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Join the TV, eh? “Flash Conference” on the future of TV in Canada

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The CRTC is hosting a conversation on the future of TV in Canada and they’re asking for our help. That’s right, the Canadian TV industry is talking to the Canadian audience about something we have a hope of caring about. I’ll give you a moment to recover from your swoon. Whether they take action remains to be seen, of course, but they are listening so … baby steps. Also let’s keep in mind they’ll get flooded with contradictory opinions so taking action doesn’t mean our opinions will all translate into reality.

They’re asking three questions and want us to think creatively, speak openly, and be frank:

  1. What do you think about what’s on television?
  2. What do you think about how you receive television programming?
  3. Do you have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if you’re not satisfied?

You can participate in the conversation with the CRTC directly via their discussion forum, email, online form, phone, fax, mail or smoke signals. (One of those options may not actually be offered).

Or join TV, eh?’s discussion – call it a virtual flash conference — and I will report back to the CRTC in their post-conference report format. There are three ways you can join us:

  1. Let me know if you’d like to join the podcast Monday at 7pm PT/10pm ET via Google Hangout (for this live discussion I’m looking for people who do NOT make a living from the Canadian TV industry — let’s try to draw out and not drown out the audience opinion)
  2. Send me an audio file of your thoughts on one or more of the above questions that we can play during the podcast (audience and TV industry people welcome)
  3. Leave your non-anonymous comments on this post and I’ll read relevant excerpts on the podcast (audience and TV industry people welcome)

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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22 thoughts on “Join the TV, eh? “Flash Conference” on the future of TV in Canada”

  1. Hi there, Sarah from the Rogers Social Media team here.

    Rogers has been advocating for years for more flexible cable packaging because we know it’s important for our customers.

    We think the system has to adapt in order to meet the changing needs and tastes of customers and are encouraged that the federal government is committed to doing what’s right for cable TV consumers.

  2. How appropriate that the first comment should come from the Rogers social media team, informing us that Rogers has for years been on the side of consumers wanting options. And for years they did…?

    What do you think about what’s on television?
    — In the last decade and a bit i have cringed every time something like Duck Dynasty appeared on tv. If i turn on the tv and it happens to be on A&E and DD is on i just squish the remote in my hand to randomly change the channel to anything else. Anything. I couldn’t care what numbers i hit or up/down registered as pressed first so long as it gets that show off my tv I have a similar instinctual response to CBS’ Survior and Big Brother.
    Since about the time i could talk i have spoken up now and then about the lack of well made, good domestic dramatic programming. There are plenty of well made news and documentary shows but scripted programming too often either skews to the point of ‘look at how Canadian it is’ absurdity (usually found in comedic programming) or it panders to ‘generic could-be-American’ boredom (yeah, i mean you Played and anything involving Andrew Orenstein). It is rare that some really good domestic scripted show (interesting, well made, and dare i say it well watched) makes it on to any network’s schedule. Murdoch Mysteries is that fun crime drama that was on Bravo! (back when it had an !) and then Citytv (before it dropped the tv) and only found success once it was on CBC, just about the same time CBC terminated its re-transmission signals to much of the country. The Border was ok and a resolution to the story would have been nice. Republic Of Doyle is a fun show for those who can’t tolerate the brutal scenarios of Criminal Minds, The Listener was interesting in its first season but the shift in course that brought more viewers to season 2 made it less interesting, and then there are all of the shows even Canadians sometimes think are American because they lack the over-the-top Canadianness of most of the comedies, but none of them are quite at the level of Intelligence or Da Vinci’s Inquest. (Yes, John Doyle and i do occasionally agree on something.) The most interesting show of late is probably the Canadian-funded made-in-Los-Angeles show DTLA, about the lives of a gay couple and their friends that was on OutTV. APTN’s brilliant Blackstone comes a close second. Sadly i get neither in HD with my tv service provider. As for why there is a lack of domestic programming? Well that would be cheap American imports. If the broadcasters had to pay fees to import the shows like i do to import the subsequent DVD/BD releases then perhaps we wouldn’t have all the bad American shows cluttering up our networks’ schedules. Did you see that last act of Murdoch Mysteries season 7 episode 3 wherein they basically gave a great big F U to the American film and television industry? BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN ON TV.

    What do you think about how you receive television programming?
    — GET RID OF ALL THE STANDARD DEFINITION CHANNELS. IF there is no corresponding HD channel then perhaps the channel shouldn’t exist. Any person using a cable or satellite box with a CRT tv already has the means to make use of an HD signal on their older tv. Any person getting an over-the-air signal will be getting the HD and thus have what they need to watch it or for those few places where it is still analogue SD OTA they get what they do in a format they can directly use. When Corus announced the launch of ABC Spark i was actually excited. I then realised it was only available in HD on a few service providers, which did not include the company that the owners of Corus also own.Why launch a channel aimed at a demographic that has grown up in the HD era and make the channel SD? Thankfully i could still buy Bunheads on iTunes.

    Do you have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if you’re not satisfied?
    — Why would you suppose anyone replying to this would be satisfied? Except for the part about original shows on channels owned by Bell Canada almost never being offered for sale on iTunes i do mostly get by quite all right despite a rather comprehensive cable tv subscription.
    Am i impressed that if i want to watch back-catalogue episodes of White Collar legitimately i have to be a customer of Bell because other service providers aren’t approved for Bravo’s streaming video? O hell no. Apparently subscribing to Bravo isn’t enough; one need subscribe to Bravo via Bell TV and then be vulnerable to usage overage charges on your Bell Internet service before you can stream an episode of White Collar. I would buy an advance season pass for 19-2 on iTunes tonight but i doubt it will ever be offered, even when the show finally appears on tv. Even looking at iTunes, i can’t get no Satisfaction.

    1. One correction…. i forgot that SD digital cable boxes do exist; i don’t think i have seen one in any store in a few years now. People using those would need to upgrade their hardware if SD channels were abolished. There bursts my bubble.

      1. “Let me know if you want to join us on the podcast too :)”

        But but but… that is when Murdoch Mysteries is on CBRT and would you not want to watch when Murdoch’s prime suspect in a woman’s murder is her husband, who appears to have returned from the dead.

        Being part of a podcast seems like it would be fun. So conflicted. How can i advocate in favour of Canadian television whilst turning my back on one of the shows i have longest enjoyed which happens to be Canadian?

        It is also 2 hours into game 5 of the world series and even though i don’t care much for either team i might want to watch if it is a potential series victory game. Yes, i like baseball too. Regardless of my hate/love relationship with Rogers i have never been a Blue Jays fan.

        Can i get back to you on Tuesday? ;)

        1. Ha, sorry to test your loyalties. I would advocate for recording Murdoch but Peter Mitchell (below) would yell at me ;) Totally up to you – would be fun if you can but no pressure.

          1. I’ll be honest with you, Sunday was a long sleepless night and when i took a nap about 6pm Monday it lasted longer than the 15 minutes i intended it to be.

    2. Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for your reply.

      In order for Rogers to offer the flexibility our customers want, the system has to evolve.

      Rogers has been listening and already introduced a number of initiatives and new packaging options, including:
      • Rogers Anyplace TV – the ability to watch content on any device (TV Everywhere);
      • The London, ON cable pick-and-pay trial in 2012;
      • Introducing Digital Lite in 2013 — a low cost entry programming option;
      • Multiple theme packs and a la carte options

  3. No, it wasn’t specific to the Murdoch episode it was more of a general comment that IF there had been a person like Pendrick back in the day perhaps a more distinctive Canadian brand would have developed (or maybe it was a wry comment about the generally unrealistic dreams that Pendrick always espouses ..)

    1. Peter, am i actually the first person to tell you that The Artful Detective is the new title of Murdoch Mysteries in the USA? The timing of Shaftesbury & ITV dealing with the cable channel Ovation seems like it would be about the time you were making the episode The Filmed Adventures Of Detective William Murdoch. It could appear as though there is some in-show contempt expressed toward the show being re-named for an English-speaking market.

  4. I think we need more financial flexibility for content producers, which also allows networks to take more risks if there is less at stake financially. In film, you can produce a great film for a few thousand dollars or hundreds of millions. In TV, there’s rates that you can’t get around and so you MUST pay, even if you could theoretically make it for less.

    (Full disclosure: I once got some seed money from CBC to develop a TV project up in Yellowknife. I was in my early 20s at the time, and looking back think the Ceeb wisely passed when I pitched it as I lacked the experience to pull it off.)

    I also think CBC’s goal of representing Canada’s diversity is misguided. What it means is that if we have a series set in Alberta *of course* it’s going to either be about ranchers or oil barons. If its set in the NWT (but filmed primarily in Vancouver, natch) it must be about bush pilots. Its like “It’s A Small World” ride writ large. Here’s a solution that addresses both problems:

    CBC sets aside two hours each week for dramatic, non-factual programming in prime time. Each region gets the same amount of modest money. They can spend it anyway they like however they like (2×1 hrs shows, 4×30 min programs, shorts showcase, mini-series, etc). Content producers pitch the regional execs with a budget they need to tell their stories. All the programming is made available to stream online so all Canadians can watch it. No everything will succeed, but you’ll get more honest regional representation and enough swings that you might even score a home run or two. Build a fan base for certain creative teams, actors…those are my thoughts.

    1. Just because i live within range of CBRT doesn’t mean i want to watch shows about ranches and oil. I am from a bit further east of the Rockies and i would just simply not watch CBC if all i had available were shows from this part of the country. I HATE YOUR IDEA. It is the first time i have truly felt that CBC could be undesirable.

      By your idea i wouldn’t get to see Murdoch Mysteries or Republic Of Doyle and neither show could be sustained with just the advertising revenue from the markets in which they are made. Your plan would be suicidal to all of the most watched *cough*profitable*cough* shows the CBC has. And since the budgets are now slashed to even more modest levels with your idea then noone could afford to make anything even they will want to watch.

      Do you know how many good shows are on BBC Two Northern Ireland that the rest of the UK doesn’t get to see? Neither do most of them because they get BBC Two not BBC Two Northern Ireland. At least in Northern Ireland there is a language difference which can be used as the excuse for some local-only programming (though it often is picked up by or made with rté from the south) but last i checked when i talk to one of my neighbours i don’t need subtitles because they speak about the same language i learnt in school back east.

      1. There is sufficient time in the CBC’s weekly schedule to allow for more local programming while maintaining a stable of national programming (Republic of Doyle, Murdoch Mysteries). 6:30 timeslots are currently occupied by Rick Mercer reruns (which is already shown twice a week), we have a Monday hour slot currently dedicated to an import series (Cracked) and of course…Coronation Street.

        Given what limited local programming there is on the Ceeb, I think they could spare *at least* an hour each week.

  5. The CRTC is never going to come up with a panacea for Canada’s home grown television woes. There can be infinite consultations and regulation tweaks but as there is no financial incentive to take risks and develop original content (with exception of CBC I suppose) things won’t change.

    Best decisions CRTC made lately were in not forcing Canadians to subscribe to new channels (SunTV, Starlight) and refusing to regulate internet. It will be a sad day when bureaucrats are the ones deciding what we can and cannot watch on Netflix.

  6. Diane. Just listened to your podcast. I think you were right when you said that ending the simulcasting is the most important thing that can happen out of this process. I think the fallout from that might go a long way to solving some problems. The big 3 private networks will basically have no reason to exist. If they are only giving us 2 or three original progams, what use are they.
    2.What do you think about how you receive television programming?
    It is a global world, we get ABC, NBC,etc; why not BBC or SKY tv from UK, or Australian tv. Why do we need BBC Canada(the Holmes on Homes channel) when we can get the real BBC. Open the gates, let the world come in.

      1. I feel stupid asking this, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking of for a while…

        Given that all basic cable packages come with both Canadian networks (Global, CTV) as well as American networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) why does simulcasting exist? Presumably, Canadian viewers have just as much opportunity to watch shows on the American networks or am I missing something? Are there really that many Canadians that still receive OTA signals and therefore no American networks?

        I listened to the podcast too and wondered about Diane’s no-simulcast solution: Would that proposal also block the signal, preventing Canadians from watching the American shows on American networks? Or would it just prevent Canadian networks from carrying the signal? I don’t see the CRTC going that far, but maybe if they could create a incentives for American networks NOT to sell the programs to Canadian network, the Canadians would be force to come up with their own programming.

        Again, just confused because it seems like anyone with a cable package has both the US and Canadian signals, don’t know why simulcast is currently a “thing”.

        1. Not stupid at all – that’s why it’s an issue. Right now Canadian networks can take over the feed of an American network if they’re playing the same show so that on both channels the Canadian commercials appear and the Canadian networks get two spots on the dial for eyeballs for their ads.

          That gives them a huge financial incentive to buy and air US programs at the same time as US channels, and a huge disincentive to give original programming a consistent timeslot when it conflicts with a US network’s scheduling, or even to invest in original programming when they can just buy US shows, let the US nets take the risk, and reap the marketing benefits from the US nets.

          Eliminating simultaneous substitution means not allowing a Canadian network to take over the US channel’s signal. We’d still get NBC, ABC etc but they’d air the US commercials. Canadian networks could still buy US shows but they would only be able to sell ads based on people actually tuning in to their channel, not the US channel.

          My hope is Canadian networks would find that original programming that differentiates them, and that they own and can sell, becomes more important to their business model.

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