Pair of profs discuss HDTV in Canada

Canadian television is floundering while trying to keep up with its American counterpart, say two University of Calgary professors.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently announced plans to revamp the Canadian television industry to keep up with the introduction of high definition technology. While American regulatory bodies have vowed to convert all television to HD by 2009, the CRTC has not set goals for when the change will be complete in Canada.

Canadian networks are wary about the possible economic consequences to the industry with the introduction of HDTV in the States and many experts question the CRTC’s priorities when it comes to changing what Canadians are viewing.

“Regulation hasn’t kept up with Canada as a nation,” said communication and culture professor Dr. Bart Beaty. “With the use of HD personal video recorders, no one has to watch commercials anymore. This cuts into the Canadian advertisement base.”

Currently, about four per cent of the Canadian population has HDTV-capable televisions and subscribes to HD channels, but high costs may bar many from getting the clearer picture HD claims to have.

Beaty said the CRTC is misguided in its interest in HD and blinded to many other issues like content and network capability.

“The system rewards networks for taking American shows rather than producing their own,” said Beaty. “Why try to do a better job if it costs more?”

Beaty and fellow COMS professor Dr. Rebecca Sullivan recently co-authored a book called Canadian Television Today detailing the state of Canada’s television industry. The book deals with regulation, programming, content and the impact of new technologies.

“We’re trying to see things with three lenses to give us an overview of the status and perception of Canadian television,” explained Sullivan.

Beaty and Sullivan worry a strong desire for American TV is closing the country off to many good channels and programs.

“We have too many American TV shows coming into Canada–they’re like crack to us,” said Beaty. “Why don’t we have more international networks? Canada always claims to be a great multicultural nation and we should have TV that reflects that.”

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