Category Archives: Self-Promotion

Why Do I Do What I Do

I know, I’m a little behind in my blogging.  I wrote up a little summary of some of the highlights of the Group Licence Renewal hearing for TV, Eh!.  I thought long and hard about saying a bit more about my personal reaction to the hearing and decided that yes, some things deserve to be said, over here on my own blog.

I feel that I play a role in media policy discourse.  It is a role that has not existed in the past and some players in this world may not understand it.  Here’s what I think it is.  Media policy, whether it is from the CRTC, Heritage, provincial agencies or other policy makers, can be a dense, convoluted world full of laws, policies, rules, regulations and acronyms that need to be translated and decoded.  This byzantine world affects each and every member of the independent production community.  It also affects everyone working at the broadcasters and BDUs but I have spent my entire career on the production side of the industry and that is my perspective.

I know that while many in the independent production community know that media policy affects them, and quite a few try to follow it and understand it, very few actually have the time to read decisions, listen to hearings and put it all into the necessary context.  That’s what I do.  I translate, decode and put it into context.  I started doing this as an employee of the Writers Guild of Canada as a service to its members.  I continued after leaving because, well, I enjoy it and it forces me to stay up to date so that I can offer my clients the best service possible.  You guys benefit.

Am I a reporter?  No.  I make no attempt to provide even-handed coverage but to share the things that I think other people in the independent production community would find interesting.  I comment on what I see and read so the most appropriate analogy in mainstream media is columnist.  Each tweet or blog post is an opinion piece meant to inform and enlighten and maybe even amuse a little bit.

I also write submissions for clients, under their names.  When I think my clients might impact my blogging I will disclose it (see my CIPF – Digital Media post) but I am not a spokesperson for them.  I try very hard to amplify the message without bias while acknowledging that as a human being I do have biases.  I do not see myself as sitting on the sidelines but as an active participant in the process ensuring that there is a wider audience and greater participation by those impacted by media policy deliberations and decisions.

You guys keep telling me you like it so I will continue.

My 15 Minutes of Fame

So apparently there aren’t a lot of independent policy types out there willing to talk to media about their opinions.  I’ve never done TV before (well, one little CHCH lunch time news interview back when I was producing a youth research website – barely counts) but I had two appearances this past week to talk about the CRTC and Talk TV.  I was on TVO’s The Agenda with John Doyle (yes, our difference of opinion about the Golden Age of TV in Canada came up but we also agreed on a few other things such as how much a shame it was that CBC had cancelled “Strange Empire”) and then interviewed for a piece on The National on the evolution of the CRTC.   I got to explain the DMEO in the National piece – without using acronyms!

My fingers are crossed that somehow these appearances lead to paying work but either way it was more fun than I thought it would be.

Talk TV – Content Decision

In case you missed it, I wrote three blog posts about last week’s Talk TV decision over on TV, Eh?.  The first is an overview of issues while the second drilled down into the new Hybrid VOD licence and the third focused on the potential impact on the independent production sector.  There have been quite a few other good overviews of the decision.  I recommend the Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor, Cartt (subscription) and Carleton Professor Dwayne Winseck.

With the pick and pay part of Talk TV expected Thursday March 19th, you can expect more blogging and a lot more chatter on the twitterverse.

International Digital Media Co-Production: A Guide for Canadian Companies

Today Interactive Ontario launched the International Digital Media Co-Production Guide for Canadian Companies.  I’m rather proud of it since IO hired me to research and write this report and it consumed a great deal of my Winter 2014.  I’ve given you the link to the report on the IO website but you can also find it on CMF, OMDC and Bell Fund’s websites (as funders of the study) and CMF also has a French version.

You should check it out if you’re interested in digital media co-production.  I spoke with a number of producers and stakeholders in Canada and outside to identify the advantages and disadvantages to this kind of business structure as well as the different business models that producers are experimenting with.  The report also has tips for how to get started in the international marketplace and a section that provides specific resources for UK, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.    It’s both a big picture report and a handy tool for producers.

Self-Promotion – CMF Blog Post on CBC’s Punchline

I just wanted to let you guys know that I wrote another blog post for CMF’s Watch Squad, this one on CBC’s new online comedy channel (do not call it a portal) – Punchline.  It’s an interesting new venture that I’ll be watching both from the perspective of content creators (a new distribution channel that doesn’t require broadcast, a new way from a broadcaster to develop and test out material and talent) and as a solution to CBC’s funding woes as they move some of their content to the less expensive digital platforms.  It also plays into the CBC’s role as a public broadcaster and the constantly shifting perspective of what that means for those inside the CBC.  There are policy implications as that platform is unregulated.  That doesn’t mean much for Canadian content concerns since it is the public broadcaster and their focus is Canadian comedy but what about the other policy goals of the Broadcasting Act like accessibility, diversity and regional reflection.  What about accountability?  It may not be an issue now but it certainly should be monitored. 

I think Punchline is a great opportunity for comedy in Canada and I’ll be watching it’s development.  And I loved that I got to meet with comedy people at the CBC and pitch them on revisiting my fave CBC comedy show, “Michael Tuesdays and Thursday” – I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that!

Prime Time – It’s All About the Schmooze – So Far

Prime Time really starts when you get to the train station or the airport.  There are only so many ways to get to Ottawa so the schmooze starts when you see your fellow industry types who have chosen the same method of transportation.  I’m a big fan of the train (see my previous post re Viarail truffles – and my tweets with them where they agreed to consider our pleas for the return of the truffle).  I chatted with a client from a small job last year and a couple of my wonks.  It was a pleasant lead in to the real schmooze, which was the opening party.  Almost everyone is in a medium size room, chatting away.  The noise volume is high.  The hugging and cheek kissing is even higher.  It’s what we do.

And it’s effective.  It really is a great opportunity to have ‘hey how are you, I’m still here and my business is going great’ chats and short, specific, let’s get this work issue out of the way chats.   I said yes to some work and maybe to something else.   And got to talk about how great Molly Parker is in House of Cards – I mean, seriously!!

After that,  I headed to another reception with amazing sliders (William F. White’s knows how to pick hors d’oeuvres) and more schmoozing and then to my oasis of quiet at Zoe’s in the Chateau Laurier to blog, drink my brown drink and eat something with vegetables.

Don’t underestimate the value of the schmooze.  It’s about 2/3 of the reason that I come to Prime Time and the opening evening is prime schmoozing.

Prime Time 2014

Sorry guys, I know I’ve been silent while all sorts of wonky things have been happening (Rogers licence renewal, Talk TV Part 2, Starlight resubmission etc. etc.).  Paying work has kept me occupied not so sadly.  But I am off to Ottawa shortly for the CMPA’s Prime Time conference and they have accredited me as media on the basis of my tweeting and blogging – which I think is pretty cool.  So I will tweet all the panels (and possibly social things too since the networking is an important part of why you go to Prime Time), blogging summaries and Storifying the collective tweets once it’s all said and done.  You can follow along the general conversation by following the hashtag #PTiO.  Last year I was really impressed by how many producers got into the tweeting conversations – I hope to see a few more this year.

Now to head for the train – fingers crossed Viarail saw the error of their ways and have returned to the chocolate truffles.

The CRTC Wants You To Talk About TV

Today the CRTC released its public consultation on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system.  I assume that most of my readers are involved in the Canadian broadcasting industry and are not members of the general public (I’m not sure about you readers from Russia or the former SSR of Georgia).  So you may be asking yourself “should I get involved in this stage or wait for the industry consultation next spring?”*  You might want to get involved now.  If you are part of a member-based organization then I definitely think that you should get your members involved now.  We’re all part of the public, right?

The CRTC has set up a lot of different ways to get involved.  Find the official invitation here.  You can call, email or fax your thoughts.  There is a discussion forum, similar to past public consultations such as the ones on the wireless code or the CBC.  And new for CRTC public consultations is the encouragement to hold “Flash!” Conferences.  I don’t know the logic behind “Flash!” – flash mob?  It has nothing to do with the software.  The CRTC wants Canadians to gather, talk about the issues, and send the CRTC a report.  Interesting.  There’s a toolkit to facilitate the “Flash!” Conferences and the CRTC has limited funds to subsidize the cost of running them for smaller organizations (apply by November 13, 2014).  There doesn’t seem to be a push to get Canadians to use social media other than the request to use the hashtag #TalkTV (Note:  I may cave but at the moment I’m not using #TalkTV because it is already an active hashtag for people to talk about Canadian and US talk shows.  I’ll stick to #CRTC and #CdnTV for now.)  Update:  The FAQ suggests that there will be Twitter chats and a Reddit AMA.  Should be interesting.

What are the topics?  In most of the material there are only three general topics mentioned.

Programming:  What do you think about what’s on television?

Technology:  What do you think about how you receive television programming?

Viewer toolkit:  Do you have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if you’re not satisfied?

Those are pretty vague and general topics but if you dig into the Notice of Invitation you’ll find more detail on the questions and context for them.  I’ve put them all together in one place for ease of use (for you and for me).

Programming

1. What television programs are most important to you (children’s programming, comedy, documentaries, drama, feature films, news, sports, reality TV, variety, other)? Why?

2. Do you know which of the television programs you watch are Canadian? If so, how do you know which programs are Canadian? Would it be important for you to know which programs are Canadian? Why?

3. What programs do you consider to be local television programming—programs about your city, your province, other? How important is local news to you? Why? How important is community access programming and “community TV” to you? Why?

4. Do you think the programming on television is fully reflective of Canada’s cultural, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and demographic diversity? If not, what’s missing? How important is reflection to you? Why?

5. What do you think programming will look like in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

Technology

1. How do you prefer to watch television—on a traditional television set, online, on a smart phone, etc.? Why? How do you usually watch television programs—live, on-demand, recorded on a PVR, other? Why?

2. If you subscribe to cable TV or satellite TV, how satisfied are you with the way your channels are packaged?

3. What type of television service do you subscribe to—cable TV, satellite TV, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) or other?  Do you intend to stay with your type of television subscription in the next few years or switch to something else? What would make you stay? What would make you switch?

4. How do you think we will receive and watch television in Canada in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

Viewer Toolkit

1. How satisfied are you that your television service provider supplies the information you need to understand your service options, including packaging and pricing?

2. Are you experiencing barriers that prevent you from changing your television packages or switching to another television distributor? If so, what are those barriers?

3. How satisfied are you that your television service provider supplies the information you need to make informed choices about programming that you may consider inappropriate for you or your family?

4. Do you have a visual or hearing impairment? If so, how satisfied are you with the tools available to enable you to share in our television culture?

5. Do you know where you can voice your concerns over television content, your television services and bills?

6. How do you think we will make informed content choices as program viewers and consumers in Canada in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

I think these are really great questions.  All of us would like to know what the general public thinks of these questions.  For too long at public hearings all sides of the industry have tried to speak for the general public and what they want from our broadcasting system.  I just wonder how the CRTC is going to get people motivated to get involved.  There isn’t any hot button issue like there is whenever you deal with the CBC or want Canadians to talk about their cell phone bills.  This is big picture thinking that most Canadians, I think, would rather someone else do for them.  I suspect that organizations with agendas will be the easiest to motivate.  We know how important this is so perhaps we should start with our own people.  Gather and have a “Flash!” Conference in the next two months so that a report on the conference can be filed by January 10, 2014.  [Shameless Self-promotion – you can hire me to help you do that.]  I assume that anything gathered will be useful as well in the industry consultation.   Spread the word about the consultation.  The more ‘general public’ who hear about this and get involved the better for the industry.

*As part of this invitation to the public, the CRTC released its updated schedule on the industry consultation on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system.  There will be a call for submissions Spring 2014 and a public hearing September 2014.  Expect that one to be a doozy!

Social Media Musings – Personal Rule re My Industry

As I have mentioned before, I don’t believe in a set of social media rules that should apply to everyone.  I think however that everyone should create their own set of rules that govern how they interact in social media and some of those rules might be universal but others will be very specific.  I’ve talked about my personal rule on politics and now I’m going to talk about my personal rule on how I tweet about my industry.  If you also work in film, television and digital media this could be directly applicable to you.  If you don’t then think about how you could adapt this rule to your industry.  If you play the role of an advocate, whatever your sector, then I think my rule might be helpful.

I have spent my entire career working on or advocating for Canadian content film, television and digital media.  Social media gives me a great platform to talk about Canadian media, promote it and advocate for positive change.  Positive is the key word here.  I take a very positive approach to my social media activity.  I will sometimes question whether a policy or program is the right one but even then with the utmost respect and politeness (I think).  I will not be negative about media that I have seen but if I love it then I will shout it from the rooftops.  You may think that this is a biased approach and it is but hear me out.

It is tough to work in Canadian media.  We could all be making more money easier – I am convinced of that.  The vast majority of us who work in this field, whether we are creators or administrators or even wonks, do so because we have a passion for Canadian media.  We work hard to get the best content possible in front of Canadian audiences.  So I hugely respect the work that people do, even if sometimes I don’t like the outcome.  It’s all a crapshoot and sometimes the elements that kill a project are outside anyone’s control.  The broadcaster didn’t promote it or the producer couldn’t get enough financing for a decent budget or the wrong actors were cast or the script needed a rewrite.  What are you going to do.

If it’s great then it needs help to get seen.  That’s just a reality in our world.  I did my best with “Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays” but it needed more than me and the other handful of advocates.  Sigh.  I’m a Listenerd and a member of the Clone Club.  And I’m a big, vocal, fan of a few other shows that don’t have cute names for their fans.

There is a place for critical review of media, both by regular people and professionals.   There have been many conversations about how we need to be more critical of our Canadian media – it isn’t all great and some of it needs to be much better.  Sometimes it makes sense that a television show is cancelled or a feature film doesn’t get a big audience.  I just feel too close to the content and know too many of the people involved to have the necessary distance to play that role.  So I don’t.  And sometimes, I have to tell you, it’s really hard.  But that’s my rule.

[Note – I have also been called an incurable optimist so this ‘rule’ may just be who I am.  You decide.]

 

 

Social Media Musings – Politics

As some of you might have guessed, I was totally biting my tongue (or my virtual tongue) on Twitter during the federal cabinet shuffle today.  It occurs to me that it might be useful to explain why I do that so readers can decide how they want to approach moments like that.

As I mention in my social media training workshops, I don’t have a set of rules that I share but principles that I encourage others to consider as they create their own rules.  First, there is no such thing as a personal-only Twitter account.  Tweets are public and can be found by anyone looking to see what you said.  Your audience is not just your followers.  It is very easy for your tweets to reflect on you and your job.  You should have an idea of the persona that you want to have in social media and you should consider whether that persona could in any way impact your ability to do your job – before you start tweeting or posting.

What that means for me is that even though I have definite personal political perspectives, I keep them off my main twitter account.  That’s the decision that I have made.  I totally respect those who include partisan tweets in their feed but it is not something that I am comfortable with.  I would like to be able to advocate on behalf of whoever engages me with the government of the day.  If I, or my clients, have problems with a specific policy then that is fair game but partisan tweets are not.   [Now and then one slips out but this is the rule that I TRY to follow.]

So while I tell people that they need to share their personality on Twitter in order to build trust and engagement, there are limits to how much personality you may want to share.  Where you draw the line is up to you.

If my social media musings are useful, then I might share a few more over the summer.  It’s hot and I don’t want to get into anything terribly wonky in this weather.