Nine myths about Canadian culture
1. Fiction: Canada is a small country and a small market.
Fact: Canada is the 14th largest economy in the world, and English Canada is home to an estimated 26 million people. The cultural firmament is full of examples — Danish film, Quebec TV — where smaller populations sustain local content. English Canada’s challenges have to do with the cultural and physical proximity of the U.S., and with the country’s geographic spread.
2. Fiction: Canadians just don’t want to watch Canadian TV shows.
Fact: If that were true, Canadians would be the only people in the industrialized world who preferred American shows to domestic shows of comparable quality. U.S. shows do consistently outrank Canadian shows in ratings, but they have significant advantages over Canadian shows. Simulcasting means American shows appear twice on the dial. Canadian shows tend to be relegated to times when fewer people are watching, and they usually offer half the number of episodes, making it more difficult to build audiences. Nonetheless, Canadian shows do score with audiences: CTV’s Flashpoint, the highest-rated Canadian drama last season, drew an average of 1.5 million viewers.
3. Fiction: Canadian shows would get the ratings if they were any good.
Fact: After the U.S. and the U.K., Canada is one of the most significant exporters of TV programming in the world. Canadian shows regularly appear on U.S. specialty channels and European networks. CBC’s Being Erica is seen in 21 countries including Turkey, Poland and the U.S.
4. Fiction: They are shoving Cancon down our throats.
Fact: Canadian content regulations in radio and television have ensured there are Canadian choices that would not otherwise exist, but Canadians also have easy access to most American television, as well as all U.S. movies, music, books and magazines.
5. Fiction: Canadian movies are just bad.
Fact: How would you know? When have you ever seen one? It is estimated that Canadian films account for only 3 per cent of screen time in Canadian cinemas.
6. Fiction: The CBC is lavishly funded by the taxpayer. . .
Fact: At $33 per citizen per year, the CBC is one of the worst funded public broadcasters in the industrialized world. Only the United States and New Zealand pay less per capita for public broadcasting. Routinely cut and seldom increased, the CBC’s parliamentary appropriation, in today’s dollars, is worth $500 million less than it was in 1991.
7. Fiction: . . . unlike the commercial broadcasters, who have to survive without any government money.
Fact: There is no such thing as a free market in Canadian broadcasting. The commercial broadcasters are protected from competing American signals by regulation and also receive government subsidies for their Canadian programming in the form of tax credits and grants provided to TV producers.
8. Fiction: You can’t regulate the Internet; the CRTC might as well close up shop.
Fact: It’s not just the censors in Beijing who are looking at a national government’s ability to exercise some control over the Internet. In the United States, the broadcast regulator is attempting to establish rules for net neutrality; the Australian government upholds obscenity laws it created for the Internet in 1999. The question for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is whether any kind of Canadian content regime on the Internet would be fair or effective.
9. Fiction: Canadian ownership is key to providing Canadian content.
Fact: The link between domestic ownership and domestic content is weak, depending more on producers’ business models than their patriotism. For a Canadian-owned broadcaster, it is easier to make money airing U.S. shows than producing Canadian ones. On the other hand, it is possible to make money on Canadian books and music, two areas where foreign companies do produce Canadian content.
I did not know that.