Canadian broadcasters hitting their mark during COVID-19 outbreak

Full disclosure, I’m a “recovering” TV executive still taking therapeutic sanctuary in The County.

But many, many decades ago, the mom of a girlfriend of mine offered “there’s nothing so bad that there’s not a little good in it”. To this day, I suspect she might have been referring¬† to me . And if so, I doubt it was a sweet compliment.

Yet while U.S. television networks plumb new depths of divisiveness by salvoing each other over corporate greed in this pandemic, or partisan angst over racism by the stable genius, or even whether COVID-19 is a deep-state hoax.

Canadian broadcasters are, well, being Canadian! So by way of a public service announcement in these days of social distancing and self-isolation, let’s provide details.

It appears private sector CORUS Entertainment and a number of other commercial Canadian broadcasters are making their specialty channels free to customers of cable and satellite companies. No press releases or self-congratulating hubris, just Rogers, Cogeco, Eastlink, et al, making a decision to assist all CORUS’ 28-plus channels (from Adult Swim to Food Network to History) being free to Canadians while we hunker down at home to keep each other safe.

Note to self: Check out the independent TV channel Hollywood Suite, usually a paid subscription service, which proposes to screen 330 movies between now and early April. For free.

Not to be outdone, our public sector CBC has scheduled 300 hours of free & ad-free programming for kids and tweens on CBC Gem, plus added access to their educational platform Curio.ca. And the CBC Kids TV block is extended each weekday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.; plus hair-ripping-out parents can check out CBCParents.ca for sanity tips and proven coping strategies.

Then of course, last week (my alma mater) TVOntario, launched a new learning initiative designed to provide enhanced access to various digital learning products during current school closures. For example, take a peek at TVO Mathify (https://www.tvomathify.com/students) which is an incredible one-on-one math tutoring with Ontario Certified teachers, for students from grades 6 to 10, during school closures.

In the U.S. and Canada, during major crisis, total TV usage can increase by as much as 60 per cent, and tweens – home from school – have notched as high as a 104 per cent increase. And then there’s the fact Canada has just been ranked #1 in the world for quality of life for a 4th year in a row, beating out Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and by a very long shot our U.S. neighbours.

Why is that?

Maybe there’s a gentle clue in how we approach the collective good, especially in crises; perhaps even a follow-on hint by how Canadian television embraces this pandemic’s stuck-at-home crowd.

Could it be that we’re simply improving an American meme and carefully encouraging each other with “Let’s Make Sure We Keep Canada Great!”?

Finding that good to help us through all this bad.

Bill Roberts

Sophiasburgh