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Columnists

In defense of the CRTC

I recently found my way into a media and technology industry conference where I "accidentally" bumped into the chair of the CRTC, Konrad von Finckenstein, who was surprisingly charming. Our conversation couldn't have been more different from the experiences I've had at CRTC hearings, where commissioners bear down on you with condescending glares, like feudal lords against the backdrop of a row of flags, the CRTC logo hanging overhead in place of a medieval coat of arms.

Columnists

Maury Chaykin's irreplaceable madness

Maury Chaykin died this week on his 61st birthday. Some obits called him a character actor. It's basically a film-TV term -- where Maury mostly worked -- as opposed to star. Another term is supporting actor versus leading man. It's a shame he didn't do more stage work, where physical typing isn't as great. I once wrote a play on the Montreal Canadiens; a sports type who met the actor cast as Rocket Richard said, "You can't have a fat Rocket!" But you can and we did. Maury was a beautiful guy in his prime but not a typical movie lead; yet he'd have made a great Lear or Prospero. Asked by Jian Ghomeshi for a role he felt he'd nailed, Maury joked, "Hamlet," making you think it may have been on his wish list.

Lament for civility

One of the most acrimonious and unproductive political seasons in recent memory breaks for summer this week with calls from an influential Conservative for more "raw debate" and an end to stifling political correctness.

Kory Teneycke is former media chief for Stephen Harper. He is now vice-president of a fledgling all-news television network, Sun TV News, and is ready to take his talent for stinging invective to a larger stage -- and, his critics fear, to accelerate the trivialization of our politics.

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Columnists

Outstanding Emmy nominees signal a Great Leap Forward for television

Photo: King-of-Herrings/flickr

Flipping channels Monday night, I was amazed at what caught and held me. I stopped flipping for -- the Emmys! What the %&$#?@! I hate awards shows. I totally concede to the mavens who dismissed this year's Emmys compared to the Video Music Awards the night before on grounds of red carpet, performances and a dazzling ending with Beyoncé en famille.

What gripped me in the Emmys was the list of nominees (excluding categories like Outstanding Hairstyling in a Single Camera Miniseries). I don't even care who won. Winning is usually a lottery based on criteria like vote-splitting among other contenders and sentiment. (Breaking Bad was an inevitable winner because it ended this year.)

Photo: flickr/meesh
| July 11, 2014

Struggling for citizen control of community TV in Montreal

image: flickr/USB

A a not-for-profit organization is proposing to the CRTC that it, instead of Videotron, should manage community TV in Montreal. Videotron is one of Canada's four big cable and telecommunications companies. The Steering Committee for an Independent Community TV Channel (ICTV) for Montreal says that Videotron’s existing MAtv-branded 'community channel' fails to meet the conditions of its CRTC licence to "reflect the official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community."  The group’s complaint also argues that MAtv airs no programs made by the general public, and offers virtually no training in media production skills to the public.

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Columnists

What Mad Men can tell us about a bygone era of advertising

Mad Men starts its final season on Sunday. It's a victory lap for one of TV's most successful products. It's ironic (like the show) that its triumph happened on cable, which is the TV form not dependent on ads alone, and that it happens at a time of serious decline for advertising itself, which for over a century was the linchpin of the capitalist system.

At least that's Jeremy Rifkin's claim in his latest hosanna to the virtues of the Internet: The Zero Marginal Cost Society. Advertising belonged to a capital-heavy, hierarchical, vertically integrated era passing away, being replaced by a co-operative, horizontal, networked culture. So consumer reviews, directly accessed, supplant expensive ad campaigns from corporate HQs.

Worker deaths prompt call for better safety standards in unscripted TV sector

Photo: flickr/OiMax

Sarah Jones, a young camera assistant, died on the film set of "Midnight Ryder" in Georgia this year. My brother, John Driftmier, died while filming the Discovery Channel show "Dangerous Flights: Season 2" in February 2013. Two weeks before his death, a cast member, a cameraman and a pilot all died in a helicopter crash while filming an unnamed production for Discovery Channel in Acton, California.

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Disgraced Canadian politicians star in Alltime TV lineup

image: flickr/Kevin Simpson
Innovative TV startup Alltime capitalizes on on-demand trends and disgraced Canadian politicians to bring you pay-per-episode programming. Get ready to cancel your cable.

Related rabble.ca story:

Alltime TV unbundles cable, hires disgraced politicians

image: flickr/Kevin Simpson

Taking its cue from the continued popularity of On Demand services, an innovative startup called Alltime TV is launching a new set of programming for the watch-now, on-demand crowd. It's pay-per-episode cable, but that's not all this new broadcaster has got up its sleeve.

Alltime has taken the extraordinary step of hiring a number of Canada's embattled or disgraced politicians -- including Patrick Brazeau and the Ford brothers -- as political pundits, reality stars and actors in a move to capture the disgruntled cable viewers that make up much of Canada's television consumerscape.

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