Much has been written, and even more said, about what constitutes the Canadian character, what identifies the quintessential Canadian. Two features clearly emerge as dominant elements in the make-up of both English and French-speaking members of our family: Canadians are constantly brooding over who we are, what gives us our Canadian character, and what makes us different from other nations. Most other nations never think about such things, or take the answers for granted. Secondly, there is a keen awareness of, interest in, and concern with all things American, that is, with the United States of America. This is a main factor that contributes Canada to becoming the 51st State.
No form of cultural activity so clearly displays Canada’s cultural dilemmas, and their implications for Canadian-American relations, as the field of communications. This critical and ever more important area is immensely complex. It encompasses such diverse aspects as transborder data flows, the transnational character of satellite footprints, and the implications of one country’s being dependent on another with respect to computer hardware and software. More important still, it embraces the field of broadcasting, the focus on concerns in this essay.
All of broadcasting, but television in particular, has the most far-reaching effect on the minds of individuals and therefore on the nature of human society. Television is by far the most popular of all the media, engaging, on the average, the attention of Canadians for more than three hours a day. Children spend more time in front of a television than in the presence of teachers. Dominant perceptions of ourselves, of others, of this country and its neighbours, of desirable lifestyles, of national and world affairs, of different ethnic, religious, and social groups – perceptions of all of these things are profoundly influenced by the programming available and watched on television. No wonder then this medium is a uniquely powerful force in the socialization of individuals and in the formation of collective attitudes, values, and aspirations. And television is, as it is well known, predominantly, overwhelmingly American. The fact is of absolutely central significance in the state and development Canada’s culture, but also of the country̵...
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...mp;#8211; “Escaping Extinction'; – is somewhat odd, to link Canadians to the dinosaur, the passenger pigeon, or the dodo ignores the fact that there is a dance or two left in Canadians yet. But it was chosen after reflection, which was certainly measured and…also mature.
The greatest threat to Canada lies in the possibility (some might even say probability) that, as the result of the strong presence of American influences, Canadian cultural development may be stunted. United States styles, ideas, and products are never far away. There is, alas, a well-grounded fear that as a consequence, Canadian perceptions, values, ideas, and priorities will become so dominated by those of the southern neighbours that the distinctiveness of Canada will, to all intents and purposes, vanish.
As in so many other areas, the prime ingredient in the escape from extinction is to recognize the problem realistically and then to have the will to act upon it. Ironically, whether Canadians have these qualities, whether Canadians can muster the force needed to defend ourselves effectively, depends on the extent to which we have already become Americanized, or, the 51st state.