“Retool Canadian TV” Sounds So Ominous, Doesn’t It?

The CRTC is considering limiting the amount Canadian broadcasters can spend on U.S. programming



The Globe and Mail reports that the CRTC is considering limiting the amount of money Canadian broadcasters can spend on U.S. programming. Well, technically they can pay as much as they want for a U.S. show, but only if they spend an equivalent amount on domestic programming:

The proposal, which came as a shock to network executives Friday, would require CTV, Global, CITY-TV and others to spend the same amount on Canadian programming as they do on U.S. shows. For every $1 spent on programs from outside the country, a dollar would have to be spent at home creating a domestic show…

There are concerns in Ottawa that runaway spending to lock up U.S. shows that do well in the race for ratings is now contributing to network television’s financial woes in Canada.

(Link via Denis McGrath)

Read the rest of the article, and also the comments. One thing to note is that even after the bidding wars of recent years, the gap between the money spent on U.S. product and Canadian product is not huge, and equalizing the spending would just bring us back to the situation of five years ago:

Since 2003, CTV and Global have escalated the amount they spend on foreign shows in an effort to steal audiences from each other. Though numbers are not broken out by network, back then the commercial networks spent $541-million on foreign programs, and $536-million on Canadian ones.

Last year, spending on foreign shows hit a record $775-million, compared with $619-million to make domestic programs. The numbers include several commercial networks; CTV, Global, CITY-TV, and French networks such as TVA. Public broadcaster CBC is not included.

I really don’t know what to say about this idea; I’m skeptical of the idea that better Canadian programming will happen just because the CRTC demands more of it, but I have no great sympathy for the broadcasters, whose bidding wars over U.S. shows basically amount to a war over the right to deprive us of the superior U.S. feeds. (I’m always happy when there is no Canadian simulcast and I can see the original network commercials and bumpers. They’re supposed to be part of the viewing experience.)

Of course, I’ve had an innate suspicion of the CRTC ever since they took the “Bewitched Bunny” incident seriously. Update: I confused the CRTC with the CBSC. See comments.

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“Retool Canadian TV” Sounds So Ominous, Doesn’t It?

  1. I’m always happy when there is no Canadian simulcast and I can see the original network commercials and bumpers. They’re supposed to be part of the viewing experience.)

    Commercials are part of the viewing experience? In what universe?

    I swear, no one involved in television knows what they’re doing anymore.

    • Commercials are part of the viewing experience? In what universe?

      The universe that gave us The Snuggie, of course.

    • What’s truly depressing for democracy is to check the pedantry at work here in and in just about every other thread about anything like this subject. So, with no joy and a lot of weariness, here is a desultory listing of the facts at play in this instance.

      – All countries have a Broadcast regulator. In the USA it’s called the FCC. In the UK, it’s Ofcom

      – Every country outside the USA has a mechanism in place by which it encourages indigenous broadcast culture. This is a settled argument everywhere except the USA. Though Albertans and rabid dittoheads insist that the opinion of every good Canadian is bomb the CBC and let the market decide, polls of the populace do not in fact back this up. Canadians do not believe the market should decide.

      – As far as the odious and constant repetition of “nobody wants to watch” Canadian shows goes, we exist in a snapshot moment now where Box Sets of Corner Gas regularly fly off the shelves, and draw a million and a half viewers — the story of that show for most of its run. Flashpoint is another hit, not just here, but doing very well for CBS on Friday nights. Its creative staff is entirely Canadian. Stargate, in all its incarnations, does about twice as well as Battlestar Galactica, which is a critical darling. It is entirely staffed and written, directed, and produced by Canadians. Trailer Park Boys managed to spawn a movie that had one of the highest rates of return on investment of any movie in Canadian cinema history. Every time the actors from that show make a personal appearance, a thousand people show up.
      You want to argue your point because it fits with your ideology. But the facts as they exist right now, do not back up your attention. If your argument can’t survive the facts, it is by definition a bullshit argument.

      – The notion that somehow “the market” decides anything in Broadcasting, but in the Canadian economy at large, is dubious at best. We have government management and influence at many levels, through tax credits and investment schemes. Beyond TV, this manipulation of the market affects manufacturing, farming, fishing, pharmaceuticals, banking, real estate, and great swaths of the auto industry. When Canadians go on and on like crypto-Republicans about “letting the market decide” you sound ridiculous. You clearly understand nothing about the way your economy works.

      -Restricting the argument merely to TV, the “market” is derailed by the process of Simultaneous Substitution. The CRTC mandates that Canadian nets that buy US programs can block out the US channel so long as they run the show at the same time. This little bit of welfare has resulted in that being the only thing the private nets ever try to do.

      You talk about competiton? The reality is that you would get all those US shows anyway. What you’re being denied is the chance — the chance — to see something different than you might like, that’s produced closer to home.

      The haters on this site might whinge and bitch and moan that we don’t create any Prime Suspects, or great shows like the Brits…but again, the facts are not on your side, and that contention is merely a sad artifact of your utterly colonized view of your own culture, and a wonderfully self-defeating Canadian inferiority complex.

      It’s fortunate that the audience is not actually people like you who post close minded, fact free garbage like this. Instead, the hope really is the millions of kids who unabashedly watch shows like Total Drama Island, or the comedy fans who think Corner Gas is swell, or the non-self-haters who actually tune in a show like the Border and realize, “holy crap! this is actually good!”

      Of all the things you could be arguing for, you’re arguing for … more US tv programming. Wow. Congratulations on your great contribution to our democracy.

  2. Too true. Where would we be if we didn’t have The Bedazzler to make fun of? A much diminished World,, that’s where.

  3. I thought you were kidding about the Bewitched Bunny thing until I read the decision. Good grief.

  4. Of course, I’ve had an innate suspicion of the CRTC ever since they took the “Bewitched Bunny” incident seriously.

    Uhh… that decision is one of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, not the CRTC. Yeah, they both start and end with “C” and have four letters, but one is an independent body set up by the broadcasters and the other is the regulator of the broadcasters. Big difference.

    • Thanks for the correction. I had remembered it as a CRTC thing because she mailed the complaint to the CRTC (as noted in the decision). But that’s no excuse for my mixing up the CRTC and the CBSC, especially when their FAQ explains the difference.

      • I gotta say, the fact that anyone took that complaint seriously is a sad commentary of our times. We are in trouble when a bunch or bureaucrats are debating Bugs Bunny.

        • They’re not bureaucrats, they’re an independent body established by the broadcasters.

          Here’s the Bewitched Bunny complaint, which has to be read to be believed.

          • Like I said, bureaucrats.

          • “Bureaucrats” is not a word you get to make mean whatever you want, sf. Other words, sure, but not every word.

          • They’re not bureaucrats, they’re an independent body established by the broadcasters.

            And the adjudicators who sit on the panels represent both public and industry interests.

          • Like I said, bureaucrats. Jack, if you need a dictionary, there are plenty online.

          • “Bureaucrat” is used exclusively to refer to people who work for the government, sf. I hate to break it to you, you’re so cute in that photo.

          • “Overture, curtain, lights!
            This is it. The night of nights.
            No more rehearsing or nursing a part.
            We know every part by heart!
            (cane flip)
            Overture, curtain, lights!
            This is it. We’ll hit the heights!
            And oh, what heights we’ll hit!
            On with the show, this is it!
            (character procession)
            Tonight what heights we’ll hit!
            On with the show, this is it!”

            What’s with the canes? Are they making fun of old people? Do all old people march back and forth, tipping their hats, and singing in public? geesh!

          • Jack, silly enough, you spend all day on maclean’s, but you’re too lazy to back yourself up when you make a statement. So here ya go:

            From Webster’s dictionary, bureaucracy
            1.b: an administrative policy-making group

            Now I expect you to make the argument that a “standards council” is not a “policy-making group”. Or that you are the arbiter of what constitutes a valid dictionary. Or that you choose which definitions are valid. Good luck with that.

          • From Webster’s dictionary, bureaucracy
            1.b: an administrative policy-making group

            Oh for the love of…

            SF: Jack may have been imprecise with his definition of bureaucrats, but you are simply wrong, wrong, wrong when it comes to the collection of people who arbitrate the disputes brought before the CBSC. As I helpfully pointed out, these people come from all walks of life and many of them work in the industry itself. Serving on the CBSC isn’t the primary occupation of these people.

            Gahd, let it go.

          • I hardly spend all day on macleans.ca, sf — for one thing, I get up at noon — which is why you should read my counter-definition below while you get the chance.

            Funny you should ask, but I am qualified to offer my opinion on the relative merit of dictionaries. The only one I trust is Samuel Johnson’s, as a matter of fact, since I object on theoretical grounds to the OED. Webster’s I don’t even bother with, since it was produced by an American hack in the 1820’s IIRC and was the nail in the coffin of regular American spelling.

        • There was a complaint by a viewer, and the CSBC followed its normal procedures. Since the complaint was groundless it failed. Compare it to a lot of other CSBC determinations and its clear they are having a bit of fun with it (‘the heroic bunny’).

          A body for complaints existed, it did its job and cretaed the appropriate public record. That is how things happen in an adult society.

          • I was thinking of the complainant.

          • And i was trying to reply to sf! heh!

          • Oh, sorry, and so you were! Man, these reply subthreads are a maze.

  5. Canadians are great people and they have a great culture that is worth preserving.

    It’s just that … well … the Canadian people don’t really appreciate the culture which they themselves invented and of which they are the owners.

    Therefore, it behooves the government to create an agency which will draw on the federal powers of regulation, taxation, and if necessary, courts, prisons and the use of deadly force in order to MAKE the Canadian people experience and appreciate their own culture. For their own good.

    They invented their culture and if they don’t appreciate their own culture then we’ll just have to point a gun at their heads and damn well make them appreciate it.

    Sounds weird, but I assure you that this is the absolute truth. Or, it’s all a crooked racket to force people to give their money to other people who did nothing to deserve it, with the middlemen taking a (very) generous percentage. It’s definitely one or the other of these two possibilities.

    • Yup, it’s definitely one of those two. But the second, if false, has an amusing corollary.

    • hey invented their culture and if they don’t appreciate their own culture

      Actually, our elites, for the most part, don’t appreciate their own culture, particularly in English Canada. I think they’re embarrassed by it.

  6. So what should the CSBC have done? Laughed and pointed fingers? I agree with everything they said, in fact.

    I imagine their process is extremely short and informal and it isn’t worth having a preliminary investigation to separate the obviously weaker cases from the stronger ones. There is no reason to believe the complainant was trying to make trouble or acting in bad faith, although there was little chance of success. If I ever make a well intentioned but doomed complaint like that, that is exactly how I would want the people in charge to act.

  7. sf, you should think of the CBSC as the Canadian TV equivalent of the Hays Office. These are non-governmental organizations set up by the industry to police themselves, because they’d rather police themselves than have the government step in and do it.

    By some definitions of bureaucracy, you could argue that this is a bureaucracy. It doesn’t have to be a governmental organization as long as there’s a lot of red tape and rules involved. But that may be too loose a definition of bureaucracy.

    I agree with Mike T. that the conduct of the CBSC officials wasn’t at fault in the Bugs Bunny case. Within the system, they did what they needed to do.

    • Well, as I’ve mentioned above, the term bureaucracy is not confined to a goverment organization in other dictionaries as well. And so that is how I used the word.

      And frankly, someone like J Mitchell is likely the type of person tell people in England that they are incorrect to use the term “boot” to mean the trunk of their car, because he has decided that their particular use of the word does not conform to his wishes.

      Back to the council, while I agree that these people may be doing their jobs correctly, and while it is true that the body is independent, this brings two thoughts:
      1. the independent body is a preemptive creation to hopefully prevent the intrusion of the CRTC, as you have said. Without the threat of the government stepping in, the body would not exist
      2. I personally do not believe we need ANY body whatsoever, separate from the “real” police, that polices the contents of Bugs Bunny, or any other cartoons.

      • I personally do not believe we need ANY body whatsoever, separate from the “real” police,

        Everyone’s an Eric Cartman these days: “I don’t need any rules. I do what I want!”

        Not working out too well, is it?

      • Oh, sf, it’s really a waste of time trying to teach you anything, but here goes. Pay attention, you’re learning from a professional pedant, the kind that doesn’t get hired at $20/hour to write Webster’s online dictionary.

        “Bureaucracy” is, obviously, a compound of the French word “bureau,” which means both “desk” and “office,” and κρατία, Greek for “power.” It’s a neologism, since strictly speaking only Greek words should be used in compounds with κρατία (πλουτοκρατία, δημοκρατία, ὀλιγοκρατία, etc.). Kind of like “thugocracy,” a word you admire.

        Anyway, the point is that the people who work in offices are officials. This implies the State. Therefore, bureaucracies are official organisations.

        The problem with your Webster’s definition is that it could literally apply to any policy-making organisation. And while the pejorative connotations of “bureaucracy” may be applied metaphorically to any such organisation, the point is that the metaphor derives from the original meaning. Therefore to use the broader, metaphorical meaning is to define the whole by the part, which is, to say the least, not very rigorous.

        There you go.

        • I am in awe, Sir. Awe.

          • Me too. I’ll bet he’s great at parties. Instead of conversing with people, he’ll be telling them what’s wrong with their conversation.

          • You’re the one who tried to correct me on this one, sf. If this were a party, you’d already have salmon mousse dripping down your face.

        • Also, there are enough holes in your argument to drive a truck through.

          • Shame you only have a tricycle, then.

      • One last slander: “And frankly, someone like J Mitchell is likely the type of person tell people in England that they are incorrect to use the term “boot” to mean the trunk of their car, because he has decided that their particular use of the word does not conform to his wishes.”

        Why would I tell them that? It comes, I presume, from “boot case” or something, just as “trunk” comes from the trunk you used to attach to the back of horse-drawn carriages. Both words refer to something concrete and have a clear derivation.

        The problem really arises when a rich, poetic language like English, in which we’ve borrowed complex words from Latin, French, and Greek and made them even more complex (often by combining them), falls into the hands of people who have no idea what those words derive from. The rule of thumb should be: if you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it; if you do use it, don’t defend your knowledge of it. Frankly, it would be better if people avoided long words in general and expressed their metaphors directly: “red tape,” for instance, is a much better way of talking about “bureaucracy,” because it’s concrete; “put out bait” is better than “incentivise”; etc.

        • Why can’t Canadians teach their children how to speak
          Our special combinations of Latin, French, and Greek?
          If you talk of “bureaucrats” when bureaus are not in sight,
          You ain’t not been never talking right.
          Canadian use of English very clearly needs a re-do:
          Why, nowadays even Englishmen don’t speak it worse than we do.
          But still we keep using words that we’ve misunderstood;
          Oh, why can’t Canadians…
          Why can’t Canadians

          • Nice!!

        • Frankly Jack, I really don’t care what you think the word is supposed to mean, I know what it does mean, and therefore I will use it according to its meaning.

          I don’t care what a word meant 100 years ago, I care what it means today. When I use a word that has been around a while, like the word “old”, I don’t spell it “auld”, or “eald”, or any other variant, because in modern English it has the spelling “old”.

          In the same vein, I use the word bureaucracy in the same vein that it is used today.

          Just because you have a fetish for using your own customized dictionaries, delivered in the mail from Oxford or elsewhere, and just because you like to run aroung the neighbourhood proclaiming how smart you are, that does not mean I will think that you are anything other than the fraud that you are.

          • It’s safe to say that you really, really don’t.

          • Bravo, sf, not a single misused word in your whole post! I’d like to take credit, but probably your malapropisms were just growing pains. You are, after all, only weeks old.

            I’m a “fraud,” eh? Is that a synonym for anyone who proves you wrong? It’s not listed as such even in Webster’s. Care to provide a link?

  8. whose bidding wars over U.S. shows basically amount to a war over the right to deprive us of the superior U.S. feeds.

    Solution: stop forcing cable and satellite distribution companies to force the simulcasting Canadian broadcaster onto the American channel. See what happens to the bidding war then.

  9. Does the CRTC count news funding, and incredibly long morning shows as money spent on domestic programming, or is that in a separate pot from prime time stuff?

    Also, does a show like Battlestar Galactica count as a Canadian show?

  10. I’m not at all sure what ‘s the real payoff in having a body like the CRTC. I know the theory [ well i pretend to anyway ] but wouldn’t we be better served to regulate the CBC to run all the Canadian content we want? Kinda like the BBC. Maybe even have a 2nd or 3rd channel for the eggheads and purists. [ do they still do this? ] I suppose ther’re business/ advertisng factors that would make this difficult. But do we really need jeopardy on CBC? Is it not possible to have one really good CandianContent station?

    • Is it not possible to have one really good Can[a]dianContent station?

      If the market wants one, I suppose it’s possible.

      Since it appears the market does not particularly want one, you will as a law-abiding taxpayer contribute some of your productivity instead to the CBC & Radio-Canada. I’ll have “Shafted Citizens” for six hundred, Alex…

      • MYL
        Was there ever a time in yr life when you didn’t feel shafted about something? We live in a country of over 30million divergent pov, interests and opinions. It’s never been solely about getting the best bang for your buck, and it never will be. I just don’t choose to be endlessly frustrated or disappointed.

        • Hey, you’re the one who wanted a good CanCon broadcaster. I’d say you’re the one feeling the shaft at the moment. Or, at least, coming to the realization that you’re getting shafted.

          Me, I just happen to have a preference, on balance, for individual freedom, for all 30+ million of us. Shaft away all you like, friends, I will remain happy with that perspective.

          • Yeah, or as myl “learned” in his heavily subsidized undergrad school, the engineers create wealth – everyone else consumes it.

          • Hmm. Guess I missed that lecture, Dot. You still got the course notes?

          • Nope, but I know many who would though.

      • I’ll have “Shafted Citizens” for six hundred, Alex…

        Yeah, you’re really getting boned by that theft of 30,00$ a year that goes CBC/SRC.

        Meanwhile, the 1500$ I pay to Rogers a year is money well spent. Where would I be without Tila Tequila?


        • I feel privilegd to have lived through a period in the UK when the folks who ran the Beeb weren’t at all embarrassed to be seen to be raising the bar as regards public broadcasting. It wasn’t viewed as a niche concern, but widely seen as being of benefit to the whole of the culture to refuse to just feed the masses pablum. Of course this was still the end result in many cases. But at least those who like MYL who endlessly bleat about the cost weren’t to the fore. As if the free choice he advocated was ever free, as in an end product of a free-market process that had anything to do with an open competion

  11. The CBC show Wild Roses is quite good.