O Canada: A New Low in Crass Commerce

CSI - Manitoba Museum
Photo by Sam Posnick — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Of course it is more fun, and enlightening, to celebrate accomplishments in the field. However, every now and again, why not a smile from hearing about a new low — otherwise known as, “how could they possibly do that?”

This week’s smug story comes from Canada, courtesy of the company Alliance Atlantis Communications. The company manages 13 Canadian channels, including the History Television channel. Alliance is also the international distributor of the US television series, CSI. The issue is not dear Brutus in the stars, but in themselves.

Alliance has been running the CSI:NY series on their own History Channel. This troubled the executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, Maureen Parker, who questioned how the government could allow Alliance to apparently violate the channel’s license for the specific category of historical content.

How is the company to justify its programming decision? Obviously, it is not about ratings, popularity, or revenue. No, it’s about education, commentary, and service to the nation. According to the company, CSI “offers viewers a critically acclaimed look at forensic policing in post-9/11 New York City.” Oh.

Wait, it gets worse.

The company also stated that CSI:NY qualifies as a series appropriate for the History Channel because it is “set in a city that became synonymous with one of history’s most significant and notorious events, 9/11.”

I just knew the show had to be a tool for improving the understanding or our world, and building a better one at the same time.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission does not agree. In a remarkable step toward clarity - in and of itself a novelty for a government commission - the Commission replied: “The mere fact that the drama is set in a city which was victim to a significant historical event is not sufficient justification for broadcasting the program on a service that is mandated to be devoted to history programs.”

All is not lost, all is not negative. Think of the opportunities. The next time you have a grant to write in which you must most humbly justify the meaning and significance of your work, wouldn’t you like to have Alliance write the grant for you?

- Bill Reichblum

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