A little TMZ-inspired pic to kick things off.
Denis McGrath has been leading the charge along with the WGC in taking on cabler Jim Shaw's latest effort to poke holes in the CTF and beat down the Canadian television creative community. And as much as I admire Denis for taking on 'da man', all this bluster and posturing by all parties is really just a waste of time and energy if real change to our industry isn't implemented and implemented soon.
Today, we may have seen the first step.
How? Well, a big ass report commissioned by the CRTC themselves was made public this morning that shoots a lot of holes our f***ed up TV system...seriously questions the simulcasting of US programs that greatly benefits the cablers and broadcasters...recommends more money for drama and less for reality/infotainment shows that have been qualifying as Cancon...it goes on and on and on.
Read the short version HERE in Playback.
See the whole 332 page monster report over HERE.
So who wrote this report exactly? From Playback:
The report, Review of the Regulator Framework for Broadcasting Services in Canada, was written by communications lawyers Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leblanc of the firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.
In April, the head of the CRTC, Konrad von Finckenstein, asked the lawyers to do a comprehensive review of Canada's broadcasting system and to recommend ways to "maximize the reliance on market forces, always keeping in mind the overriding two objectives of Canadian content and access to the system."
And what kinds of things did they say? A lot of things actually, but of specific interest to the few but faithful readers of these blogs:
...they question whether current regulations are working to promote homegrown programming. Specifically, the report criticizes the practice of simultaneous substitution -- whereby Canadian broadcasters substitute their own signal to broadcast American TV shows with Canadian advertisements. Because U.S. programs draw higher ratings -- and hence ad revenues -- broadcasters program shows such as Desperate Housewives and CSI during primetime rather than homegrown stuff, says the report: "This undermines the economic value of Canadian programming and the very great efforts that the regulatory system and the industry exert to produce more Canadian content."
The 300-page report also says that Canadian-content requirements are largely being filled by "the broadcasting of entertainment magazines and reality TV programming." The authors suggest targeted incentives to encourage broadcasters to program Canadian shows, particularly drama, during primetime.
Really. How interesting.
ACTRA spoke up quickly today after the report was released:
"This is really the first glimmer of hope we've had in a long time, we are really quite pleased," Stephen Waddell, ACTRA's national executive director, tells Playback Daily. "The broadcasters have made billions in revenue piggybacking on U.S. product... It's time for the broadcasters to wean themselves from this regulatory benefit. They can't have their cake and eat it too."
If the CRTC eliminated the simultaneous rights policy, Canadians would be able to watch American shows on American networks. Right now, if a network such as Global buys the rights to broadcast an American show, its over-the-air signal replaces that of the network south of the border.
Waddell is also pleased the authors took a hard look at what passes for Canadian content on most networks, such as reality TV and entertainment news. "This report validates what we've been saying for five years. The CRTC's 1999 Television Policy is a failure. And Canadian TV drama is important." In 1999, the CRTC allowed Canadian broadcasters to satisfy their Canadian-content requirements with reality TV and other cheaply produced programming.
Again. Very interesting. Sounds all kinda familiar actually.
But then the CAB (Canadian Association of Broadcasters) immediately fired off THIS angry missive...calling the report misguided and irresponsible. Course it is.
Look, the name-calling and the letter writing and big newspaper ads, it all needs to stop. We need action from the powers that be that can actually do something to help our troubled and struggling indigenous industry.
And shouldn't this report, commissioned by the CRTC (the entity in charge of regulating our Canadian TV industry), that basically questions the system as it's set up; challenges the perks and privileges the cablers and broadcasters receive; that feels the dramatic creatives in this country have gotten short-changed and shafted...shouldn't all that trump everything?!!! Shaw's grandstanding? McGrath's retorts? All of it??!!
Mr. Finckenstein and the CRTC...please, heed the report you yourself commissioned...act on the recommendations...and let people like McGrath get back to writing and creating television instead of writing rebuttal letters to cable company moguls.
EDIT: In my haste to put out a post and my glee in throwing together a gossip column-like pic, I kinda lost sight of the forest. Denis politely sets me straight. We do need to keep talking and challenging and yes, even writing letters...the war isn't over. I guess my point was that McGrath vs. Shaw is such an unfair and ultimately fruitless battle when it's really up to people who can actually implement change, like the CRTC, to start fixing the system. And yes, the best thing about this report is that it takes some of the curse off the...here go those whiny Canadian creatives again..."roll eyes"...that always seems to accompany us when we try to claw back.
EDIT 2: The Toronto Star's take on the report was how it will adversely affect sports programming...um, okay.
Nobody knows if this report will join all those others gathering dust on forgotten shelves across the country. But if recommendations are implemented, they could have a major effect on sports fans, both good and bad.
That's the line in the article that sent shivers down my spine...the gathering dust part. I've done some digging, and there have been reports like this in the past - reports that were more or less ignored. Consider ourselves warned.