Canadian television has been in the spotlight a lot recently, and some experts are openly questioning whether Canadian television can survive the future without abandoning Canadian Content laws or increasing revenues.
This debate has been a long time coming. As of 2005, 87 per cent of Canadian households subscribed to either a cable or satellite television service, thereby reducing their inclination to watch local television networks. Although most packages do come bundled with local networks, the sheer number of channels means viewers have more choice than ever, and with technologies like TiVo and Personal Video Recorders, they can often choose what to watch and when.
Television networks are entirely reliant on advertising revenues. That wasn’t a problem when everybody had rabbit ears on their sets and watched whatever signal came in the cleanest — you were a captive audience of sorts. Because of cable and satellite, those advertising revenues are being diluted over more and more channels, and traditional networks are seeing their viewer numbers and ad revenues drop.
Because Canadian networks have a legal obligation to produce Made-in-Canada shows, the loss of ad revenues makes it more of a burden to produce original programming.
To ease the burden, networks are asking for Canadian Content laws to be eased to allow them to broadcast more shows produced in the U.S. and abroad. The networks have also petitioned Canadian cable and satellite companies — who are raking in billions distributing network content to subscribers — to share a portion of their subscription fees. For example, CanWest has proposed a 50 cent per subscriber fee from cable companies per month.
Because the airwaves are free, the cable and satellite companies see these fees as an unfair tax on a free resource. They also say they will have to increase their monthly fees by several dollars a month as a result, which in turn hurts consumers and their business.
My own feeling is that CanCon laws are necessary to ensure that television reflects the culture of our country. And it’s working — without CanCon there would be no Corner Gas , no Trailer Park Boys , no Sons of Butcher , no Traders , no Red Green Show , no Da Vinci’s Inquest , no SCTV , no Bob and Doug McKenzie … the list goes on. Not all personal favourites, but all shows that have been profitable, and are being broadcast around the world.