By Joel MacKenzie, Staff Writer
Bell Media CEO George Cope announced last week that the company plans to release an on-demand movie program, featuring Canadian and international entertainment. With this, they want to provide a Canadian alternative to Netflix and other similar services… even though we already have Netflix in Canada.
The company is also controversially acquiring Montreal-based media corporation Astral Media in the near future as a part of their Canada-wide ‘media takeover.’ Bell currently controls many Canadian television stations, including CTV, MuchMusic, MTV Canada, TSN, Discovery, and Space, and radio stations including The Beat and QM/FM. Owning Astral Media would place even more stations under their power, potentially putting them in control of a big chunk (around 35 per cent) of Canadian media. What’s confusing is that controlling any more than that amount is prohibited by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), in order to prevent any one company from having too big of an influence on the market.
The CRTC stipulates that a lot of content featured on Canadian stations must, of course, be Canadian, in order to ensure that content from America and other countries does not dominate the market. A similar stipulation would surely be enforced on their Netflix-style project. The question arises: would television viewers be interested in buying such a program filled with Canadian content, when they have access to ones containing both that and the vast array of American programming?
I am not a big fan of Canadian programming. The occasional Canadian television show that I tune in to often comes off as corny, lazily-written, or cheaply animated. They also often come off as merely operating in the shadow of popular American shows, either by imitation (compare the acting and cinematography of Mr. D to Parks and Recreation or The Office, for instance), or by being a Canadian version of such a show (remember Are You Smarter than a Canadian Fifth Grader? Me neither). Though, one can’t write Canadian programming off that easily: as we have about a ninth of the population of America, less shows can be produced altogether; much less unique, well-written shows anyways. And Canada has proven that it can produce the occasional gem, like the self-aware Corner Gas, or the immensely popular (albeit short-lived) Clone High.
Maybe the incarnation of a Canadian Netflix-style program could provide motivation and revenue for Canadian television producers to make more excellent programming that could draw international attention to said potential shows, or our own Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television itself (which holds a Canadian television award show, The Gemini Awards, which operated annually from 1986 until 2011).
Canada’s unique identity was created by its inclusion of many different cultures, its relationship with America and Britain, and its array of talented writers, actors, and visual artists. One would hope that with all this, our country certainly has more to offer than cheap clones of American programs.