Media Beat
Media Beat

Media Beat: August 16, 2017

CanCon TV budgets, Nafta and cultural protectionism

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is publicly elbowing Canada's broadcast regulator to review its decision allowing some Canadian broadcasters to cut spending on the creation of Canadian content.

In May, as part of the five-year licence renewals for Bell, Corus and Rogers, the CRTC set the new minimum of five percent of revenue as the cap the trio must spend creating "programs of national interest.”

The broadcasters were paying from nine to 10 percent of income before CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais re-wrote the rulebook, throwing a kiss to the Magnificent 3 and then promptly clearing his desk on June 17—presumably aware that his term was complete and almost certainly fait accompli.

Under a mudslide of pressure from creative collectives, the honourable lawyer and PR expert was pushed to make a stand.

In the face of this harsh reality, earlier this week she emerged from her closet, chock full of what looks like Anne Murray hand-me-downs, and voiced an opinion: 

"We are asking the CRTC to reconsider these decisions in order to ensure that we achieve the right balance of investment in content and in the ability to compete," Joly said in a statement issued Monday, shortly before kicking up her heels up to celebrate la fête Nationale de Acadie.

Of course, these matters are always more complicated than they appear.

The CRTC was caught in a blind spot trying to second guess how the Heritage Minister plans to recalibrate the imbalance and financial servitude Canada’s broadcasters are required to honour versus global interlopers such as Netflix, Amazon, Google and Apple immunized from regulatory requirements.

While details at best are sketchy, Joly’s new cultural manifesto, expected next month, is unlikely to level the playing field at all. In fact, and I may be wildly wrong here, most of the Grit policy will likely be parading Canada's lapdogs on a leash while allowing transnational invaders to run free home on our range. 

Bluntly put, the upcoming cultural review policy paper is likely to be bloated with twaddle. Sandwiched between the baloney, plum offerings requiring the Canadian taxpayer to pony up more cash to preserve our national identity—whatever this is in a bought-and-paid-for multicultural society awkwardly fitted into bilingual nationalism and a two-tiered school system that separates King James from the Pontiff.

Less jolly is the responsibility Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has in re-negotiating the terms of  Nafta. With a priority list chock full of red herrings such as Indigenous and gender rights, more stringent environmental standards, and raising blue collar wages, Freeland also wants to maintain exemptions that protect cultural policy.  

It is an agenda likely to be greeted with guffaws by Trump’s appointed negotiators in Washington who will follow her fantasy with fangs bared.

The US blueprint desired from Canada and Mexico has less than a million to one chance of showing pity to minorities, socialism and idealism. The agenda book she holds is pure poppycock designed for ignoramuses and Sun readers.

And what about foreign ownership in Canadian media?

Did Bell Media just licence the iHeartRadio brand for Canada, or is there something deeper at work here?

I haven’t the foggiest, but it’s worth putting on the table for discussion.

The bigger question is, do we still need foreign ownership restrictions in Canadian broadcasting?

Canadian law currently limits licensees to 20 percent foreign ownership in television, radio, broadcast distributors and a maximum of 33 percent for a holding company.

There are also restrictions on print media, even as Postmedia is up to the gills in debt totalling as much as $700M, 98 percent of which is held by offshore investors

The billions it costs for Internet infrastructure expansion by the telecoms also raises questions about who owns what?

Ordering the CRTC to review its CanCon investment rules for TV is a bit like playing whack the mole on the midway.

Rapping the knuckles of the regulator may play well to the cheap seats but in reality, the federal government Is feeding milk to kittens as an overly-aggressive boar points its horns at us from across our border.

Cultural protectionism in the 21st century is nothing more than a quaint idea.

It's what the Chamber of Commerce says in a small town before Wal-Mart and Costco blunt the main street.

Bulking the cost on Canadian companies to produce 21st editions of Anne of Green Gables is sheer insanity. One can only hope that Freeland, Joly and our Prime Minister can see beyond voter sensitivity and voice an agenda that makes sense in a world that is borderless and indiscriminate in its hustle to make money from global opportunities.

Policies that attracts brains, talent and money within our borders are what is required.

Bullying homegrown businesses to create content that plays well to hometown audiences at the expense of global markets is a recipe for disaster.

Creating incentives that attract creative talents to build empires inside Canada's four borders and slingshot them around the world is what is necessary.

We can only hope that the Liberals can see beyond being spendthrifts and conjure policy that generates future wealth.

Wanna be the boss at the CBC?

The gig is open, and it pays between $371,200 - $436,700 annually. Of course, it comes with a thistle in the butt of aggro, and you must comply with the Ethical and Political Activity Guidelines for Public Office Holders.

As CEO of the pubcaster, you will be expected to lead the Corp. in a rapidly changing environment, focus on its public mandate and ensure that it remains relevant to the next generation of Canadians and creators. The President is accountable to Joe Public for providing a high level of public service from coast to coast to coast and ensuring that the corporation is nimble, innovative, and plays a vital role in Canadian democracy as a trusted provider of news and information. It also means making nice with Ezra Levant and his kin who will want your skin.

Candidates must apply online by 11:59 pm ET on Sept. 5, via the Governor in Council Appointments website. Your cover letter should be addressed to the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet (Senior Personnel), Privy Council Office, and should be sent only through the on-line application.

Bell Media names Martin Tremblay PD of Quebec ops

Martin Tremblay has been named Regional Programming Director, Bell Media Radio in Québec where he will oversee programming for the company’s French-language radio stations, as well as programming for Virgin Montreal.

“We firmly believe Martin will complement the already solid team in place and that he will contribute a great deal to innovating our radio content and operations,” said Martin Spalding, Vice-President and General Manager, Local Radio and Television, Québec, Bell Media.

“I’m honoured and excited for the opportunity to work with the talented and passionate group at Bell Media Radio in Québec,” said Tremblay. “With the repositioning of Rouge fm coupled with an array of new and exciting programming changes, I feel we have all the pieces in place to ensure robust growth in Québec.”

Tremblay has gained extensive experience in radio programming and operations at media companies over the last 25 years, including 20-plus years with Bell Media/Astral radio stations in Québec and Toronto.

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