Public Values

Saskatchewan loses a piece of its soul for $5 million

Cutting public broadcaster SCN deprives province of economic activity and opportunity to tell its own stories.

Cutting SCN deprives province of economic activity and  opportunity to tell its own Jian Ghomeshi, from a Radio Q monologue on CBC

Hi there. It's Wednesday, March 31st. And spare a thought today for the film and television producers of Saskatchewan.

You see, in last week's provincial budget, the government of the beautiful province decided to cut off its support and close SCN... the Saskatchewan Communications Network... the publicly-owned education TV channel... a network that's been in operation in Saskatchewan since 1991.

Now, it's all in the name of saving money. It was a "belt-tightening" budget, after all, and in order to get back into the black, tough choices needed to be made by Premier Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party. That's what we're told.

And to be fair, SCN was not the only cut... many infrastructure projects were shelved, and the provincial government itself faces many layoffs. The government says it will save $5 million a year by shuttering the station, which is a chunk of coin, one supposes. And it argues that SCN wasn't particularly popular.

Uh...ok then. But still, the decision to shutter SCN at this time seems somewhat... puzzling. To the film and television industry in that province - an industry that had been doing rather well in recent years - it's devastating.

SCN was a player that helped partner with production companies, and helped bring money into Saskatchewan by winning grants and importing talent. That same young talent will now need to look for new careers... out-of-province. More importantly, despite SCN's low numbers, it was a place where Saskatchewan stories, BY Saskatchewan filmmakers and producers were told.

Sure we live in an infinite digital universe with more channels and platforms than ever before... but if all our content is coming from Toronto or Vancouver or even more likely, LA and New York, then where's the real diversity? In the end... it's about having a place or a platform to create.

Some may argue that provincial or federal governments have no business owning their own public TV networks. But they exist because they're important, because they tell our stories... and to be honest... they don't cost all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Think about the culture that was so celebrated weeks ago across this country during the Olympics. Can we really cherish Canadian culture and artistic industry without giving it the support it needs? Or at the very least...maintaining what little support has existed.

So long, Saskatchewan Communications Network. The province's bottom line may be 5 million better off, but culturally, the bill has yet to come due.

Links and sources
  A sad day for Canadian Documentary content: Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) being shut down
  200 protest SCN closure in Regina
  Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) being shut down

Posted: April 06, 2010

  Public services

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