Television's Impact on American Culture

By William Y. Elliott | Go to book overview

sumed the job of promoting culture. No matter how well the agency performs that task, the complacency of Canadian educators can only be deplored. Lively interest and continual activity on the part of educational and cultural leaders are essential for the maturation of all television.

Canadian television has not solved the problems of harnessing the new medium's potentialities for education and culture. The pressures of American competition, the responsibility incumbent upon a public (though democratic) monopolist and financial embarrassment make a satisfactory Canadian synthesis of television's potentialities difficult. What was achieved in radio has yet to be duplicated in television. American television, with its infinitely greater technical and financial resources, is abstractly better equipped to produce the desirable synthesis. The unsatisfactory performance to date of American television, both commercial and non-commercial, is therefore doubly disheartening. It is evident that the greater portion of responsibility, with the corresponding merit or blame, belongs to commercial television. Formal educational television should be a supplement to worthwhile commercial television programming and not a substitute for it.

The radio spectrum belongs to the public. In the United States the employment of that portion of the spectrum allocated for television has been entrusted to private--more accurately non-federal government--interests. Entrusted does not mean irrevocably vested. Licensees must justify their occupancy of the public domain. Canada demonstrates that having purely private radio and television is not the only way a democratic capitalistic North American country can provide its citizenry with the benefits of communication via the spectrum. Canadian radio has remained objective and non-political. It has proved itself compatible with a way of life similar to our own. While it is unlikely that the present American system will be revamped, private television should not be permitted to grow complacent. Unless it fulfills its public responsibility, which includes producing good programs at desirable listening times, change is always possible.


NOTES
1.
Canada resisted the cheap transportation route from Winnipeg to Ottawa, which was through Chicago, by constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. Private capital, subsidized by parliamentary grants, built the railroad despite plans advanced for state ownership. 1881 was too early for Canada to accept a public corporation principle. Later, when a number of private railroads became bankrupt, or nearly so, the government salvaged them through consolidation into one public system, the Canadian National Railways, which was larger than the privately owned Canadian Pacific. Thus, in a rough way, the broadcasting experience had been anticipated before 1928.
2.
The neglect of the large portion of the population living on farms and in small villages enlisted and has retained strong support from the CBC from farmer organizations.

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