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October 05, 2008

"The Average Canadian" and Public vs. Private Funding: Canadian Heritage Committee Meeting in June

I found this interesting reference to "the average Canadian" (a similar term to Stephen Harper's "ordinary Canadians" ) in relation to the use of arts funding in Canada -- specifically public vs. private dollars being allotted under the Canadian Television Fund in this rather fascinating discussion from the

39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage - Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.  Mr. Gratton, I want to try to represent the average Canadian. If I'm the average Canadian and I look at this Canadian Television Fund, I understand that this is a fund that supports the production of regional Canadian broadcasting and so forth. Why would I care that this is being changed? Why would this impact me? Why would it matter to me whether the money is going to CBC or Global or CTVglobemedia or any of the other private broadcasters? Why would it matter to me, as long as I'm seeing good Canadian productions that I might be interested in watching?

Mr. Paul Gratton: Well, I'm not sure who or what an average Canadian is. If you're saying that for significant chunks of the Canadian population there is not interest in Canadian drama, for example, and perhaps sports is where you get your Canadian culture, then I would say perhaps there's not much interest for that person, but by the same token, does this person have children? Are they watching children's programming anywhere on the dial? At least half of them are funded by the CTF. Perhaps this person, even if they're not interested in watching a dramatic TV series on a public broadcaster, is concerned about what is being fed into the minds of his little girl and little boy and doesn't just want American models of superhero violent cartoons. Canadian children's programming sells around the world because it actually propagates a different value system of tolerance and diversity; sometimes it's quite subtle and sometimes less so, but it's different from American children's programming.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro: Are you suggesting those things would be lost if it were changed?

Mr. Paul Gratton:  I'm saying that if the Canadian Television Fund didn't exist, the size and the quality.... Why should an average Canadian care about this? Would an average Canadian care about the rules on how the money is disseminated? Probably not. But I would suggest to you that the average Canadian probably does care about the results on the television set.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro: I'm not questioning that. I'm only saying that the changes they've suggested have been to allow for alternative revenue streams, for the stream to be divided somewhat differently. And that's what I'm asking you. There has been some suggestion that this would be a ghettoization of public television. If I'm the average person at home.... For instance, Mr. Cardin brought up that the funding could be used for reality TV or game shows. So if I'm the average Canadian at home.... We recognize things like Survivor, for example; probably half the population watching TV on the night that it's on is watching it. Why wouldn't I want to see something in the Canadian Arctic that would be similar? Wouldn't that offer value and wouldn't it drive people to want to watch? And in so doing, wouldn't you learn something about the Canadian Arctic? I'm simply thinking about these things.

Mr. Paul Gratton: Oh, yes, absolutely. It's probably not a bad idea. Maybe you have a future as a television programmer. The key issue is whether or not that kind of show requires public money in order to complete its financing. And as Mr. Cardin pointed out, most of this stuff can be funded by the industry itself through pre-sales, etc. The crisis, where there was always a gap in financing and where it was very hard to complete, was almost everything produced in Quebec, because the world market for Quebec programming is fairly limited outside of children and animation, and almost across the board in English Canada unless you were doing commercial co-productions that were not recognizably Canadian.

I was running Space for a number of years and there was a lot of science fiction that was technically Canadian -- six, seven, eight points out often--and I would argue it never got CTF funding and didn't require it. And there are many average Canadians who really enjoyed those shows and there were a lot of Canadian actors and technicians who benefited from the production in Canada. My view is that lots of Canadian, right across the board, is good.

But when you talk about this fund and this particular very special recognition from both government, which is funding it, and the cable and distributors who have agreed to put money into it in order to keep their capital expenditure, the 50%, it was actually one of the more ingenious creations of the CRTC and of government to put together this fund to encourage the production of the most difficult-to-fund Canadian content in all these genres, which is ten out ten points Canadian content. The average Canadian kind of benefits from having it out there as an option, even if he or she may not choose to personally spend their time watching the stuff due to personal preference.

Mr. St├ęphane Cardin: A rubber hits the road type of answer to your question, which Paul brought up before, is that essentially, given that we don't know what the criteria of a public stream would be, there is always the possibility that certain programs -- which would have to apply to both funds -- might, given different eligibility criteria, not get made. So you'd have a potential for less programming than we presently have with the current systems.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro: Thank you. My local cable company, for example, a COGECO affiliate, receives funding from this fund and they do an awful lot of local programming with it. They cover a lot of community events. They do a better job, actually, than my local CBC affiliate [CHEX Television] does in covering community events. They cover parades and all sorts of things. How would this change affect them? What would it mean to them? Would it result in potentially more funding for them, less funding for them, or would it affect them at all?

Mr. Paul Gratton: They don't get directing funding from the CTF for their cable channels. That's a redistribution of their own benefits. And part of their requirement to the CRTC is to maintain that cable fund. So this wouldn't affect your community cable channel at all.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro: Thank you.

Related: Department of Culture | Ordinary Canadians for the Arts: The POST-It Petition Campaign: "To showcase the importance of arts in our community, and the value of arts organizations such as Artspace, we will send to our Prime Minister an ORIGINAL PIECE OF ART ONE POST-IT AT A TIME." (Read about the art exhibition that led to this unique fundraiser/protest.)

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Comments

Interesting find. So "average" Canadians was morphed into "ordinary" Canadians. Paul Gratton is a smart cookie who has worked for both the public and private sector film and television industry. Also, nice to see Dean Del Mastro take a swipe at the CBC. So typical of these Harper conservatives.

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