Apr 20, 2010

SCN, The Death of a Good Thing

This issue of Guy With a Library Card takes a brief intermission to call attention to the recent news surrounding the downfall of SCN - the Saskatchewan Communications Network. Speaking personally as someone who had many film school friends that ended up either working here or taking advantage of the services it provided after university, this really is an unfortunate turn of events.

SCN, The Death of a Good Thing
Written by M

It's hard to imagine that a government could kill one of the few cultural outlets in any nation in less than 4 years, but it happened in Saskatchewan, Canada. SCN went from being the largest independent station in Canada to mediocre, the second the Sask Party took over. With the finger pointed at Brad Wall, know that it was made possible by the Conservative Government. Honestly, the details are unimportant because come this May SCN will close its doors regardless of who did what and how many people will support the station.

Why would the government do such a thing? Because the arts are expendable. Even working in the industry, an individual is expendable. In the eyes of our own community, we are expendable. Not to mention, it's basically a crap shoot as to whether or not you'd even get a chance to work. The two empowered Governments have, from the get go, showed a tendency to disfavour the arts. It really was only a matter of time before a major art cut would be made and what better reason than the economy being in the dump. Do not mistake it, SCN is a major art cut. Cuts needed to be made and did people really expect those cuts to come in Education or Healthcare or, God forbid, Indian and Northern Affairs.

So you make cuts where it seems like the best bang for your buck. Although the 5 Million dollar cut and 35 jobs lost are very inaccurate. SCN was worth over 20 Million a year and the Sask Party cut promises made by an overzealous NDP government, which in turn led to the fall of federal funding which accounted for almost half of this tab. No other province had anything even close to this budget. SCN single-handedly created a growing, profiting industry and now suddenly Saskatchewan fell behind every province. The 5 million they now count is actually closer to 6 million of government money and in actuality we only save 2.5 mil as they have to honour outstanding contracts. Not to mention, we lose the other 2 to 3 Million SCN generates on its own in order to fund projects. All of which in turn pumps money into the Saskatchewan economy. Then these projects get funding from other stations. This happens because SCN funds television shows so that other stations had less risk to take. Then, once again, all this money gets dumped into the economy as restrictions are made by SCN to spend a percentage in Saskatchewan.

This number is not added to the total of SCN's budget. As for the 35 jobs, yes, it is true that SCN only employs this many people. However, the effect is on thousands of jobs that trickle from this. SCN didn’t operate like other government agencies. Meaning that infrastructure was a small part of it. The large majority of the money was to go to other companies to make shows. SCN was the governing body that allocated this money. Needless to say, this money went into the hands of Saskatchewan people and businesses with stipulations of the money being spent in Saskatchewan, then trickle, trickle, trickle. The last major flaw is that it was made to seem like people don't watch SCN. Studies were done to find that only 5% of the province's population watched SCN. While this may reflect on certain demographics, it clearly leaves out the North who likely get SCN as their only “local” channel because of the availability it had. On top of this, as I said before, the show SCN funded got funding elsewhere which means these shows were broadcast nationally and globally on hundreds of other channels. Saskatchewan product and stories reach far and wide all because of SCN.

From a personal budgeting level, I understand the decision. For example, if I make $1000 a month that is my budget for the month. Rent and bills, take up the large majority of a budget like this. For argument sake lets say $750. This I relate to infrastructure, you know the stuff that keeps you at home with the water running, power working or rather people working to keep these things working. The other $250 would go to things like food, general health and maintenance, or if you would, healthcare and the raw material to fix roadways etc. Sadly, this is likely very close to how a budget like this would work. As you can see there is no room to go to the movies, drinking or any other sources of entertainment. So, in short, I see the government doing what they have to do in order to keep the province going. When it comes time to cut things out, you cut those that are expendable, what you don’t really need, even if they make life a little nicer.

Yeah, I get the move. Yea, it does suck. It’s those nice things that make life great. The unfortunate reality is that this is the first step in a move that will crumple an industry. Pretty much any company that deals with television deals with SCN. Whether they are industry giants or small independent producers. The real truth doesn't lie within the reports the government used to make this decision. The large majority of the Saskatchewan film industry is independents, meaning the 35 employees that lost their jobs will likely translate to 35 companies going under who employ a range of 5 to 20 people each. These people will leave for opportunities in Vancouver and Toronto. As more and more leave for the opportunities elsewhere this will soon lead to the demise of large movie making. The industry giants will have a harder time convincing anyone to come here and spend their money if there is no industry on its own. The positive of the giants is that they are established and will have other areas of their business that will pick up the slack, while they still make their own cutbacks and or outsource in other markets.

However, the outlook isn't as bad as you think. The economy shows signs of turning around and this is an industry where when time and money provides, you can pick it up again. It will cost more, but that is the sacrifice. Technology gets outdated and to keep up with the Jones’s you gotta continually grow. The loss of continual push is irreplaceable. Not to mention the talent pool drought. We will have to start back up from scratch and instead of having professionals you’ll have wanderers who don’t know what they are doing. Which incidentally is how the industry began in Saskatchewan. The entire process will be a rebuild regardless of the short term solutions and new series and shows being shot here. The other sad loss is the resources, the equipment, the millions put into the Soundstage and those are just a few that are not trickle. From here, the support the film industry provides this province is felt in the pocket book of simple companies. A-1 Rentals, Talman Lumber, CMS Equipment, local restaurants, local caterers, Supreme Basics, Gale's, Mondrian and so many more are taking a tough hit.

The real tragedy is the cultural loss. Whether you watched SCN or not it was a part of what made Saskatchewan unique and it celebrated that in every aspect of its daily business. Which is a lot more than most can say of what they do. Yet it is SCN that will be gone. No matter how much support it gets, how many have joined a facebook group or the immense public outcry the station will be shut down. Sure SCN had its cons but they would have never outweighed its pros. I am not going to try to encourage you to participate in the ongoing struggle to keep SCN alive but I do encourage you to check out the information on it. Go to www.scnmatters.com and read everything. By the time you are done you will feel a little more patriotic about this province and you will feel the cultural loss that SCN is. No matter what happens, SCN will live on in the hearts of many. It will be a social icon for years after its demise. This can be seen in every petition and rally, SCN really does matter to this province.


Tyler Cyrenne said...

From all of us here in Saskatchewan, I thank you, Luke! We certainly appreciate not only the shout-out but it's nice to know we have some Alberta folk sticking up for us, and our arts. :-)

Editing Luke said...

Well the credit for this post goes to M, but I'm more than happy to help promote the cause. I still have a lot of Saskatchewan ties and it's obvious that this is a pretty big deal for all those who have benefited from SCN and would like to continue to do so.