By Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde and Claude Martin
Star Wars: Canadian TV Drama
By Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde and Claude Martin1
The Audio-Visual Landscape
Canadian broadcasting folklore has it that French language broadcasting is a success, English language
broadcasting a failure. The blame for that failure is laid on the geographic and cultural proximity to the
United States that leads to hyper-commercial star wars with the tv entertainment machine south of the
border. Conclusions about situational victories or routs are drawn from overall viewing trends, which
show that francophones spend the majority (some 76%) of their viewing time with indigenous programs
and the majority (some 72%) of English viewers’ time is spent with American entertainment.
This report argues that the “cultural proximity” principle cannot explain the relative health of Quebec
dramatic broadcasting or the relative fragility of English language Canadian tv, which has been much
studied by European scholars as a canary in the mine of globalization. Pictures of “success” underplay
both the rate of incursion of US programming and the role of social formations, managerial judgement
and creative leadership in Quebec in sustaining a viable alternative to US stars despite a small population.
The larger size or economies of scale of the English market are not sufficient to win the battle of supply
and viewing to big-budget US drama, in part due to structural characteristics. But there has been some
repatriation of audiences (albeit to new genres of programming which may be better translated into
broadband delivery), triumph of cultural proximity in news, sports and, increasingly, comedy, and some
isolated successes in drama, as the data will show.
Canada’s tv landscape has two distinct official linguistic markets, anglophone (23 million) and
francophone (7 million), with radically different contours to their media worlds. The natural linguistic
barrier insulating Quebec’s audio-visual landscape cannot alone explain intra-market