Canadian Content, Again

MCMFriday, April 30, 2021

First of all, I want to say I very much like all the people I know in the Canadian TV and film industry. With very few exceptions (very few) they're all incredibly talented and very awesome people who work far harder than most people realize to produce world-class entertainment for us to enjoy.

And, well, that's kinda my beef with the recent news that the federal government wants to regulate social media to ensure there's enough Canadian content available.

There are two issues here, the first of which is probably best handled by Michael Geist, in terms of freedom of speech and absolutely asinine it is that the government would have a say over what people post to their social media accounts. The first priority for all social media platforms should be to surface and promote good quality content, regardless of where it comes from. I don't get the impression Canada is a laggard when it comes to meme creation, so why even bother going down this road? It's only asking for a future government to start regulating speech based on "Canadian ideals" or something equally daft. And/or sinister.

Invest in Canadian Content

But the second part, and to me the most irritating part, is this continuing notion that new Canadian content rules are somehow saving us from the evils of Netflix et al. As if our entertainment industry is somehow under siege from foreign tech companies. Because that's patently absurd, and kinda offensively so.

Netflix is not the enemy here. Many of the bigger Canadian broadcasters are. Over the last few years, fewer and fewer TV series have been greenlit and produced in this country without Netflix's involvement to the point where, if you don't have an American co-producer on your show, you're probably not actually making your show. With few exceptions — CBC and TVO, most notably — you either work on a Netflix-backed series, or you work on an international production with no ties to Canada whatsoever.

In other words, Netflix and the American streamers are keeping the lights on for Canadian artists. They're paying our bills and giving us credits. The Canadian broadcasters who insist on spreading Canadian content rules to the internet? They're barely greenlighting anything anymore — or trapping artists in this little game where you're made to produce a pilot episode out of your own pocket before they'll even consider you. These are companies who benefit from the idea of Canadian content, but refuse to invest in it for fear of taking up a primetime timeslot reserved for an American show.

Would it be better if Netflix greenlit shows created by Canadians, produced by Canadians, in Canada? Yes, of course. But if I had to choose between two evils, I'm going to have to choose the "I can afford food" version with Netflix rather than the "we can't buy any more shows because we have a six year backlog of produced series that still haven't premiered" from the so-called champions of Canadian content.

The solution here isn't to create new rules to regulate Canadians into watching their own media. The solution is to enforce the rules already in place, and force the Canadian media companies to produce Canadian content on a scale that matches the boatloads of money they make from this country every year. We do amazing stuff in this country. We're just not given the chance to show it most of the time. Fix that first, then we'll see how much of a boost we need on social media.

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