Tuesday 24 January 2012

Is Canadian Culture Dead, and If So, Did the CRTC Kill It?

Several recent posts on SlashDot concern the death of Canadian culture, and the perpetrator of said death is attributed to the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission). Here is a quote selected from SlashDot's thread on this, followed by my response:
Basically Canada is still going through issues trying to figure out what it means to be Canadian. A large part of how many Canadians seem to define themselves as as "not American" hence the "little brother" syndrome I talk about. They are like a little kid who is saying what they are is the things the big kid is not.
This isn't such a problem for the average man on the street, of course, but it is a big issue for the government and various folks. They have a real issue with trying to decide what it is to be Canadian and protecting that. There are even things like laws requiring a certain amount of content on TV and radio to be Canadian in origin.
My reply:
While I agree with your characterization in very general strokes, I also point out that a significant minority does not have this problem. To this I cite Canadian pop music, for starters.
Music: I have a friend in Florida who has emailed me about the phenomenal female talent coming out of Canada, from Joni to Nelly to Alanis to Sarah. That will do for starters, but let's toss in:
Pop -- Celine Dion, Robert Charlebois, Boule Noir, Lhasa, Robbie Robertson, Leonard Cohen and his son Adam, Neil Young, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Robert Goulet and many more.
Classical -- Ofra Harnoy (cello), James Ennis (viiolin), and a few operatic tenors and sopranos and altos.
TV series sold around the world: "Anna of Green Gables", "Heartland", "FlashPoint", "daVinci" and everything else Chris Haddock created, my favourite being "Intelligence".
Cinema -- David Cronenberg's entire ouevre, James Cameron, all the work of Atom Egoyan, and all the celebrated contributions of NFB, and that's only for starters. Add to this a few films such as Point 45.
"Literature": Margaret Atwood, Mistry Rohinton, Farley Mowat, Malcolm Lowry, Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro, Michale Ondaatje, Gabrielle Roy, Douglas Copeland, Dim Unrespected 
S-F literature: William Gibson, Ursula Guinn and  Robert J. Sawyer, , for starters. 
Non-fiction: Pierre Berton, Peter C. Newman, Marshall McLuhan Roch Carier, Douglas Copeland, William Gibson, J.K. Galbraith, Steven Pinker, and the list goes on. 
Comedy:, That list is endless, but it begins with Lorne Michael, founder of Saturday Night Live, who hired numerous Canadian humourists, but let's begin that list with Russell Peters, then include Jim Carrey, John Belushi, John Candy, Dan Ackroyd,and the list goes on. 
Actors: Donald and Keifer Sutherland, Keannu Reeves, Gordon Pinsent, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Alexandra Stewart, and thousands of others.
Canadian culture is no more in peril than Quebecois culture, which is thriving. I daresay that so is Canadian culture. We are not in peril at all.
Back to the intiial point: is the CRTC a protector of Canadian culture or a threat to it? There are several answers to this question. Admittedly, the restriction that ratio stations play a mandated percentage of Canadian artists definitely did help Canadian musicians conquer the world. There is no dispute about this.
But I would argue that the mission is mis-stated: rather than mandate Canadian content, I would argue the other side: that foreign content be restricted by percentage. Arbitrarily choosing a number, I propose that content by nation ought to be restricted thus: the maximum content from any other country be restricted to 20% of the total broadcast.
Canadian culture is not suffering. I daresay that it is thriving! I would also say that the CRTC's mission is obsolete. We are thriving! Everyone knows that Celine and David and Donald and Keifer and Jim and Martin (Short) and Lorne Micheals and John Candy and Denis Arcand and Nelly and Joni and Norah and Leonard are Canadian!
I don't think that I fit into this company, but I have published several non-fiction books, all about database programming, so I fit somewhere, at the lowest levels, in this list.


1 comment:

  1. A ghastly oversight in the realm of Classical music: Glen Gould, whose provocative interpretations of Bach and others shook the world.

    Sorry for that omission.