Do you prefer to listen to Canadian music on Wednesdays or Fridays? Do you want to read Canadian books in the fall or spring?
Imagine if a government agency asked you that kind of question to form the basis of their regulations. Wait … one did.
— CRTCeng (@CRTCeng) August 29, 2014
My answer is you’re asking the wrong question.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission makes sure the objectives of the Broadcasting Act are met. According to the CRTC itself, “Canadian content, its development and availability to Canadians, is the underlying principle of the policy.”
But only from 10-2?
The main purpose of the Broadcasting Act and the CRTC is to ensure Canadians have access to Canadian programming. Canadian content is the given.
Now the CRTC is opening up their TalkTV discussion for the public again in advance of the public hearings from September 8–19, hearings that will help them redesign the television framework in Canada. And by public they mean anyone with a secret CRTC decoder ring.
Eliminating Canadian content regulations is not on the table. What is? From their public discussion document:
- Maximizing choice and flexibility (pick and pay)
- Relationships between broadcasting distribution undertakings and programmers
- Ways to foster local programming, including a regulatory model for conventional television
- Ways to foster compelling Canadian programming, including program production, promotion, exhibition and Canadian programming expenditures
I understand about half of that but I do know that the CRTC’s job is to foster Canadian content and our choices are about ways to foster. Not to rationalize why it should exist or to create a time ghetto to place it. And by the way, CRTC, we already know when people watch TV. There’s a reason primetime is not called not-primetime.
So quit asking me when I want Canadian programming or why I value it. I value it because I am Canadian and that means something to me beyond a beer commercial. It means I believe we are a distinct country from the United States, with a different culture. There’s some Venn diagram overlap for sure, but without our own industries – cultural and otherwise – we might as well be the United States with funny money.
But there are few members of the public who could give the CRTC an informed, practical solution for how to change the industry in order to get what we want out of it. I want variety and fair pricing, and to know existing regulations are being upheld, otherwise what’s the point anyway? New regulations that won’t be upheld?
I think Canadian networks broadcasting more original content, not duplicating what we can get on the US stations, is a solution. Eliminating simultaneous substitution might help. Not counting the same show toward fulfilling a CanCon requirement on multiple channels owned by the same network. Don’t allow for giant conglomerates who own every piece of the telecommunications and broadcast industry.
But I don’t have the information to know whether networks are currently even meeting their CanCon requirements, or what revenues they make from Canadian shows, so how can I come up with a plan to increase the amount or quality of Canadian programming without introducing some industry-killing idea?
The CRTC is asking the public questions like:
Who outside the industry knows what “high-priority programming” means to the CRTC? If I’m happy with the availability of kids shows on Netflix is that a no or a yes?
The Canadian government has a plain language policy in any communications to the public. That CRTC discussion document for their public hearings has a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 13.9. That’s a lot of grade levels for a public document.
Oh they do try to simplify. They explain the benefit of eliminating simultaneous substitution as:
Canadians would be able to watch all non-Canadian programs, such as the Super Bowl, with American advertisements.
The language isn’t the problem, it’s that they’ve simplified the point right out of the debate. We have to read the Globe and Mail to see what the real benefits might be.
I’ve been an interested observer in Canadian content regulations for about a decade and I don’t understand the benefits and drawbacks of most of the decisions they are asking us to make. Thank goodness for people like TV, eh?’s Kelly Lynne Ashton, the Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor and John Doyle, and Greg O’Brien at Cartt to explain and help spark thought and discussion.
If only the CRTC was listening:
@tv_eh That’s why its is important to us that you have your say! don’t miss the opportunity to join the conversation!
— CRTCeng (@CRTCeng) August 29, 2014
I’ve been part of the conversation for a decade, first on other sites and then through this site. We did a series of TalkTV podcasts last year with people talking pick and pay, cordcutting and CanCon.
Welcome to the party, CRTC, but the community you’re trying to create with your desperate questions already exists and doesn’t trust you to listen. Because you haven’t been listening. And now you’re all “but guys, the party’s over HERE now. Let me explain how to get here with these incomprehensible directions.”
You want to ask me a relevant question, CRTC? Ask me what I expect from a government agency charged with ensuring Canadian airwaves are used in Canadians’ best interests.
I want a CRTC that acts in the public interest and can prove it. I want to see in clear terms what the rules are for a network’s Canadian content and the evidence that they are fulfilling their obligations. I want you to be transparent in what you’re doing about networks that don’t comply.
I want you to actively listen to the continuing conversations happening around you and I want YOU to do the work of translating our English to CRTC-speak instead of expecting us to learn how and when to talk to you. I want you to not tell me “it’s your last chance to have your say!” when you should be listening to your citizens always.
I want a CRTC who knows what questions to ask to get a meaningful response. But if you really, really want to know when I want to watch Canadian programming? Whenever I want, because I am Canadian.