Almost without exception, in applying to the CRTC for a TV license or its renewal, they promised the moon in terms of expansive Canadian broadcasting and ended up delivering wall-to-wall U.S. programming. Which is what they intended from the word go. For a very long time in Canada, a TV license was a license to print money.
The quote above comes from Gerald Caplan, who co-chaired a major study of Canadian broadcasting during the Mulroney era of the 1980s. It’s taken from a Globe & Mail piece focused on the current spat between broadcasters and cable/satellite companies, but it speaks volumes about the state of television in this country — specifically the dramatic, fictional-type stuff.
My thoughts on the subject can be summed up thusly: Without a level playing field, we can’t win.
Without the barrier to entry of — oh, I dunno — another language, English-speaking Canada has neither the resources nor viewers to produce anything comparable to the onslaught of flashy programming from our neighbours to the south.
Our government should be mandating more domestic dramatic programming, but somehow along the way broadcasters were able to bend the rules enough so they could slap the “Canadian content” sticker on things like the six o’clock news, for example. Even worse, because Canadian TV commercials are allowed to air over US shows, there’s a whole other industry that cries foul everytime the idea of stricter controls on our airwaves is put forth.
And so today, you have en entire generation of young actors that I’ve taught at The Second City who’s best hope for a career on television in this country is a run of Tim Horton’s commercials — or if they really strike it big, a season or two of a low-budget series on The Comedy Network that nobody will watch, just like I had back in the day.
And that’s why I’m packing up my cable box and sending it back to Rogers tomorrow…