Last Thursday, I received a telephone call from Douglas Leahey, Ph.D., representing a group of Canadian scientists under the umbrella of "Friends of Science." It seems that they had been talking to Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun, and he had mentioned to them that they should get in touch with me.
Dr. Leahey began by asking me how they could get a 27-minute documentary on television.
I have 15 years experience of fighting with federal and provincial slush funds for that very thing.
I asked some routine questions at first: Did they have a letter of licence? Had they rolled a camera before they got permission? Had they talked to the big broadcasters? Did they have a "pitch" and a budget?
Then I found out what their documentary was about. The story was incredible: it documented scientists--from Canada--speaking out against the $10-billion scam known as the Kyoto Protocol.
Yes, the very same Kyoto accord that our government has committed Canada and Canadians to support.
I understood instinctively that getting two scientists to agree at what time the sun is coming up tomorrow is--at best--difficult.
But here were tens of thousands, from around the world, all agreeing on one issue: that there is no scientific evidence of man-made global warming.
The numbers of scientists staggered me--17,100 basic and applied american scientists, two thirds with advanced degrees, are against the Kyoto agreement. The Heidelberg appeal--which states that there is no scientific evidence for man-made global warming, has been signed by over 4,000 scientists from around the world since the petition's inception. I strongly questioned these high numbers, since I've had benefit of the Canadian government's public relations machine on this issue. Dr. Leahey has since sent documentation to back his figures up.
all those scientists were in total agreement: the Kyoto Protocol was complete fiction.
The scientists are so committed to fighting the Kyoto accord and its misrepresentation of the truth, that they produced a 27-minute documentary and paid for its production with their own money.
The research, the study, the organization, the production of a documentary those efforts made up the easy part. The tough part was to get it in front of the Canadian people.
The big broadcasters had denied them "the switch" as we call it in the industry: the ability to put it on television for Canadians to see. "Not of broadcast quality," they sneered.
I met with four of the scientists. They showed me the piece. The information held in this 27-minutes should be required viewing for all Canadians. Yet here we have the national broadcasters saying "No"--refusing to broadcast scientific evidence of an important national issue.
Some of the smartest people in this country had come up against the keepers of the gates, when it comes to Canadian television. You will never hear their names, but they are the ones who pick and choose all documentaries that Canadians will get to see.
The Canadian government created an entity known as Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund--a $250-million slush fund of taxpayers' dollars. a bureaucracy that in theory provides funds for the creation of Canadian programming. Hidden in this monolith are a few interesting rules:
Obviously, the scientists had contravened all of these rules. They had even paid to make the documentary with their own money. This is definitely a faux pas! I speak with considerable authority here.
Now, here they are with some of the most important information Canadians need to know about their climate--their very life's breath--and they can't tell Canadians.
The information they are trying to tell us runs absolutely in the face of that government information carried so thoroughly and convincingly by our national broadcasters, complete with the ads that most of us have seen--you know, the tonnes of matter in the air, you can cut down emissions, take the one tonne challenge, etc.
The national broadcasters are not going to run the documentary the scientists have produced.
This past weekend, in conjunction with the alberta Motion Picture Industry association awards, representatives of the major broadcasters met with groups of independent local producers in 45-minute sessions to dictate what types of programming they were looking for in the upcoming seasons.
Canada's best and brightest producers and directors (scientists included) have to "pitch" their envisioned documentary, using a two-page précis of its content and treatment.
Really, the pitch session is more of an opportunity to grovel for the attention of the broadcaster. The gatekeepers sit pompously and listen (maybe) to the producer's words and read the two pagers.
They actually give courses in how to write a pitch'--in other words, create whatever you think they need to hear. and then make it so in writing.
Should a documentary filmmaker be fortunate enough to have their project given the nod, there are still the pitfalls of having to fend off the network's influence in the telling of the story. Sometimes they force their writers into your project--ie, the truth is subject to the whim of the broadcaster.
If the project is accepted, the broadcaster offers the producer a licence fee (perhaps in the neighbourhood of $30,000). Television is an expensive business--this licence fee is only a small percentage of the true cost of the production.
The licence fee triggers government funding.
The balance of the funding comes from the government funding agencies--either federal or provincial--to offset the true cost of roughly $340,000 per hour. Private investment by corporations is frowned upon.
Because of the government agencies' rules, bear-witness' documentaries-- those that tell the story as it happens--are essentially non-existent. The truth be damned.
High quality. High definition. Hire actors to say what you want them to say. Entertainment television. No more scratchy black and white footage of the truth, please. We can recreate it now--technically. It looks so much better.
That's the message from the broadcaster. That's the future.
This is a docu-drama--a term coined by the CBC's Documentary Unit. They have been working hard churning this type of entertainment out. Known by producers as welfare TV--when it involves CBC it is 100 percent paid for by our tax dollars.
Somehow CBC has even managed to receive $100 million a year through backdoor funding from Telefilm.
Two cups of coffee and two hours later, four scientists are now sadly aware of what they're up against. "We've paid for it ourselves--we'll give it to them."
at this point in the conversation the terms propaganda and censorship are introduced.
If it's not done by the broadcasters, if they don't have control, or you are quoting--in this case--Ph.D.'s that fly in the face of the experts that the broadcasters have found and showcased on television, it becomes propaganda --according to them.
If that doesn't work, then it's not broadcast quality--whatever that means.
Professor Leahey and 56 Canadian scientists have run up against a system meant to protect the government. The rules of Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund are effective tools to ensure that nobody uses taxpayers' money to contradict the government's message.
In fact, the scientists--armed with the truth--are up against government propaganda and censorship.