How CRTC changes, Netflix could kill a lot of Canadian content

Every so often, the federal government will take a closer look at some of the many programs and initiatives it funds to see whether or not they’re, you know, doing anything.

It recently did so for the Canada Media Fund, which it, along with Canada’s major broadcasters, supports financially. The CMF review, completed in April and obtained under the Access to Information Act, gives some unique insights into the machinery behind mandated Canadian content, which we all hear so much about, and some of the existential threats that programming is facing in the years ahead. First off, here’s a look at what the CMF is, exactly:

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There are different schools of thought on CanCon – some believe you should let the market decide what Canadians see, others argue it’s important to preserve our unique voice at considerable cost, lest we be swallowed up by the media behemoth just to the south of us (yyeaaargggghhh!) and become America Jr. That’s where the CMF comes in:

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Now, a lot of CanCon is truly groan-inducing … based on visuals alone, it’s often easy to spot Canadian programming in an instant. That said, there are some worthwhile programs out there (I’m told). The CMF report, though filed just last year, provides a 2012-2013 snapshot of just what CanCon we were watching back then. Though dated, if gives you a bit of an idea about what programs do well here.

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Personally, I can’t speak for a lot of these programs – I did see a couple of Murdoch Mysteries at my Grannie’s place – but clearly people are watching them. And in general, people are still mostly consuming audio-visual content via their TVs, as the CMF report explains:

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All of this has a bit of a “canary in a coal mine” feel to it, doesn’t it? That line, “while the current numbers are not cause for alarm” sorta contradicts the higher one about “the upward trend in Internet TV is remarkable.” Here’s the thing – if it weren’t for live sports, I’d pretty much never watch broadcast television. I imagine a lot of people, especially younger people, feel that way, especially given Netflix costs about $8 per month and provides more fantastic content than the average busy person can consume, while a cable subscription costs multiples of that and forces you to pay for a lot of junk. The CRTC, in an effort to combat that feeling, has recently forced cable companies (against their will, it should be noted) to offer skinny basic packages starting at about $20-$25 per month.

The CRTC has also made another change, which in itself pretty much ensures Canadians will see less Canadian content than before.

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All this amounts to less …….. money. For broadcasters. A lot less:

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Less money flowing to the broadcasters means less money flowing to the CMF means less Canadian content … unless the federal government is willing to pony up the difference, which, given it’s about to post a pretty decent deficit, wouldn’t seem in the offing for Canuck-friendly TV.

Now, the broadcasters have been late to the part with streaming services, but at least they finally showed up. Offerings like Shomi and CraveTV are meant to compete with Netflix, which they can do – so long as they have enough money to buy the kind of programming that will compete with the Grade A stuff Netflix is offering. And that, as the CMF report notes, is far from a certainty.

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Eep.

If you’d like to take a gander at the full report, you can download it here.

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