Kathy Shaidle

‘Nobody can ever question the quality of what we do here in Canada, creatively or otherwise’

Posted on June 20 2010 10:00 am
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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I’ve told you before about how tetchy Canada’s “public” broadcaster, the CBC, gets when they’re criticized.

Lately, they’ve been feeling the pressure more than usual. First came the announcement that a new network may soon be giving them a run for the ratings. Sun TV News (popularly dubbed “Fox North”, but with no connection to the U.S. cable network) is set to debut early next year.  This new channel aims to be everything the CBC (and Canadian media in general) is not.

Although their press materials don’t use the word “conservative,” that’s what they’re aiming for. I know some of the folks they’ve approached to possibly host their own shows. If these programs make it to air, they’ll be helmned by some of the few outspoken, right-leaning commentators in the country.

So the folks at the CBC are already trembling at the prospect of losing even more viewers to a network that actually reflects the values of millions of Canadians.

But then, last week, a provincial politician Lindsay Blackett sat on some industry panel devoted to (yawn) the fabulous wonderfulness of Canadian television etc, and he had the temerity to speak for those same Canadians:

“I sit here as a government representative for film and television in the province of Alberta and I look at what we produce, and if we’re honest with ourselves … I look at it and say, ‘Why do I produce so much s***? Why do I fund so much crap?'”

It’s a question many of us have pondered our whole lives. I’ve blogged about this issue, and rarely received so many emails in response: Why do Canadian television shows all look a certain way? And by “a certain way,” I mean crappy?

Canadians can walk past a tv set, glance at what’s on from the corner of one eye, and they will  immediately grumble, “This is Canadian, isn’t it?” This ability to detect Canadian productions within a split second is virtually infallible, and may even be genetic.

The jury is still out as to whether or not this has something to do with the “film stock” or the lighting or what, but Canadian TV looks like, well, Canadian TV. This isn’t a good thing, because the comedies (with a few recent exceptions) aren’t funny, the dramas aren’t dramatic, and they all star the same five actors over and over again. Oh, and don’t even get me started on their liberal bias.

Anyway, how did the CBC and their supporters in the “arts community” react to Blackett’s remarks? Incredibly, some of them actually feigned disgust at his language (this from a community that recently reserved its highest creative honors to a tax-payer funded movie called Young People F***ing.)

But the best response came from Kirstine Stewart, the general manager of CBC’s English television operations. She told the nation’s paper of record that:

Nobody can ever question the quality of what we do here in Canada, creatively or otherwise.

“Surely this is a much more revealing and intriguing comment than Blackett’s,” observed Macleans’ contributor Colby Cosh. “Does she mean that questioning the quality of Canadian television and film is literally impossible? Or just that criticism is inherently objectionable, a malum in se? And at the risk of appearing to take sides, I must ask: which attitude ultimately seems more healthy and likely to encourage improvement—Blackett’s, or Stewart’s?”

The question of whether or not the CBC ever can or will improve won’t matter as much soon, if the Sun TV News application gets approved. Watching CBC bigwigs and their friends in the press work themselves into a frenzy over the mere prospect of “Fox North” has been more entertaining than any CBC production I’ve ever been obliged to sit through. Although I must admit, I didn’t mind being forced to pay for this (PS: you tell me — it’s the lighting, right? Am I right??):

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