The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

From the Grave

Posted by Matt on November 14, 2009

Here’s an interesting idea. Note, that I couldn’t care less about Joss Whedon; even so, the concept presented is intriguing.

You know, I’ve been involved with the Canadian TV fooferah (seriously, go read this place for all the insight on that) in both an indirect and direct way now. First, it was because, as an aspiring writer, I like to know that I have avenues open in different fields where I can apply my skills (TV scripting would probably be one of the easier jobs I could get into, all things considered, all though that’s not exactly reassuring if actual TV writers are to be believed); and now I have had it affect people related to me. I know from my browsing that there are people fighting for opportunities for people like me, and I really appreciate that. But it seems like a losing battle.

No matter how much money can be pumped into ‘local TV funds’, the CRTC has unfortunately created a few unstable monsters who really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about local TV, whether that is the barely-funded news for small communities or shows made by Canadians in Canada. Canwest and CTVglobe have been allowed to spend the last few years buying up nearly every piece of media real estate in the country; and now that they are in critical condition, they can have whatever they want, because they are essentially holding all those smaller TV stations they’ve inadvertently bought hostage. Any attempt to force them to pay their dues to society will likely lead them to slowly and painfully bleed small community television. If either of them were to go out completely (and especially in Canwest’s case, that’s a hell of a lot more of a possibility now), that’s a whole slew of stations blacked out instantaneously. And this situation is what allows them to try to pull shit like this.

I’m sure those who are in the industry know more about what can be done than I do, but as I see it, we have a few options to help improve things. One, the CRTC could try to encourage more companies to come in and attempt to stifle the country’s media monopoly problems (one was going to buy Brandon station as well as a few other CTV stations in a similar situation, but backed out at the last minute for various regulatory-related reasons). Two, The CRTC could gamble it all and try to get CTV and Global to comply and use those golden carriage fees as a bargaining chip. I’m not sure how likely it would be that either one would work.

There is another option, but I’m not sure it’s the one the Writer’s Guild is particularly interested in right now (but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do have it for future consideration), that being the proposal being given to Whedon in the above editorial. Instead of struggling with the networks, whether it is to keep your show on the air or to get a show on the air at all, it’s time to look away from television and look to the Internet and On-Demand services for your show. As noted by Mr. Faraci in the article, those type of platforms could zone on the particular crowds you might be aiming at, so creators no longer need to worry about compromising their idea for the sake of the mass audience (this could be a good or bad thing, though), ratings, or even advertisers. No more problems with networks sabotaging their own shows with bad scheduling (I’m more talking about stuff like Futurama with that, although I fully recognize that Whedonites have a similar persecution complex). In the end, no more having to deal with a group of media dinosaurs who grasp at straws as their profits dwindle. Canadians can make Canadian shows for Canadians, or for anyone who might be interested.

As noted, Whedon of all people has an immediate advantage in this area, having both a loyal fanbase and a proven success in online media (in Dr. Horrible). Someone like that should lead the charge, because if possible investors see that the new media can be profitable from an established (albeit, in a cult way) player, they might be willing to follow along and let the rest of us make our own pitches. We’d have to deal with a smaller budget than we might have got in a mainstream format (but really, considering how most shows on TV get shafted money-wise, that’s not much of a loss), but we’d get to work on what we wanted, and that would be worth it in the end, wouldn’t it?

This possibility for me seems all the more palpable because I’ve already thought about it in other media. For example, I do want to write comics as well, but I know that it would be nearly impossible for me to break into the industry as it is, nor would it be particularly smart to try considering the rotten condition it is in. So, I do what the future looks to support: going online. If I want to make money from it, there is a model that works (I mean, look how successful the Penny Arcade guys have become), and I don’t have to go through a publisher.

Of course, this is an idea that doesn’t help the aforementioned problem industry at all. Most of the people fighting for more Canadian drama just want to work on something at all, and don’t care about the level of creative control (or, at least, they don’t care about having COMPLETE creative control, as they usually work with others) or advancing the new media or most the advantages I’ve mentioned. This is an idea that primarily promotes the guys who want to make their own thing, not just work in an industry. That’s perfectly fine. I would be content in either situation. However, it is nice to see that their is a possibility of innovation if the fighting with the corporate behemoth doesn’t pan out.

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