TV, we forget about the industry's existential challenges.

  89. Patriotism has nothing to do with it. It's called taste. Canadian music is generally quite good – not because of our stupid radio rules, but because the talented musicians are rising to the top with the music people want to hear.

    There is no reason, other than the distorted market we have in Canada, that we cannot have good Canadian movies. The CRTC is killing Canadian TV and movies.

    Most Canadian content is generated by grants handed to people with no talent, or (like Terry said) producers generating content that is likely to get grants rather than viewers. Meanwhile, the people with real talent and good stories to tell are shut out.

  90. It's one of the subjects on which AC can't see reason and just does his Mr. Spock routine. As Bourdieu would put it, he stakes out an anti-cultural position so as to enhance his cultural power. Or something.

    Or perhaps Mr. Coyne could be considered a principled conservative intellectual who sometimes challenges the Canadian orthodoxy with opinions that are controversial, yet extremely rational.

  91. Even when good Canadian movies are made, they generally aren't shown in mainstreet theatres ; American companies own both the means of production and marketing, and the movie chains. It's all about market share and the bottom line. You're dreaming if you think the playing field is in any way level. Why do Quebeckers support their homegrown movie industry; [ apart from the obvious cultural reasons ] because their Provincial govt [ and the Feds ] think it's important enough to do so.

  92. Hey, what can I say? I generally feel that genuine, authentic culture cannot be imposed. I also have little sympathy for the attitude of people who generally feel that it is their job to "improve" people's cultural habits.

    Besides, lowbrow culture has been with us since Aristophanes, so I don't think it is a terrible tragedy to have lowbrow culture. Cultural life of all forms will always be hungered for by people, and the state largely perverts that by taking the resources of many to skew the cultural funding to a the viewpoints, stories, and culture of a parochial few. It blunts creativity and artistic freedom, it doesn't support it. Especially, of course, when you dictate or restrict the transmission of certain cultural content that you don't approve of, or demanding a certain amount of cultural content that you do.

  93. Hey, if you don't like the British monarchy, we can always found a Canadian monarchy. As long as it isn't elected, as we've seen how disastrous that is south of the border. :) Maybe Prince Edward would give being the King of Canada a go. Or maybe we can just make the Governor General a hereditary position.

    Anyway, the issue isn't whether the left or the right produces cultural content. It is whether or not they should do it with my money. I know that they are going to produce cultural content that I find abhorrent and paints me as abhorrent, but I don't see why I should pay for it.

  94. Eh, the strong state support for culture in Quebec is what I would use as a textbook case of how strong state support kills genuine culture, and replaces it with a parody of what people think culture should be. Quebec used to be Quebec, now it's a second rate France.

  95. No, Quebecers support their movies for the obvious cultural reasons. The government has nothing to do with it.

    And really, there is not much difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada, bilingual Quebecers watch the same shows as the rest of us. Unilingual quebecers watch Quebec shows. The movies french Quebecers support are "Les Boys" and similar stuff that is hardly cultured stuff, it just happens to be french.

  96. I was responding to KC. And in response to Terry, I agree, what local content Quebecers get on TV is mostly a goofy combination of horrid attempts at clones of American sitcoms, game shows, and some pretty bad comedy. It's quite poor – all of it.

    The stuff in Quebec that is worth seeing is the stuff that is open to the world, such as Just for Laughs or the Jazz fest – not the crappy subsidized local content they put on TV.

  97. KC, you should try to spend a day watching television/movies generated in Quebec before you start praising it. Most of it is garbage. They watch it because it's their native language.

  98. Thanks CR. I really think we're on the cusp of a profound shift.

    Jack – I'd respectfully suggest that your desired outcomes will never be atttainable in Canada via federal programs. But what would you think about support at the grassroots? Music programs in schools, writers in residence at high schools, internet broadcast and production facilities that could be used by most anyone, community centres with stages that could be rented as cheaply as ice time for hockey teams – that sort of thing. While I know my approach to the arts tends to be more populist than yours, I think a country where artistic expression is woven into everyday life is one where the 'higher' forms will subsequently be more appreciated and supported too.

  99. Well onQuebec i guess i'm busted. A real Q will have to make their case – i just happen to like the passion with which they support their culture ; I believe Harper made an error in this regard last election.

    Terry do you have any evidence for your assertion that Q culture is merely recyled, second rate French culture? Was there some golden past era, i think not!

  100. Blah, blah, blah, CanCon ShmanCon, CRTC CRTShmee. As the person who pays for the channels I decide what to watch. The CRTC can go to Halifax for all I care because that is what I do if the program I want to watch is being shown in that time zone. Oops, now I have done it the CRTC will ban time shifting to enforce the local CanCon rules.

  101. @ Jack:

    I still tend to side with AC on this one. In the particular case of television, I think it will soon be as difficult to govern as the internet, as the latter essentially becomes the delivery system (or put another way, we won’t need local satellite or cable companies to get it, and broadcasters will be faced with the same existential challenges as newspapers in the near future).

    • Actually, truth to tell, I agree with both you and AC on the specific point; and with Mulletaur about Canadian consumers needing to raise their standards; I’m generally on-side, I just get bogged down on the ideologies. I just support reevaluating CRTC control and tactics, seeing what can be done (if anything) to promote a healthy Canadian TV culture, backing off if nothing can be done, trying something new if something new occurs, etc. I don’t think Canadian culture can necessarily be made great by government oversight, but I don’t think it necessarily can’t be, either. I do have my back-pocket plan for installing 10 Arts Dictators who would pick their aesthetics Maecenas-style, but I know that drives MYL up the wall . . . Anyway, I’m glad we’re all talking about it.

      • (Barely making it in under the seven-day statute of limitations…)

        I do have my back-pocket plan for installing 10 Arts Dictators who would pick their aesthetics Maecenas-style, but I know that drives MYL up the wall . . .

        Nope, that doesn’t drive me up the wall. Hire those arts dictators all you like, and you can play in your own cultural fiefdom to your heart’s– oh, you want ALL OF US to pay for your ten arts dictators? Well, ok then, at least from this vantage point “up the wall” I have a far better location from which to pelt you with ripe tomatoes and rotten eggs. We can even film that and call it art — any one have a government grant application form?

    • Great point, Sean. We get so focused on the US competitive challenges to Canadian TV, we forget about the industry’s existential challenges.

      • Thanks CR. I really think we’re on the cusp of a profound shift.

        Jack – I’d respectfully suggest that your desired outcomes will never be atttainable in Canada via federal programs. But what would you think about support at the grassroots? Music programs in schools, writers in residence at high schools, internet broadcast and production facilities that could be used by most anyone, community centres with stages that could be rented as cheaply as ice time for hockey teams – that sort of thing. While I know my approach to the arts tends to be more populist than yours, I think a country where artistic expression is woven into everyday life is one where the ‘higher’ forms will subsequently be more appreciated and supported too.

        • Yes, I like this very much. We need to cultivate culture in the young and help their parents and teachers with this. But it must not be state programmed culture, people must be free to choose within reasonable limits.

        • Couldn’t agree more, Sean. I’d settle for basic funding for our schooling system, frankly, which would include things like school libraries and music programs (long since axed in Ontario, at least). I’m very elitist in my judgments but not, I hope, in my practice: love/endorse popular music, action films, etc., and FWIW my own poetry is meant to be accessible to everybody (have done, e.g., a lot of performances in high schools and junior highs). Indeed, I’d say that people respond to high art as enthusiastically as they do to popular art, it’s just that they’re never exposed to it. For which there’s a lot of blame to go round.

  102. Yes, I like this very much. We need to cultivate culture in the young and help their parents and teachers with this. But it must not be state programmed culture, people must be free to choose within reasonable limits.

  103. Andrew, I heard you suggest on At Issue a couple of weeks ago that those who want to watch the CBC should pay for it via their cable or sateliite provider. I was against this, since we pay already. I think the CBC should be totally publicly-funded to produce educational, information programs and comedies / dramas reflecting Canadian values or created and produced by Canadians. The CBC should be accountable to an “auditor general” – like body which is unaccountable to the government of the day. No advertising. Just fund the thing. We can bail out auto companies and banks, so we can do this.

    Secondly, relative to this article, I would love to just pay for the channels I want (the CBC everybody gets). That way, I would not have to surf through the reality shows and other junk put out by the networks. (I would probably still have to get channels that provide Oprah and The Doctors, if I want to stay married :)).

    • Whose Canadian values?

      I could get behind the government providing educational content though, as long as the program was suitably vetted by academic peer review. There could be lots of information that can be presented for the public, and then provided on a public archive.

      • You’re right “Canadian values” was a poor choice of words. Thanks.

  104. CR: "Or perhaps Mr. Coyne could be considered a principled conservative intellectual who sometimes challenges the Canadian orthodoxy with opinions that are controversial, yet extremely rational."

    I don't see how ideology = principle or logic = reason. On this subject, as on several others, he admits no caveats, such as "provided that Canadian culture is not annihilated" or "given that, all things being equal, it is better for Canadians to watch Canadian content." No no, it's the same boring-ass utilitarianism every single time, the kind that a 12-year-old is capable of running with, the kind that ends every argument with a "So what?" or a "But how do you know?" It's not a grown up opinion, such as would take into account various empirical details, like "Verdi is better than Seinfeld" or "the Group of Seven is better than Turner." It amounts to nihilism, to saying that nothing matters to the extent that we should value it more highly than anything else. That's the opposite of conservatism, it's teenage Whiggery. Coyne basically ceases to be an adult once he gets his teeth on a "principle" and can start applying his Economics 101. It's a shame, to say the least, that his philistine opinionating resonates with many readers.

  105. Couldn't agree more, Sean. I'd settle for basic funding for our schooling system, frankly, which would include things like school libraries and music programs (long since axed in Ontario, at least). I'm very elitist in my judgments but not, I hope, in my practice: love/endorse popular music, action films, etc., and FWIW my own poetry is meant to be accessible to everybody (have done, e.g., a lot of performances in high schools and junior highs). Indeed, I'd say that people respond to high art as enthusiastically as they do to popular art, it's just that they're never exposed to it. For which there's a lot of blame to go round.

  106. Because there wouldn't have been any more shows. Ever wonder why there's no TV produced in Georgia?

  107. And I don't see why I should have to pay for your churches, as I do. So let's call it even.

  108. Terry: "I also have little sympathy for the attitude of people who generally feel that it is their job to “improve” people's cultural habits."

    But a LOT of sympathy with those (like priests & theologians) who generally feel it is their job to "improve" people's morality. Ergo, you feel there is no connection between "cultural habits" and morality. People can spend all day watching porn, as long as it's not on your dime, and if (God forbid) someone utter a peep to say that porn ain't all that edifying, why, you've got your utilitarian answer: "Who's to say it doesn't improve you? What is truth?"

    Or perhaps my reasoning is faulty somewhere. Hmm, no, that's it, baldly put.

    "lowbrow culture has been with us since Aristophanes,"

    Indeed it has, and it can take care of itself. But highbrow culture has not always been with us, to say the least, and it can't take care of itself. Only a nihilist or a rube would therefore deny its validity; or somebody who was so insanely selfish that they prefered to pay $5 less in taxes per annum so that this country could have an independent culture. Though I suppose none of those categories are mutually exclusive.

  109. Is Coyne guided by utilitarian principles? Yes, probably. You equate it with childish reductionism, but that seems harsh, because it really comes down to the fact that Mr. Coyne does not share your values on this issue. I wouldn't be surprised if he cheerfully agreed with you about his alleged philistinism. He certainly doesn't seem to value the orthodox notion of Canadian culture as something that must always be existentially distinct from American culture (a fairly radical view, IMHO.)

    Personally, I value Canadian cultural output as an important part of our national identity. I also believe that cultural works possess an intrinsic value that is unrelated to its market value or popular appeal. But I don't have a problem with Mr. Coyne's contrarian, “philistine” challenges to government-imposed cultural protectionism, particularly when it is clear that the current policies aren't working.

  110. I too take his criticisms seriously and think he makes his point well. I just wish he could resist the itch to frame it (and much of his stuff) in terms of utilitarianism. I've nothing against "the greatest good for the greatest number" per se but when it becomes an all-purpose stick for sneering at value-driven arguments he happens to disagree with, I'm infuriated.

  111. Blah, blah, blah, CanCon ShmanCon, CRTC CRTShmee. As the person who pays for the channels I decide what to watch. The CRTC can go to Halifax for all I care because that is what I do if the program I want to watch is being shown in that time zone. Oops, now I have done it the CRTC will ban time shifting to enforce the local CanCon rules.

  112. JM

    Hey Jack, you're more of an educated swine than i am. How many Canlit authors do do think wouldn't have made it without the encouragement of our subsidized cultural programmes?

    A. Munroe ?

    A. Purdy ? [ loved him]

    M. Laurence?

    W. Blanchet?

    T. Highway/

    T. King?

    E. Robinson?

    R. Vancamp?

    Just a few i know wouldn't have made it. Munroe – maybe?

  113. I bet you know as much about Canadian literature as I do, kc, or more! So I can't say, but I'd bet your whole list goes to show what government support can achieve. Total fan of Purdy, too, btw — was even at the unveiling of his statue in Queen's Park in Toronto last year — great occasion. Incidentally I'm reading "The Tailor of Panama" right now; finally finished "A Perfect Spy." And I have my copy of "Our Man in Havana" standing by, on your recommendation!

  114. Kind words Jack. But im pretty much a self educated man, consequently there are large gaps in my literary education.

    Glad to see you're enjoying Lecarre – oddly i was surprised to hear M. Attwood is a fan of his.

    If you do develope a taste for Greene [ not everyones cup of tea – a little bleak ] i would particularly recommend The Quiet American – best novel i've read about Vietnam. Also, The Commediens, a novel set in Haiti, at the time of Poppa Doc Duvalier – a brillant but bitter novel. Our man in Havana stands up still as satirizingthe spy business.

    In all honesty i believe Greene was the better novelist – but i've always had a soft spot for Lecarre – A Murder of Quality, is superb, but may seem a litte dated now. Perhaps a sure sign of Greene's durability is that he rarely seems dated, even when he is, if that makes any sense.

  115. Great article, but it requires a certain open-mindedness to consider with objectivity the points being made. I don't think the CRTC is a place where one is likely to find open-mindedness.

  116. It makes no sense if you live in Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland. If you live in the real world, where real people make real decisions, and where Hollywood did everything possible since the Second World War to wreck the domestic movie industry in every Western country (with a great deal of success) in order to secure their Yankee oligopoly, backed of course by the U.S. State Department, you would know that you are totally, utterly wrong.

    By the way, perfect competition doesn't exist either. Except in Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland.

  117. No, they won't and never have. They have, however, done everything possible to secure their oligopoly by any means possible, as they have done in the film industry since the Second World War, with the support of the U.S. State Department during the Cold War, in the process destroying the domestic film industries in every Western country.

    Sorry to burst your balloon, but Adam Smith / Friedrich Hayek fantasyland doesn't exist. Neither does perfect competition.

  118. Sorry, my comment didn't appear the first time and I ended up repeating it. WordPress appeared to eat it the first time.

  119. Great article, but it requires a certain open-mindedness to consider with objectivity the points being made. I don’t think the CRTC is a place where one is likely to find open-mindedness.

  120. I think that 'high' culture should be subsidized, or else it will never be seen. However; the CRTC should be looking at revising its rules re what constitutes Canadian content. By the by, there was a comedic sketch somewhere about how grants are given, which implied that more daring content would likely be rejected because it might be deemed offensive.

    Canadian cable compaines made tons of money by providing as little Canadian contest as possible and providing cheap American programming. In fact, back in the late 80's when I worked in the investment industry I was advised to buy shares in a cable company. I didn't.. I couldn't afford to have cable TV service then, and I can't afford it now ether. Still I think that people who can afford it should have the choice of Canadian content. And, if we don't provide some support for 'high' Canadian culture, as indeed we should. The culture of the lowest common demnominator will prevail and will will sink lower and lower into the depths of inanity.

    And, lastly, supporting it is NOT that expensive, especially when you compare the cost of supporting culture to the amounts spent on other and less valuable programs.

  121. I think that ‘high’ culture should be subsidized, or else it will never be seen. However; the CRTC should be looking at revising its rules re what constitutes Canadian content. By the by, there was a comedic sketch somewhere about how grants are given, which implied that more daring content would likely be rejected because it might be deemed offensive.

    Canadian cable compaines made tons of money by providing as little Canadian contest as possible and providing cheap American programming. In fact, back in the late 80’s when I worked in the investment industry I was advised to buy shares in a cable company. I didn’t.. I couldn’t afford to have cable TV service then, and I can’t afford it now ether. Still I think that people who can afford it should have the choice of Canadian content. And, if we don’t provide some support for ‘high’ Canadian culture, as indeed we should. The culture of the lowest common demnominator will prevail and will will sink lower and lower into the depths of inanity.

    And, lastly, supporting it is NOT that expensive, especially when you compare the cost of supporting culture to the amounts spent on other and less valuable programs.

  122. Here's what's fair – if a network wishes to receive funding, tax breaks etc. from the Canadian Government then they should be regulated as to a reasonable amount of Canadian content. If however, a network chooses a more Capitalistic route, controlling their content to reflect what they believe will bring in the most viewers and therefore advertisers, then they should go unregulated and therefore, unassisted by public

    /government funding etc.

  123. Mulletaur,

    You are far too insightful to be reading this kind of right wing crap, published, by the way by Rogers Communications.

    Remember; they invented negative options!

  124. Here’s what’s fair – if a network wishes to receive funding, tax breaks etc. from the Canadian Government then they should be regulated as to a reasonable amount of Canadian content. If however, a network chooses a more Capitalistic route, controlling their content to reflect what they believe will bring in the most viewers and therefore advertisers, then they should go unregulated and therefore, unassisted by public
    /government funding etc.

  125. It's possible to have multicultural programming that is cancon. As long as the people behind the program are Canadian, whether they be immigrants or descendants of immigrants or not. Canadian content is merely about telling Canadian stories, which can be done by employing Canadians. There's no real regulations stating the subject has to be about Canada.

  126. Whenever I travel to Canada, I enjoy the difference that I see on the TV as well as hear on the radio. Personally, I'd like to see more of it down in the US.

    It's not necessarily all great television or radio, but at least it's *different* – all I see on US TV seems to be another so-called reality show that has little to do with reality.

    If CanCon regulations are what encourage broadcasters to air something other than the dreck coming from the US networks, I'm all for them.

  127. Whenever I travel to Canada, I enjoy the difference that I see on the TV as well as hear on the radio. Personally, I’d like to see more of it down in the US.

    It’s not necessarily all great television or radio, but at least it’s *different* – all I see on US TV seems to be another so-called reality show that has little to do with reality.

    If CanCon regulations are what encourage broadcasters to air something other than the dreck coming from the US networks, I’m all for them.

  128. Since I don't own a television and haven't for close to a decade, does this mean I am not culturally Canadian?

  129. (Barely making it in under the seven-day statute of limitations…)

    I do have my back-pocket plan for installing 10 Arts Dictators who would pick their aesthetics Maecenas-style, but I know that drives MYL up the wall . . .

    Nope, that doesn't drive me up the wall. Hire those arts dictators all you like, and you can play in your own cultural fiefdom to your heart's– oh, you want ALL OF US to pay for your ten arts dictators? Well, ok then, at least from this vantage point "up the wall" I have a far better location from which to pelt you with ripe tomatoes and rotten eggs. We can even film that and call it art — any one have a government grant application form?

  130. Since I don’t own a television and haven’t for close to a decade, does this mean I am not culturally Canadian?

  131. OH CANADA

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