Friday, February 08, 2008


No matter how you look at it, this hasn't been a good week for Canadian culture.

It was an even worse week to be laid up with a massive cold and have to find some way of keeping yourself entertained. Man, if you thought primetime TV was turning into a wasteland, try navigating the desert that constitutes the day parts!

As a result, I watched the CTF hearings online and caught the press conference announcing that the NFL's Buffalo Bills will be playing some future games in Canada. When left to my own devices, I consistently prove I don't have any.

I dubbed the Bills' press conference "The Fogey Fest" because it featured a head table of impossibly old and undescribably rich guys wheezing through their dentures and trying to make it to their next injection of sheep hormones as they salivated at the opportunity to gouge yet another fortune from the great unwashed.

Octogenarian Ralph Wilson, owner or the Buffalo Bills, allowed that he didn't know much about Canada beyond how much he used to like "Canadian Club" -- generating big laughs from Ted Rogers, septegenarian owner of the Toronto stadium where the team will play.

Rogers responded by giving Toronto taxpayers the gears for paying $600 Million for the Skydome he recently purchased and renamed after himself for a mere $25 million. The message being, "I'm so rich I can fuck people sideways and they'll take it because without me they won't be able to watch a mediocre football team."

As Wilson stumbled over memories of paying "Cookie" Gilchrist's electric bill and several of Ted's jackals mapped out the bright and shining future of NFL football in Canada; the owners of the Toronto Argonauts, the city's current professional football team, smiled co-operatively. Being less old and less rich, they had been thrown the bone of ushering their season ticket holders to the front of the box office queue, so the older, richer guys could suggest bringing in some American culture was actually "good" for us. But the tightness of the Argo smiles gave me the feeling they were also enduring the symbolic boning of their team, their league and what both contribute to Canadian culture.

See, that's how this country works...

When there's a choice between Canadian Culture and maybe making a shitload of money, it's the culture that gets screwed.

The giddy glee of those backing the Bills arrival (and perhaps permanent residence in Toronto) made it pretty clear that their eyes were only on the premium that could be charged the locals. Tickets that go for $46 in Buffalo are expected to fetch as much as $1500 north of the 49th -- even without the legendary tailgate parties that would violate countless bylaws within the staid city of Toronto.

Nobody seemed to have given a single thought to the "culture" that was being stolen from Buffalo -- at least not until Ralph was called on the carpet by a couple of US senators to explain himself this morning. Hard as the concept may be for Canadians to grasp, American politicians actually take an interest in the cultural needs of their constituents.

The CTF hearings were discernably different only because it was the arguments rather than the participants that were ancient. The basic concept of putting personal financial interest before what might be "culturally" beneficial to the country was just as obvious.

I'm going to get into the hearings in greater detail tomorrow, after I have a chance to read the transcripts. But basically everybody wanted more money for doing less.

My fave moments were many. Mostly, they related to all the development execs who've never programmed a hit painfully explaining how hard it was to program hits. It was like getting batting instruction from somebody who'd never actually made contact with a baseball.

The Shaw guys were fun, insisting they had only percipitated the crisis which led to the Hearing in order to increase the programming choices for their subscribers -- failing to mention that Superchannel still isn't on Shaw Cable because it competes with the Movie Channel Shaw holds a financial interest in; and they stalled the "Gay" channels as long as they did because the kind of people who like that kind of thing make them feel -- "icky".

The Global Girls were hysterically funny, insisting the "original metric" that determined the size of their network envelope was wrong and should be determined by how many people were actually watching their overall schedule (96% US rebroadcast) rather than basing it on the anemic number of Canadian shows they offered. Friday afternoon, the folks at CTF pointed out that what Global wants is exactly how the envelope is currently determined -- something Global, not to mention the Commissioners who endlessly grilled them on their "new metrics" clearly didn't know.

That's how Culture is administered in Canada -- by people who don't have the first clue what they're talking about.

Somebody who did know what she was talking about, and split my emotions between tears of joy and exasperation was Maureen Parker of the WGC. The Guild was the lone presenter I witnessed who exposed the two-tier cultural/popular funding plan that's been proposed for what it was -- another attempt to ghettoize Canadian artists, so the wannabe TV execs could blow a few bucks on better known American playmates.

If you don't have the talent to develop successful programming, you can at least purchase those that somebody else's skills have made familiar to the public.

Faced with the wall of Commissioner arrogance wielded in the passive aggressive cloak of the "Devil's Advocate" Ms. Parker finally lost her temper with the feigned ignorance of what was being plotted with a firm "It shouldn't be this hard."

And she's right. It shouldn't. Culture just is, as has been masterfully described here. But it is hard because standing between the artists and the audience are all these old Fogeys, who only understand bleeding all of us for profit.

If this two-tier thing goes through, I'm moving to Buffalo. Those guys understand culture -- and they created it all by themselves.


"The Book of Don" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BlaineW. said...

At least The Hamilton Tiger-Cats had the cojones to stand up to this disgraceful episode. Not surprising given the incredibly disrespectful way they were treated as an afterthought. Now if only they could translate that spirit on to the field and grab maybe like, five wins next season? Four? At over a hundred years old the CFL is one of the most venerable Canadian "cultural" institutions out there; the only "fogey" worth celebrating here and it is just sad to see "it" acting in this manner. You said it - Ted Rogers' comments about soaking the taxpayers for 600 million dollars perfectly captures what that guy is all about. Perfectly captures a lot actually. Makes me want to burn my cell phone.

Maybe Jim Saw just really likes that hospital show that stars Billy Ray Cyrus. That is landmark 8/10. That should be their slogan:

We're just trying to give the Canadian people what they want which is obviously more Billy Ray Cyrus. The actor.

Very funny post there Jim.