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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Being Heard at the Hearing...

I don't know how many of my fellow Canadian's have been following the CTF Task Force, its report and the ensuing fiasco but I've been following this off and on since the story broke last July.

There are many different ways this story can break down, many variables, many little facts and figures but the way I see it - for me - it breaks down like this:

The bigwigs who run the near-monopoly of Cable in this country - most notably, one Jim Shaw - realized they were giving a huge chunk of cash every month to this stupid Canadian Television Fund (CTF) thing - meant to fund purely Canadian content - and had the equivalent of an anal aneurysm. He said, essentially, that 'no one is making things that Canadian's want to watch'. And the CRTC, rather than giving him a solid bitchslap and telling him to go back to the golf course, promptly launched the CTF Task Force to investigate ways in which they can utterly strangle the life out of the program.

The CTF Task Force (donning red and white cape and cowl) leaped into action asking the hard questions like "How can we make things easier for our well-protected but ever-suffering Cable Distributors and Broadcasters?" (not an actual question).

After months and months locked away in the Looney-Cave they burst back onto the scene with their bright, shiny crown jewel (and secret decoder ring). Their 'report' unilaterally kicked the Canadian Film/TV production industry in the junk whilst flipping them the bird.

And while their 'recommendations' were numerous, this one is undoubtedly my favourite (yes, I'm paraphrasing here):

- Split the CTF into two streams: one called the Heritage Fund (meant for purely Canadian Content) and one for "Broadcast Distribution Undertakings". The latter, a much larger private stream (from which Public money would flow), would be used to buy programs that would be at least an 8/10 on the CAVCO scale. (CAVCO, aka, how CANADIAN the show is. 10/10 being the pure, uncut, shipped-in-bricks form.) These less-Canadian shows would, presumably, be BETTER and therefore more watched and appreciated by the Canadian populace. (Ergo, allowing them to sell more advertisements and make more Private money from Public funds.)

As an added bonus the CBC would be limited to pulling from the (insultingly small) Hertiage Fund to cover their costs et al, further limiting the size of the Fund and available venues for Canadian writers, producers, etc.

Needless to say the Industry exploded into a gory mess of fury and rage - actually, this is Canada, so 184 comments (read: complaints) were quietly sent in. So many, in fact, that the CRTC decided that instead of pushing this through - they had intended for this to all be completed by January '08!! - maybe they might want to give a listen to all these squawking people.

And so the current CRTC Hearings are underway (watch them here until this Friday).

Since Monday I've been watching these proceedings unfold and through it all (so far) I've seen three things:

1) Endless streams of genuinely concerned Canadians fighting to keep things as they are (not even to have them improved, just to make sure they don't get worse!)

2) Broadcast bigwigs sitting there with broad smiles as they explain how Canadians have no interest in watching their own shows and films.

3) CRTC commissioners hiding smugly behind terms like "playing Devil's advocate" to ask questions that are borderline insulting if not outright infuriating. ie. Comissioner Morin asking the WGC 'why don't you want this? Why don't you support this?' After the WGC had just spent 15 minutes clearly stating their case as to why they were opposed to the Task Force's recommendations.

I'm continuing to follow these events as they unfold (I'm watching it now, and you should be too) but here are some great quotes that came up yesterday and I think really show the frustration those in the industry (and those fighting to get into it) are feeling.

"If we do what the Taskforce wants us to do, we'll be doing a great disservice to the industry." - Monique Lafontaine

"We will only see Canadian culture when promoted to us by the United states, and that can't happen" - Peter Outerbridge

"$240 million is 3 US feature films - This just shouldn't be this hard" - Maureen Parker

And this brilliant quote from John Doyle (taken from Ink Canada - thanks Karen!):

"nothing is really moving forward here. I can smell it in the airless, windowless room. The smell of people who work for the CRTC wanting to move backward, to retreat from as much Canadian TV storytelling as possible to submit to the whining of cable-company executives. This is where the culture is killed off." - on CRTC Hearings. Monday Session, as reported in The Globe & Mail, today - Article link in Posts, title "Welcome to Where Culture Comes to Die"

In my opinion, the CRTC and the CTF should be there to support the Canadian Film and TV industry - working to help us expand and grow - not jumping to action, ready to change the entire way it does business the moment Jim Shaw (who didn't bother showing up) throws a hissy fit.

CRTC remeber this: They may have money, but it's still OUR money.


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