Petri Dish TV - A Variety of Culture
...with English Language Network TV
I haven't heard it recently, but in the past in Canada there was often discussion about how so much TV we got here was American and that it was diluting any difference there was between American and Canadian Culture. At the time many people were under the impression that there really wasn't any distinct Canadian Culture.
I think perhaps in a sense the were right.
Canada is a very large and diverse country even if its population is not huge in the global scheme of things. However there are many different distinct cultures in Canada even if you look beyond the "Distinct Society" that Quebec wishes to hold franchise on. But looking beyond the salad bar* of cultures making up Canada - meaning the mix and unmix of cultures which have immigrated into Canada from other nations - there are distinctions from your more typical equivalent American populations.
I am not wishing to get into the differences, but they are more evident now to many people in Canada that we are not just American "wanabes". There are many similarities beyond language for sure, but many important differences, even if to some perhaps subtle. The important thing is that there are differences just as there are between Canadians, Americans, British, Australian, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, New Zealander, and other populations of English speaking people.
The more I watch TV originating from the different English speaking countries the more I see this and the more I think I see reason to look at what might happen if one country or another dominate a communication industry especially in entertainment.
I am not sure how it is to live in other countries, but here in Canada a large amount of our Network Television comes from the US. It is there and convenient and has been since before the great satellite dishes were the norm for cable companies to draw down their signals with. Most Canadian city cable companies could just point a big antenna down towards a half way major American city near the border and pick up a few network affiliates. In fact in a number of cities in Canada you merely need a good antenna and you can pick the broadcasts up directly.
There was much debate and discussion on how this harmed the Canadian Television Industry and that the danger of this was the loss of Canadian Culture -- what I was mentioning earlier. This was during the 60's and 70's in particular, but into the 80's as well.
I was young and naive, but I had a solution that I thought was pretty simple. Instead of working on ways to limit access to American television content or financial incentives to Canadian networks -- I thought, why not encourage the cable companies to include networks from other English speaking countries as well. I came up with this idea watching a British TV Police Drama series called "Dempsey and Makepeace" (image to left -- from Luisa's page of Dempsey & Makepeace) from the mid-1980s which I found very interesting because the stereotypes used were so different from the ones you found in American Police Dramas.
I could recognize them as stereotypes to be sure, but they were not your typical American ones and that was novel and refreshing and made me think that if you had more British TV coming into Canada as well as the American, they would perhaps create some balance. I then wondered what of the other English speaking countries? Surely Australia had its own television industry that was at least as strong as Canada's. What if English speaking networks from all over the world could be brought in?
Now true there would be difficulties in bringing them in live because of timezone differences, but they could be delayed broadcasts. I wondered what other networks were about.
Perhaps in the 80's it would have been more difficult to manage the time delay on so many network feeds and the cost of the satellite signals prohibitive, but I think we are getting closer and closer to where it is possible and probable as well as perhaps being healthy.
One issue might be fears that it would endanger the Canadian Television Industry, but with the increase in competition -- something already happening with cable networks and the Internet -- there also at the very same time is a greatly increased market if the quality of the Canadian product is high so that others would be interested. I think that it can be and is.
I just finished watching a few seasons of "Torchwood" "Life on Mars"(original BBC programme) (image to left -- image from Wickipedia) and "Primeval" from BBC and loved it. I know there are Canadian productions that are popular in the US albeit on Cable networks -- though some make it to networks I believe. I think I have seen a bit of Australian programming and wonder what comes from the countries which while not English have large English speaking populations.
Perhaps it might not preserve a "Canadian Culture" or "Canadian Cultures", but maybe just thinking it would be worth while is very Canadian?
*Canada as a "salad bar" rather than melting pot or mosaic was something that came up in a dear friend's anthropology course - is was anthropology... or was it sociology?
If you want to explore here are some Wikipedia Links for TV Networks in Countries that have substantial English Speaking populations (not inclusive):