The roots of anti-Americanism

05.30.03

It’s a very Canadian thing to make jokes about Americans, and to put down the US with our superiority complex. But even though I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself, I’ve long maintained that a lot of it is really an inferiority complex in disguise.

Put simply, we’re jealous.

Most Canadians live within 50 miles of the US border, and yet we’re relegated to the status of outside observers. We’re practically more affected by US presidential elections than Canadian federal ones, but of course we’re not Americans and we have no vote or say.

We are directly influenced by American TV, but are forced to either illegally steal satellite signals or hear about the hottest new shows over the internet or from our American friends, cause the CRTC has decided we’re not cool enough for first-runs of the Sopranos and instead must watch endless reruns of Royal Canadian Air Farce on the CBC.

We are we get American commercials, and yet we can’t shop in US stores. Or, if we do decide to drive across the border to shop for the day, we have to pay the exchange rate, plus ridiculous amounts of duty at the border. All just to get access to the varieties in styles that aren’t available here because our market is a tenth the size of theirs.

We work similar jobs to our American counterparts, but we make less money and pay much more of it in taxes. And when we complain, we’re reminded we have socialized healthcare – which is great, don’t get me wrong – but it’s like we’re supposed to use this as an excuse for everything.

I’m a proud Canadian. I love being Canadian, and I don’t want to move to the US. I think there are a lot of things that are great about Canada, but sometimes I wonder why I feel like a second-class American with my nose pressed against the glass.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 James 05.31.03 at 10:16 PM

the CRTC has decided we’re not cool enough for first-runs of the Sopranos

Not quite. Buying programs is the job of TV execs — the CRTC isn’t in that business. What the CRTC has done is place limits on the number of foreign stations that domestic cable and satellite TV companies are allowed to carry.

I think it’s supposed to be in something like a 2:1 Canadian-to-foreign ratio. The idea was that, if cable companies were able to simply resell U.S. stations, then there would be no domestic television programming (cultural reason) and no domestic television industry (economic reason).

As it happens, HBO is one of the channels that has gotten left out — either because broadcast distributors haven’t applied (ie HBO resale margins are thinner than for other stations), or because their applications have been unsuccessful (ie the CRTC has turned down HBO for a foreign-resale slot in favour of other stations).

(I’m talking about HBO because, as I understand it, getting first-run Sopranos really means getting HBO; I have have multiple flavours of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, CNN coming into my home on Canadian cable).

That said, though, I agree with the point I think you’re really making — that the foreign channel cap needs to be looked at. I think the goals were right, but the situation has changed, because satellite distribution and stepped-up production means that foreign channel doesn’t necessarily mean U.S. channel anymore.

For example, maybe instead of a foreign:domestic ratio across the board, they should now be running that ratio per language — and allowing more foreign than domestic channels for non-official languages (like, oh, I don’t know, Arabic).

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2 Dr_Funk 05.31.03 at 11:59 PM

In any case, I was under the impression that one could watch first run episodes of The Sopranos on The Movie Network..which is our equivalent to HBO, really. Both being Pay TV movie stations that also have some episodic television shows. If TMN hadn’t got it, perhaps Showcase would have..which would have been nicer, since I don’t have Pay TV.

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3 segacs 06.01.03 at 5:40 AM

James, I don’t quite understand the logic under which you think that Arabic stations should be given priority over American ones to be broadcast. Why the preferential treatment?

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4 James 06.01.03 at 7:20 AM

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was pointing to the fact that when the rules on channel caps were pulled together, most easily-rebroadcastable foreign channels were in English (and American) — hence substitutes for Canadian English-language channels.

Now, though, many popular foreign channels are in non-official (neither English nor French) languages — hence not substitutes for mainstream Canadian programming and the industry creating it.

I was thinking that, if we’re going to continue to put a cap on how many foreign channels are resold in Canada — as a way of ensuring our market isn’t swamped out of existence — then we should at least loosen up on channels that are in neither English nor French, because the Canadian industry is very unlikely to provide substitutes.

The Arabic-language example, of course, is because of all the press the Al Jazeera application has been getting. Or, more accurately, the reasons behind it. The Arab world, to an even greater extent than other linguistic spheres, has gotten hooked on a bunch of international broadcast stations, to the extent that not being able to view them is a big deal. So black market satellite subscriptions have soared — they’re the only way to subscribe to these (as it happens, often openly racist) stations; the cablecos and DTH satellite folks want to stop the bleeding by reselling Al Jazeera.

Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have domestic channels sprout up with programming in minority languages. A Canadian channel or three broadcasting 24/7 with quality entertainment and news in Arabic, or Portuguese, or Ki-Swahili. It’s just that, given the tininess of the market, it’s unlikely to happen on any grand scale. Which is why the CRTC should certainly allow a greater ratio of foreign:domestic channels for non-official languages than it does with official languages.

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5 Ikram Saeed 06.02.03 at 5:27 AM

I see what you mean James. You ask why not allow an unlimited number of of non-English, non-French foreign channels since there are few Canadians substitutes.

I think there is one argument against — over time there will be Canadian substitutes. I think that we will see a all-Mandarin (or all-Cantonese) channel in Canada before to long. A Punjabi channel is also not out of the question. If there is a possibility of non-offical language Canadian media, foreign media should be restricted for the same reasons official-language foreign media are restricted.

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6 James 06.02.03 at 6:51 AM

You ask why not allow an unlimited number of of non-English, non-French foreign channels since there are few Canadians substitutes.

Not quite — that’s a bit more extreme than I’d advocate. I wrote: the CRTC should certainly allow a greater ratio of foreign:domestic channels for non-official languages than it does with official languages. Rather than a 1:2 ratio, as with English and French channels (I think), maybe it should be a 2:1, or 3:1, etc., ratio: for every two foreign Hebrew-language channels licensed, say, one domestic channel — free to buy foreign programming, at least in some large proportion — would have to be carried.

In that context, yes, I certainly agree that it would be good to encourage non-English, non-French domestic channels which make programming choices — including choosing some domestically produced programming — according to the contours of the markets in this country. And, sure, maybe instead of two concrete ratios, you have a general formula that’s indexed to market size; Statscan already puts out numbers on this sort of thing.

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7 segacs 06.02.03 at 7:50 PM

Why not just open up the regulations and allow any station that there is a demand for? Why is the Canadian population treated like a bunch of babies that the government has to decide what we are and are not allowed to watch?

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8 Joe 06.02.03 at 8:31 PM

And yet you oppose the broadcasting of Aljazeera. Clearly there’s a demand for it. Perhaps you feel that YOU should be the one to decide what gets broadcast and what doesn’t?

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