The antiquated policy hampers Canada’s producers and creators too. Only productions that have been commissioned by CBC and our conventional ad-supported networks can receive CMF financing. As the 2019 Emmys so clearly demonstrate, the kinds of series that networks make aren’t the ones winning critical acclaim. Nor are they in high demand in the growing OTT market.
Emmy Best Comedy winner “Fleabag” is a great example of the kind of show Canada could make. The budget is modest. Phoebe Waller-Bridge — its creator and star — had little international profile before the show was made. She did, however, have a unique voice and distinct point of view.
In fact, Emmy nominations were dominated by this type of creator-driven series, including CBC’s “Schitt’s Creek.” These shows are great models for the Canadian industry if our goals include international recognition, critical acclaim and, most importantly, solidifying our position as a leading supplier to a market that is only going to get hotter.
Canada has the talent, the experience and the proximity to market to achieve these goals. We even have the funding. We just can’t access it to produce the kinds of series that are in demand by viewer-supported platforms.
In a paper I co-authored with Sean Speer of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, we propose a retooling of the CMF from broadcaster-driven to creator-driven in order to incubate and support new Canadian content for the global market. We believe a focus on the development and exploitation of Canadian intellectual property is an important step toward a self-sustaining industry.
The approach may have broad appeal. Creators and producers would welcome a policy that centres on content creation rather than broadcaster protection. Broadcasters would be happy to see Cancon requirements eased. Progressives would appreciate increased cultural funding while conservatives would be pleased to see subsidies decline over time as the industry moves toward self-sufficiency.
Audiences — otherwise known as taxpayers — may like the approach too. After all, they are already voting for creator-driven television when they pay subscription fees to Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like.
Jill Golick has more than 30 years experience as a television showrunner, writer and producer. She is the former president of the Writers Guild of Canada.
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