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CBC chief stands up to U.S. cultural swamping
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CBC chief stands up to U.S. cultural swamping

Written by
Heather Mallick
Published by
The Record
February 5th, 2019

Columnist says that Catherine Tait "had the nerve, the sheer audacity, to say out loud at an Ottawa television conference on Thursday that American cultural imperialism should not overwhelm us."

All hail CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait for fearlessly standing up for Canada at a parlous time when the American elephant thrashes and trumpets at the rest of the world. Go stomp on someone else was her message, and we should be proud.

Tait, who has spent her life in the Canadian broadcasting industry, had the nerve, the sheer audacity, to say out loud at an Ottawa television conference on Thursday that American cultural imperialism should not overwhelm us.

She singled out Netflix, a U.S. company telling American stories — some magnificent and some pure slurp — while saying that Canadians need to see their own drama, too. For that is Tait's mandate: "to continue to offer Canadians a broad spectrum of high-quality programming that informs, enlightens and entertains, and that is created by, for and about Canadians."

Stéphane Cardin, Netflix's director of public policy for Canada, was on the panel and said Netflix spent hundreds of millions of dollars on production in Canada, missing Tait's point that they're spent on American stories while Canadian ones are almost invisible. Americans have long used Canada as a faux American backdrop to save money.

For Americans, it's always about the money. But it isn't for us. It's more than that.

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Critics, invariably male, jumped on Tait's remarks, irate that the glorious Netflix avalanche they worship was even being compared to made-on-the-cheap CBC dramas.

These critics, admittedly mostly on Twitter, land of professional offence-takers, worried that Tait might have offended Netflix. How timid have we become?

Tait said the Americanization of our culture is as colonialist in its way as were the British in India or the French in African colonies. She's right. And critics attacked her for that, too, not realizing that they were proving the case against themselves by taking the American approach: loudly condemning someone for extrapolations made only by themselves.

Tait did not call Netflix CEO Reed Hastings a viceroy. Nor did she say that Netflix had subjected hundreds of millions of Canadians to a monthly Amritsar massacre of new content, or even forcing them to speak archaic Victorian English. Nor has Netflix redrawn borders and split the nation between fans of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs versus Orange is the New Black. (The true winner, of course, is Roma. Are we clear on that?)

She merely objected to Canadians always seeing themselves through American eyes.

© The Record

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