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Raising the not-so-simple question of television in Canada

By Jeanne d’Arc Umurungi

Yesterday, I watched both the French and English presentations as CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais launched the Let’s Talk TV / Parlons télé consultations on television with Canadians.

From the Université Laval webcast and the comments by Blais himself as well as Professor Florian Sauvageau who introduced him, it seemed there was just as a good an attendance at the morning session in the city of Québec as there was at the English event in Toronto moderated by Ryerson University’s Professor Charles Falzon later in the day.

But no matter how straightforward the questions the Commission is putting to Canadians, I came away from the two launch sessions with the sense that television is far from a simple matter in this country.

What do you think about what’s on television? What do you think about how you receive television programming? Do you have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if you’re not satisfied?

Those are the questions the CRTC wants to hear Canadians on for the next month; reports from “flash conferences” will be accepted until January 10.

But one thing was clear from the audience comments and from remarks by the two moderators:  the topic of television here – and who knows, maybe everywhere else as well – is a complex one with layers and layers of uneasy questions around Canadian identity, creative concerns, technological advances, access, cost, ownership, individual experience, not to mention – as chairman Blais emphasized – regulation.

And you can add to that the need to figure out how relevant the historical concerns around Canadian-ness as outlined by professor Sauvageau that gave rise to the creation of the CRTC and the Canada’s Broadcasting Act remain true today.

Audience members asked stimulating questions about content, Canadian content in particular: Had our broadcast system focused sufficiently on content and specifically on Canadian content? How would those questions feature in these consultations?

We also can never lose sight of the people who work in the television industry – 60,000 according to Blais. What is the future of Canadian TV from that perspective?

At the end of the two launch sessions, I had two questions of my own: similar to one of the questions the CRT is asking us, I wondered a) if we as citizens have enough information to contribute fully to this conversation, and b) whether there is a place (CRTC?) we can go to get the clarifications we need as we think through the possibilities of our airwaves.

Either way, Canadians have a month to weigh in individually and until January 10 to submit “flash conference” reports; a formal consultation will be launched in the spring followed by a CRTC hearing in the fall of 2014.

Will you speak up? How do you define your interest in this consultation?

Jeanne d’Arc Umurungi is the director of communications for CMG.



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