"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.