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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 11:00 AM   #1
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The Trouble With Canadian Content*Regulations

A good piece with an accurate overview of the CRTC and Canadian content rules.

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Former CBC and CRTC president Pierre Juneau died last week at the age of 89, and the requisite obituaries followed. Almost all of them congratulated Mr. Juneau on his most well-known achievement: having mandated minimum standards for Canadian content on radio and television. It is an unfortunate legacy.

The troubles with CanCon requirements are both moral and practical: It is not simply wrong to try to forcibly engineer a population’s taste in music in television. It is also impossible. People like what they like, and if what they like is Canadian, they will watch and listen to it even absent rules dictating that they must. If what they like isn’t Canadian, rules saturating the airwaves with all the Loverboy ditties in the world won’t make them tune in.

So even if you aren’t bothered by CanCon rules’ violation of freedom of expression, you should at least ask yourself how effective the regulations can possibly be — especially today. More and more people are selecting their music and television shows on their own, now, picking an episode from iTunes here, a free song download from a band’s webpage there. The idea that the nation’s culture can be shaped by mandating the nationality of prime-time content on TV networks and radio stations is as antiquated as it was flawed to start with. And we’re wasting money and time by continuing to force media outlets to comply.

The fact is that Canadian artists are strong enough to hold their own without government “protection.” While it would be going too far to say that the Neil Youngs, Rushs and Bryan Adamses of the world have achieved their international success despite CanCon rules, they certainly don’t owe the CRTC any debts. Some people are simply so talented (and a little lucky, because “making it” is always partly reliant on luck too) that their eventual breakthrough is a matter of time and perseverance. It’s insulting and silly to suggest that such acts would never receive a domestic, let alone world, audience absent rules mandating their work be aired in Canada.

But those are big acts, CanCon boosters argue. Maybe they’re OK on their own, but we need CanCon rules to help the little guys — emerging bands and writers and actors who aren’t established yet. The argument has a certain visceral appeal since the conventional wisdom is that we’re too bombarded with fully-formed American culture (and cheap American content) to be able to notice a fledgling Canuck trying to find his artistic wings (and an audience).

The trouble is that CanCon rules do nothing for such small fry anyway.
Marni Soupcoff: The trouble with CanCon regulations | Full Comment | National Post
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 11:19 AM   #2
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I agree. Whenever I read Juneau's name, it's with distaste for his dubious achievements.
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #3
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It's been forty years but I still cringe when I hear "Snowbird".

Ironically it was Calgarians and Edmontonians who suffered the most. Most other Canadians were close enough to the border to tune in to Stateside broadcasters when they needed a break from Ann Murray and Gordon Lightfoot.

Nowadays I burn my own mix CDs for road trips. Together with iTunes at home this has freed me from the taste of programmers. Especially useful for those long stretches in Wyoming that feature the worst of C & W interspersed with Barf Limburger and Liar O'Reilly
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 11:37 AM   #4
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The weirdest stuff was when they took U.S. hits and substituted Canadian performers. The Theme From SWAT, for example, was performed by Rhythm Heritage in the U.S., but we were given a version by The THP Orchestra. Billy Don't Be A Hero is by Paper Lace, but we got Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. How weird is that?
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 12:03 PM   #5
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The weirdest stuff was when they took U.S. hits and substituted Canadian performers. The Theme From SWAT, for example, was performed by Rhythm Heritage in the U.S., but we were given a version by The THP Orchestra. Billy Don't Be A Hero is by Paper Lace, but we got Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. How weird is that?
Sort of the opposite of Elvis doing Early Morning Rain.
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 02:47 PM   #6
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Mr. Juneau brought in the regulations to spur a commercial and cultural legacy for all the talent in Canada.

As usual it is industry, that only care about making a buck, no matter who is being screwed. Blame government, blame the talent but let's not look at the truly greedy, miserable, grasping hucksters, that have let down all Canadians.

So greedy, that they want the law changed, so they can sue their own customers if they don't buy the latest format from the insatiable pigs.

It has been said many times in the past "no one else should steal from our talent, that's our business."
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 03:08 PM   #7
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To progressives, even the entertainment industry needs to feel the heavy hand of government so that we can produce "the proper outcome." There is no matter so picayune that government is not required to set it right.
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 03:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Macfury View Post
To progressives, even the entertainment industry needs to feel the heavy hand of government so that we can produce "the proper outcome." There is no matter so picayune that government is not required to set it right.
To the right-wingers, culture is just a commodity, which lives or dies in the market. In the 1980s, when I worked in radio, can-con was a big deal. It also gave local talent airplay they wouldn't have otherwise been able to garner. Today, with YouTube and the otherwise liberating mechanism of the global internet, this is less of an issue. But I see nothing wrong with there being funding and regulatory provisions that create a space for Canadian culture to at minimum attempt to maintain some kind of character in the face of overwhelming production from hollywood.
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 04:01 PM   #9
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I can't comment on the rest of the country but here our neighbourhood pub showcases Canadian talent four nights a week with one of them being an open jam where anyone can sit in. The place is packed to the rafters those four nights. Ditto for the city of Edmonton with an amateur music scene that is alive and vibrant in many genres and venues. Neither the talent, nor those who appreciate it, look to TV or radio or the CRTC for any of it and local artists easily make a living at paid performances. Useful regulations once upon a time, but ineffective and restrictive to media nowadays.
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Old Feb 27th, 2012, 04:26 PM   #10
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I wasn't aware of CanCon Regulations ever existing regarding local live performance.

Why anyone would derail a discussion of National Broadcast CanCon Regulation with talk about some area of the arts and entertainment scene that has never been under CanCon regulation as being relevant to the discussion of National Broadcast Issues is beyond reason.
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