Will CJNT continue to Use Public Airwaves to Anglicize Québec’s Immigrants?
This is exactly why Québec must become an independent country.
Once upon a time, back in the late 90’s, Québec’s different cultural communities had their own TV station, called la Télévision Ethnique du Québec. It was a public access community station that broadcast cheap looking shows of uncomfortable looking men and women sitting on chairs and talking in one of 35 languages in front of cartboard sets.
Of course it sucked. How could immigrants and wide-eyed community activists fresh out of CEGEP ever produce any good TV? Especially back in those days before digital when making TV actually cost money?
Yeah, but it was local TV. Made by Montreal’s immigrants and about their lives and concerns.
In the summer of 1995, a date which I am sure has no significance whatsoever, Canada’s guardian of the airwaves gave away TEQ’s valuable cable channel to some vast media empire that eventually traded it to CanWest media, the owners of the Montreal Gazette, Global TV and the National Post. Within 18 months of the sale, as many as 20 local shows were replaced by shows produced in Toronto or the States. Interestingly, the cut shows were essentially those “from communities more integrated in the francophone majority”, according to Pedro Quirido, president of producers union of TEQ. Eventually locally produced programming was all but abandoned and actual ethnic content dropped from 100% less than 60%. David Letterman and infomercial made up the rest of the grid.
“One City, many Cultures”, became CJNT slogan. To which we can add: One language.
Yep. Nearly all of the station’s ID and promos suddenly became all-English and French became just another one of Montréal’s linguistic communities. Montréal’s “multilingulal” TV station still only has an English only website.
Just like the founders of the station warned ten years ago, the owners of the Montreal Gazette transformed a TV station run by and for Montréal’s ethnic communities into a pedagogical tool used to perpetuate the myth that Québec’s allophones and anglophones are one and the same community and the “ethnic” programming became like training wheels on a bike used to train immigrants into consumers of anglo media.
Either these people don’t know that at least 60% of Québec’s immigrants are French-speakers when they get here…
…or they do know, and they are trying hard to do something about it.
You know, for all the angst about the use of English by Québec’s immigrants, the majority of them are already part of the French-speaking community when they get here! Seven out of the top 10 countries of origin of immigrants are part of the Francophonie. The US is the only English-speaking country of origin in the top 10 and, please, I beg you to argue Americans don’t have acces to enough TV in their language. French is still the most used language by 60% of immigrant workers, it is the language their children study in and the language of the majority of the people who live around them.
There is no justification for CJNT treating them like generic Anglos. It’s not based on demographics, culture or any real numbers.
Except economics. Of course, the owners of CJNT are going to trash locally produced programing in favour of cheaper mass produced Toronto and American fare. And of course a media empire in the business of selling English-thinking minds to advertisers will use all its ressources to train and format more and more English-thinking minds and consumers.
That is why they put on air a channel where nearly all station IDs, commercials, and promos are in English and an English only website when targeting a market that is mostly French-speaking and living in a city where French is supposed to be the common language. That’s somewhere between disrespectful and socially dangerous.
And it sure as hell is not an innocent decision.
This week CanWest Global sold CJNT to Toronto’s Channel Zero. Will the pornographers give back the station to cultural communities?
It’s doubtful. Not only did the CRTC not demand that the station stop acting like an ESL network, it straight out relieved the new owners of of any obligation to use any French at all! (Which is not a reasonnable decision, Fagstein, if CJNT continues to broadcast in English). Read all about the company’s purchase of a multilingual channel in a French-speaking city in their English-only press release right here.
The CRTC’s decisions consistently reduced the amount of programing available to cultural minorities in their language, encouraged the exclusion of immigrants from Québec society and CanWest didn’t even make any significant money. This is a perfect illustration of why a Canada-wide body like the CRTC is inadequate to govern Québec’s airwaves.
And this is why Québec should become it’s own country.