Canadian Broadcasting and Multiculturalism: Attempts to Accommodate Ethnic Minorities

Eric Thomas (Concordia University)

Abstract: This article proposes a framework for the analysis of the role of ethnic minorities in Canadian broadcasting. It takes into consideration the intersection of American, English-Canadian, and French-Canadian television output, as well as the divergent underlying cultural and linguistic policies of the Canadian and Quebec governments.

Résumé: Cet article présente un cadre pour l'analyse du rôle des minorités ethniques dans la radiodiffusion canadienne. Ce cadre tient compte de l'intersection des émissions télévisées américaines, canadiennes anglaises et canadiennes françaises, ainsi que des divergences dans les politiques culturelles et linguistiques sous-jacentes des gouvernements du Canada et du Québec.

While there seems to be a growing acknowledgment of the fact that Canadian society is comprised of a variety of people from different ethnic, cultural, and racial origins (presently, over one out of three Canadians is of ancestry other than British or French), various studies have established that this demographic reality is ill represented in the Canadian broadcasting system (Erin Research, 1987; Generations Research, 1988; Thomas & Taddeo, 1989). This lack of representation is found both in terms of the personnel within the industry and in the depictions created for the screen.

The major thrust of broadcasting policy in this country, in fact, its official raison d'être, is to foster a sense of nationhood capable of limiting the pull of continentalism and American economic, cultural, social, and political influences. Of course, such a statement must be tempered, for, in practice, broadcasting in Canada has gone a long way in favouring a North-South link at the expense of indigenous cultural expression. Broadcasting policy also represented contention over the ontology of the Nation itself: "From its earliest days, broadcasting in Canada has been one of the privileged arenas of struggle over conflicting and competing notions of Canadian society, the Canadian nation, and the Canadian public" (Raboy, 1990, p. xii). These two factors, offsetting continentalism and the Ottawa-Quebec struggle for control over broadcasting and cultural policy, have tended to deflect another vital issue in Canadian broadcasting, i.e., the meeting of the needs and expectations of ethnic and racial minorities.

Most of the literature on Canadian broadcasting has neglected this issue. Academics in the field often indicate to their readers that their work deals either with broadcasting in English Canada, or with French broadcasting in Quebec, but rarely with both. And when the two are considered concurrently, ethnic and racial minorities very rarely enter the picture. This article focuses on the intersection of English-Canadian broadcasting, French-language broadcasting, and U.S. television programs and the role of ethnic and racial minorities. The latter will be emphasized inasmuch as it can be understood in the context of the examination of the former.

In the process of understanding the role of ethnic and racial minorities in Canadian broadcasting, as well as the various impediments to greater access and representation within, one must map out the historical unfolding that lead to such a situation. As Abele & Stasiulis put it: "the categories of `race' and `ethnicity' are themselves socially constructed and historically variable" (1989, p. 242). Unfortunately, they also point out that Canadian political economy has all too often evolved around analyses stemming from the ideological construct of a "White Settler Colony." These analyses mask the contribution and the struggle of non-British and non-French immigrants as well as denying "centuries of human experience and the aggression against Native societies by European economic and political interests. They also limit our capacity to understand Canadian development" (1989, p. 156). It is hoped that by bringing into light the past policies and practices that served as the building blocks for present cultural policies, one will better understand the contribution of racial and ethnic minorities in Canadian society as well as the challenges they currently face. Furthermore, such an analysis is indispensable in the process of establishing a set of coherent, equitable, and practical policies in regard to ethnic and racial minorities and broadcasting. The past, when stripped of the rhetoric and the myths, can ultimately pave the way for the challenges of the present and the future.

Technology and Nationhood: The "National Policy" as the Model for Canadian Broadcasting

There exists a definite connection between the construction of the railroad and Canadian broadcasting. In both instances, technology was used in an attempt to forge a nation into being. In the case of the railroad, lumber, and steel were used to physically as well as politically and economically stitch the country together. The official discourse surrounding and nourishing the development of both of these systems is strikingly similar, as evidenced in Maurice Charland's "Technological Nationalism" (1986). The twofold strategy reflected in this discourse was that of binding the country together by establishing an East-West link while at the same time creating a barrier to U.S. economic, political, and cultural influences. Furthermore, the development of these systems and the discourse of technological nationalism permitted the legitimation of state power.

As a form of myth, technological nationalism conceals more than it reveals: "the rhetoric of technological nationalism is insidious, for it ties a Canadian identity not to its people, but to their mediation through technology" (Charland, 1986, p. 197). The persistence of this myth is surprising when one concretely evaluates the role of broadcasting in fostering a sense of national identity. Despite the discourse, the policy decisions and various legislations, broadcasting in Canada has in effect laid down the tracks for the locomotives of American cultural industries: "Canada as a nation persists despite, not because of, communication media" (Babe, 1990, p. 7).

If the railroad served as the model for the development of broadcasting, the question that must now be addressed is why did the State turn to the railroad as a key instrument in the process of creating a nation? One must remember that the railroad was one of the elements of what was called the National Policy. The other two elements, as Craig Brown (1966) explains, were tariffs and immigration. The answer can be found in the very diversity of this country:

Appeals to a common language, a common cultural tradition or a common religion were simply impossible for Canadians and when they were attempted they were rightly regarded by French Canadians as a violation of their understanding of Confederation. Most Canadians, especially those who built or paid for the building of the transcontinental railways, argued that the Canadian nation would have to be built in spite of its geography and regarded their efforts as "the price of being Canadian." Appeals to national history could also be a divisive rather than a unifying factor for, as often as not, the two ethnic groups disagreed as to what, in their historical tradition, was a matter of pride or of humiliation. What was necessary then, as Cartier put it in the Confederation debates, was to "form a political nationality." And it is not surprising that the political nationalism of the early decades of Confederation was expressed in terms of railways and tariffs. (Brown, 1966, pp. 161-162; my emphasis)

This rather lengthy quotation is extremely significant for it points directly to the origin of the myth of technological nationalism. Brown underscores the fact that there was a deliberate political attempt to unite this country by masking the various differences of the living cultures of the country's inhabitants, i.e., language, cultural tradition, religion, and sense of history. As an alternative, the State offered itself (the Canadian Parliamentary tradition), along with technology (the railroad) and economics (tariffs) as the basis for unity through Cartier's "political nationality." From the outset, culture, and especially cultural differences, were evacuated in the process of fostering a national identity. The repercussions of this political choice are still with us today:

It is noteworthy that in the Anglophone discussion of their attitude toward the Québécois and their problem there is seldom if ever recognition of the difference between a country and a nation. Canada is indisputably a country. But it houses two nations and the numerically larger one denies the existence of the smaller and is more closely connected with the United States than it is with the Québécois. (Smythe, 1981, p. 291)

It was mentioned earlier that immigration was also a component of the National Policy. But once again, the interest was not in the people themselves but rather in their use as a resource. In the thrust of claiming political sovereignty of the Northwest, this space had to be occupied and immigration was the solution. One should also add that the inhuman exploitation of thousands of Chinese immigrants allowed for the building of the transcontinental railroad. This exploitation was accompanied by a special head tax on Chinese immigrants and a racist legislation, the Chinese Immigration Act. This marked the beginning of a series of racist immigration legislations and policies that lasted up to 1962:

The main effort and achievement of Mrs. Fairclough's ministry were the 1962 immigration regulations which removed racial discrimination as the major feature of Canada's immigration policy, retaining only one privilege for European over most non-European immigrants--the sponsoring of a wider range of relatives. (Hawkins, 1972, p. 125)

Another ramification of the National Policy was the taking of the land, and the displacement, of the country's Aboriginal peoples. Furthermore, Parliament's final budget appropriation to the C.P.R. for the finalization of the transcontinental railroad was spurred by the decision to use the railroad as a means to transport troops to quell the Riel rebellion. Evidently, while culture was evacuated from the National Policy, cultural hegemony was not.

Perhaps a further illustration of immigration conceived of as simply another resource is found in the fact that immigration policy was entrusted up to 1949 to the Department of Mines and Resources:

They decided that it was a logical procedure to separate natural from human resources and to put human resources, i.e., immigrants and Indians, under one department, together with the Citizenship Registration Branch and the Citizenship Branch of the Department of the Secretary of State. They had a feeling also that a certain dignity and sense of equal status for all would be implied in this arrangement. (Hawkins, 1972, p. 95)

As Hawkins points out, Indians were not happy to be equated with immigrants, while immigrants were reluctant to be associated with Indians.

Despite the constraints of technological nationalism and its tendency to mask cultural differences, a broadcasting tradition in this country was able to evolve outside its dictates. The following section will examine broadcasting in Quebec and its relation to cultural nationalism, as opposed to technological nationalism.

Culture in the Debate and the Debate Within Cultures

Despite the lack of official recognition, to use terms that are now in vogue, Quebec is a "distinct society" and this distinctiveness is a "sociological reality." This distinction is reflected in Quebec broadcasting: "Generalizations about the broadcasting system, we discovered over and over again, have really been about English-speaking television. There is also a world of difference between broadcasting inside and outside Quebec, and our Report attempts to reflect this signal fact" (Task Force on Broadcasting Policy, 1986, p. 692). As we shall see, broadcasting in Quebec played an important role in both reflecting and moulding the nature of this distinctiveness.

It is interesting to note that the first broadcasting act in the country was drafted by the Quebec Government in 1929, the very same year that the Aird Commission submitted its Report and three years before Ottawa passed its first Broadcasting Act creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, CRBC. The Quebec law, which died on the Order Paper, was a clear attempt by the provincial government to establish sovereignty over broadcasting, given the medium's cultural and educational potential. This situation led to a court challenge, The Radio Reference Case, in which the Supreme Court decided, in 1931, that broadcasting was under federal jurisdiction. This decision was appealed, but upheld by the London Privy Council in 1932, paving the way for the establishment of the CRBC the very same year.

The Federal Government's successful attempt to gain sole control over broadcasting went against the recommendations of the Aird Commission: "...provincial authorities should have full control over the programs of the station or stations in their respective areas" (Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, 1929, p. 12). The proposed division of power between the federal and provincial governments would have led to a broadcasting system very different from one based on the railroad model: firstly, Aird recognized the educational value of broadcasting, an element clearly under provincial jurisdiction; secondly, his recommendations were based on the programming aspect of the system rather than on the technological component; and thirdly, stemming from the previous two elements, Aird's vision of the Canadian broadcasting system proposed decentralization rather than the highly centralized version adopted by the Federal Government.

Quebec would further seek to establish its control over broadcasting through legislative measures in 1945. This new act would later be used as the basis for the creation of Radio-Québec in 1969, the provincial educational television network. This would mark Quebec's only victory over the technological component of the broadcasting system. The last attempt ended in defeat when the Supreme Court of Canada, in its 1977 decision, Capital Cities Communications Inc. v. CRTC, placed cable television under federal jurisdiction. Prior to this decision, cable television undertakings in Quebec were forced to hold two licenses: one issued by the CRTC and one granted by the Quebec Régie des services publics. The provinces had now used up all legal avenues and their claim that cable television systems were "intra-provincial undertakings" was clearly refuted. This marked the end of the very lengthy "Cable War" opposing Ottawa and the provinces.

In the light of the negation of provincial authority to control and regulate broadcasting infrastructures, alternative solutions were devised by Quebec that emphasized a "software" or content approach to communications rather than the "hardware" or technological approach that characterized Ottawa's intervention in the field. Accordingly, Quebec established various institutions, agencies, and programs that would effect the content of communications rather than the technology: the creation of the Quebec Department of Communications; the setting-up of communications departments in Quebec universities; and the development of the "Programme d`aide aux médias communautaires" which financed the formation and maintenance of autonomous community radio and television corporations.

But the full impact of what can be referred to as Quebec "cultural nationalism" in the broadcasting media did not come solely from Quebec Government intervention, although such intervention did promote certain media practices and traditions peculiar to Quebec, but also through the programming aspect of the federally funded and regulated broadcasting system: "from the start, the CBC was a ground for struggle between Anglophones and Francophones over cultural policy" (Smythe, 1981, p. 290). Quebec artists, writers, directors, actors, journalists, and intellectuals played a pivotal role in the process of fostering a sense of national identity. There was a certain dynamic relation between the programming output and the Quebec viewing audience:

During these years, television enabled Quebec to suddenly recognize itself as a complete entity, one desirous of development. Television was not merely an information instrument, but rather the core of a new cultural recognition, of a national identity, one which was finally urban, modern and integrated by something other than the clergy's call back to order towards peasantry. (Desaulniers, 1985, p. 30. My translation)

The Quebec difference in broadcasting had been recognized, but not acted upon, in the 1970 Senate study of the mass media: "The traditions, the audience preferences, the mythologies, the economics of publishing and broadcasting--all are shaped by the French Fact, to the extent that the province cannot be viewed as simply as part of the Canadian Whole" (Special Senate Committee on the Mass Media, 1970, p. 95). The Task Force on Broadcasting Policy went further in its recognition of the particularities of Quebec broadcasting by offering concrete recommendations in the hope of preserving many of its distinct attributes. The strange paradox is that French-language broadcasting had been accused under the Trudeau era of fostering nationalism, which of course was the initial mandate of Canadian broadcasting. The problem for those bent on a highly centralized vision of Canada was that this nationalism was not theirs.

If broadcasting in Canada was supposed to "become a great force in fostering a national spirit and interpreting national citizenship" (Aird, 1929, p. 6), with a special emphasis on the CBC to "contribute to the development of national unity and provide for a continuing expression of Canadian identity" (Broadcasting Act, 1968), it would have to play a substantial role in presenting and interpreting the various regional realities to Canadians. Implicit in this conception is the notion of exchange or flow of information among the various regions. As Brian Stewart (1983) pointed out, Transactional theory, as developed by Karl Deutsch (1964), can shed some light on the use of broadcasting as an instrument of national unity. Simply stated, Transactional theory purports that the density of flow of information among groups is an indication of relative group cohesiveness.

A study conducted by Arthur Siegel (1977) determined that 17.2% of Canadian news aired on CBC dealt with Quebec compared to 55.2% for Radio-Canada. Furthermore, only about 15% of news stories were common to both French and English newscasts. This strong emphasis on Quebec-related stories in French-language television was corroborated in another study led by Desaulniers & Sohet (1980). The tendency to centre news coverage on issues relating to Quebec was found in Radio-Canada as well as TVA, the French-language private television network.

If such is the case with news, what about television programming in general? Is there a flow of television programs between English-language and French-language broadcasting? A more recent content analysis (Thomas & Taddeo, 1989) of a one week sample of prime time television aired on the six television networks operating in Montreal concluded that English-language and French-language television formed two mutually exclusive systems. With the exception of local newscasts, almost all the Canadian programs aired on CBC and CTV were produced outside Quebec, while only one Canadian program aired on the four French networks was produced outside Quebec.

There appears to be serious flow problems between English Canada and the Québécois. Yet another paradox, the common ground shared by both groups appears to be the importation of American television drama. The Québécois, for the most part, seem to be involved in a form of dialogue among themselves, with eavesdropping on the United States, while English Canada listens captively to the monologue flowing from the South. This is avowedly an oversimplification, one inherent to the Transactional model, but it nevertheless reveals some of the serious shortcomings of a communication system whose very stated purpose was to allow for a dialogue among Canadians.

This situation is particularly troublesome when one considers that English-Canadian drama represents 2% of broadcast time and 2% of viewing time as compared with 10% of broadcast time and 20% of viewing time for Québécois productions. "English Canadians, in other words, are virtual strangers in television's land of the imagination" (Task Force on Broadcasting Policy, 1986, p. 81).

Broadcasting and Cultural Policies

It was earlier stated that broadcasting represents a site of struggle over cultural policy, and, by extension, over competing conceptions of the nation. Despite the fact that in the 1968 Broadcasting Act, the Canadian broadcasting system is identified as a "single system" comprised of public and private elements, it is in fact two systems, divided along linguistic lines with different publics, different traditions, and reflecting different forms of nationalism.

In order to understand the official cultural space open to ethnic and racial minorities in both of these broadcasting systems, one has to underscore the other significant aspects of cultural policies that are related to broadcasting, i.e., language and immigration policies at the Federal and Quebec Government levels. As we shall see, these diverging policies frame what is expected of ethnic minorities.

While we are by now well accustomed to think of Canada as a bilingual country, despite the growing accusations that it is a waste of money and effort, bilingualism itself is a relatively recent policy in this country's history.

Recognition of the cultural identity of the Québécois only became evident during and after World War II, and then only in idealist tokenism--bilingual currency and ration books, official bilinguality in Parliament, and in the period of Trudeau's attempt to head off separatism after 1968, bilingualism in the federal administrative bureaucracy. (Smythe, 1981, p. 289)

The first in a series of language legislations in Quebec, Bill 63, was adopted in 1969. This law was strengthened in 1974 with Bill 22 that declared French the official language of Quebec. This law imposed certain restrictions towards access to English schools. With the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, a new language act was adopted, Bill 101. With the passing of this act in 1977, the loopholes found in the prior legislation were plugged. French became not only the official language in the province, but also the language of education of newly arrived immigrants.

One of the threats to the survival of the French language in Quebec prior to language legislation was the polarisation of ethnic minorities towards English. The basis for this polarisation was economic: English was the language of business and, consequently, the language of success in the province and in the rest of the country.

Paul Cappon (1974), in his study of conflict between Quebecers and Neo-Quebecers, highlighted the role of economic factors in the process of integration of Neo-Quebecers into the Anglophone community. As he explains, economic factors bring about socio-cultural consequences which, in turn, produce other effects that are independent of the initial economic factors. As such, Neo-Quebecers integrated into the Anglophone community in search of adequate employment opportunities and social mobility, which are normal aspirations found among all groups. This in turn led to the inclusion of Neo-Quebecers in many Anglophone institutions, as well as the tailoring of practices and services within these institutions to the needs and preferences of Neo-Quebecers. Once this level was attained, subsequent Neo-Quebecers identified with, and were attracted towards, these institutions; a process that further eased the integration of Neo-Quebecers into the Anglophone community. It should be noted that while economics was the basis for language polarisation, other historical and institutional factors played a significant role. The practices of confessional school boards are a good illustration. Certain ethno-cultural groups, i.e., Jews and Greek Orthodox, were excluded from the French Catholic school boards. Furthermore, many Francophones simply associated ethnic minorities with Quebec's Anglophone community, creating an "us" and "them" set of relations.

With the passing of Bill 101, English was no longer the key instrument to economic success since French needed to be used in the workplace. This also created a new situation: practically overnight, Quebec institutions had to adapt to their new clientele. This was nowhere more evident than in Quebec schools where the effects of the new language legislation were first felt. This also brought on a growing awareness that, in the process of integrating Neo-Quebecers, the institutions themselves would need to adapt. While in the past, Anglophone school boards had developed a certain sensitivity to the needs and expectations of ethnic minorities, this challenge was now to be faced by the Francophone school boards. Similar transformations are needed in French-language broadcasting in Quebec.

The lack of interest by the francophone media in ethnic communities leads immigrants to Quebec to listen to and watch anglophone media. In this way the French community deprives itself of a sorely needed cultural and linguistic contribution, especially in view of its weak population growth. (Task Force on Broadcasting Policy, 1986, p. 535)

As was indicated in an earlier section of this paper, Canadian immigration policy has for a long while considered immigrants as resources rather than as a source of cultural enrichment. This tendency was diluted in 1971 with the Federal Government's multiculturalism policy. As of this date, multiculturalism, within the framework of bilingualism, would be the official basis for Canadian cultural policy. Various programs were set up in view of aiding ethno-cultural groups in the process of preserving their cultural heritages. The positive side of this policy was the acknowledgment of the cultural diversity of the country. Furthermore, such a policy had the advantage of planting the seeds of a national cultural identity that differed from the American concept of the melting pot. On the negative side, this policy was a deliberate attempt, under the Trudeau government, to circumvent official recognition of the "two Nations" construct. One must keep in mind that the 1971 multiculturalism policy was the fruit of certain recommendations contained in the Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

A decade later, the 1971 multiculturalism policy was constitutionally enshrined in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: "This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." Finally, multiculturalism was further reinforced on the legislative front with the passage of Bill C-93, becoming the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988. These policies and legislations set the groundwork for the inclusion of multiculturalism within the new Broadcasting Act, 1991. Section 3 (C)(IV) of the Act now stipulates that the Canadian broadcasting system should

. . . through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men and women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society.

After 20 years, multiculturalism is now an integral part of Canadian cultural policy. The task is now to translate such policies into actual reality. As any observer of broadcasting policy in Canada well knows, there is all too often a serious gap between policy statements and the actual performance of broadcasting licensees!

While Quebec acted swiftly in its attempt to claim jurisdiction over broadcasting, as early as 1929, it was very reluctant in entering the realm of immigration policy and legislation. This is surprising given the fact that immigration, under the terms of The Constitution Act, 1867, formerly known as the British North America Act of 1867, is a shared federal-provincial responsibility.

Quebec first entered into the field of immigration policy in 1965, when it created the Quebec Immigration Service. This service was to be later transformed in 1968 into the Quebec Immigration Department. The language issue was by then high on Quebec's political agenda. The Federal Government's selection process heavily favoured Anglophone immigration. Furthermore, given that Quebec had not until recently played an active role in immigration policy, officials in the federal Immigration Department were not emphasizing the fact to potential immigrants that the majority of Quebecers spoke French.

An agreement granting Quebec some powers over the selection of immigrants was signed with Ottawa in 1978, the "Cullen-Couture" accord. By this time, immigration was a significant aspect of Quebec's overall cultural policy. Its importance grew to the extent that it was included as one of the five conditions of the late Lake Meech Accord. Despite the scuttling of the accord, Quebec and Ottawa reached an agreement on the subject in 1991.

While multiculturalism was established as one of the fundamental characteristics of Canada's national identity, such a policy had been opposed by successive Quebec governments. A critique of multiculturalism was included in Quebec's 1978 White Paper on cultural development:

Canada's situation as an economic, political, and cultural satellite of the United States is an awkward one. Though it has succeeded in preserving a political entity separate from that of its neighbour, and though, with relative success, it has managed to build up a certain economic individuality, it has infinite difficulty still in endowing itself with a cultural personality. The very fact that it has to fall back on bilingualism and multiculturalism reveals the extent of its dilemma. (Quebec Government, 1978, p. 24)

Quebec's position on multiculturalism is attributable to the fact that it already possesses a distinct cultural identity that it seeks to preserve. Accordingly, Neo-Quebecers are expected to adopt the French language and integrate into the Francophone core culture, a process that the White Paper referred to as cultural convergence. This point was more recently stressed by the Conseil des Communautés culturelles et de l'Immigration in its 1988 notice in reaction to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in which the basic tenets of cultural convergence were reiterated.

It should be noted that even if cultural convergence proposes the integration of ethnic minorities within a core culture, it also recognizes the rights of minorities "to maintain and develop their own cultural interests with the other members of their group," as guaranteed in article 43 of the 1975 Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms.

The media, and broadcasting in particular, can play an important role in the process of cultural convergence and language polarisation. This point was emphasized by the Conseil des Communautés culturelles et de l'Immigration in its 1987 notice, Les Communautés culturelles et les communications.

To summarize, broadcasting in Quebec is confronted with the following dichotomies: Technological Nationalism in English-language broadcasting/Cultural Nationalism in French-language broadcasting; federal bilingualism/provincial unilingualism; and Ottawa's Multiculturalism/Quebec's Cultural Convergence. I have also tried to demonstrate that English and French broadcasting operate as two mutually exclusive systems, where the only common ground is the importation of American drama. Such conflicting broadcasting tendencies, cultural and linguistic policies, and diverging expectations towards the roles that ethnic minorities are to play within them, make the integration of ethnic minorities within Quebec society a far more complex issue than anywhere else in the country.

While these policies can be rationalized and clearly understood in themselves, they all too often fail to translate into a set of coherent on-screen representations. This situation only further blurs the issue of integration within Quebec society. A newly-arrived immigrant watching television in Quebec finds himself confronted with essentially three sets of diverging expectations: the American Melting Pot, Multiculturalism, and Cultural Convergence. Furthermore, the levels of on-screen representation of ethnic and racial minorities are higher in American television productions, lower in English-Canadian television programs, and very low in Québécois television offerings (Erin Research, 1987; Generations Research, 1988; Thomas & Taddeo, 1989). Accordingly, the model of integration, through television's imagery, is being essentially set from outside the country (the Melting Pot vs. Multiculturalism), and especially, outside the Province of Quebec (the Melting Pot and Multiculturalism vs. Cultural Convergence).

The extent to which both multiculturalism and cultural convergence can be expressed through broadcasting is directly related to the amount of Canadian content available as well as the capacity of the broadcasting system as a whole to render cultural goals. In both instances, the economic imperative plays a determinant role and is responsible for the cleavage between stated cultural policies and actual television output. This is the topic of the following section of this paper.

Broadcasting, Cultures, and the Economic Imperative

Various authors (Peers, 1969, 1979; Babe, 1979, 1990; Smythe, 1981; Hardin, 1985; Raboy, 1990) have underlined the steady dwindling of the public element of the Canadian broadcasting system. While these authors might agree to disagree as to the exact moment in which the mandate of Canadian broadcasting was subverted (whether it started with the refusal to fully nationalize private stations as recommended by the Aird Commission in 1929; or with the creation of the Board of Broadcast Governors in 1958 that created a opening for private broadcasters within a legislative framework; or with the licensing of the first private television network, CTV, in 1961; or, finally, with the full incorporation of private broadcasting within a so-called single system under the 1968 Broadcasting Act), their work makes clear that the economic has won over the cultural in broadcasting.

In the process of serving the public and the nation's interests, Aird had stated that "these interests can be adequately served only by some form of public ownership, operation and control behind which is the national power and prestige of the whole public of the Dominion of Canada" (Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, 1929, p. 6). Aird had also stated that foreign programs dominated the airwaves. Ironically, after more than 60 years, this statement still holds true. The economics of broadcasting clearly favour the importation of American television programs to the detriment of indigenous production: "The schizophrenia of Canadian broadcasting today is the outstanding characteristic of the system, with the financial, market-oriented side rapidly increasing in dominance over the cultural" (Babe, 1979, p. 236).

Despite a series of measures such as tax incentives, funding agencies, and Canadian content regulations, all designed to promote the production of Canadian television programs, Canadian broadcasting ultimately ended up as an elaborate technological delivery system for foreign content: "The Canadian audience was created by American television but delivered to Canadian advertisers by Canadian cable systems, to the profit of Canadian broadcasters, thanks to Canadian legislation and regulation, and without any benefit to Canadian programming or production" (Raboy, 1990, p. 308).

The role of broadcasting in Canada, as stipulated both in the broadcasting acts of 1968 and 1991, to "safeguard, enrich, and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada" has been undermined. Stated bluntly, the political and economic interests of certain groups have been safeguarded, enriched, and strengthened at the expense of the cultural and social fabric of Canada. In my opinion, this situation is the result of both technological nationalism and of economic imperative; the former serving as a discursive field that seeks to legitimate, while at the same time masking, the interests of the latter. They represent in essence two sides of the same coin.

Notwithstanding the fact that French broadcasting has been successful in attracting significant audience levels for its indigenous television productions, and was part of the process in fostering cultural nationalism, it is not impermeable to the dangers of economic rationale, as both Desauliniers (1985) and Raboy (1990) point out.

This leads to the conclusion that while broadcasting was officially developed as a tool for the fostering of national and cultural identities, the tendency within the industry is to consider the viewing public as audiences, markets, and commodities, thus creating a gap between the legislative and policy discourse and the actual performance of broadcasters. The tendency to consider the audience in economic terms was eventually adopted by policy makers:

Against the dominant backdrop of broadcasting as a factor in public decision making was an increased tendency among political decision makers to think of the public as audience, consumer, and even stock market investor. Economistic views of the public became more and more powerful in the coming years, even as political debate intensified. (Raboy, 1990, p. 227)

As we shall now see, this situation would prove to be even more problematic for ethnic minorities searching for a cultural space within the Canadian broadcasting system.

On July 4, 1985, the CRTC issued a public notice, A Broadcasting Policy Reflecting Canada's Linguistic and Cultural Diversity, in which the Commission set out its policy relating to ethnic and multicultural broadcasting. In essence, the policy merely formalized past procedures. It also neglected to address some of the key issues that had been presented to the CRTC by representatives of various ethnic groups:

Our emphasis on the importance of prime-time broadcasting reflects a concern that ethnic broadcasting policy not be regarded as a sop to ethnic minorities through the creation of broadcasting ghettos. A comprehensive policy on ethnic programming, which seeks to further the goals of multiculturalism must review the role of all the major elements of the broadcasting system. (Scheinberg, League of Human Rights of B'nai B'rith Canada, 1985, p. 9)

Unfortunately, the CRTC's 1985 policy effectively pigeonholed ethnic programming and clearly avoided any effective approach towards mainstream and prime-time television. Instead, it emphasized ethnic radio and television stations as well as ethnic services offered by cable television operators. This policy was evaluated for the Task Force on Broadcasting Policy in a background research paper: "The significance of the CRTC's weighting of the relative importance of the various types of programming possible in the field of ethnic broadcasting is that it would appear to be the exact reverse of the weighting which cultural minority associations might prefer" (Spiller & Smiley, n.d., p. 19).

As for the issue of fair portrayal and stereotyping, the CRTC simply stated "that it has neither the resources nor the legislative mandate to closely and consistently monitor all on-air programming" (CRTC, 1985, p. 8).

The Commission's approach, as well as that of many broadcasters, runs the danger of creating alternative broadcasting services for alternative Canadians. Clearly, as normal members of Canadian society, ethnic and racial minorities should be able to see their lives reflected in mainstream television programming.

As it now stands, given the intersection of American, English-Canadian, and Québécois television productions, ethnic and racial minorities have a much better chance to identify with personalities and characters evolving in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington settings than those in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. This eclipse of the true demographic nature of Canadian and Quebec society only further places ethnic and racial minorities at the social, cultural, political, and economic margins while at the same time reflecting ethnocentrism.

The economic imperative in broadcasting poses a specific threat to ethnic and racial minorities. Broadcasting has often been accused of appealing to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize audience and market shares. Accordingly, this practice has tended to exclude ethnic and racial minorities from television programming on the basis that their numbers were negligible. Paradoxically, the same market approach that favoured the exclusion of ethnic and racial minorities from broadcasting is now being used by various pressure groups to convince advertisers and broadcasters that minority groups represent a significant untapped market. Given the locus of broadcasting, i.e., profit, such economic arguments may well prove to have greater success than those based on notions of public service, culture or nationhood. If the cultural policy goals of both the Federal and Quebec governments towards ethnic minorities are to be translated in broadcasting, it would seem that such goals would have to pass by the commodification of culture, with the obvious dangers of stereotyping and fetishism of folklore.

Conclusion: Broadcasting, Ethnic Minorities and Cultural Relevance

S. D. Clark (1962) envisaged the maintenance of minority cultural heritage as a component diminishing the effects of American culture and the pull of continentalism. More recently, this argument was reiterated and linked to the mass media by Dallas Smythe (1987). He sees the country's cultural diversity as a means of creating a "cultural screen":

Our population contains streams of cultural realism from many sources: the conquered cultures of our indigenous peoples; the dominant elite culture from Britain; the Francophone culture from France; substantial (and largely folk) streams from other European countries, from Asia, and from Central and South America. They could have been, and still could be, nurtured together to create a unique and vibrant Canadian cultural identity. To accomplish this would require a conscious national policy. (Smythe, 1987, p. 9)

The acknowledgment and the promotion of this cultural diversity within the broadcasting system would create a cultural space for ethnic minorities--a space that would allow for greater identification for minorities as well as promoting a better understanding between majority and minority groups.

One would be naive to believe that the entry of ethnic minorities into broadcasting would occur simply through the recognition of multiculturalism within the new Broadcasting Act. If we have learned anything after close to 60 years of broadcasting policy in this country, it is that there is a clear gap between the legislative framework and the performance of broadcasters. A mandatory affirmative action program in broadcasting would be needed. This program would apply to both the public and the private elements of the system. To apply it solely to the public element would be tantamount to the sanction of economic segregation. Furthermore, the private element must contribute to the cultural relevance of the system. Attempts to set up voluntary affirmative action programs in the private sector in general have been a dismal failure:

The Affirmative Action Branch of the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission has encouraged and assisted the private sector to develop programs targeted at women, the disabled, aboriginal people and Blacks in Nova Scotia on a voluntary basis. From 1979 to 1983, 1130 firms were approached, but as November 1983, only 49 companies had signed agreements to establish formal affirmative action programs. (Special Committee on Visible Minorities in Canadian Society, 1984, p. 35)

Compulsory affirmative action programs must be created to ensure that the hiring of ethnic and racial minorities becomes more than simply tokenism. Mechanisms would be needed to guarantee that representation is found at all levels, including the decision-making positions within the industry. As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights determined in both of its Reports (1977 and 1979), broadcasters had evidently juggled their hiring statistics in an attempt to paint a better picture of the level of racial minority participation within the industry. Certain safeguards would be needed to ensure that such practices do not occur within the Canadian broadcasting system. Furthermore, ethnic and racial representation should also be found at the level of the regulatory agency, the CRTC.

Television programs would also need to be monitored to evaluate the on-screen presence of ethnic and racial minorities. Members of various ethnic groups should be encouraged to participate in the development of scripts so that their depiction would not be characterized by stereotyping.

These measures are given as a partial indication of the methods that could be adopted to make sure that broadcasting performance would live up to broadcasting policy expectations. Of course, their full implementation would depend solely on the political will to enforce such measures. Furthermore, ethnic and racial representation in Canadian television programming can only be made possible to the extent to which there is Canadian content in the system. The window into which they can enter is extremely narrow, given that English-Canadian drama represents only 2% of all drama aired in Canada. Obviously, the levels of Canadian content need to be increased in general, and in drama in particular.

While the discourse surrounding broadcasting legislation and policy has evolved in reaction to the dangers of acculturation vis-à-vis the one-way flow of television programming from our Southern neighbours, one must also keep in mind that for Quebec, the threat of acculturation is double for it includes a linguistic dimension. Unfortunately, the present state of knowledge concerning the actual cultural and linguistic impacts of the massive importation of American television programs is sadly lacking, as Bélanger (1988) pointed out in his survey of 626 titles. It is also interesting to note that none of these studies dealt with the cultural and linguistic impacts of foreign television programs on ethnic and racial minorities.

What role, if any, do the different levels of ethnic and racial representation found in American, English-Canadian, and French-Canadian television programs play in the process of language polarisation and cultural integration? What are the effects of the intermingling of these three influences on the shaping of a sense of national and cultural identities for ethnic minorities? What, within the traditions, practices, and processes of English-language and French-language television, are the elements that may hinder greater representation and more adequate depiction of ethnic and racial minorities? Given the growing importance of immigration in the cultural and economic policies of both the Canadian and Quebec governments, the answers to these questions are all the more pressing. It is hoped that academics in the field of communication studies as well as researchers from the appropriate government departments will concentrate their efforts to shed some light on these key issues for, on the whole, it is the very cultural relevance of our broadcasting system that is at stake.

Being based on the model of the railroad and emphasizing technology at the expense of content and economics at the expense of culture, it is not at all surprising that broadcasting in Canada very effectively laid down the tracks for the locomotives of American cultural industries. The present state of the Canadian broadcasting system is perhaps not as much the result of a dysfunction, but rather a deeper reflection of a vision of the Nation created by the State and based on a political rather than a cultural nationality. In a grand effort to unite this country, politics (Cartier's political nationality), economics (tariffs and trade), and technology (railroads and broadcasting) were stressed at the expense of social and cultural differences (what Dallas Smythe calls "cultural realism"). It is therefore not surprising that generation after generation of Canadians attempt to circumscribe the rather vaporous concept of Canadian cultural identity: "Many nations have manifested their nationalism through great public acts; Canada has asserted its nationalism by looking for it" (Brown, 1966, p. 155).


I wish to thank Martin Allor of Concordia University for his valuable comments on much of the earlier material that went into the drafting of this paper, as well as Robert Babe of the University of Ottawa who suggested that this article be submitted for publication.


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