November 27, 2006

If I Ran The Zoo (and the CRTC)

(Ottawa) If I ran the zoo, what would I do, Magoo? Why I’d fix the CRTC’s problems in a few quick strokes, and with it the problems of CBC and ACTRA and all of those folks.
Big meetings going on this week. CRTC suddenly woke up and realized that their policies have destroyed English Canadian Television, after bowing down to the corporations and their scary, backstabbing cutthroat executives who stuff their pockets with millions in revenue and subsidies by just picking up and recycling US shows.
Plus there’s the whole HDTV thing, which is a very real issue that hasn’t exactly just landed from space, but it seems like it has to the people at the CRTC, who in press releases seem to view it as breaking news.
Okay, let’s start with CBC:
CBC’s really screwed. They were formed as a Canadian version of BBC. So what’s happened? Well, BBC rocks, and CBC crocks. And now you’ve got that screw job Stursberg in there trying to make it “commercial”. Meanwhile, his Telefilm “commercial” plans tanked big time and weren’t made to function until he quit and left to go to CBC! Wrong guy for that job, eh what? And then poor CBC’s got the HDTV thing to deal with. Wow.
Okay, here’s how you fix CBC’s problems. Refocus on the successful BBC model, dummies! First move: TAX HDTVs. That’s right. Tax every damn HDTV that gets sold in Canada from now on, and put that money into the CBC. I mean, how the hell do you think the BBC is funded? Everybody is soon going to be buying HDTVs, it is a bonanza of money for the CBC to get back on its feet again, isn’t it? Then fire Stursberg and Fred Fuchs. These people have no business being in the public broadcasting business. Replace them, and retire most of the CBC old guard and put some new, cool people in there in their 30’s and 40’s, for gosh sakes. Their mandate: make the CBC as cool and vital as the BBC, or you’re fired! And make it internet friendly and popular and Canadian -- or you’re fired! Here’s a two year contract. Succeed or be, you guessed it, fired.
Okay, okay. CRTC can’t do all that, I guess. But those are the solutions to those issues.
Now the big non-CBC issue. Canadian drama is something the Canadian “commercial” networks don’t produce unless they can get Telefilm money to make it with. And we’re talking about development, the whole works! That’s the unfortunate truth about it. And if Telefilm won’t fund it, it gets dropped tout suite. The only exception is the temporary production they get forced into when they open new stations or buy each other out. One shot deals.
But then, to make it hopeless, the CRTC lets them get away with murder with insanely loose Canadian content rules which are supposed to exist so that Canadian TV gets made, so that Canadian stories get told. It’s at a state where Global came into the CRTC meeting wanting infomercials listed as Canadian Content. It has become that brazen.
Well, ACTRA has an okay proposal based on what I’ve read of it. But it’s extremely conservative. Only 7% of ad revenue to Canadian drama and two hours more of Canadian drama in real prime time. I would guess it must mean two more hours a week for each broadcaster. Which means two one hour dramas, potentially. Small potatoes. Especially considering how some of these weasels at places like CHUM and GLOBAL handle “Canadian drama”. They’ll make 6 episodes if possible and rerun them endlessly, or they’ll make nonsense like TRAIN 48 or whatever the hell that show was, that cost about $50 and episode and looked it and nobody watched.
No, the CRTC needs to go hardball on these people. Don’t worry, they’ll survive. Like cockroaches. Every network should be required to add at least one hour of Canadian made dramatic television in "real prime time" every night of the week. And there must be a regulation that each episode must only be rerun once! And no, Telefilm isn’t going to pay for it. In fact, there must be a regulation that Telefilm cannot increase its television funding activities. No extra subsidies. Imagine what will happen! The Canadian commercial networks will suddenly find themselves -- POW! -- in the commercial network business! Forget about the 7% ad revenue proposal thing. They’re gonna have to spend as much as it takes to function as a commercial network, which means they have to produce shows that people watch, and therefore advertisers will pay for. Simple logic.

Follow these suggestions, powers that be, and the result is INSTANT RENAISSANCE in Canadian TV and related internet and new media run-offs. Both at the CBC and at the other broadcasters. Give it a couple of years to find its feet, and then look out. But nobody’s going to take these bold steps to make Canada a dramatic TV (and related new media) powerhouse. It will remain a zoo, and I’m not running it.
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