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Canadian TV producers: We don't really hate America

US diplomatic cables suggested Canadian TV seeks to “twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the US." Not really, say Canadian producers and officials.

By Colin WoodardCorrespondent / March 24, 2011



Montreal

Watching state-run television here, you might get the feeling that Canadians seriously loath their big southern neighbor. At least, that's the impression that some US diplomats got.

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Sitcoms and dramas aired by the taxpayer-financed Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) show “insidious negative popular stereotyping” and “anti-American melodrama,” the US embassy in Ottawa warned in a 2008 diplomatic cable published in December by WikiLeaks. Washington should boost its public diplomacy programs in Canada “at all levels and in all parts of the country … to make it more difficult for Canadians to fall into the trap of seeing all US policies as the result of nefarious faceless US bureaucrats anxious to squeeze their northern neighbor.”

Is the Canadian government indeed seeking to brainwash citizens by broadcasting anti-American attitudes on state-funded television?

Not quite, say television producers and Canadian and US officials, who agree that the diplomatic cable – which received considerable attention here – wrongly assessed both the television programs at issue and the state of Canadian popular attitudes toward their southern neighbor. Washington, they say, has little to fear from either.

The episode suggests that while Canadian opinion toward the US may have turned cloudy in recent years, the underlying climate remains stable when examined more closely. A frenzy of media reports and punditry speculating about a bilateral breakdown was overblown and overlooked a simple explanation: television does not a foreign policy make.

“These shows don’t suggest a sudden upsurge in aggression or skepticism towards the United States,” says John Doyle, television critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail. “They’re simply a natural emanation of the Canadian psyche, and would have existed in shows that were made and aired in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s."

“Any day of the week on American television there are probably a dozen hours of something showing American government agencies in a poor light,” says Chris Haddock, creator of “Intelligence,” a CBC crime drama that the leaked cable took to task for its “stinging” portrayal of US-Canadian law enforcement collaboration. “Canadian citizens and American citizens have never looked at each other with any sort of animosity. It’s a tempest in a teapot, really.”

CBC programs 'twist events'

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