December 15, 2011

State of the URBMN Address: 2012

Filed under: URBMN 2008- — Tags: , , , , — Cameron Archer @ 8:20 pm
This is the first post I’ve written for URBMN in the past few months.  I haven’t “retired,” inasmuch as anyone retires from a self-written blog.  I’ve written a W File for Canadian Screenwriter, and a couple of pieces for Canadian Animation Resources.  Sadly, this is one of those State of the URBMN Addresses I don’t like to write.

The reason I haven’t written for URBMN in months is simple: I don’t like what I’m covering anymore.  In fact, I actively hate Canadian television right now.  Despite there being little difference between leading competitors Shaw Media, Rogers Media and Bell Media in programming strategies – heavy American prime-time influence, only as much original content as is mandated by the CRTC, reruns of said original content – the three organizations feel the need to brag about the things they’re tops in.

CTV, for instance, brags about its strong lineup and #1 status.  Citytv, for whatever reason, feels the need to mention that it’s growing faster than CTV.  Keep in mind, CTV and Citytv’s parents bought a controlling interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment last week.  That’s like the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom fighting each other, then teaming up for no reason.  At least Sun News Network is consistently against the CBC.

It’s bad enough when CTV and Global pull the “duelling media releases” schtick.  Every program service and network in Canada has the right to trumpet a victory, but the prevailing strategy for everyone besides CBC, educational stations and APTN is “load up on American shows and pit them against each other.”  That’s been the prevailing strategy for decades.  Small players, like GlassBOX Television, Stornoway Communications and Channel Zero, fight for scraps.

I understand how expensive and risky mounting a television show – even the cheapest, tawdriest, voyeuristic reality show possible – is, but cry me a river.  It’s expensive and risky anywhere.  The Canadian shows that do make it onto Canadian television are relatively few and far between, and come across as afterthoughts, unless they prove themselves in the BBM Canada ratings and/or America.

I genuinely don’t understand why, say, The Comedy Network will program Picnicface at least four times a week.  Shaw Media has a long-standing habit, inherited from the Canwest days, of airing a show across multiple cable channels.  Corus airs recent animated, direct-to-DVD films like Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow on Teletoon and Teletoon Retro.

Those aren’t programming strategies.  They’re financial strategies.  They’re things companies do when they want to save as much money as possible, never mind what their viewers pay for.  I’m not entitled to anything when it comes to entertainment, yet it’s easy to spot when a channel is growing complacent.

Most of my time these past three months has been spent on Google+.  Each week, I see at least three press releases that kill my faith that Canadian television is improving.  Whether it’s Bell Media’s habit of slotting shows to meet CanCon requirements, MTV Creeps, or bouts of collusion between two or more media giants, I find something new to hate about the Canadian television industry every day.

To that end, URBMN will revert to its original purpose – as a weirdly-named, generalist blog – starting January 1, 2012.  I’ll still talk about Canadian television at times, but this site’s been semi-active for almost a year.  I don’t know what I’m going to do in the near future, but I’m not enjoying what I do right now, and it shows in my writing.  Everyone who reads me deserves better.  Stay tuned.

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