Canadian Writers Criticize New CRTC ‘Can-Con’ Decision

Due to a CRTC decision released quietly on August 25, Canadian Television may feature fewer Canadian creators and stars. The Commission has permitted independent production funds (e.g. Shaw Rocket Fund, Rogers Fund and Telefilm Canada) to lower from 8 to 6 their point-system for establishing the Canadian-ness of a TV project. As a result, more non-Canadians can be hired for important TV production and acting roles. In turn, more Americans can be credited for making TV shows that qualify as ‘Canadian’.

According to the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), this is less a regulatory change than a direct attack on Canadian creators. The CRTC’s decision in the review of Certified Independent Production Funds (CIPFs), released August 25, contained news that the Guild found unsupportable: the minimum CAVCO point requirements for CIPFs to fund a production were dropped from eight to six. One stated reason for this was that it could “facilitate the hiring by production companies of non-Canadian actors or creators, who may increase a project’s attractiveness and visibility in international markets.”

“This is hugely disappointing,” says WGC Executive Director, Maureen Parker. “That the CRTC, a public authority charged with regulating Canadian broadcasting, would effectively denigrate Canadian showrunners and screenwriters and suggest our country’s creators cannot deliver international success is shocking. It’s also verifiably untrue.”

The CRTC decision is not, however, an isolated instance of what the WGC views as an entirely misguided outlook. For the Guild, it appears to be an increasingly pervasive view that suggests Canadian tax dollars should not be put towards productions created by Canadians. They see this notion – that reducing the presence of Canadian talent is the ticket to more international funding – unfortunately taking hold.
 

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Earlier this summer, the Canada Media Producers Association (CMPA) released An International Comparative Study (with funding from the Canada Media Fund, Telefilm Canada, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation), comparing how national content is defined in Canada to “selected” non-English speaking countries. The study leans heavily on the notion that Canada needs more “flexibility” in its funding requirements. The WGC feels “Flexibility” may simply be code for “elimination”: the elimination of Canadian creators. The study lays the groundwork for Canadian TV to be all about business affairs – who produces it – not who creates it. But the aim of creating Canadian TV should not be the financial gain of producers, the Guild says.

Parker and the Guild emphasize that this “eat our own young” philosophy goes back at least as far as the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV decision of 2015. In that decision, the Commission repeatedly emphasized increased international sales and markets as a primary goal. Of course Canadian screenwriters want their shows to be internationally successful – and they are. But this decision is not really about international success. From the WGC‘s perspective, it is really about money, and more international financing in exchange for disregarding Canadian talent.

The Guild concludes: “The future of Canadian culture cannot lie in eliminating the Canadians who create it. Unless the goal is to have our highly experienced talent (and our young up-and-comers) respond in the way some are now saying they will, by leaving Canada. Our Liberal government needs to uphold the principles of the Broadcasting Act before all of our creative talent goes south.” 

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For further details on WGC and its position on CIPF changes, contact Li Robbins, (416) 979-7907 x 5234.