Broadcasters can dip deep for cash
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: A press release arrived in my in-box almost two weeks ago, one of dozens I get from networks, cable broadcasters, publicists, producers and even individuals every day, trying to draw my attention to one event, show, or facet of the TV industry. Since I can’t cover one hundredth of what airs on or about the small screen, I tend to ignore them, but this one caught my attention.
It was from Deryck Ramcharitar, Communications and Events Coordinator of the Director’s Guild Of Canada, and it had the provocative subject line “Let’s see how much money the big broadcasters are really making and where they’re spending it, says Director’s Guild of Canada.” It detailed a challenge by the DGC made in a filing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to get “public disclosure of aggregate financial data for over-the-air television and radio broadcasters.” It went on to suggest that full financial disclosure was hardly a tradition in the world of Canadian broadcasting, and that some transparency would be not only appreciated by the DGC and its members, but would “directly affect the overall health and welfare of the industry.”
If your eyes are glazing over at the mere thought of Canadian television and cultural bureaucracy, I can sympathize with you completely, but the DGC press release caught my attention because I’d been reading similar sentiments – expressed far more forthrightly – on a blog written by a Newmarket-based screenwriter named Jim Henshaw.
I’d had occasion to quote Henshaw here before, when his blog, The Legion Of Decency, contained some piquant and cutting remarks about the wide divide between the “commitment to quality” so often voiced by broadcasters and their actual record. As the Hollywood writers’ strike was winding down, he was sidelined by a cold, and found himself watching a week of CRTC hearings held in Gatineau, PQ two weeks ago. (I actually felt sorry for him when I read this – I would have swallowed my own leg and washed it down with raw sewage to avoid such an ordeal.)
At stake in the hearings was a plan to set up a second tier of public funding for Canadian programming through the Canadian Television Fund, based on the usual confusing formulas for Canadian content, but that will essentially allow broadcasters to dip even more deeply from public monies – and avoid spending their own – to produce the shows they don’t import from the U.S. “As panel after panel of well meaning and decent Canadians was called forth, all I could see was the macabre machinations of a system that wasn't about to be fucked with,” wrote Henshaw from his couch, on matters that directly affected his own livelihood. “I watched all five days of hearings and spent the following weekend struggling not to fall into despair over the future so obviously being constructed for my industry and my country. For I firmly believe that even if we win the faux contests that were staged last week in Gatineau, we lose.”
To be continued ...