EuroCanadianFiction by StarBoy


									By Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde and Claude Martin

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 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”.

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

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
                                                          viewing in the broadcast system. Table 1 illustrates that Canadian
 Conventional                                   48%       conventional channels draw 48% of viewing time in the English
                                                          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.


Viewing of conventional channels is higher in the French language                                          US
                                                                                                                French Language Market
market (76%) as seen in Table 1, compared to 3% for their US                                  US           Conventional
                                                                                                                           6%            Canadian
competitors. Canadian specialty channels with 14% are far ahead of                            Specialty

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

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
                                                          offered 34% of the English programming available but attracted
50                                  48%                   almost half of viewing. This compares to 38% of hours available from

                                                          US conventional stations, which attracted only 10% of viewing.
                                                          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

                                                          for the remaining 9%.


            Supply                  Viewing

By contrast, French language conventional stations offered 81% of the                                                                 Canadian Conventional Stations
French programming available and attracted an equivalent share of                                                                             French Language


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 %





                                                                                                                                     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”.

        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

                                 63%      linguistic variation. Only one-third of English programs available
                                          were Canadian, contrasted to three-quarters of French. Viewing
                                          follows supply: fully two-thirds of viewing time among francophones
                                          is to Canadian programs, compared to just 28% for anglophones. The
 30%    28%                               latter has increased 3 percentage points since Fall 1993, according to
                                          Statistics Canada, albeit remaining within the 40-year range. This
                                          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.

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).

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

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

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

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++

                                  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

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

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

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

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

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
 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
 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

                        Table 5. Supply of French Drama and Comedy by Network (con’t)
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
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

                                   Table 5. Supply of French Drama and Comedy by Network (con’t)
 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
 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
 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
 Les aventures de Shirley                   12h30                     60                 Drama                   TQ    Repeat        1
 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

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.

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

•   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

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






        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

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.

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.

“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.

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

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.”

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.

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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