22/01/2009

Arpin Reflects CRTC's True Colours


The Globe & Mail’s John Doyle is certainly one of my favourite entertainment writers. I seldom miss what he has to say about the television industry, even if I don’t watch a great deal of television.

Today he writes about a small hornet’s nest stirred up by Michel Arpin, the Vice Chair of the Canadian-Radio and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC. Mr Arpin admitted in a year-end interview with Playback magazine that he pretty much only watches news and documentary programs. He said, “I’m not that interested in televised fiction or even feature films.”

Those comments, made by others might not mean much but, as John Doyle points out, Arpin has been one of the most influential people at the CRTC helping to decide how much drama and comedy has to be produced and aired on Canadian television.

Denis McGrath, a television writer, is outraged by Arpin’s statements and writes on his blog “I've see Arpin in action at CRTC hearings. All pursed lips and bristling skepticism, I saw him treat what he calls "the unions" with the air of an impatient parent hearing out the teenagers on the some newfangled trend in music or technology.”

There is no doubt that McGrath’s outrage is well placed but, from my perspective, why the surprise? Arpin is just one of a long line of CRTC board members who act much more like industry toadies than servants of the people, trying to serve the Canadian public. I have spent more time at the CRTC than I ever care to remember. The CRTC has failed Canadians year, after year, after year. At licence renewal time the television networks, time after time roll out flashy presentation, full of promise. Time after time they break those promises, once the renewal is granted.

The CRTC allowed the networks to starve their local stations for resources, drop almost all local programming, cut local news coverage back to next to nothing and reduce journalistic standards substantially. They have allowed the major networks to feed Canadians, crappy foreign programming in prime time and to pay little more than lip service to the Canadian Television production industry.

The airwaves belong to the Canadians people, not the industry. That statement should be predominant on the CRTC’s letter head. Unfortunately they forgot that fact, years ago.

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