Sep 17, 2021
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Front Page, Industry News

TV fading to Blackett?

Why are there hundreds of channels but still nothing good on TV? According to Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett, one of the reasons is that the homegrown contribution is dreck. It’s lowest common denominator, cheap looking, contrived crap TV. We’ve been hearing fallout from guilds, unions and associations about how inappropriate it was for Blackett to say this. But they’re missing the point: it’s not about them. Blackett refreshingly dared to say it, and it appears the general viewing public, which doesn’t care whether local “industry” has employment or not, wholeheartedly agrees.

As an Alberta producer who has contributed what Blackett would call “s–t” to the pile, I can tell you that my client is not the viewer, nor is Lindsay Blackett’s sensibilities. I’m only responsive to the broadcaster, which says what goes on TV, and not one is from here. This is why anything that comes from Alberta involves cowboys. That’s the Toronto-centric view of the hinterland, that’s what they’ll buy from Alberta.

The bigger picture is that Canada doesn’t have a big population; we can’t command big advertising dollars which means no big budgets. This is why our productions look so cheap. Canadian advertisers want their commercials to air during the glitzier American shows which cost pennies on the dollar to acquire, while it costs 100 cents on the dollar to create our own. It’s a more lucrative gig if producers get “back-end” dollars in distribution. We can’t compete with the CSI Miamis because one hour of that American show costs more to produce than some Canadian networks have to spend on programming for a whole season. Hence our success with Mountie schtick in the U.S., and why Germans think we all live like the Beachcombers. That kind of cliche is distinctly Canadian, and we can at least do that better than anyone else. Ka-ching.

But even more germane to the whole discussion is the viability of the industry as a business. If TV production in Canada ran according to the free market, there would be none. The CRTC requires Canadian broadcasters to air some Canadian TV. When a broadcaster “buys” a show from a producer, it only pays a fraction of the cost, the rest comes from a variety of funds which include tax incentives from the federal and provincial governments, as well as (usually CRTC mandatory) funds created by cable companies and broadcasters to offset the fact that most of their shows are American. In other words, it’s paid by the taxpayer and the cable customer. This makes the oft-quoted local industry claim that dollars come back to the province 5:1 on “support” disingenuous. The province is only one of the fingers in the pie. If the return was that good, the free market would be all over it.

Further adding to the dilution of limited production dollars is that the CRTC requires cable companies to carry networks that would never stand alone if you weren’t forced to pay for them — you know which ones these are. To get the two channels you want, you also have to pay to get programming you would rather clean the fish tank than watch.

“Industry” can’t have it both ways. It’s not a business if it relies so heavily on the benevolence and politics of ever-changing funds. It’s not a business when it’s constantly lobbying for handouts. They can’t say, Hey, province, give us more money, oh, and shut up about it — you’re not allowed to comment on what you’re paying for on behalf of Alberta taxpayers. The industry is a cultural one, art, and exempt from NAFTA specifically because the government thinks we ought to have one and it wouldn’t make it on its own. Under bipolar circumstances, it can be either good for us as a culture, or watched by actual viewers accustomed to more expensive, prettier American TV, but not both.

Blackett’s comments may have inadvertently poked a spreading bruise. The industry is in flux. Technology is rendering traditional TV viewing obsolete. When something is bad enough and expensive enough, the free market will find a way to do it better; my teenagers watch most of their favourite shows on the Net — five “webisodes” at a time and for nothing more than the cost of wireless. Bye-bye CRTC. The very smart Shaw Communications knows this. Having barely bought the Canwest-Global TV specialty channels, this cable Internet giant is already starting to merge their services.

Welcome to the future.

Canadian industry would do well to stop griping and come up with a new model, because whether we like it or not, it won’t be long before all TV as we know and currently create it, fades to Blackett.

Source: The Calgary Herald

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Front Page, Industry News

TV fading to Blackett?

Why are there hundreds of channels but still nothing good on TV? According to Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett, one of the reasons is that the homegrown contribution is dreck. It’s lowest common denominator, cheap looking, contrived crap TV. We’ve been hearing fallout from guilds, unions and associations about how inappropriate it was for Blackett to say this. But they’re missing the point: it’s not about them. Blackett refreshingly dared to say it, and it appears the general viewing public, which doesn’t care whether local “industry” has employment or not, wholeheartedly agrees.

As an Alberta producer who has contributed what Blackett would call “s–t” to the pile, I can tell you that my client is not the viewer, nor is Lindsay Blackett’s sensibilities. I’m only responsive to the broadcaster, which says what goes on TV, and not one is from here. This is why anything that comes from Alberta involves cowboys. That’s the Toronto-centric view of the hinterland, that’s what they’ll buy from Alberta.

The bigger picture is that Canada doesn’t have a big population; we can’t command big advertising dollars which means no big budgets. This is why our productions look so cheap. Canadian advertisers want their commercials to air during the glitzier American shows which cost pennies on the dollar to acquire, while it costs 100 cents on the dollar to create our own. It’s a more lucrative gig if producers get “back-end” dollars in distribution. We can’t compete with the CSI Miamis because one hour of that American show costs more to produce than some Canadian networks have to spend on programming for a whole season. Hence our success with Mountie schtick in the U.S., and why Germans think we all live like the Beachcombers. That kind of cliche is distinctly Canadian, and we can at least do that better than anyone else. Ka-ching.

But even more germane to the whole discussion is the viability of the industry as a business. If TV production in Canada ran according to the free market, there would be none. The CRTC requires Canadian broadcasters to air some Canadian TV. When a broadcaster “buys” a show from a producer, it only pays a fraction of the cost, the rest comes from a variety of funds which include tax incentives from the federal and provincial governments, as well as (usually CRTC mandatory) funds created by cable companies and broadcasters to offset the fact that most of their shows are American. In other words, it’s paid by the taxpayer and the cable customer. This makes the oft-quoted local industry claim that dollars come back to the province 5:1 on “support” disingenuous. The province is only one of the fingers in the pie. If the return was that good, the free market would be all over it.

Further adding to the dilution of limited production dollars is that the CRTC requires cable companies to carry networks that would never stand alone if you weren’t forced to pay for them — you know which ones these are. To get the two channels you want, you also have to pay to get programming you would rather clean the fish tank than watch.

“Industry” can’t have it both ways. It’s not a business if it relies so heavily on the benevolence and politics of ever-changing funds. It’s not a business when it’s constantly lobbying for handouts. They can’t say, Hey, province, give us more money, oh, and shut up about it — you’re not allowed to comment on what you’re paying for on behalf of Alberta taxpayers. The industry is a cultural one, art, and exempt from NAFTA specifically because the government thinks we ought to have one and it wouldn’t make it on its own. Under bipolar circumstances, it can be either good for us as a culture, or watched by actual viewers accustomed to more expensive, prettier American TV, but not both.

Blackett’s comments may have inadvertently poked a spreading bruise. The industry is in flux. Technology is rendering traditional TV viewing obsolete. When something is bad enough and expensive enough, the free market will find a way to do it better; my teenagers watch most of their favourite shows on the Net — five “webisodes” at a time and for nothing more than the cost of wireless. Bye-bye CRTC. The very smart Shaw Communications knows this. Having barely bought the Canwest-Global TV specialty channels, this cable Internet giant is already starting to merge their services.

Welcome to the future.

Canadian industry would do well to stop griping and come up with a new model, because whether we like it or not, it won’t be long before all TV as we know and currently create it, fades to Blackett.

Source: The Calgary Herald

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Front Page, Industry News

TV fading to Blackett?

Why are there hundreds of channels but still nothing good on TV? According to Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett, one of the reasons is that the homegrown contribution is dreck. It’s lowest common denominator, cheap looking, contrived crap TV. We’ve been hearing fallout from guilds, unions and associations about how inappropriate it was for Blackett to say this. But they’re missing the point: it’s not about them. Blackett refreshingly dared to say it, and it appears the general viewing public, which doesn’t care whether local “industry” has employment or not, wholeheartedly agrees.

As an Alberta producer who has contributed what Blackett would call “s–t” to the pile, I can tell you that my client is not the viewer, nor is Lindsay Blackett’s sensibilities. I’m only responsive to the broadcaster, which says what goes on TV, and not one is from here. This is why anything that comes from Alberta involves cowboys. That’s the Toronto-centric view of the hinterland, that’s what they’ll buy from Alberta.

The bigger picture is that Canada doesn’t have a big population; we can’t command big advertising dollars which means no big budgets. This is why our productions look so cheap. Canadian advertisers want their commercials to air during the glitzier American shows which cost pennies on the dollar to acquire, while it costs 100 cents on the dollar to create our own. It’s a more lucrative gig if producers get “back-end” dollars in distribution. We can’t compete with the CSI Miamis because one hour of that American show costs more to produce than some Canadian networks have to spend on programming for a whole season. Hence our success with Mountie schtick in the U.S., and why Germans think we all live like the Beachcombers. That kind of cliche is distinctly Canadian, and we can at least do that better than anyone else. Ka-ching.

But even more germane to the whole discussion is the viability of the industry as a business. If TV production in Canada ran according to the free market, there would be none. The CRTC requires Canadian broadcasters to air some Canadian TV. When a broadcaster “buys” a show from a producer, it only pays a fraction of the cost, the rest comes from a variety of funds which include tax incentives from the federal and provincial governments, as well as (usually CRTC mandatory) funds created by cable companies and broadcasters to offset the fact that most of their shows are American. In other words, it’s paid by the taxpayer and the cable customer. This makes the oft-quoted local industry claim that dollars come back to the province 5:1 on “support” disingenuous. The province is only one of the fingers in the pie. If the return was that good, the free market would be all over it.

Further adding to the dilution of limited production dollars is that the CRTC requires cable companies to carry networks that would never stand alone if you weren’t forced to pay for them — you know which ones these are. To get the two channels you want, you also have to pay to get programming you would rather clean the fish tank than watch.

“Industry” can’t have it both ways. It’s not a business if it relies so heavily on the benevolence and politics of ever-changing funds. It’s not a business when it’s constantly lobbying for handouts. They can’t say, Hey, province, give us more money, oh, and shut up about it — you’re not allowed to comment on what you’re paying for on behalf of Alberta taxpayers. The industry is a cultural one, art, and exempt from NAFTA specifically because the government thinks we ought to have one and it wouldn’t make it on its own. Under bipolar circumstances, it can be either good for us as a culture, or watched by actual viewers accustomed to more expensive, prettier American TV, but not both.

Blackett’s comments may have inadvertently poked a spreading bruise. The industry is in flux. Technology is rendering traditional TV viewing obsolete. When something is bad enough and expensive enough, the free market will find a way to do it better; my teenagers watch most of their favourite shows on the Net — five “webisodes” at a time and for nothing more than the cost of wireless. Bye-bye CRTC. The very smart Shaw Communications knows this. Having barely bought the Canwest-Global TV specialty channels, this cable Internet giant is already starting to merge their services.

Welcome to the future.

Canadian industry would do well to stop griping and come up with a new model, because whether we like it or not, it won’t be long before all TV as we know and currently create it, fades to Blackett.

Source: The Calgary Herald

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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