Documentary Television in Canada

Documentary Television in Canada: From National Public Service to Global Marketplace

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Documentary Television in Canada
    Book Description:

    He concludes with a discussion of the recent international success of documentary television as one of Canada's leading cultural exports, examining the effects of globalization and looking forward to the future of this genre. While principally an overview of the last half century and an analysis of current conditions, Documentary Television in Canada also includes detailed analysis of selected programs, such as the For the Record series on schizophrenia, "Warrendale" (by Allan King), "Images of Canada" (by Vincent Tovell), "The Valour and The Horror" episode, "Death by Moonlight" and "Shooting Indians" (by Ali Kazimi) among others.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7005-4
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    David Hogarth
  4. 1 Introduction: A Defining Genre
    (pp. 3-19)

    “With regard to television, Canadians cannot afford to daydream,” wrote critic Stephen Plumb on the eve of Canada’s first domestic telecast in November 1952.¹ Plumb’s rather axiomatic argument is by now familiar in Canadian cultural criticism: Every modern nation, he insists, must maintain not only its geographic borders but a sovereign televisual space. In this space the life of the nation must be represented “faithfully and without illusions” so that viewers can develop into full-fledged citizens “with a sense of where they are.” Only with documentary realism firmly established as a principle of telecasting can the nation’s cultural project “proceed...

  5. 2 The Broadcast Documentary Tradition in Canada
    (pp. 20-36)

    In 1961 a CBC public affairs producer offered a “frank” assessment of Canada’s documentary films. Most NFB productions were “quite good,” noted Bernard Trotter, but too often marred by a tendency towards “drabness, a lack of visual appeal and a preoccupation with abstract do-good subjects.” Such problems he saw as most evident in films involving complex information or ideas. In just one short decade, television had “progressed very much further”¹ in the effective presentation of this kind of information than had the NFB, Trotter claimed.

    Trotter was speaking in the name of broadcast documentary tradition, and it is that tradition,...

  6. 3 Documentary in the Early Years of Canadian Television, 1952–65
    (pp. 37-68)

    In May 1952 , as CBC TV prepared to go to air, producer Mavor Moore explained the program strategy of public service television in Canada.¹ First and foremost, he noted, Canada’s new network would do away with the strict separation of information and entertainment fare so common in other countries. “Not to say there cannot be programs designed for formal education or entertainment,” he explained, “but merely that the [area between the two] may be more fruitful than presupposed.”² Canadian television would thus stake out a “middle ground” between British (information oriented) and U.S. (entertainment) television, featuring documentary and public...

  7. 4 Documentary Television as a National Project, 1965–90
    (pp. 69-107)

    In the mid-1960s documentary television in Canada underwent two major changes. First, it was regulated like never before, as television executives sought to curb what they saw to be the discursive “excesses” of the previous decade. And second (and relatedly) it found itself incorporated within a wider attempt broadcasters to document – systematically and reliably – the various times and spaces of the nation. This new era, which continued well into the 1980s, was in terms of regulatory ambition and stylistic sweep the height of Canadian television’s documentary national project.

    This chapter examines strategies of representation that emerged at this time, focusing...

  8. 5 Documentary Television Goes Global
    (pp. 108-135)

    Documentary television has generally been regarded asnationaltelevision, in which the nation-state represents its people, places, and issues mostly for the benefit of its own citizen-viewers. Much recent research has further concluded that the genre has little future in a newglobalmarketplace, presumably committed to the avoidance of locality, public controversy, and any form of meaning whatosever in the pursuit of profit. As a sober, nation-bound form, documentary television would seem to have little place in a broadcasting environment dedicated to transnationalism and fun.

    How then to explain to explain the recent “phenomenal” success of documentary programming as...

  9. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 136-143)

    This book has been concerned with three main subjects: documentary television per se, public service broadcasting in Canada, and the thorny issue of cultural globalization. With regard to the first, I have been mostly concerned with rescuing documentary television from the margins of Canadian film theory where it has languished for more than half a century.¹ For several reasons I believe documentary in broadcast form should be treated in more depth and with more respect than it has been in that body of literature. First, it is adistinctgenre, grounded in its own modes of production, distribution, and consumption...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 144-146)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 147-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-193)