If you look at the numbers, the answer would be no. That's because, as O'Brien reports, it's impossible for Canada to compete with the big U.S. dollars that go into television. Consider the invetsment announced this past spring by A&E networks alone: $500 million U.S.
That's half a billion American dollars for shows to be carried on A&E, History Channel, Biography and a few other smaller channels.
Half a billion dollars. With the Canadian TV consultants in full swing now preparing for the TV Policy Review this fall, I thought I'd do a little comparison to what we spent here recently on Canadian programming, to what Mr. Raven has approved there.
According to the CRTC's 2006 Broadcast Policy Monitoring report, the eligible expenditures on Canadian programming among all conventional Canadian TV stations, the CBC and specialty and pay, totaled about C$1.54 billion in 2005.
But if you break it down by our TV broadcast regulation categories, it gets a little more interesting, or alarming or depressing, depending on your point of view. I figured the "A&E categories", if you will, sounded like category 2 (analysis and interpretation and long-form documentary), category 7 (drama and comedy) and category 11 (general entertainment and human interest).
In 2005 in those categories, the eligible expenditures for Canadian programming was a little over $680 million. That's for all of our channels across the country. All of our English and French and other local stations, the CBC and the private networks and the 141 pay and specialty services that filed statements with the Commission last year, combined.
This year A&E is spending – with today's exchange rates – a little over C$560 million. On seven.
How does the Canadian system compete with this? Should it?
It can't. But it must. How can we afford to allow Americans to tell our stories? We know they won't anyway.
But do we need Canadian versions of cooking, dating and decorating shows? Should we be putting resources into those? Or should we be focusing on those programs that are uniquely Canadian? Or maybe just pour the money into CBC-TV for high-risk dramas and arts programming?
I really don't know the answers. I don't think anybody does.
There may not be any.