I’ve been a bit incommunicado today so didn’t have time to respond by deadline to an Edmonton Journal request for comment on the story about the Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett who called some Canadian television “shit” at the Banff World Television Festival. I’ll write more about the overall issue of Canadian television later, unattached to this news story, but this is what I wrote back, knowing it’s too late for her article:
I was in the room and have the session recorded. I feel his comments were taken slightly out of context, though I know a politician – especially a Culture Minister – being less than supportive of tax money going towards culture is obviously going to cause consternation among the cultural community, as it should. However, he said the same thing I have heard in that room year after year.
He did not say or imply that all Canadian television was shit. He said that a lot of what he saw at the funding stage was shit, and asked how we could have a business model that supported better quality – a question that generated interesting discussion from the panel who agreed that a better model is needed. I interviewed Peter Keleghan later and he was not happy with the comment but acknowledged that he was right about needing a better business model (it was Keleghan who responded at the panel to say that broadcasters are given no incentive to make shows Canadians want to watch – their financial incentive is in buying American programming.)
If you read industry blogs or talk to anyone making their living in Canadian television, they aren’t shy in talking about the problem of quality. You only have to look at the failed pilots the networks burn off every year to understand that a lot of what goes into development is not great television. I believe if he were a television producer saying the exact same thing, everyone would have nodded and moved on. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve seen and heard in three previous years at the festival.
In fact, the panel had been talking about the problem of quality in Canadian television. They, however, aren’t politicians and didn’t use the word shit. Kenny Hotz (Kenny vs Spenny) disparaged Canadian television far more than the MLA, using far worse expletives, but then he isn’t a Culture Minister. He’s just a guy who makes Canadian television.
EDIT: The audio is posted here.