The daytime Canadian content quota for television and radio has been cut from 55 per cent to zero per cent for local networks, and to 35 per cent throughout the day for specialty channels.
“The system cannot remain frozen in time when the world around us is changing. That’s why we are adopting bold and forward-looking measures to ensure that Canadians can produce and promote compelling content that attracts audiences within and beyond our borders,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chairman, in a speech to Ottawa’s Canadian Club on March 12.
“We know that it will not be easy for everyone to adapt to this shift. We are confident, however, that Canadian creators have the know-how and tools to succeed,” he said.
Blais’ speech, one in a series of announcements from Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation With Canadians, outlined several key decisions made by the CRTC including the elimination of genre protection and loosening regulations for Canadian content. These decisions are meant to promote higher-quality Canadian shows and to keep up with the market of on-demand and online video providers like Netflix and Shomi. But along with the reduction in CanCon, there is speculation among industry members about job loss in the Canadian media.
“Lower requirements for Canadian content will likely have some negative impact on Canadian television jobs and Canadian producers of content,” said Lisa Clarkson, executive director of business and rights of CBC English services. Clarkson said that this is worrisome because of the effect this could have on having a diverse mix of Canadian content producers who can tell Canadian stories. “The telling of stories, which are about us and for us, on television (still the most pervasive mass medium) is an essential ingredient, which informs and guides our Canadian cultural identity,” said Clarkson. “The CRTC’s decision last week does not address this relative absence of support in the English market for Canadian stories.”
While there runs a risk of job loss and a deficiency in CanCon, this absence could generate more big-budget hits – something the CRTC hopes to achieve by certifying Canadian content that is an adaptation of bestselling novels by Canadian authors, or that has a budget of at least $2 million per hour.
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In a move to make video-on-demand more accessible for Canadian users, the CRTC offered looser regulations to CraveTV and Shomi in exchange for streaming services in Canada without a television or Internet subscription.
Regardless of the platform – either televised or online – the quality of a show is imperative to its success, according to Radio and Television school of media instructor and CBC senior sports producer Karen Sebesta. “Shows like House of Cards, which is a huge success, and Game of Thrones are still unique. They are well written, well crafted and expensive to produce,” said Sebesta. “The viewer will very rarely accept poor quality and poor story-telling. So even though the distribution methods are changing, the ‘craft’ of TV production is more important than ever.”
Bethelehem Wondimu, a fourth-year Ryerson journalism student who has interned for Canadian media companies such as Bell Media and Rogers, believes that this demand for higher-quality content will push Canadians creatively. “These types of circumstances are where the best content comes from because there is so much more at stake.”
As an upcoming graduate, Wondimu said she isn’t too worried about the recent CRTC decisions in regards to getting a job in the industry.
“The CRTC is making our Canadian market much more competitive, just like the U.S. market,” said Wondimu. “In some cases, this may even mean more jobs in order to create the best creative teams.”