By Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde and Claude Martin 1 Star Wars: Canadian TV Drama By Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde and Claude Martin1 The Audio-Visual Landscape Canadian broadcasting folklore has it that French language broadcasting is a success, English language broadcasting a failure. The blame for that failure is laid on the geographic and cultural proximity to the United States that leads to hyper-commercial star wars with the tv entertainment machine south of the border. Conclusions about situational victories or routs are drawn from overall viewing trends, which show that francophones spend the majority (some 76%) of their viewing time with indigenous programs and the majority (some 72%) of English viewers’ time is spent with American entertainment. This report argues that the “cultural proximity” principle cannot explain the relative health of Quebec dramatic broadcasting or the relative fragility of English language Canadian tv, which has been much studied by European scholars as a canary in the mine of globalization. Pictures of “success” underplay both the rate of incursion of US programming and the role of social formations, managerial judgement and creative leadership in Quebec in sustaining a viable alternative to US stars despite a small population. The larger size or economies of scale of the English market are not sufficient to win the battle of supply and viewing to big-budget US drama, in part due to structural characteristics. But there has been some repatriation of audiences (albeit to new genres of programming which may be better translated into broadband delivery), triumph of cultural proximity in news, sports and, increasingly, comedy, and some isolated successes in drama, as the data will show. Canada’s tv landscape has two distinct official linguistic markets, anglophone (23 million) and francophone (7 million), with radically different contours to their media worlds. The natural linguistic barrier insulating Quebec’s audio-visual landscape cannot alone explain intra-market variations. The larger anglophone market base sustains more conventional networks (6 to 4); more regional production centres (Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax versus one in Montreal); more specialty channels (37 to 23) and proportionately more service- or export-oriented production. As a consequence, the competitive position of the public broadcaster is sharply different (with a larger market share in Quebec). In terms of cultural practice, overall viewing patterns indicate different levels of viewing in Quebec (more tv orientation), different substitution levels (less Direct Broadcast Satellite reception and Internet usage2) and less fragmentation of viewing. The two media markets operate in virtual isolation, with little crossover in supply of production or viewing. The assumption by Tracey and Redahl that the English Canadian tv market is the only one in the world where domestic entertainment is not preferred over imports – whether through historical accident, marketing or shared North American value systems – deserves careful analysis. Certainly, it is easy to 1 Catherine Murray is professor at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia; Roger de la Garde is professor at the Département d’information et communication, Université Laval, Québec; Claude Martin is professor at the Département de communication, Université de Montréal. The authors wish to thank their assistants for their valuable contributions: Amel Aloui, Synda Ben Affana, Marie-Anne Laramée, Marylaine Chaussé, Maria Eugenia Dominguez in Quebec; and Sean Ebare, Jean Fong, Cassandra Gilliam and Cathy Matysiak in BC. They are indebted for financial support to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Licence Fee Program of the Canadian Television Fund, Alliance-Atlantis and Craig Broadcasting. This study would not have been possible without the assistance of the Market Analysis Division of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the Culture Statistics Program at Statistics Canada, the cbc Audience Research Division and the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. See www.sfu.ca/communication/ecf for further information about this study. 2According to Statistics Canada’s Household Internet Use Survey in 1999, Quebec had the lowest Internet penetration by province (33%) compared to a national average of 45%. A Canadian Consumer Technology Study 2000, conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ National Survey Centre in Ottawa ,however, found that “Quebec has the fastest growing market for Internet access this year (1999) in Canada”. 2 consider these viewing patterns structurally caused. Private television stations in English and French Canada have since their inception had to compete with American overspill. US producers enjoy a competitive advantage because they can recover production costs in a market 10 times the size of Canada’s and have established vertically integrated conglomerates (AOL/Time Warner, etc.) to produce, promote and distribute exports worldwide. Canadian private broadcasters in the English language market built profitable businesses by importing relatively inexpensive American entertainment programs. By contrast, French television’s prime time schedule is built mainly around the “téléroman”, a unique dramatic response to the specifics of the Quebec market with enormous critical and popular successes like 4 et demi (50% market share) or Un Gars, UneFille (53%) but also, to a lesser extent, around public affairs programs such as La facture (35%) and Zone Libre (22%), musical quizzes such as La Fureur (45%) and a show which combines intellectual and athletic abilities named Fort Boyard (36%). Canadian tv ownership patterns reflect the global trend to consolidation, mergers and acquisitions, and the increased efficiencies may translate into increased investment in dramatic programming. In less than 10 years, the English market went from one private widely-held company in competition with the cbc to two majority-owned national entities, ctv and CanWest Global. These conglomerates also control the two major national newspapers (The Globe and Mail and the National Post, respectively). ctv itself has been taken over by Bell Canada Enterprises, Canada’s largest telephone company. Three regional conventional broadcasters exist: wic/ontv, in its last year of operation awaiting the disposition of a sale to CanWest; chum/city, available mostly in Eastern Canada; and Craig Broadcasting, a midwestern channel. In Quebec, tva, a private network owned by the cable operator Vidéotron, and Société Radio-Canada, or src, the French part of cbc, reigned as a duopoly for many years. Radio-Québec, now Télé-Québec owned by the Quebec government, was a minor player. Then the crtc opened the gates to a second private network, Télévision Quatre-Saisons, tqs, now owned by Quebecor. It is also on sale as Quebecor lately took control over Vidéotron and tva, the dominant network. Quebecor gets more than 50% of advertising spending in Quebec, also being one of two major players in daily newspapers and one of the major providers of weeklies and magazines. Cable now penetrates 75% of Canadian households, down from 78% in 1997, while in Quebec the penetration stabilized at around 72%. Direct-to-home satellites are found in an additional 6% of homes. Canadian cable companies remain powerful gatekeepers, controlling access to the viewer and vying with increasing competition from telephone and direct broadcast satellite carriers to attract customers to new packages of Internet and tv services. Such competition has led to demand for more content. In response, the crtc has aggressively supported specialisation of supply (with a seven-fold increase in special-interest genre or demographically targeted channels) in one of the most highly cabled countries in the world. Five English language specialty channels existed at the start of the decade, 37 at the time of writing, compared to two rising to 23 in Quebec. This shift in supply coincides with a marked rise in overall share of tv viewing in both language markets for the new broadcast entities. In 1992, the audience share of Canadian and American specialized channels plus pay television and vcr was 11% in Quebec and 17% in the rest of Canada: in 2001, the shares are 21% and 42%. To stop such losses due to audience fragmentation, existing English language broadcast ownership groups have diversified into new subscription revenues, assimilating two-thirds of the 37 specialty channels. Diversification has been slower in French markets, where there are 23 such channels, with Astral Media as the main operator and both tva and src also present. Such new system demands for programming have allowed market power to concentrate over the last decade in the publicly-held independent production sector, whose revenues now match those of tv broadcasting. Two-thirds (67%) of revenues accrue to the top 10 production companies, four of them located in Montreal. The largest independent, Alliance- Atlantis, reported a slight (2.3%) decline in revenues in 1999, but still commanded 14% overall. The next largest, Fireworks Entertainment (affiliated with CanWest), had 8%. The third tier in size featured companies such as Motion International (associated with tva), Lions Gate and Cinar, each with 6% of revenues. 3 Overall Viewing Patterns Watching television is Canadians’ principal leisure pastime, but they continue to spend less time this way. The average 21.6 hours a week in the 2000 broadcast year marked a 20-year low. Viewing was higher in Quebec and Newfoundland, lower in Western Canada. Viewing by the 2-11 age group fell by 20% over the decade; teens 12-17 dropped by 8%. In francophone Quebec, the most dramatic drop since 1998 was in the age group 12-17 while a slight increase was registered among the 2-11 age group. Coincidentally, Statistics Canada’s data show increased movie attendance; other sources show substitution of Internet for tv among young Canadians, especially for e-mail and chat lines. Some sources contest the extent of the decline in television viewing, but it is certainly marked among western English language audiences. Among the French language Quebec population, this decline is steady but ever so slight: from a yearly average high of –0.4 percentage points for teens to a low of –0.2 percentage points for children and –0.3 points for women 18 years and older. English Language Market In Canada, the conventional broadcast sector remains the engine of US Other 9% Canadian Conventional viewing in the broadcast system. Table 1 illustrates that Canadian Conventional 48% conventional channels draw 48% of viewing time in the English 10% language market, compared to 1 0 % for their US competitors. Canadian specialty channels with 18% are competitively close to the 15% for US pay and specialties, and 9% to vcrs or other alternatives. US Specialty 15% Canadian Specialty 18% Viewing of conventional channels is higher in the French language US French Language Market Other market (76%) as seen in Table 1, compared to 3% for their US US Conventional 3% 6% Canadian Conventional competitors. Canadian specialty channels with 14% are far ahead of Specialty 1% 76% the 1% for US pay and specialties, and the 6% to vcrs or other Canadian alternatives. Overall, Canadian content attracts 66% of the French Specialty 14% language market viewing time as compared to 28% in the English language market. Canadian Conventional Stations Juxtaposing supply and viewing further underlines this audience English Language preference for domestic channels. Conventional television stations 60 offered 34% of the English programming available but attracted 50 48% almost half of viewing. This compares to 38% of hours available from 40 34% US conventional stations, which attracted only 10% of viewing. 30 Canadian pay and specialty channels offered 16% of English broadcast hours, compared to 11% for their US counterparts, and captured, respectively, an equivalent share of viewing. vcr and other accounted 20 for the remaining 9%. 10 0 Supply Viewing 4 By contrast, French language conventional stations offered 81% of the Canadian Conventional Stations French programming available and attracted an equivalent share of French Language 81% 82 viewing (76%). Canadian pay and specialty channels offered 18% of 81 French broadcast hours, and captured a 14% share of viewing. The 80 remaining 10% of viewing time was spread among US stations 79 (convention and specialty) and vcr. 78 76 % 77 76 75 74 73 Supply Viewing As indicated in Table 1, a relative balance between supply and viewing patterns appears in the French language market: this means that US programs are mainly viewed in their dubbed rather than original version on Canadian conventional channels (only 3% of viewed US programs are seen on US conventional stations as compared to nearly 17% toward Canadian stations). In the case of the English language market, the imbalance is more evident: 27% of the viewing of foreign programs is done through Canadian conventional stations, which supply only 12% of such programs, while only 10% of the viewing of US programs is directed toward US conventional stations which supply 37% of such programs in the market. In other words, the English market watches proportionately more Canadian stations than would be warranted by its supply side but only because it prefers to view foreign (US) programs on Canadian, rather than US, stations. Table 1. Supply and Viewing by Signal Source and Content of Program (November 1999) Supply Viewing English Language Market Cdn. Foreign Total Cdn. Foreign Total Canadian Conventional Stations 22 12 34 21 27 48 Canadian Specialty Stations 9 7 16 7 10 18 US Specialty Stations * 11 11 * 15 15 US Conventional 1 37 38 * 10 10 Other (VCR, etc.) * * 1 * * 9 French Language Market Cdn. Foreign Total Cdn Foreign Total Canadian Conventional Stations 60 21 81 59 17 76 Canadian Specialty Stations 10 8 18 7 7 14 US Specialty Stations * * * * 1 1 US Conventional * * * * 3 3 Other * * 1 * * 6 Source: This table, and all others unless otherwise noted, is based on Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM) data, which are widely relied upon for annual monitoring by the Market Analysis Division of the CRTC and Statistics Canada. The underlying methodology is diary-based, with a sample size of 86,052 Canadians aged 2 and over in excess of 100,000 Canadians. Data reflect the period of collection (4 weeks) between October 21, 1999 and November 24, 1999, and are used to track the 1999-2000 broadcast year compared to the previous one. See Statistics Canada, Cultural Statistics Program-Television Viewing. Cat. No. 11-00E, released January 25, 2001: ECF data files. It is worth noting that in the French language market, the viewing percentage of French language stations actually rose from 76% in 1992 to 78% in 1999, while the viewing percentage of English language stations fell from 19% to 16%, the difference going to a category labeled “other”. While the viewing percentage of French language television stations in the English language market remained at a low 1% over the same period, the percentage of English language stations fell from 91% to 88%: the differing 3% went to the unclear category “other”. 5 Viewing of Canadian Programs The most famous audience “fact” in the Canadian system, of course, points out the different cultural problems of market proximity and 70% 63% linguistic variation. Only one-third of English programs available 60% were Canadian, contrasted to three-quarters of French. Viewing 50% follows supply: fully two-thirds of viewing time among francophones 40% is to Canadian programs, compared to just 28% for anglophones. The 30% 28% latter has increased 3 percentage points since Fall 1993, according to 20% Statistics Canada, albeit remaining within the 40-year range. This 10% supports the argument that additional licensing by the crtc has 0% succeeded slightly in repatriating viewers to English language English French Canadian broadcasters. Relative Market Positions Six English Canadian station groups control most of that conventional sector. ctv is the most watched with a 15.9% share, followed by wic/ontv at 9.9%, CanWest at 8.3% and cbc (owned and affiliates) at 6.7%, according to November 1999 Bureau of Broadcast Measurement Data. Since 1994-95, ctv’s share has dropped to 15.9% from 22% on a full day basis; and cbc’s to 6.7% from 12.97%. cbc’s share fell more as a consequence of the shift to specialty channels and dropped it to fourth place among conventional channels in English language markets. chum has 6.7% of the national English audience, Craig 1.5%. Other independent conventional stations together account for 3.6%, while Canadian specialties attracted 18% of viewing in the sample period of November 1999. In Quebec, the four French language stations control two-thirds of the total television viewing market, according to bbm’s “1999-2000 Data télévision”. They control three-quarters of the French language viewing market: tva (38%), tqs (12%), src (23%) and tq (2%). All stations – except tqs which has been thriving under the new Quebecor style of “le mouton noir” with new formats in news – have been losing share to specialty channels. Unlike cbc, however, src’s share has remained relatively stable vis-à-vis its competitors until recently. Quoting bbm, Fall 2000: src went for the first time under the 20% mark for share in the Montreal market, signalling a big battle for viewership, with the specialties taking 17%. If we were to take as a base the French language television market in Quebec, the private stations would command two-thirds of total viewing time (66%). The Popularity of Fiction Drama and comedy were the most popular tv genres, accounting for about 40% of viewing time. “News” is the main “competitor” in terms of viewing. The two linguistic markets differ rather sharply in tv tastes. In the francophone market, 66% of television viewing time goes to Canadian programs while in the anglophone market, 72% goes to foreign (i.e. American programs). In the francophone market, 28% goes to Canadian news and public affairs, followed by foreign drama (16%), Canadian drama (14%), Canadian variety and games (13%), foreign comedy (5%) and Canadian sports (4%). Canadian comedy is on par with Canadian academic programs and foreign variety and games (2%). In the anglophone market, foreign drama is by far the most popular (25%), followed by Canadian news and public affairs (15%), foreign comedy (12%), foreign variety and games (10%), foreign news and public affairs and Canadian sports (6%). The overall difference can be stated in this fashion: 82% of the viewing time in the francophone market is concentrated, by order of importance, across the four categories of “drama”, “news and public affairs”, “variety and games” and “comedy”, while in the English market, the same percentage is spread across five categories: “drama”, “news and public affairs”, “comedy”, “variety and games” and “sports”. The difference is that in the francophone market, “variety and games” is preferred to “comedy” and little attention is paid to “sports” while the contrary is observed in the English market. French language television is successful in incorporating a wider range of cultural forms than English language television, thus explaining, in part, its greater popularity among audiences. tv is a central cultural institution in Quebec society. 6 The Principle of “Cultural Proximity” Canada’s two principal linguistic markets represent mirror images of the “principle of cultural proximity” which has been fully explored by the partners in the Eurofiction Project. This says that, all things being equal, audiences turn first to products and contents rooted in their own culture of origin. Critical cultural theorists contest this view. English Canadian audiences have historically been open to “other” dramas, indeed, it is conjectured, selecting their programs on merit, regardless of country of origin. To test the cultural proximity assumption with secondary data, comparing the share of supply against viewing produces an interesting demand indicator for the various genres. If viewing exceeds supply, the genre is performing well and there may be pent-up demand. Viewing that is significantly less than supply signifies a marketing problem, weak performance quality or weak underlying audience preference. Indeed, the cultural debate in English Canada is over whether tastes may already have been “colonized” by the US invasion of expensive popular entertainment. But conclusions that tastes are not “colonized” in drama in Quebec are surely overstated. That market, too, is a battleground for “star wars” with the US entertainment machine overspill, although not to the same degree. Viewing of foreign drama (albeit dubbed into French) has gained a significant foothold, as we have seen. But once again, this is partly a structural factor, dependent on relative levels of supply. Considering the strong supply of American fiction, then, the relative viewing of francophone fiction is strong and steady over time. Indeed, relative viewing “yields” for domestic fiction in French markets show domestic programming performs better than dubbed foreign or US programming, partly as a result of programming strategy which priorizes domestic programs in better time slots, and inter-network collaboration to avoid head-to-head competition. The overall demand ratio for drama in 1999-2000 was 1.45; that is, of Canadian audiences 2 years of age and over, every hour of English language drama yielded more audience than would be expected if supply and demand were in rough equilibrium. In English markets, the ratio for Canadian drama was 0.5: half the supply of programs. By contrast, Quebec’s demand ratio for indigenous fiction was 1.65: very strong performance indeed. Other demand ratios for French programming were 1.8 for comedy, 1.0 for sports and 0.93 for indigenous news. The equivalent indices in English Canadian markets indicated strong preference for indigenous sports (1.65), news and public affairs (1.25) and comedy (1.0). The “probability” of cultural proximity applies perfectly, then, to drama in French language markets. Drama emerges as the sole genre where the English market proves the exception to the principle of cultural proximity. Indeed, there is a cultural discount for English Canadian compared to US drama, something the policy system has fought vigorously over the last two decades. To offset this discount, the federal government supports drama directly through four policy instruments: • support for the public broadcaster, which remains the largest single investor in drama despite large cuts over the past five years; • tv and cable regulations on the exhibition (requiring 50% Canadian content overall) and distribution of drama (the simultaneous substitution rule for US imports), administered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (crtc); • direct public investment in drama via the Canadian Television Fund (ctf); • the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit (cfvtc). 7 8 Top Dramas: English Market In the November sample month of the 1999-2000 broadcast year, 159 unduplicated hours per week of original English language Canadian drama and comedy are offered by the conventional broadcasters aired on the main conventional networks; suggesting that 39% of the total indigenous offer is original, first-run drama. When competitive share of audiences available for Canadian drama is calculated alone, the cbc had 43%, with ctv at 17% virtually tied with the wic/ontv group and Global at 14%. Table 3. Distribution of English Drama and Comedy Supply by Ownership Groups (November 1999) Ownership Group English Canadian Programs First Run First Run Market Hours Per Week Hours Per Week % CTV 93.875 31.250 33 WIC 81.312 36.937 45 CBC Aff 67.438 16.000 38 CanWest 49.125 22.125 45 Craig 46.875 33.063 71 CBC–O&O* 42.438 12.375 29 CHUM 28.125 8.125 29 Total 409.188 159.875 39 Source: See Statistics Canada Daily Cat. No. 11-00E, released January 25, 2001: ECF data files. An important caution should be raised. Conventional broadcasters launch their indigenous Canadian drama after the fall, since they can afford to provide fewer episodes throughout the year. As a consequence, this sample period may slightly under-represent indigenous series launched later in the year. * O&0 denotes owned and operated stations. If more than two local stations in the network air the same program, it is counted only once. Private sector dramatic series tv in English Canada is built on a cross-subsidy business model: attractive American shows bring in ad revenues that are reinvested in “priority” Canadian programming. Ad revenues earned against US series to which stations buy exclusive rights are protected by the crtc’s requirement for cable companies to delete the commercials on US stations airing the same program at the same time on a Canadian channel. Dubbed the “simultaneous substitution” rule, this essentially means that English language private broadcasters mimic the prime time scheduling of their US counterparts: Canadian programming is therefore scheduled at the shoulder times, later at night or on weekends. Unlike Quebec broadcast networks, those in the English market cannot optimize scheduling for domestic drama, since it would erode the base of the simultaneous substitution revenues. Movies of the Week (mow) do not encounter the same difficulty, and are regularly shown on prime Sunday nights or other premium times. Audience levels reported in 1999-2000 established new success benchmarks in Canadian English language tv ratings. Standards for domestic series were halved, partly as a consequence of increased competition from domestic specialty channels. Anything over 500,000 for a series and 1 million for a Movie of the Week represented good performance, according to the industry. The North American English language entertainment market was swept by tv tsunamis such as the abc game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (a classic case of a global makeover from a UK formula, picked up by ctv), attracting up to 3.6 million (but averaging 2.2 million over 52 weeks). It was closely followed by hybrid game/reality shows such as CBS’s Survivor, carried by CanWest/Global, which attracted 1.6 million over 52 weeks. While the boundaries of “genres” were pushed by these unscripted yet fictional “reality” shows, more traditional fictional drama continued to draw top audiences. Fifteen of the top 20 regular series were dramas: all American. The 52-week averages for US blockbuster series such as ER (imported by ctv), Law and Order (ctv), The West Wing (ctv) or the sitcoms Frasier and Friends (CanWest/Global) were at or over the million mark. Only The Royal Canadian Air Farce, a scripted cbc sketch comedy series which falls 9 under the crtc definition of drama, made the top 20, drawing a 52-week average of 1.2 million viewers aged 2 and over. Table 4 illustrates the three main categories of audience appeal. Most popular in the English language domestic tv productions are Movies of the Week; next, indigenous comedies and dramas; and last, Canadian-made productions for export markets. Table 4. Top Thirty English Language Canadian Dramas (September 1999 to March 2000) Movies of the Week Network Date Time Program Total 2+ Share % CBC Mar 06, 00 20:00 Anne GG 3 2248 23 CTV Mar 05, 00 21:00 Catch/Star 1569 CTV Oct 01, 99 21:00 Sheldon Kennedy 1233 15.7++ CTV May 23, 00 21:00 Deadly Appearances 1226 CTV Nov 28, 99 21:00 Murder Most Likely 1160 12.6+ CTV 21:00 Bookfair Murders 1147 CBC Jan 16, 00 10:00 Trial by Fire 1083 10.9 CBC Dec 12, 99 20:00 Must be Santa 966 10.5+ CTV Apr 30, 00 21:00 Dr. Lucille 943 +++++ CBC Oct 24, 99 20:00 Dead Aviators 569 6.5++ 10 Table 4. Top Thirty English Language Canadian Dramas (con t) Continuing Series Network Date Day Time Program Share % Total CBC Sep 01, 99 W 21:00 Da Vinci's Inquest 9.6 761+ CTV Sep 17, 99 F 22:00 Cold Squad 9.3 628+ CBC Sep 12, 99 S 19:00 Wind at My Back 8.4 649 CTV Sep 18, 99 S 19:00 Twice in A Lifetime 8.3 527 CBC Oct 08, 99 F 21:00 Nothing /Good/Cowboy 7.3 544 CTV Dec 04, 99 S 20:00 Little Men 7.0 504 Global Aug 31, 99 T/F 21:30 Bob and Margaret 6.7 267* CTV Aug 31, 99 T/F 21:00 The City 6.2 465+++ CTV Oct 08, 99 F 20:00 Power Play 6.3 451*++ Global Nov 06, 99 S 21:59 Psi Factor 5.7 193* Global Sep 11, 99 S 21:00 Outer Limits 4.9 187*+ Global Sep 20, 99 M 19:00 Student Bodies 4.3 153* ONTV Sep 02, 99 T 20:00 Stargate SG-1 4.1 170*++ CITY Sep 21, 99 TW 20:00 Relic Hunter 4.0 166* Global Sep 30, 99 T 21:59 Traders 4.0 146* CBC Feb 07, 00 M 20:30 Drop the Beat 3.5 284 Global Sep 24, 99 TF 19:00 New Addams Family 3.5 108* CBC Oct 07, 99 T 19:00 Riverdale 2.7 184 ONTV Oct 21, 99 T 21:00 Amazon 2.0 87* ONTV Jan 20, 00 T 22:00 Nikita 2.0 80*+ CITY Sep 17, 99 F 20:00 Lexx: the Series 1.9 70* ONTV Sep 02, 99 T 21:00 Poltergeist: The Legacy 1.2 50* Source: Nielsen Media Research. Shares are calculated using the average audience to all English-language TV, based on audience reach for a 30-week period from September 1999 to March 2000. Stars denote Ontario region. Reports average minute audience. “Industrial” is defined as made in Canada for the export market, and may not show Canadian locations. It may vary from no CanCon points to six to eight, depending on the number of creative Canadian roles. + denotes an award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (www.academy.ca/hist). mow audience-building strategy is unique to English Canada. Broadcasters generally attract larger audiences due to premium scheduling in prime time, promotional budgets and larger budgets per hour. In the 1999-2000 broadcast year, 18 mow were produced by ctv and cbc, as a result of crtc-imposed requirements or expectations. They regularly achieved the threshold of 1 million for an English language blockbuster. Of the top 10 “special” or single night shows over the 52 weeks, cbc’s Anne of Green Gables III, adapted from the internationally recognized book by L.M. Montgomery and building on the Corporation’s legacy series, drew 2.2 million. The story picks up Anne following Gilbert to Europe when he is reported missing in action in wwi, and challenged the traditional romantic expectations of old-school Anne fans. Although relatively modest in first-run audience ratings, ctv’s Dr. Lucille: The Lucille Teasdale Story, starring Marina Orsini, swept its category for Geminis, awarded by the Academy of Television, Film and Cinema. ctv initiated this co-production between Motion International and Ballistic Films in South America that profiled one of Canada's first female surgeons working to combat aids in Uganda. Dr. Lucille is the most expensive tv movie yet made for the English language Canadian market, and placed ninth in the top 10 mow. ctv continued its Signature Series tradition, begun in 1998, of adapting headline news stories to the 11 docu-drama genre. The Sheldon Kennedy Story (third-largest single night audience) was apocryphal to many Canadian hockey fans. The story of a famous player who created a public controversy when he bravely stepped forward to complain of childhood sexual abuse in amateur hockey, Sheldon Kennedy won two Geminis and consistently drew more than half a million viewers in successive repeats. Murder Most Likely, a mow aired on ctv and produced by Alliance-Atlantis, pioneered new boundaries in docu-drama. Based on a 1981 murder, it relied on multiple re-enactments of the facts as revealed in the later trial and developed the dramatic potential of the character, with award-winning actor-celebrity Paul Gross. The Bookfair Murders, a co-production between Germany and Canada aired on ctv, ranked fifth. ctv effectively shut cbc out of nominations for best tv movie or dramatic mini-series of the year. Among continuing series, domestic comedy does fairly well. Canada’s principal comedic style is sketch humour based on continuing characters, and pre-scripted. Unlike many other countries, sitcoms (such as Friends or Frasier) are not a staple of English language Canadian television production, although they are imported. There is wide experimentation with other forms of comedic production. In this genre, the cbc dominates with audience averages easily matching blockbuster standards for programs like The Royal Canadian Air Farce, a sketch comedy which is Canada’s oldest continuing series; This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a satire using a newscast format; and Made in Canada, starring Rick Mercer in a half-hour satire of the entertainment industry. Canadian English drama developers have elected to copy the Hollywood studio system of naturalistic production, perhaps the most expensive (per-episode budgets well over $1 million) and least efficient form of storytelling yet devised. Hollywood’s casualty rate for pilots of new series is very high. Yet Canadian English dramas have no tradition of “pilots” to build on: they rush from script to screen in series format, and mows are rarely treated as pilots. As a consequence, English language dramatic productions often find their creative style and audience following only after the second or third season. If comedy is excluded from the list of top 10 English language dramas to be consistent with Eurofiction genre definitions, the two most popular indigenous series were in the gritty mystery/crime genre. cbc’s Da Vinci’s Inquest and ctv’s Cold Squad were closely competitive at 9.6 and 9.3 shares when averaged over 30 weeks. The third season of Da Vinci's Inquest, produced by Barna Alper Productions, regularly attracted 761,000 viewers despite heavy competition from The West Wing in the same time slot. ctv’s fourth season of Cold Squad, produced by Keatley-MacLeod and Atlantis in association with ctv, attracted 628,000. Cold Squad focuses on a team of police detectives who use modern forensic technology, dna evidence and advances in psychological profiling to solve old, or “cold”, murder cases, where earlier investigations failed. What these national audience numbers obscure is the sharp sub-regional market variation in audience appeal. Traders, for example, a story about investment brokers in Toronto, did not do as well in the West as in its home market. Da Vinci’s Inquest and Cold Squad do better in Vancouver. Innovation was not remarkable in the 1999-2000 playlist of some 30 indigenous English tv drama. Just under half – 13 – of the prime time English language series were discontinued at the end of what was a watershed year for Canadian tv networks. Debuts of new series were few and far between (5). Only two new series – Little Men, Twice in a Lifetime, both Canada-US productions for export – broke through to the domestic top 10. Twice in a Lifetime (produced by Pebblehut-Muse) is an anthology based on the premise of getting a second chance at life that guest stars US actors like Patrick Duffy of Dallas fame and which critics accurately pegged as an attempt to cash in on Touched by an Angel; Little Men (Pax-Alliance- Atlantis) is based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. It is notable that Alliance-Atlantis, Canada’s largest independent production company, produced half of the top 10 English language continuing series (Cold Squad, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, Little Men, Power Play and Psi Factor) and distributed Da Vinci’s Inquest. ctv showed five of the top 10 continuing drama series (if comedy is excluded), cbc three and Global two. This is in marked contrast to 1995, when the cbc claimed eight. It has usually presented the most prime time Canadian drama, as overall supply and viewing shares indicate, offering 12 of 30 series. For the first time, it slipped out of domination of the top 10 as measured by average share of audiences, casualty of an 12 aging dramatic inventory and Government cuts of more than 33% to its budget over the past five years. The leadership mantle passed to ctv. But if comedy, which is less expensive to produce, is considered, the cbc continues to dominate the top 10. At the bottom of the top 30 list is the “industrial” production category. The 1990s witnessed a sharp increase in this segment’s proportion of production, attributed to demand from new US cable networks, strong European interest, a low Canadian dollar and attractive tax incentives. Industrial shows usually produce 22 episodes to export each season, a marked promotional advantage over the usual 13-episode line-up for indigenous domestic drama series. tv history suggests that foreign licensing is essential to recoup production costs in Canada. Canadian productions can attract a large part of their financing from the American market only if the sale is done before they are produced, and the buyer, usually a US cable channel, has substantial influence on the creative content. Such projects are designed to satisfy American tastes and interest, may mask Canadian locations, and use major US stars. Early series produced for export chose to take the Star Wars battle for American audiences out through the galaxies, literally. These mid-1990s science fiction shows capitalized on Canada's international reputation for special effects. Primarily aired on Global and other smaller regional networks (wic/ontv and city), they included Outer Limits, reprising the popular 1960s show, and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Stargate SG-1 is illustrative of the fortunes of Canadian co-produced sci-fi adventure series. Spun off from the 1994 movie which grossed $200 million US, it is a co-production of Gekko Film Co. and m g m Worldwide Television, distributed by mgm. In its third year, the series was essentially floated on the success of its early ratings in US syndication, and went on to air in Australia, Channel 4 in the UK and Sky One. Earth the Final Conflict (third season) is a futurist melodrama with more than 48 websites and an avid following as the top-rated sci-fi show in syndication in the US. Lexx, a sort of radical space cult opera, was launched in 1999. One important component of production for export is the officially negotiated co-production treaty category, where production reached $711 million in 1999-2000, a decline of 14%. (The US is not an officially recognized co-production partner.) France and the UK remain the top partners, while Australia overtook Germany as number three. The new BeastMaster series is a co-production with Australia picked up by city. Relic Hunter, a Canada-France co-production by Fireworks Entertainment aired by city, stars a female archeologist in a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style story line. As Table 4 illustrates, most industrial shows appear in the bottom 30 against the principal indigenous drama. The winners in this category, as measured by audience share, seem to be Psi Factor, a co-venture of Alliance-Atlantis with Eyemark Entertainment in association with CanWest Global, and Outer Limits, a co-venture of Alliance-Atlantis and Trilogy Entertainment. While industrial production accounts for a growing share of continuing drama series (12 of the top 20) and enjoys huge comparative advantages in budgets and number of episodes, the principle of cultural proximity in drama appears to have at least a toehold in English markets. Given a choice between indigenous and industrial domestic productions, English Canadians choose their own. But the economics keep more industrial productions viable for longer. Most distinctly Canadian shows on the bottom 10 of the top 30 English language series have been discontinued while industrial productions with weaker audience ratings but more robust financial bases continued. Indigenous shows thus do not compete on a level playing field: they are neither produced in the same numbers as English language Canadian series produced for export, nor scheduled in as attractive “prime” time on the private networks. In sum, then, the principle of cultural proximity in drama may be said to hold for English language mow and, within what indigenous drama there is, for distinctly Canadian locales and stories over anonymous global ones in the “mimetic” global industrial sector. But there is no doubt that English language audiences turn most to US dramas, and that successive efforts over the past decade to repatriate them have stemmed losses but have not grown share. Given the decline in tv viewing overall, and the significant shift to specialty channels and the Internet among younger viewers, this inertia is read by critics as signalling equally a partial victory and defeat for domestic policy. While a cadre of experienced writers and directors is emerging as an engine of innovation in three English-language regional production centres, and the 13 industry is shifting its interest to the development of a “star system” to promote its own, the growth in production has been propelled by public subsidy, allowing private broadcasters to spread the same level of investment in the genre over more series. Top Dramas: French Market For a “typical” week (averaged across November and March ), some 50 hours of French language fiction are available (supply). Of this, “first run” fiction totals 42 hours or 84% (16% repeats, 8.25 hours). If the principle of proximity seems to apply in the French market, especially within the genres of “news and public affairs”, “drama”, “variety and games” and “comedy”, a further examination of the distribution of fiction (drama and sitcom) during the sample month may shed some light on its workings. Table 5. Supply of French Drama and Comedy by Network (Fall 1999) Time Format Genre Net Status Shr Origin Sunday Alfred Hitchcock 16h 30 Drama TQS Repeat 7 USA Filles de Caleb 17h 60 Drama SRC Repeat 13 Quebec Porte des étoiles 18h 60 Drama TQS First run 11 USA Maurice Richard 20h 120 Drama SRC First run* 32 Quebec Total hours 4.5 Monday Aimer 11h 30 Drama TVA First run 33 Australia Les feux de l'amour 14h 60 Drama TVA First run 44 USA Top modèles 15h 60 Drama TVA First run 42 USA Hartley coeurs à vif 16h 60 Drama TQ First run 3 Australia Watatatow 17h 30 Drama SRC First run 18 Quebec Virginie 19h 30 Drama SRC First run 39 Quebec La petite vie 19h 30 Sitcom SRC Repeat 53 Quebec 4 et demi 20h 60 Drama SRC First run 50 Quebec Réseaux II 21h 60 Drama SRC First run 30 Quebec Ally McBeal 21h 60 Drama TVA First run 17 USA Aphrodisia 23h 30 Erotic TQS First run 2 mixte Total hours 8.5 14 Table 5. Supply of French Drama and Comedy by Network (con’t) Tuesday Aimer 11h 30 Drama TVA First run 33 Australia Hartley coeurs à vif 12h 60 Drama TQ Repeat 3 Australia Les soeurs Reed 13h 60 Drama SRC First run 9 USA Les feux de l'amour 14h 60 Drama TVA First run 44 USA Top modèles 15h 60 Drama TVA First run 42 USA Hartley coeurs à vif 16h 60 Drama TQ First run 4 Australia Watatatow 17h 30 Drama SRC First run 19 Quebec Virginie 19h 30 Drama SRC First run 34 Quebec Ent'Cadieux 19h 60 Drama TVA First run 29 Quebec Bouscotte 20h 60 Drama SRC First run 26 Quebec Histoires de filles 20h 30 Sitcom TVA First run 35 Quebec Km/h 20h 30 Sitcom TVA First run 36 Quebec Les Machos 21h 60 Drama TVA First run 34 Quebec Dream on 22h 30 Sitcom TQ First run 1 Aphrodisia 23h 30 Erotic TQS First run 3 mixte Total hours 11.5 Wednesday Aimer 11h 30 Drama TVA First run 33 Australia Hartley coeurs à vif 12h 60 Drama TQ Repeat 3 Australia Les feux de l'amour 14h30 60 Drama TVA First run 44 USA Top modèles 15h30 60 Drama TVA First run 42 USA Hartley coeurs à vif 16h 60 Drama TQ First run 3 Australia Watatatow 17h 30 Drama SRC First run 19 Quebec Virginie 19h 30 Drama SRC First run 36 Quebec Caserne 24 19h30 30 Drama SRC First run 29 Quebec Le retour 20h 60 Drama TVA First run 49 Quebec L'ombre de l'épervier 21h 60 Drama SRC First run 6 Quebec Rue l'Espérance 21h 60 Drama TVA First run* 36 Quebec Aphrodisia 23h30 30 Erotic TQS First run 1 mixte Total hours 9.5 15 Table 5. Supply of French Drama and Comedy by Network (con’t) Thursday Aimer 11h 30 Drama TVA First run 33 Australia Hartley coeurs à vif 12h 60 Drama TQ Repeat 3 Australia Les feux de l'amour 14h30 60 Drama TVA First run 44 USA Top modèles 15h30 60 Drama TVA First run 42 USA Hartley coeurs à vif 16h 60 Drama TQ First run 3 Australia Watatatow 17h 30 Drama SRC First run 17 Quebec Virginie 19h 30 Drama SRC First run 39 Quebec Un gars, une fille 19h30 30 Sitcom SRC First run 53 Quebec La part des anges 20h 60 Drama SRC First run 22 Quebec Diva 20h 60 Drama TVA First run 33 Quebec Deux frères 21h 60 Drama TVA First run* 37 Quebec Aphrodisia 23h 30 Erotic TQS First run 3 mixte Total hours 9.5 Friday Aimer 11h 30 Drama TVA First run 33 Australia Hartley coeurs à vif 12h 60 Drama TQ Repeat 3 Australia Les feux de l'amour 14h30 60 Drama TVA First run 44 USA Top modèles 15h30 60 Drama TVA First run 42 USA Les aventures de Shirley 16h 60 Drama TQ First run 1 Homes Shelby Woo enquête 16h30 30 Drama SRC First run 2 Catherine 19h30 30 Sitcom SRC First run* 21 Quebec Aux frontières du réel 20h30 60 Drama TQS First run 6 USA Nikita 22h30 60 Drama TVA First run 16 Canada Total hours 7.5 Saturday Les aventures de Shirley 12h30 60 Drama TQ Repeat 1 Homes Alfred Hitchcock 16h30 30 Drama TQS Repeat 4 USA Dream on 23h30 45 Sitcom TQ Repeat 1 Total hours 2.25 Notes: Format = 30 or 60 minutes; Net = station; First run* = first run of the first episode of a new series. The distribution flow, or programming, of French language fiction shows that 44% of French fiction is written and produced in French by Quebec writers and producers while the remaining 56% is made up of dubbed foreign, mainly American, fiction. No fiction from other French speaking countries is made available. Programming strategy seems relatively clear cut: domestic or national fiction is set in prime time (Monday through Thursday, from 19:00 till 22:00) while foreign fiction is set at the outer limits: afternoons, late night and on weekend (Friday through Sunday). The only exception is a repeat of an early 1990 classic drama, Les Filles de Caleb, on Sunday late afternoon and a repeat of Quebec’s most popular of shows, La Petite Vie. 16 The strong showing of the dubbed daytime American soaps Les feux de l’amour (The Young and the Restless) and Top modèles (The Bold and the Beautiful), with respective shares of 44% and 42%, is more indicative of the principle of pleasure than the principle of proximity. There is only one American fiction program scheduled during prime time programming and that is Ally McBeal on Monday night, which the private network pitted against the public network showing of Réseaux written by one of Quebec’s prolific screenwriters, Réjean Tremblay, co-author of such mega hits as Scoop, Lance et compte, Urgence. There is relatively little direct competition between private and public networks: • Monday: public television’s drama Réseaux (set in the world of television journalism) is up against the dubbed Ally McBeal (set in the corporate world of lawyers) on the private network; • Tuesday: public television’s drama Bouscotte (a family saga set in the author’s region, the Bas-du- fleuve, in Eastern Quebec at the mouth of Canada’s great seaway, the Saint Lawrence) is up against two domestic sitcoms Histoires de filles (a female version of Friends) and Km/h (the world of the automobile with a car magazine journalist and his mechanic friend) on the private network; • Wednesday: public television’s drama L’ombre de l’épervier (a family saga set in Quebec’s most Eastern region, the Gaspésie) is up against the private network’s new drama Rue l’Espérance (the 20-30 urban generation); • Thursday: public television’s drama La part des anges (where the deceased, or angels, revisit the world of the living to see how things could have been or how they will be) is up against Diva (the world of international fashion) on the private network. In a programmed flow of fiction where: • Domestic fiction reigns dominant in prime time; • Foreign fiction is positioned at both ends of prime time; • Direct competition between public and private networks is limited to only one “clash” per night; • Direct competition is mainly between one-hour domestic drama series; • No direct competition occurs between sitcoms; it is small wonder that the principle of proximity functions so well. The hourly share that domestic fiction manages to hold on to seems to follow a curve pattern: between 19h and 20h, somewhere around a 40 share; between 20h and 21h, it reaches 50-something; then slides back to around 40 between 21h and 22h. The outstanding exception is the case of L’ombre des épervier, which is set up against a much publicized new drama and a much acclaimed star comedian who left the very popular drama 4 et demi to help launch Rue l’Espérance. In the following weeks, the gap between respective shares of both dramas tended to close. Audience levels reported in 1999-2000 maintained the success benchmarks in Canadian French language tv fiction ratings (the French market does not produce movies of the week). With a total audience of some 7 million spread across three provinces (Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick), 6 million of which live in Quebec, top performance still ranges in the 1 million-plus level. When compared to the 23 million English market, the success rates attained in the open French market – over two-thirds of the supply from conventional television comes from English networks, Canadian and American – are indicative of something at work, deeper and more intricate than the principle of proximity. The success, and failure, of domestic French language fiction (drama and sitcom) cannot be explained by the principle of proximity alone. It is founded on overall programming of quality production in such a fashion as to occupy the entire “field” of prime time and to offer an optimal edge of competition between the major networks, in this case public and private. Maintaining such high benchmarks over decades (see 17 chart 1987-1999), in spite of rising costs cannot be explained in terms of linguistic barriers, or cultural isolation, or ethnic self-identification, all of which are nestled under the principle of proximity umbrella. This phenomenon is by definition indicative of the very real presence of a modern popular culture, not to be confused with media culture, and which must be addressed with the theoretical sophistication it merits. Statistical data cannot explain it: it can only reveal its presence. In the French market, viewing usually exceeds supply for serialized narratives. Using two measures on both sides, we see in the graph that this is true from 1987 to 1999. The curves show a decrease in 1991 mainly because tqs got out of serialized narrative at that point. In 1994, strong series like La petite vie and Les filles de Caleb started an upward surge in market share. Table 6. Market Share of Québécois TV Narratives (1987-1999) 25 20 15 10 5 0 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 Supply(% ofN) Supply(% of hours) (% Viewing ofGRP) (% Viewing of hours) Series only, SRC, TVA & TQS only, autumn BBM, from 17:00 to 22:59, French speaking audience; GRP = sum of ratings in %; compiled by C. Martin, J. Lemieux et R. de la Garde. As noted in Table 7 (Top 25), seven of the top 25 fiction series maintained an average or mean ratings over 48 weeks of 1.5 million plus, and 20 series, a rating of 1 million plus. Only two series in the chart are foreign: in 19th position we find Mr. Bean, a British script sketch comedy series, and in last position, the American drama Ally McBeal. Maximum rating is 31,6%, quite below historical maximums that went around 50%. Taking into account the number of episodes, we can see, using grp as a measure, that, in this short list, src comes slightly ahead of tva with 53,4% of the total grp. Overall there is a relative balance in the success rates between the public (src) and the private (tva) networks; between new series and old (the exception being the new sitcom Catherine aired by src on Friday night); between drama series and sitcom. The remarkable performance of two mini-series should be mentioned: Maurice Richard and Chartrand and Simonne. The first is a docu-drama biography of a hockey legend, the Rocket, who died a few months after the broadcast. The second docu-drama recounts the lives of two legendary social activists: Michel Chartrand and his wife Simonne Monet. He gained public fame and respect as a “voice” for the underprivileged members of society (non-unionized workers, elders, unemployed, rural populations). While Simonne’s fame and respect were less public, they were all the more profound and 18 deep-rooted. She was known for her mémoires of Quebec women’s struggles in the 1930-1950 era. What these audience numbers may obscure is how well indigenous Quebec production travels within Canada. If we look at the Ottawa-Hull francophone area, not surprisingly, 12 of the top Quebec hits also top the list: La petite vie, 4 et demi, Un gars Une fille, La fureur, La facture), Virginie, Bouscotte,Le retour, and so on. East Central Ontario, or that “bastion” of franco-ontarions, around Sudbury-Timmons and Sault Ste. Marie, or St. John-Moncton in New Brunswick show no french language titles in their top twenty, suggesting that Quebec drama does not easily travel to other francophone communities more distant within Canada. Table 7. Top 25 Serialized TV Narratives in French 1999-2000 in the Order of Mean Rating # Title Net Genre N Mean Max. GRP 1 Fortier TVA Drama 9 26,9 29,8 241,9 2 La petite vie SRC Sitcom 26 26,4 29,9 687,0 3 4 et demi SRC Drama 27 26,1 31,6 705,6 4 Le retour TVA Drama 28 24,9 27,7 696,1 5 L’ombre de l’épervier: La suite SRC Drama 9 22,4 24,5 202,0 6 Chartrand & Simonne (new) SRC Drama 6 21,7 24,5 130,3 7 BD Maurice Richard (new) SRC Drama 2 21,6 24,2 43,1 8 Km/h TVA Sitcom 34 20,2 26,1 685,5 9 Histoires de filles TVA Sitcom 34 18,6 25,4 633,5 10 Deux frères (new) TVA Drama 8 18,5 21,2 148,0 11 Un gars une fille SRC Sitcom 37 18,4 25,1 679,5 12 Gypsies (new) SRC Drama 10 16,6 18,5 166,1 13 Les machos TVA Drama 28 16,5 18,9 462,8 14 Virginie SRC Drama 32 16,4 18,7 523,4 15 Quadra (new) SRC Drama 4 16,1 18,3 64,4 16 Réseaux II SRC Drama 10 16,1 19,6 160,6 17 Bouscotte SRC Drama 28 15,8 17,8 441,2 18 Rue l’espérance (new) TVA Drama 27 15,4 21,2 416,9 19 Mr. Bean SRC Sitcom 2 15,1 21,2 30,3 20 Diva TVA Drama 18 14,7 15,7 264,5 21 Caserne 24 SRC Drama 25 14,0 17,5 350,4 22 La part des anges SRC Drama 13 13,6 15,6 176,6 23 Histoires vraies: Sissi TVA Drama 3 13,6 14,2 40,7 24 Ent’Cadieux TVA Drama 9 13,1 14,5 117,6 25 Ally McBeal TVA Drama 6 12,8 15,6 76,8 Net: network; N: numbers of episodes. Mean, maximum and GRP in % of 2+; GRP = sum of ratings. Source: 48 weekly lists of top programs by A.C. Nielsen, excluding 4 summer weeks. Compilation: C. Martin, R. de la Garde & M. Dominguez. 19 Year in Review: English Market Three English language series in the 1999-2000 broadcast year are notable for the critical and popular acclaim they received. Da Vinci’s Inquest won the Writers’ Guild award for best series and, for the second time in a row, the Gemini for best dramatic series from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Da Vinci is a bona fide success story against tough US competition from The West Wing, yet is not without critics, who ask why a commercial-style drama that might have come from anywhere is on the cbc. It is shot in Vancouver and features a lot of exterior scenes in a gritty, naturalistic cinematic style, set in back alleys, local streets and ocean dock landmarks. It centres around fallible, alcoholic coroner Dominic Da Vinci, played by Nicholas Campbell. The issues are those of a port city – unstoppable drug wars, rampant hiv and stories about the real-life unsolved murders of 28 prostitutes. The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a public lobby group, surveyed 2,000 Canadians in the fall of 1999, asking them to rate the quality of various dramas. While the top five shows were US series, Da Vinci's Inquest rated qualitatively higher than nypd Blue and Chicago Hope from the US. CanWest Global’s Bob and Margaret, an animated adult series, was liked by viewers and critics for its keen sense of the absurd in ordinary middle-class life. A half-hour animated sitcom in the auteur tradition based on the Academy Award-winning film Bob’s Birthday created by Alison Snowdon and David Fine for Nelvana, Bob and Margaret is called the season’s single best new cartoon series. Bob and Margaret is an official UK (Channel 4)/Canada co-production carried by CanWest/Global. Although it won a Leo, the western based award, for best writing for David Fine, it was snubbed by the national industry awards. In the US, Bob and Margaret has surprised critics by holding its own next to South Park, on Comedy Central. The bravest innovation was cbc’s Drop the Beat, a half-hour series targeting viewers under 30, a segment many public broadcasters find difficult to attract. It featured a budding music promoter and university business student moving into the hiphop music scene, with guest artists Choclair, Rascalz or Maestro from Canadian hiphop. Drop the Beat is the first cbc series dealing with urban music. Featuring a cast remarkable for its racial diversity and a full on-line webcast complement, it tackles issues like racism and the lack of sufficient radio play for hip hop artists. Produced by Janis Lundman, Adrienne Mitchell and Christine Shipton of Back Alley Films in co-operation with Alliance-Atlantis, Drop the Beat knocked off the other teen soap, Riverdale, in its first year. It promises to diversify the public broadcaster into the hard- to-reach youth audience for just $370,000 per episode. Its low audience – 300,000 viewers on average – was arguably the result of bad scheduling (pre-empted for eight of its 13 weeks by hockey playoffs) and inability to capitalize upon simultaneous web-casting in the first season. Blatantly imitative industrial series were dealt a serious blow with the splashy bust of Peter Benchley's Amazon, easily Canada’s most expensive flop to date after merely one year. The most risky series – adult animation – was Kevin Spencer, produced by Atomic Productions in association with the Comedy Network and aired late night on ctv affiliate vtv. Developed initially by Greg Lawrence (Ocnus Productions) as a “Canadian Comedy Short”, Kevin Spencer essentially competed with South Park, with a teen anti-hero and friends addicted to cough syrup and cigarettes. Notable for its exceptional satire, irreverence, anti-social themes and teen bad taste that played well on campus newspapers, it was rated appropriate for age 14 and up. A Canadian Broadcast Standards Council decision released November 18, 1999 said it sanctioned, promoted and glamorized violence unnecessarily, in contravention of the Violence Code (Section 1). ctv dropped the series from late-night tv but continues to air it on its specialty subsidiary, The Comedy Network. Two major developments occurred in marketing of English language Canadian drama. First, ctv experimented with a “safe harbour” in scheduling. Friday is traditionally a weaker but still strong night for television viewing in Canada, and relatively easy to counter-program against US shows. ctv promoted its Friday Night Blockbuster Night heavily, but abandoned it by January when audiences failed to follow and Millionaire pre-empted a slot. Second, the launch of the fall 1999-2000 broadcast year brought for the first time a US-style promotional tour for tv critics, attacking the perception that Canadian series tv has been under-promoted by commercial broadcasters. 20 “Free” unpaid promotion is underdeveloped. A survey of daily newspaper articles produced by more than 22 tv critics found six might be said to have a regular tv beat. Forty of 165 articles in 1999-2000 dealt with domestic English language television in Canada, grouped into three thematic areas of coverage: profiles of the Canadian network series; concern about the ratings dip mid-year; the trend to 'reality' shows and its impact on programming genres. Few articles contributed to what might be called an original canon of English language tv criticism, unlike French language critics. Some idea of the extent of the problem may be found in the case of Canada’s bona fide blockbuster, The Royal Canadian Air Farce. The comedy series was in its third year before it made two tv weekly covers, while an equivalent show in the US might have had 30. To offset this, the crtc exempts the promotion of Canadian programming from the 12-minute limit on advertising set on private broadcasters, and investment in branding and print promotional efforts is increasing in English markets. Policy focus is shifting from supply to promotion and building demand. The major public subsidy program of the Canadian Television Fund (ctf) which supported most of the top 20 dramatic programs, is under review, before its option for renewal expires in 2002. 21 Year in Review: French Market There are two award-bestowing “institutions” in the French television industry. One is the Gémeaux awards, the counterpart to the Gemini, offering recognition for excellence by the “Academy” of the television industry. The categories refer to genres (from dramatic to sports), crafts (from production to infography) and interpretation (from actor to interviewer). The Gémeaux awards are televised in October and will mark their 15th season in 2002. The second “event”, the Gala Métro Star, is usually held in April. It is a gala in the true sense, a night to celebrate not the industry nor its craftspeople and artists but the stars (writers, actors, journalists). Sponsored by a large grocery chain, Métro, it is by and large a vox populi award ceremony for which mailed popular ballots are received from throughout the province; voter bulletins are available in the Métro stores but also in the popular press. While important, these public recognitions do not automatically accredit a series, either dramatic or comic, as being outstanding. It is part promotion, part media coverage, part television critics which make the case that a series is “worth noticing”, a “cultural” event, in the sense of being socially significant. It is to these clouded criteria that we turn in resting our choice in this year’s review: Fortier, 2 Frères, 4 et demi, Watatatow, Un gars, Une fille, Chartrand et Simonne. 2 Frères and Fortier, both newcomers in the best tradition of realistic dramas, both portraying real-life public issues, both feeding on and feeding to debates in the popular press and on talk shows (radio and television), were broadcast by tva. The plot line of 2 Frères involves the family of a country gentleman and sheep breeder. Divorced seven years ago, the husband stays at his ranch with his 19-year-old son and his new, younger, pregnant wife. His first wife now lives in the city (Montreal) with the 15-year-old, son. Later on the older boy moves to Montreal to begin university and shares his mother's apartment with his young brother. Through personal tragedies and reconciliation, issues related to urban life – school bullying, street gangs, drug traffic, local crime lords, mothers and women in the workplace, life and times of an urban teen – parade on the screen against the background of a pastoral symphony of rural bliss and to the soundtrack of Quebec’s most popular rap and hiphop musical groups. The main theme is a teenager’s life of despair in the urban jungle through a cycle of violence and solitude. As an indication of its social impact, the actors playing the role of the family members, plus the fictitious girlfriend of the teenage son, were invited guests of a very popular television talk show. These real-life actors discussed the many troubling issues of modern family, referring to their fictional experiences. Fortier is a psychological thriller. Anne Fortier is a psychologist working for the sas (service antisociophathes), a department within the Montreal police force. Members of this special Service handle cases that involve sociopathic killers. As stated by the author, prolific Fabienne Larouche, the heroine’s job, and the main story line, is not to prove guilt but to reach deep inside the psyche and find out why people kill, often in bizarre fashion. The show provides intense, one-on-one confrontations in which the accused and Anne Fortier reveal more of their troubled past than either wishes. Dark and moody, the series is not without reminding the viewer of the heavy atmosphere identified with the movie The Silence of the Lamb, without going so far as introducing Hannibal. 4 et demi features the 20-30 generation straddling the worlds of young professionals, university studies, dreams of parenthood and lost illusions. The title refers to the commitment which moving into a two- bedroom apartment has come to symbolize for a couple who have decided to live together. Through a series of hits and misses, the many issues of the modern young couple are dealt with: interpersonal communication, pregnancy, sexual infidelity, financial problems. The main characters revolve around an animal clinic and the world of young veterinarians, their friends old and new, including a poet who decides to become a téléroman scriptwriter, and their clients. In a very different setting, the comic relief is introduced by a patchwork of clients and their peculiar pets as in the American series Providence. What sets this series apart is that after seven years and 193 episodes, the authors, Sylvie Lussier and Pierre Poirier, decided that 2001 (winter) would be the final season. The show ended with a special two-hour 22 episode which tied all the loose ends, preceded by a 3 0-minute “the-best-of” anthology. A scene symbolized the closure when the main couple with their first child packs their personal belongings into boxes, leaving their 4 et demi to move into their very own house. Meanwhile, the animal clinic is also moving into new, larger and upscale quarters. Ten years running, over 2,000 characters, 864 episodes and an armful of awards including eight Gémeaux, Watatatow, a téléroman for teenagers, predates such popular successes as the American Beverly Hills 90210 and the French Hélène et les garçons. Borrowing the writing style of the American soaps (team writing) and an upbeat rhythm, it takes issue with questions facing its young viewers: abortion, homosexuality, suicide, aids, domestic violence, dysfunctional families, alcoholism, drug abuse, safe sex, to name but a few. The “candor” of the story lines incited a German student to select this series for her university thesis and to force American producers to abandon their project of a remake. From Monday through Thursday, this daily 30-minute series (17:00-17:30) maintains a loyal following of 500 000 viewers year after year: in 1994, 58% of the viewers were 18 years and older compared to 74% today. The most persistent and gratifying comments from the fans refer to this drama series as a catalyst to get teenagers and parents to communicate about issues that come between them. In 1999, it received the Gaston-Gauthier award given to the television program that contributes the most to the quality of family life: in 1995 it received the trophy Satellite awarded by the Gays and Lesbians Conference Board of Greater Montreal (Table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Grand Montréal). The May issue of Quebec’s most prestigious general magazine, L’actualité, gave Watatatow three-page coverage. We have chosen Chartrand et Simonne and Un gars, Une fille for quite different reasons. As mentioned, the first is a mini-series, a narrative docu-drama touching upon the life and times of two “anti-heroes” whose words and writings made them public figures and public voices of those without voice (the sans voix). Produced and directed by the son of Michel Chartrand and Simonne Monet, it is less glorification of or homage to his parents than to the quiet courage and despair of the generation of parents who lived through the hard times of the Depression, the wars, the era of accelerated industrialization and urbanization, the implacable consumer society with in its wake a growing population of the dispossessed and the disempowered. Un gars, Une fille is another case altogether. This weekly half-hour sitcom of three nine-minute scripted sketches about a young thirtysomething, common-law urban couple – the guy owns a software consulting agency and the fille studies sexology at one of Montreal’s universities – has acquired a cult following since the end of La petite vie. What is particular is that this reputation is also established in countries such as Poland, Greece (a 33 market share and #1 in the ratings in the fourth week of broadcasting), Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal. In France, in March 2001, an adapted version – a daily six-minute capsule – has registered its 200th broadcast and won a unanimously favorable Parisian press review. The French version has also had some success in North and West Africa. In Quebec’s video stores and rentals, the 15 or so cassettes are a huge success. The double box cassette which came out during the Christmas season sold 150 000 copies. What is interesting is the export, not of the dubbed show, but of the concept. The author, Guy A. Lepage, “sells” the concept to other television networks. He keeps a tight control on production, casting and adaptation of his material during the takeoff stage. When the show is “on track”, is true to the original concept, he gradually transfers control to the importing network. France is the only country to have modified the basic concept, with the active collaboration of the author, to produce five six-minute scripted sketches (20% of which is original material) on a weekly basis. England’s bbc has bought an option on the concept and so has an American network. None of Canada’s English language networks, including cbc, has shown any interest in the concept, though they “love the show,” as one producer has reportedly said. Lepage had this comment on a recent radio interview: “There are two countries within the Canadian borders. English speaking Canadians will see a London or a Los Angeles production of Un gars, Une fille before any Toronto (cbc) production.” 23 Cultural: TV Indicators Perhaps as a consequence of the trend to industrial productions, English Canadian fiction offers Canadians a largely unrecognizable physical landscape. When the sample week of March 12-18, 2000 was analysed, just a third of programs showed an identifiably Canadian setting. To the contrary, and in keeping with tradition, French Canadian fiction is immediately recognizable in its physical landscape, its story line, its psychological makeup and sound tracks. The Eurofiction team has found unexpected structural similarities in temporal and spatial frames, environmental contexts and sex/gender representation in stories over the three years. Canadian English language drama in the sample week was overwhelmingly set in the present (78%). There was a sizable rural component, given the popularity of regional stories such as Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy or Eastern Canada’s Black Harbour, the latter reflecting the strength of local/regional drama from the Maritimes on cbc screens. Perhaps unlike its European counterpart, Canadian English drama appears to be reaching for apparent gender equity: female and male protagonists were virtually equal in number, and many group or ensemble casts struck a fairly even gender balance. Very few English dramas as yet feature solely female ensembles. Ethno-cultural diversity is still not as prevalent in english drama as population figures warrant in our major urban centres, representing a challenge for new writers and producers in reflecting their changing social milieus. Yet the industry stakeholders consulted for this study, acknowledge that imported ‘black’ realities from the fiction on US’s bet (Black Entertainment Network) do not resonate here. Indeed, shows like Drop the Beat are blazing a trail for the distinction of a Canadian hybrid hip-hop musical culture from the US one, and the South Asian or Chinese stories are still to be told. What is striking, but not surprising, is the relative representative balance in the French Canadian fiction: across the spectrum of dramas and sitcoms one finds a wide range of the features which characterize present Quebec. As Quebec is more and more interwoven, but in a more and more loose fashion, that is to say, less and less intertwined, so are the story lines of each fiction. More so, the story lines are more and more structurally intertextual. Here, a statistical counting of male/female roles, urban/rural settings, modern/historical time frames would not only cloud the complexity of the story lines but their basic intertextuality, which can only be apprehended if one considers the hypothesis that we are in the presence of a particular modern, urban, occidental popular culture which is recognizable by other urban popular cultures as being both similar and distinctive. 24 Conclusions Star Wars suggests that it is possible for indigenous programming to thrive despite proximity to the Hollywood entertainment machine. Language alone cannot explain the vibrancy of Quebec tv culture, and the reflexivity and healthy intertextual competition of modern life and fiction that we have seen. And a verdict of ‘failure’ is surely too simple for the English market, where blockbuster Movies of the Week and a distinctive comedic style meet the test of cultural proximity and cultural affinity. English viewers do like their brilliant supernovas of US shows – but there is undeniably a brightening constellation of mid- budget indigenous fiction attracting viewers. The challenge facing both markets is the diversification and specialisation of viewing. In Quebec, there are more projects in the making as channel capacity grows, and the risk is that, like English Canada, the same money will be spread more thinly and diverted away from drama. Quebec shows a trend to more short series, more sequels and more biographical series. In the search for more dollars, it may seek more export. In English Canada, the export sector is gaining ground, but the challenge will be to transform it from ‘mimetic’ placeless fantasy to grounded fictional landscapes which will be equally attractive to foreign financiers despite cyclical weakening in European demand. In suspense is the question whether extraordinary successes such as Un gars, Une fille from Quebec can “cross over” to English language Canadian galaxies before they break in London or L.A. Or if the biographical subjects framing strong women in hard times (Les Filles de Caleb, Dr. Lucille) can hurdle the dubbing barrier. The Canadian case, with its sharply distinctive markets, illustrates that constructing cultural practices – tv identity building – is a complex phenomenon in the global commons. A mixture of industrial innovation and leadership, state policy and a social movement that strikes an emotional chord is required. The energy and direction of that leadership may now be in flux: in Quebec, the important question is who will buy tqs; in English Canada, there is speculation that Alliance-Atlantis is in play; and the impact of the convergence of newspaper and broadcast sectors is still to be felt. Policy leaders are debating the direction of future deregulation, the sustainability of subsidy and rules concerning foreign ownership. English broadcasters are looking to the sophisticated social marketing techniques of their French counterparts to build their audiences: the subtitle of the first of the StarWars trilogy is, after all, “a new hope”. Current international discussions over free trade in audio-visual services will see if Canadian policies are viable, or if The Empire Strikes Back through American trade complaints to the wto. The series continues.
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