Some of Canada’s top TV stars marched en masse to Parliament Hill today to demand more Canada on Canadian TV. As the CRTC launches hearings on the future of TV broadcasting, performers across the country are calling on the regulator to put Canadian programming first by ending the free-ride for big cable and private broadcasters.
“Today is about reminding Ottawa and the CRTC that big cable and broadcasters don’t own the airwaves, we do. It’s about taking back our TV and making sure there is space on our airwaves for Canadian stories,” said Nicholas Campbell.
“We’ve been waiting 10 years to get the rules fixed. If the CRTC gets it wrong again our airwaves will continue to be dominated by U.S. programming, our industry will be crushed and we will lose yet another generation of actors and writers to L.A.,” said Mark McKinney. “We need to seize this moment of opportunity so our talent will stay to serve and create shows for a Canadian TV industry that is poised to explode in ambition, reach and profitability.”
Stars at the Ottawa rally included: Dalmar Abuzeid (Degrassi), Charlotte Arnold (Degrassi) Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest/ZOS), Jackson Davies (Beachcombers), James McGowan (The Border) Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall/Slings & Arrows), Carlo Rota (Little Mosque/24), Zaib Shaikh (Little Mosque/Metropia), R.H. Thomson (October 1970) and Tonya Lee Williams (The Border/The Young and the Restless). Award-winning recording artist Gordie Sampson also made a special musical appearance.
Canadian English-language drama has been a rarity in prime time since 1999 when the CRTC relaxed Canadian content rules. Since then, private broadcasters have been saturating Canada’s prime time schedules with U.S. shows. Last year they spent $740 million on U.S. and foreign programming and just $54 million on Canadian English-language drama.
“The CRTC must take the public’s interest to heart and stop giving both private broadcasters and big cable the wide breadth they have enjoyed for so long. We’re the ones that end up paying for this with higher cable bills and less Canadian programming on our airwaves,” said Tonya Lee Williams. “The fact is both sides need to be doing more.”
ACTRA is asking the CRTC to direct conventional TV broadcasters to invest at least 6% of their gross revenues in Canadian drama and air a minimum of two hours a week of original scripted Canadian drama and comedy in prime time.
“How do we know what it is to be Canadian if we can’t see and share our experiences, our own lives, our communities, our heroes and our history on TV, the most popular and pervasive cultural medium in history? If Canadian broadcasters don’t give us space to tell our stories, no one else will,” said Ferne Downey, ACTRA National President.
“AFM Canada is pleased to support today’s action by securing the participation of one of our many celebrated members, Gordie Sampson,” says Bill Skolnik, the AFM Vice President from Canada. “We believe that Canadian airwaves belong to the people of this country. It is both our duty and responsibility as citizens to ensure a place for Canadian content on all our broadcast stations.”
ACTRA also held a press conference at the CRTC hearings in Gatineau, launched a lobbying campaign on Parliament Hill and organized local activities in Halifax, Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg.
ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) is the national organization of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of 21,000 members across Canada – the foundation of Canada’s highly acclaimed professional performing community.
The position and views in this statement are supported and endorsed by the American Federation of Musicians, Canada representing over 17,000 professional musicians.