When you do a slew of drive time CBC Radio shows, the hosts are all looking at the same overall script emanating from 205 Wellington Street in Toronto. They make the questions their own, but you wind up touching on the same points.
What Canadian hosts want to know this morning:
Q. How's the recession affecting television?
A. You hear a lot about CTV firing employees because of the recession. Corus fired a lot of guys last year, and there was no recession. So maybe when there's a recession on, and you fire people, you blame the recession.
Traditionally, cheap entertainment does well during a downturn. People need entertainment, and they're not going out to dinner. That $16.95 a month for The Movie Network starts looking like really good value for money. The movie companies made money hand over fist during the Depression. People went from the bread line to the movie theatre, to see Fred Astaire dance on a piano wearing a top hat.
Q. But there are fewer advertising dollars.
Advertising is the big question in TV regardless of the recession. Our deal with TV has always been that they put the shows on the air for free, and we watch the commercials. We're not doing that any more. We're recording the shows and blipping over the commercials. Who's going to pay for all this great television? Do we move to a pay cable subscriber model? Do we pay $1.99 an hour for an internet download? Or do we see Pepsi cans in every shot? No one knows. If we're paying for shows, we're going to want smarter, more urgent shows. We won't accept "eh" television. And there are some shows advertisers won't want to put their products in. It will change the mix.
Q. How is Canadian TV different from American TV in all this?
Canadian TV is protected. We have a requirement that broadcasters air a certain amount of Canadian homebrew programming. And that's the only reason why Canadian TV exists. And it's a good thing. You look at Canadian music. 25 years ago the only stars anyone had heard of were Anne Murray and Bryan Adams. Now Canadian music is beating the world.
And it's important we tell our own stories, because we're a different culture. I'm a New Canadian from America, so I get to say this. Americans are scared of terrorists, and losing their health care. So they put on 24, where Jack Bauer beats the stuffing out of people whenever he needs to know something. We put on THE BORDER, where Major Kessler says, "Well, unfortunately we can't beat the stuffing out of this guy, so what do we do?"
But I guarantee you that CTV and Global are going to try to use the recession to justify putting on more American programming. They're going to go to the CRTC and say, "Hey, there's a recession. We need to get rid of the Cancon requirements"
And the CRTC is going to say, "Huh? It's cheaper to make Canadian shows than to license American shows."
And CTV is going to say, "But there's a recession!"
And the CRTC is going to say, "You want us to ship Canadian jobs to America during a recession?"
And CTV is going to say, "But didn't you hear us? There's a recession!!!"
Q. What changes are we going to see next year?
There's a lot of talk about Jay Leno moving to prime time. I don't know if that's going to work. At 11:30, people want TV to help them turn off their brain. I think at 10, they want to be told grownup stories. The kids are asleep, they want LAW & ORDER.
If the recession has an impact on shows, I think you're going to see more escapism. More LOST. More shows like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. When you're trying to pay the rent, you want to be taken to another world which isn't about rent. Paradoxically you may see budgets on shows go up.
Meanwhile, in other news, Boston and the Habs were winners last night...