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The CBC was too American for prime time in 1979

The CRTC is empowered with granting broadcast licenses, and in 1979 it renewed CBC's with the condition that it cut back on shows produced in the United States.

The CRTC didn't like M*A*S*H but 'This Week in Parliament' got thumbs-up

CRTC demands less American programming on CBC-TV

Digital Archives

42 years ago
1:34
As a condition of granting the CBC a broadcast license, the CRTC wants to see less from the U.S. 1:34

M*A*S*H, the gently comic drama set within a Korean War mobile surgical hospital, might have made for good television viewing in 1979. But it didn't belong on CBC Television.

One of the shows that the CBC could stand to lose from its schedule was M*A*S*H. (CBC Archives)

Neither did The White Shadow, a show about a former basketball pro who takes a job coaching the game at an inner-city high school, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

"More Canadian content is a condition made by the CRTC for renewing the CBC's licences," said The National's Knowlton Nash, introducing a report about the CRTC demand.   

The commission was "extremely complimentary" about the CBC's job of broadcasting the 1976 Olympic Games.

"It praises the CBC's presentation of the National Ballet," noted reporter Stuart Langford on April 30, 1979.

And that wasn't all: the political broadcast This Week in Parliament, made possible a year and a half earlier by the addition of cameras to the House of Commons, was also singled out for approval.

Not very 'valuable' 

"It's clear the CRTC believes these sorts of shows are more valuable to Canadians than, say, The White Shadow," said Langford.

Set in Los Angeles, The White Shadow was procured by the CBC from a U.S. network.

CRTC chairman Pierre Camu seemed to think it shouldn't be too hard for the CBC to improve the ratio of Canadian content.

"Already 70 per cent of what you see on the CBC is Canadian content," he said. "We are already almost there. We just say, 'let's go a little bit further.'"

But, Langford noted, CBC President Al Johnson — who declined to comment — might not find it that simple.

"He can't help but be enthused about the boost this will give to television production in Canada," he summed up. "But he's likely to be less enthusiastic about what the loss of American serials might mean to CBC revenues and rating."

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