Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TV: to Tax, or Not to Tax?

There's been a lot of kerfuffle lately here in Canada over the proposed new Fee-For-Carriage laws. Some call it the TV Tax and cry "traitor"; others say it's just giving the local networks some extra funding that is long overdue. What it boils down to is that the networks want the cable and satellite companies to pay them for broadcasting their content, and the satellite and cable companies don't think they should have to pay, but say that if forced to pay they will simply pass the extra cost down to their customers by adding about $10 a month to the average cable or satellite bill.

What do I think? As an actor who watches television, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place. Of course, I am all for funding the local networks: I want to work, I don't want to have to move to do it, and without local networks filming here, where I live, that would be next to impossible. Additionally, providing funding for local networks to create good quality programming fits right in with my adage that to "buy local" is best: it creates jobs for people in my community, stimulates the economy in my community, and generally promotes a healthier local community for me to live and raise my kids in. And when you "buy local", it supports your community in the same way.

But as a viewer, a consumer of the medium in which I hope to make a decent paycheck someday, here's the awful truth: I don't watch much local television. There are only so many hours in the day, and when it comes down to it, I want to spend the two or three hours a week that I have watching something that is AWESOMEly good. The vast majority of local programming just does not light my fire. Additionally, in prime time, (which is when I have time to watch TV, because my kids are asleep and any work I'm doing is pretty much done for the day and I can finally relax for an hour or so), almost all of the local networks are not airing local programming. They're doubling up with the major US networks, airing US programming.

Here's what I'd like to see happen. I'd like CTV and Global and the other Canadian networks to be ordered to stop spending so much money on importing US programming. Anyone who pays for cable or satellite services gets all of the major US networks anyway, so it just amounts to the same show being aired on two or three or twelve channels at once. As a customer, this isn't a benefit, and it ticks me off. Make them spend the money on creating and promoting good quality, local television programming. If local TV were better, I'd watch it, and I bet a lot of other people would, too.

As for adding a little to my monthly bill, here's my two cents: asking me to pay more on my monthly cable bill when I'm not going to get anything other than I am getting now will send me to the internet for the vast amount of free content it provides. But if the Canadian networks stop broadcasting all the imported US content and have a whole lot of new Canadian shows to show for the extra money they'll be getting - if for my extra $5-10 a month I'm going to essentially get a bunch of additional programming - I'm okay with that.

Thanks for stopping by.

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