“Canadians have told us they want to see Canadian films on TV so we’re filling a gap that’s been created in recent years.”
— Starlight CEO Norm Bolen, January 23, 2013
The Starlight campaign to be declared a mandatory TV service is nothing if not slick. Just check out their website. It’s clean and beautifully designed, and features model schedules, along with testimonials from members of Canada’s filmic pantheon. They pop up on rotating video clips: Denys Arcand, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Patricia Rozema and others, making the case for an all-Canadian movie channel. The whole campaign is designed to be music to the ears of the CRTC commissioners who will decide this summer which services get greenlighted.
Industrial policy masquerading as cultural policy
What do the Deciders of Gatineau like? In my previous post, I outlined the official criteria the CRTC will use in assessing the 22 candidates for mandatory carriage. Today let’s look at the process from a slightly different angle. Before I get into the survey research I alluded to last time, consider yesterday’s announcement from the CRTC’s number-crunchers. It concerns the release of its 2012 financial results for specialty, pay, pay-per-view and video-on-demand TV services (Web page here). This is the overview:
Revenues for these television services have climbed by 35.4% over the past five years to reach nearly $4 billion in 2012. During the past year, a significant portion of these revenues, close to $1.4 billion, was invested in the creation of a variety of Canadian programming, resulting in thousands of jobs in the Canadian production sector and new television programs for Canadians. In 2012, Canadian specialty, pay, PPV and VOD television services created 226 new jobs, directly employed 6,176 people and paid $487 million in salaries.
By contrast with its abject inattention to the consumer perspective, the Commission tends to wax enthusiastic about two kinds of reporting results: new programs getting made “for Canadians” and economic prosperity in the sectors it regulates. The first of these has become self-justifying. We can never have enough Cancon, no matter who’s footing the bill. Occasionally we hear the rationale that Canadian programs are good for us because they allow us to “tell our own stories.” Apart from their citizenship, I fail to see how a Cronenberg or an Egoyan is telling “our” stories and not their own, but let’s not quibble. Continue reading