Trying to paint himself as a supporter of the arts during this election campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton has accidentally demonstrated his contempt for Canadian artists with this election promise:
Mr. Layton promised that if elected Prime Minister, he will use the CRTC (the government tool used to reign in radio and TV stations in Canada and ensure their content is appropriately censored) to force all TV networks to only show ‘Canadian content with Canadian actors’ during prime time viewing hours. (I could not find the audio clip of when I heard him speak – the link above is to an article reporting it….but the article had watered down his statement. If you find the clip, please, let me know and I will edit the post to insert it here. Thanks.)
What is this man thinking?
Yes, some say this is a mute point, as he will never win enough votes to be the next Prime Minister (even as a leader of a coalition, which he seems to be striving for now) – but his very suggestion normalizes this type of action and makes it seem less extreme the next time someone suggests it. And I don’t like it.
Aside from this being a terrible insult to Canadian artists (the ‘soft’ or ‘condescending’ type or ‘snobby prejudice’ – “they are so pathetic, without MY help here to eliminate all their competition, they could never make it on THEIR merits…..because they have NONE!”), he also made a call to heavily fund these ‘artists’. Let’s follow the chain of consequnces here. Step by step…
- Government subsidizes (pays for) ‘Canadian art’
- The government, of course, has to be ‘accountable’ for this spending, and so must select what bits of ‘Canadian art’ are actually worthy of being paid for
- Government forces the privately owned TV networks to show nothing but the ‘Canadian arts content’ during prime time TV viewing hours
- In order to be eligible for this ‘Canadian content’ (and thus eligible to be broadcast during these crucial-for-survival time slots), the ‘Canadian art’ will have to be certified as such by the government’s very own agency, CRTC
In effect, the government pays for the ‘Canadian art’ it first approves, then forces the TV networks to only show the bits it approves of the most. Thus, the government has 100% control over what we get to watch! (During prime time only, of course…)
HOW could any artist in Canada stand for this type of subjugation?
This turns every artists who would qualify for the label ‘Canadian content’ to be, in effect, a civil servant! We have seen in the past Canadian hockey teams, starring Canadian athletes, in a Canadian sports league, be refused (by CRTC) the label ‘Canadian content’ on the grounds that ‘sports’ did not qualify (perhaps because people like to watch sports….and it is hard to slip in ‘approved social messaging’ into a hockey game ‘dialogue’…)
The only ‘art’ we would be allowed to watch would be produced by ‘de facto’ civil servants!
And we have seen what has happened to our doctors, when THEY were turned into ‘de facto’ civil servants: the government, through various means, attempts to deny them even the freedom to act according to their conscience! Frankly, I don’t think the government is wrong to demand that its employees/contractors provide all the services the government pays them to – the problem is that doctors should never have been made into government employees/contractors in the first place.
And nor should artists!