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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Talk TV – Building and Repairing Bridges

If you’re keeping score, we now have had four decisions from the Talk TV hearing. The first one was issued November 6, 2014 and prohibited 30 day notice periods for cancelling television, telephone and internet services. Not a big decision but one that gave hints that consumer choice was going to continue to be a theme of Talk TV. Now we have three more small but significant decisions, announced January 29, 2015  by the Chair of the CRTC, Jean-Pierre Blais, in London, Ontario.

The first decision today was a warning that if broadcasters shut down their over the air (“OTA”) transmitters, they would lose the regulatory privileges that were originally granted with the licensing of their OTA services. The two big privileges that no broadcaster is going to want to lose is mandatory carriage on basic and simultaneous substitution (‘simsub’). Both of these two privileges are fundamental to the conventional broadcasters’ business model.

During TalkTV broadcasters expressed a desire to get rid of their OTA transmitters as a way to reduce costs. The CRTC has quoted stats from Numeris that 9.1% of Canadians access broadcasting over the air. That’s actually higher than I thought and is a significant portion of the population. They were a particularly vocal portion of the population during the online consultation part of TalkTV. Today’s decision goes further than just supporting that population though. At times in his speech Blais sounded like a commercial for OTA antennas, advocating it as a high quality, low cost solution to those nasty BDUs:

“The next few years could yield renewed interest for OTA broadcasting, especially in urban areas where eye-popping image quality, channel selection and, of course, the absence of cost, could convince more consumers that they need not be enslaved to cable and satellite service providers if they want to enjoy high-quality television programming.” – Jean-Pierre Blais

The second decision is the one getting the headlines – no more Superbowl simsub from 2017 on. Consumers complained bitterly about missing out on the Superbowl ads and it is year after year the biggest source of complaints to the CRTC. Bell Media has bought the rights to broadcast the Superbowl but we don’t know for how many years. Either way, it will have a significant financial impact on this one broadcast group. The decision also refers to enforcement to improve simsub performance – no more sleeping at the switch and having the feed cut off improperly.

Frankly, I’m surprised at the Superbowl decision. Sure, the CRTC is fed up with the cranky complaints and having to explain themselves every year but does it justify the lost revenue?

Finally, the third decision may seem the most esoteric but probably is the most important for the future. Bell and Vidéotron were directed to stop excluding their mobile broadcasting services from their customers’ monthly data caps. They were basically promoting their own services by giving them a fast lane. The CRTC has been a leader in the world in creating rules and practices for Net Neutrality and they continue to with this decision. Vertically integrated media businesses will not be allowed to favour their own services.

Blais has promised the rest of the decisions in the coming weeks and months. In his speech he compared the decisions to repairing old bridges while building new ones. Repeatedly. According to the infographic that was published with the decision, we’re only ¼ of the way there so lots more construction analogies to come.  Ultimately, we will have to look at these decisions as a whole, see the whole bridge, before we understand the real impact. And will we like what we see when we get to the other side? That’s a question for another day.


CRTC bans simsub during Super Bowl; viewers to see U.S. ads

From a media release by the CRTC:

Ads during the Super Bowl get a lot of hype. They are an important part of the overall spectacle, and viewers look forward to watching them.

For Canadian viewers this has been a problem. They don’t see the same ads as those seen in the US because they are replaced with Canadian ads.

For a number of years, Canadians have complained to the CRTC that they want to see the American ads during the Super Bowl. Many Canadians spoke about this considerable irritation during  Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians. The CRTC has taken action to resolve the issue.

Beginning at the end of the 2016 NFL season (i.e., the Super Bowl in 2017), simultaneous substitution will no longer be allowed during the Super Bowl. Canadian viewers will see the same ads as American viewers.

Until then, you can watch the American ads broadcast during the Super Bowl on YouTube’s AdBlitz channel.

Review: Saving Hope explains the unexplainable

Sometimes when I’m watching Charlie interact with the spirits on Saving Hope, my eyes can’t help but wander to the background. Not because I’m bored by what’s going on, but to see if anyone else is noticing Charlie talking to, well, thin air, while we watch him help guide the spirits to a peaceful place.

That idea was at the forefront of Wednesday’s episode, “Remains of the Day,” as an unexplainable move in surgery made thanks to a spirit’s guidance was brought to the attention of staff at Hope Zion, with Dawn hoping Charlie could explain his miraculous move to his colleagues. Only problem? Charlie couldn’t do that without being hauled off to the psych ward.

Really the whole issue was due to a slightly neurotic, OCD spirit named Elaine, whose panic attack mid-surgery forced Charlie to address her spirit in the close proximity of surgeons like Maggie and Rian. It may have been just shrugged off as typical strange Charlie behaviour if Elaine didn’t begin to stroke out, forcing Charlie to use the spot her spirit was clutching as guidance as to where to perform emergency surgery. It certainly was a reckless move to everyone else–can’t say I wouldn’t be freaking right out knowing my colleague was about to carelessly drill into a patient’s head–that spiraled into a medical learning opportunity thanks to Dawn’s insistance (although I’m pretty sure she just wanted to get to the bottom of Charlie’s craziness once and for all). If it weren’t for Maggie and Rian’s elaborate detective skills (or was it simply their oh so desperate need for Charlie to help them study?), Charlie would be in a much different situation when he ended the episode.

While Dawn was trying to expose Charlie’s mysterious ways, she was also attempting to juggle the return of Giselle to the hospital and the bond the two forged during their short time together. I’ve loved seeing Giselle go head-to-head with Dawn, since she’s one of the few characters who seems game for keeping up with Dawn’s bitter attitude all the time. It did feel like we were being hit over the head with the notion that Dawn would at least contemplate adopting Giselle herself, and although I was initially a little miffed she chose her work over the girl, it was probably for the best that Giselle is just staying with Dawn for a week-long trial period rather than anything permenant.

The other main storyline was certainly emotional, as Joel and Alex tried to figure out what exactly was wrong with a caring high school teacher. After years of terrible teachers, I think the storyline touched me so much knowing how much an engaged and invested teacher can shape a young person’s life and how much the dedicated English teacher was trying to give his students. When we finally heard the teacher had an uncurable disease my heart went out to the guy, and I found that doing the play in the hospital was a really sweet way to wrap up his sad story.

Something about what the English teacher said jogged Alex’s memory of her father, causing her hand to cramp up again. It was good of Alex to look into her father once and for all (although it felt like the whole thing was really breezed right over) but the most groundbreaking part of the scene was seeing Alex’s vision of her baby and Charlie playing together. Could Team Charlie be closer to edging out Team Joel in the baby game?


  • “You see wonton, I see chaos.” I feel bad calling her insane because OCD isn’t something you can control, but Elaine was a lot.
  • That whole three-way vibe between Maggie, Sydney and James makes me very uncomfortable.

Saving Hope airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Thoughts? Drop us a line below or @tv_eh.

Review: The name’s the thing in The Book of Negroes

The historical book of Negroes finally gets its starring turn in the miniseries The Book of Negroes, and Canada as Canada is poised to show up in the next episode.

In part four, Aminata is recruited to collect the names of every black person who assisted the British during the American Revolutionary War. That ledger will determine who can earn a berth to Nova Scotia and freedom, and the process allows them to claim their names and their stories, and for Aminata to live her dream of becoming a djello — storyteller — for her people and their ancestors.

The U.S. title for the Lawrence Hill novel this miniseries is based on is Someone Knows My Name, and it has a resonance of its own. Stolen from their homes, their families, their continent, the slaves are stripped of so much of their autonomy — often down to their own names. Aminata Diallo, for example, was anglicized to Meena Dee, though she reclaims her name and ultimately her freedom.

Yet in the course of the episode her true name almost costs her that freedom. Though she more than earned her place in the book of Negroes, her name appears on another list: of runaway slaves. She is ripped from the boat and Chekura, who must proceed to Nova Scotia or lose his place forever, while she can challenge her designation as another man’s property in court and sail on a later ship.

Their love is the beating heart of this story, making the scene where they are torn apart again, and the one where they are forced to admit that he aided the slave traders and tore her from her family, particularly heartbreaking.

Her assumption — and mine — is that Solomon Lindo has finally caught up with her. Instead, the supremely creepy Robinson Appleby is making a false claim, denying he ever sold her. Sam proves his love again through actions, finding the only way to counter that claim: he produces Solomon Lindo to testify and bring the papers that prove he bought her — and sold her baby — and then to finally, officially, grant her freedom. She’s as grateful to stalwart Sam as she is unforgiving of Lindo.

Aunjanue Ellis is transcendent in this role, of course. Allan Hawco gives Lindo a regretful sweetness which belies the ugliness of his position. He was a better master than Appleby — played to slimy perfection by Greg Bryk — but selling her baby to a good family and getting her away from the brutal Appleby is still selling her baby, and calling her a servant instead of slave didn’t prevent him from treating her as property.

Her declaration about the new United States: “There is nothing united about a nation that proclaims all men are created equal, but keeps its people in chains.”

There are clunky moments in the episode. Some — such as when Aminata questions General Washington about why he owns slaves if he opposes the institution of slavery — because they come across as jamming a plot point from the sprawling novel awkwardly into the script — and some feel like small missteps in direction or editing. You could almost hear the DUN DUN DUNNNN when Solomon Lindo was revealed in court.

I’m not a fan of voiceovers in general, but in The Book of Negroes it feels crucial to translate the gaps that couldn’t be jammed into the script and explain the time jumps, and to give Aminata her rightful role as the author of her own story.

How was the west(ern Canadian TV industry) won? Nominate your picks

For their 30th annivesary issue, Reel West Magazine is celebrating how the west was won with a look at the movies and TV shows that made the western Canadian industry real – and they want your help.

Which films and TV shows had the greatest impact on the western Canadian industry? Which launched careers or studios or locations or… fill in the blank.

This isn’t a “best of” or a “critic’s choice” list – they’re looking for productions that had a lasting impact. Productions can be 100% made in western Canada or they might be Hollywood hits.

TV shows will likely focus on series BUT if there’s a one-off TV movie or special or live event that had an impact on the industry, make a case for it. Hit them with your top ten lists – or just make a case for the one production you think matters or mattered most.

All nominations will be reviewed by an industry advisory panel who will determine which 30 movies and which 30 shows will be featured in the anniversary issue, which hits newstands and appears online in March.

By midnight February 9, send email nominations, post to their Facebook page, or Tweet at them. Include your name and contact info so they can quote you or let them know if you’d prefer not to be quoted.

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