Last class we discussed the policy considerations surrounding Canadian content and I immediately thought of one of my favourite Canadian television series, Schitt’s Creek.
For me, the show demonstrated that Canadian casts and crews (without the help of Hollywood’s prestige, experience or money) could create content that was smart, funny and respectful of diverse perspectives – all of which are, in my mind, Canadian qualities. When the show appeared on Netflix, gained global recognition and earned a historic number of Emmys, I was even more proud of the show and it’s Canadian roots. In my mind, it was a success for Canada’s creative industries because it meant that the rest of the world was relating to and appreciating the Canadian perspective.
I found this article, however, which argued that Schitt’s Creek was a a demonstration of how the CBC had failed in its mandated duty to “reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences,” “contribute to [our] shared national consciousness and identity” and, most of all, provide programming that is “predominantly and distinctively Canadian.”
The article was concerned with the fact that the show had no identifiably Canadian characteristics, such as identifiably Canadian locations. The author took issue with the fact that the system the CRTC uses to assess whether a program is Canadian fails to focus on the actual content, but rather where and by whom the production is produced.
I completely disagree with these concerns, but it is an interesting conversation to have.
I think Canadian creatives should be free to tell any story that is important to them, without a “Canadian characteristics” quota. I have many reasons for this, including the risk of over-censorship, the country’s multi-national population, and the difficult nature of defining what a “Canadian characteristic” is.
Because of this, I almost think that the extensive use of “should” in The Broadcasting Act is appropriate. The “should” gives Canadian broadcasters and, in turn, creatives guidelines without expressly restricting particular content. Avoiding undue restriction of creativity should be a large concern for a piece of legislation that is so closely tied to Canada’s entertainment industry.