Today's discussion:

CanCon is a cultural scam

The Danish, the French, the Israelis, and the British do not disguise the origins of their cultural exports. They have all created recognizable national brands that are attractive to both viewers and buyers. But if nobody knows that our films and shows are Canadian, it is impossible to be proud of them or even build a category brand around them, no matter how good they are.

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Peter Menzies

The cultural argument for Cancon was long ago consumed by the economic interests of creative industry stakeholders and other CRTC co-dependents. The most important thing is not telling Canadian stories or even whether anyone watches. It’s $$$$$ – the entire system is an industrial subsidy

21st February 2024 at 7:10 am
Ian MacRae

Perhaps the solution is to do away with CRTC. Under its rules, neither Bryan Adams nor Shania Twain are “Canadian” for broadcast quota requirements.

Is CRTC past its best before date?

21st February 2024 at 11:55 am

I totally agree with the author. I think it is great that we have a film industry in Canada that uses Canadian talent, but I absolutely think we could make shows that are proud to be Canadian. Flashpoint was an excellent example. It would also help remind us that our legal system is not the US system, ie I am pretty sure we don’t have Miranda rights here. It might even help teach us about our political system and stop some of the so called importing of American ideas into our politics and cultural discussions.

Canadian content needs to be revamped to be more than money, it has to be about us.

21st February 2024 at 8:56 am
Ian MacRae

Would you pay for a service streaming purely “Canadian” stories? I suspect not.

Even CBC, which is mandated to tell Canadian stories, produces AmeriCan tv. Its failure to produce stories about Canada (not documentaries) suggests we have few entertaining stories to tell.

I’d love Hub readers to suggest Canadian story lines.

21st February 2024 at 11:52 am
Gord Edwards

I don’t think it is about Canadian story lines. It should be about telling good stories that happen to be based in Canada. Then the Canadian cultural parts fit in naturally.

One example of doing this well was a cop series called Cardinal. It was based in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay about four hours north of Toronto and had rural and indigenous angles to the stories. It was based on books and lasted four seasons. Slower paced and more thoughtful than the US-style 60 minutes and it is done, rush-rush crime dramas. It was rather dark and not to everyone’s taste. But my wife and I really enjoyed it.

I agree that a Canadian only streaming service wouldn’t work. Not enough good content. But if the CBC wants to do something useful with our tax dollars, could not CBC GEM not be such a service?

21st February 2024 at 4:36 pm
Zac Waldman

I think the TV show Corner Gas that ran from the mid to late 00s was fantastic ‘Canadiana’, This was produced by CTV and ran for six series. Though this article was illuminating right away by highlighting the financial incentivization of Americanization of content. We should work towards amplifying regional storytellers and content creators like Letterkenny Tales and The PEI Encyclopedia as they tell authentic Canadian stories and deliver them in an enjoyable format.

21st February 2024 at 11:52 am
Gord Edwards

An interesting take on the issue. I found the comparison to the UK system informative as we’ve watched a number of British series over the years. In part because the style of story telling is distinct from American (North American) dramas, and there is often a cultural richness to where the stories are placed and the characters.

However I’m afraid his solution is not realistic. Traditionally Canada hasn’t promoted a strong definition of ‘what it is to be Canadian’ and we’ve largely been the North Americans who aren’t American. Perhaps 40 years ago a workable definition of Canadian culture could have been created. But now it seems impossible. Infatuated with multiculturalism (I recall being promoted under Pierre Trudeau) and now the post nationalist state (championed by the son) such an endeavour is doomed to failure. The idea of the CRTC holding hearings to define Canadian culture brings to mind the definition of a camel: A horse designed by a committee.

Mr Stursberg assumes that subsidies having failed the only solution is different subsidies. I think that assumption should be challenged. I also question his assertion that we need to “keep the streamers in line”. Perhaps it is time to end subsidies. We don’t live in a three channel universe anymore. And, while the average American may have insular viewing habits, I’d say there is a taste for novelty and different cultures in many countries. With rare exceptions in my experience ‘Canadian TV’ has meant ‘change the channel’. There is another way – make good content. But they would need to be good stories where the writers’ definition of Canadian culture is the backdrop, not the purpose.

21st February 2024 at 11:12 am
Kim Morton

More waste of taxpayer’s money to buy votes. If movies are indeed made for the US market, then they don,t need taxpayer funding, or the tax credits given to productions. Or the bureaucracy that feeds off handing out subsidies.

21st February 2024 at 11:21 am
Ian MacRae

Many US movies are made in Canadian provinces because of favourable tax credits. Its industrial policy to employ Canadian film technicians, sound engineers, post-production staff and others. Acting & directing by Canadians is nice but a small % of input to films.

Its so common that California condered taxing movies that got Canadian tax breaks.

21st February 2024 at 11:45 am
Don Morris

“Canadians said that their number one priority for the redefinition of Canadian content was to make people proud of being Canadian and to contribute to nationhood and national cohesion.”

I find that hard to believe, Canadian viewers number one priority is undoubtedly that they are entertained and feel satisfied that they are watching a quality production. I watch shows from all over the world and find their quality generally exceeds that of Canadian made shows that are very much about Canada, such as some on CBC Gem.
Maybe that’s because most of the good writers,actors and directors have to gone south to where the real fame and money is. The last unashamedly Canadian production that really was entertaining, in my opinion, was SCTV when it was produced in Edmonton.

21st February 2024 at 10:16 am
Paul Attics

“Besides, surely the whole business is a little embarrassing and undignified. Making shows that deny their origins is like a colonial servant aping his masters hoping that he will be taken as one of their own. Abasement can only lead to humiliation.”

Now that is more than a stretch. Who exactly is feeling embarrassed? The gainfully employed in the sector? The award winners? Spoiler alert, it is primarily about the size of the business, the money. If that makes this a sector subsidy rather than an effort to imbue Canadian culture in entertainment and art produced here, then perhaps it should be explicit. There may well be a business case that does not rely on the vague “visibly Canadian” element.

Note, isn’t abasement, by definition, humiliation?

21st February 2024 at 9:34 am
Robert Rand

Canadian shows are true gems that we should always be proud to support,, I wish CBC would hook up with Australia and New Zealand and actively trade shows,, have been watch various series from both and they are great producers and some of our production would catch on for sure..

21st February 2024 at 7:46 am
Earl Chinchilla

APTN has shows from Australia and New Zealand with an Indigenous focus.

21st February 2024 at 9:47 am
Lorne Matheson

I suspect “making people proud of being Canadian” and “contributing to nationhood and national cohesion” would be considered xenophobic populism by our current government.

21st February 2024 at 2:59 pm

Thank you to Richard Stursberg for exposing the false rules for Canadian Content. If the aim is to promote Canada and Canadian culture that is surely what the production should be about. Employing Canadians to produce American culture should not count. Recently watched Allied it portrayed Canada ‘s connections to WW2
That was valid

21st February 2024 at 11:07 am
Robert Rand

I find most of your articles are always negative towards those in power,, and you never seem to provide an alternative from the opposition,, hearing the opinions of your writers is not really relevant

21st February 2024 at 7:50 am

Defining what makes us Canadian is a long standing issue. With such a diverse, multilingual nation with vast geography it’s not easy. What it means to be Canadian in Charlottetown is very different from Montreal etc. Some Canadians will say certain parts of our country have a very American feel. Perhaps if we had a definitive description of what it means to be Canadian then we could clearly define parameters for Cancon but that’s not the reality & it’s unfair to label it as a scam.

21st February 2024 at 9:41 am

A pretty ‘skewed’ opinion. Notice he does not include ‘French Canadian’ production. Somehow I know most of the examples he cites are Canadian, made in Canada about Canada. It is also great they can produce product here that employs Canadians, but stands in as USA cities. I know where shows like GOT, Vikings and LOTR are made…even if it is not mentioned in the stories, kind of hard as they are fantasy stories!

21st February 2024 at 7:16 am

Great article. So why has it taken so long to re evaluate this subject?

21st February 2024 at 2:07 pm
Albert Schindler

Priority for redefining what “Canadian content” consists of is to make people proud of being Canadian, surveys show. ”

In other words, let’s stop looking to America with cap-in-hand for approval, like a little boy looking up to his father for acceptance — and mostly not getting it — for the great project that he just accomplished, and instead, ask our politicians why they aren’t helping Canadians to be proud of our great accomplishments.

Subsidizing news and entertainment businesses is not the problem. Subsidizing it with strings attached is the problem!

21st February 2024 at 1:28 pm
Alfred Napolitano

I object to the phrase “The problem is that the American market is the most parochial in the world. Americans are by and large only interested in stories about themselves”. What a nasty thing to say.

I suggest the better way to look at this, especially in the context of this essay, is that Canada has not been able to produce much, if any, Canadian content that looked and was Canadian that can compete with other options available to the Americans. That is a better way to phrase the problem as it puts the onus where it should be, and it is also more pleasant – or dare I say, Canadian.

21st February 2024 at 12:51 pm
Faye Perkins

Makes a good argument. As a person closely involved with the global music marekting industry, I would argue that Canada needs to spend more on marketing and distribution outside of the CBC. I want to know about and see Canadian films while they are current. It’s heartbreaking watching our films trying to get distibuted and promoted.

21st February 2024 at 12:17 pm