Friday, February 16, 2007

My Two Cents (.75 cent Canadian)

I was speaking with Jim Henshaw this morning about the situation in Canada with the CTF and how things are a mess with cabler Jim Shaw witholding millions in fees, and corruption at both ends of the spectrum, and Canadian creatives finding fewer and fewer opportunities to do their jobs.

You can read more about it all over at McGrath's joint in multiple posts as well as Dixon's Watering Hole and Alex's Bar & Grill.

I would (and have) frequented Miss Diane's House. She posts a lot of relevant headlines about this situation (that some would call a crisis), that gives incredible insight into the how the Canadian Television Industry is perceived by its own media.

I know I have a lot of Canadian readers (thank you very much) because I look at the traffic on my site meter, and exchange emails with many whom I now consider friends as well as colleagues. I'm even the number one listing on Google.ca when you type in "d2dvd", and one of my clients is a publicly-traded Canadian production and distribution company. Hell, now one of my mentors is moving to Toronto.

What I'm trying to say is: I have ties to the situation - emotional ones and financial ones.

So being an outsider, I have to say that from my perspective, the CTF is fulfilling its mandate quite well... and therein lies the problem.

See, CTF is a government organization:


1. It is an administration. There is no incentive to be creative.

2. Government handing out money to “create culture” doesn’t build an industry - it sets up a welfare state (of mind). We’ve seen that in countless instances with the automotive industry and others. There's no incentive to be good whatsoever.

3. Governments are notoriously slow. There is absolutely no chance to capitalize on market trends or innovations. By the time innovations become the norm, there are new innovations to take their place.

4. Patriotism and sense of pride are good and all, but unless you give an economic reason to do something new - it isn’t going to get done. Businesses won’t back it. Government will actually work against economics because “that’s our policy.”

5. With a government administering a fund, you are essentially divvying up a finite pie. That essentially means that someone is going to be shorted somehow. There is no incentive to grow and expand in new directions - to diversify and build more pies.

6. The government doesn't know television. It knows paperwork, and yet it's handing out money? Hmmmm...

7. Governments (like many other large organizations) ignore the facts to fit the agenda. Even when that agenda is counter to the overall welfare of the citizens or stockholders or whatever.

It's (relatively) easy for me to say all this. I'm not on the front lines. I get that. I also get that I am oversimplifying what is indeed a complex issue with ramifications up and down the pike...

But...

Given that my perspective is wider on the situation, and my immediate future doesn't depend on decisions made in Ottawa, I have to say... your system isn't broken, the premise upon which it is based is wrong.

There is no incentive anywhere to go further and innovate; to be creative:

If a show from last year got funded, then there will be twenty shows just like it submitted this year.
People whose shows did well financially, get funded again (thus we have cooked books).
Cable broadcasters have little say in how the shows are funded, developed or broadcast. There is no promotion, because there's no incentive to promote. No investment in the project.

So yeah, the system works the way it was designed to... shuffling deck chairs while the iceberg looms on the horizon. The question now is:

How do you fix it? How do you get everyone from all levels of the system to invest themselves in the idea and the business of a Canadian television industry?

I have some ideas on that too...

[throw your bricks and ripe veggies - now!]

7 comments:

jimhenshaw said...

God, you're good!

wcdixon said...

No bricks and veggies from me...but am going to hold off commenting until I hear some of your fixes - cuz it's friggin' convoluted and complicated...

Bill Cunningham said...

Jim, thank you for the compliment. I will endeavor to live up to it.

Will - I said I have some ideas. It would really arrogant for me to think I alone could "fix" all this. What's required is everyone contributing to the discussion to move things in the "right direction."

Kelly J. Compeau said...

Wow, even though you're L.A.-centric, Bill, you really hit upon some of our biggest hurdles and conflicts up here in the Great White North.

Jonathan Walter said...

Bill you really nailed all the main issues here. Great work. Socialism crushes individuality and stifles creativity in every place it's tried. Government should not be involved in anything but the basics, such as Police, Fire Department, Roads, Common Defense, Schools and the general welfare of the people. That's it. As we see the US becoming more and more socialist like Canada and Europe we will suffer from the same kind of issues, We already do in many cases with the Unions in the film business.

Roger Alford said...

Speaking of Canadian television, I have a question. I noticed in this month's TCM Magazine (31 Days of Oscar) a new icon graphic -- the Canadian maple leaf. TCM is showing a few uncut R-rated movies this month (surprising for basic cable), such as Starship Troopers. Those movies are not being shown in Canada, however (hence the maple leaf icon), and TCM is showing something else instead during that time slot. Isn't Canada supposed to be more "progressive" the the US, and not more restrictive?

Bill Cunningham said...

I don't think it's a political or social issue as much as it's a rights issue...

It may simply be that another cable system/network has the rights to air those shows in Canada, while TCM, although simulcast in Canada, doesn't...