If I were in charge of the Canadian TV industry … well, I’d likely run it into the ground, but it would be well-meaning. No matter what suggestion for improvement – or defense of the status quo — there’s a chorus to say why it can’t be done, shouldn’t be attempted, is a terrible idea.
It’s not all naysaying. Our homegrown industry often seems like it’s held together with frayed string and a prayer, and one nudge would have it collapsing in a pile at Jean-Pierre Blais’ feet.
The CRTC chairman recently ruled that after 2016, simultaneous substitution — the practice of airing Canadian commercials over the US feed — is banned during the Super Bowl.
Our inability to see American Super Bowl ads is the number one complaint made to the CRTC each year. Seriously? The ruling is several years too late, given the complaints could be addressed with: “Learn how to use your internet browser, people.” The ads are online.
As Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail pointed out, the commission has not made policy here, it’s made an exception. Ban simsub or don’t ban simsub, but it makes no sense to ban one instance of simsub.
Bell Media tells Cartt.ca that it will lose $20 million for each Super Bowl, and they apparently have the rights through 2019. Some say the money would have gone into Canadian programming — I’m not entirely sure networks ever spend more than they’re legally required to on that, so I’m skeptical, but that data isn’t freely available. In any case, it’s a big hit for a broadcaster to take, particularly when they would have calculated their bid for the game rights with the expectation of that simsub revenue.
I don’t care about football. I’d like to see simsub eliminated entirely (though that declaration will start the chorus of naysayers, who will have legitimate points).
There needs to be a business imperative for a Canadian broadcaster to invest in Canadian programming. No external carrot or stick, but a raison d’etre. The central question I come back to is: why would I care if I have Global or CTV if they air shows I can get on US networks? There are answers, of course. Local news, for one — which I haven’t watched on TV in about 20 years. Not everyone has cable or lives close enough to the border for an over the air antenna to pick up US channels, so for some people, CTV is the only way they can watch the Super Bowl.
But wouldn’t a better answer be because Global and CTV’s business model depends on making content, not rebroadcasting it? I’d like our television regulations to make that model the path of least resistance.
Yet the CRTC’s decision on Super Bowl ads moves us no further to a redefined broadcast system, as they promised to examine. It is as arbitrary as it is punitive. It’s only pro-consumer in the most superficial way, with potentially more cons than pros in the long term. Bell may decide to put the game on TSN, and Canadian broadcasters would be loath to buy the rights after Bell’s contract expires, leaving those without cable Super Bowl-less … never mind whatever that disproportionate financial hit will do to the one broadcaster the decision affects.
If I were in charge of the Canadian TV industry I might accidentally run it into the ground, but I’d like to think I’d do it with a logical consistently. With this decision, the CRTC appears to be trying to do it capriciously.