As a society, we want our politicians to be honest and candid. However, when one of our representatives is unusually forthright, he or she often gets criticized.
Consider, for instance, the case of Alberta’s culture minister.
Lindsay Blackett recently told an industry panel at the Banff World Television Festival that broadcasters aren’t picking up much Canadian content because much of it isn’t very good.
To quote the minister, some of the TV shows produced in this country are pure “crap.”
He also used a harsher word, but let’s not go down that road.
In any case, the industry might not have liked Blackett’s remarks, but it can hardly argue he is wrong.
To be blunt, from The Littlest Hobo to 21 Jump Street, this country has generated some remarkably bad television.
Sure, there are some Canadian gems.
Among Canadian comedies, for instance, CTV’s Dan for Mayor and CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie are pretty good.
Similarly, when it comes to information for consumers, there is probably no better source than the CBC’s Marketplace.
News magazine programming is a strength in Canada with CBC’s The Fifth Estate and CTV’s W-FIVE delivering some of the nation’s best investigative journalism.
However, when it comes to drama, Canada’s TV industry regular serves up some of the lamest shows on the boob tube.
Is there really a need for “The Next Generation” of Degrassi? Wasn’t the show ghastly enough when earlier versions of the program were called Degrassi Junior High and later, Degrassi High?
Similarly, isn’t Heartland just a dumbed-down, sappy version of Dallas? Sure, it might be suitable for kids who don’t have access to cable or satellite TV, but would you really want to spend your Sunday evening watching Heartland?
Just as all government spending must be subject to public and media scrutiny, so should funding for the arts – including TV.
And one really has to ask, should taxpayers be subsidizing private corporations?
As former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein once said, it’s time for government to get out of the business of being in business.
That means, the CBC deserves some level of funding, but private corporations should sink or swim on their own merits.
The Alberta government’s annual budget for film, television and digital production is apparently only $20 million.
That’s not a lot of money, but as Blackett has pointed out, it is a concern when a significant portion of that money is being spent on poor quality shows, some of which will never see the light of day.
In conclusion, good for Blackett for having the courage to speak the truth.
If the politically correct crowd want to slam him, then let them.
But Blackett appears to be the first Alberta cabinet minister in a long time with the courage to call it as he sees it, consequences be damned.
What was the name of the last guy who did that?
Oh yeah, it was Ralph.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.