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The Velvet Light Trap 58.1 (2006) 79-81

Reviewed by
Kyle Conway
Serra Tinic. On Location: Canada's Television Industry in a Global Market. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2005. xvii + 207 pp. $24.95 (paper).

To read many popular accounts of globaliza- tion, it might be easy to conclude, as far as the media are concerned, that the institu- tion of the nation-state has become obsolete. For good or ill, converging digital technologies have made it easier to share media content across national borders, while international trade agreements in conjunction with relaxed regulatory structures have worked to encourage the global flow of media capital. We might not have realized Marshall McLuhan's fabled global village quite as he had envisioned it, but the term "global village" seems to have a ring of truth to it nonetheless.

Such accounts, of course, are short-sighted. For one thing, they neglect the fact that, from their very inception, national media policies, especially where broadcasting is concerned, have had to deal with a fundamental paradox: while radio and television have long served as tools in nation-building projects, there is nothing to stop a broadcast signal from spilling over a border into a neighboring country. For another, they neglect the sociological fact that most people still understand their identity in national terms, at least in part—local and regional communities are important, too, but the national is still very much a factor.

Both of these facts have played important roles in Canadian broadcasting policy and production. With about 90 percent of the country's population living within 100 miles of the U.S. border, Canadians have had easy access to American broadcast media for as long as radio and television have been around. In response, the Canadian government has sought to create policies that promote the production of programs that reflect a Canadian identity. Such an identity, however, has proven problematic in the context of a country with two official languages and considerable cultural differences between regions, not to mention the presence of important First Nations and immigrant communities. To make matters worse, while Canadian broadcasting policy has historically been formulated to encourage production in regions across Canada, commercial pressures have forced the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the main entity charged with promoting a sense of Canadian identity, to centralize production in Toronto and Montréal, shutting out voices originating elsewhere.

It is this contradiction between the Canadian government's stated goals of promoting a regionalist, pan-Canadian national identity and the marginalization of producers in places such as Vancouver, British Columbia, that Serra Tinic takes up in On Location: Canada's Television Industry in a Global Market. Tinic examines the industrial and political constraints that affect how producers go about creating programs that reflect (or don't reflect) Vancouver and British Columbia as places that are different from Toronto or even fromToronto producers' images of Vancouver and British Columbia. She combines industrial, political, and textual analysis to support her main contention that "the 'nation' is an unstable category and that culturally specific programs are negotiated within an arena of competing interests, including the perceived need to gain access to global markets, [End Page 79] the political and economic limitations of federal cultural policies and funding practices, and national network programming structures" (x).

Tinic divides her book into six chapters. The first chapter describes the social, historical, and political contexts that ground debates about Vancouver's role in Canadian and international television production. It also sets up one of the central oppositions that informs Tinic's analysis, namely, the distinction between "place," which might be roughly described as a geographically defined area with its own local culture, and "space," which Tinic describes as a "terrain of national institutions and global capital" (15). The second chapter locates Vancouver as a "global city" by describing, among other things, the ways in which B.C. government policy has worked to attract both foreign and domestic television production. Vancouver, according to Tinic, has distinct advantages over other...


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