Friday, September 30, 2005

Global TV using American Footage to Tout its Cultural Diversity

So I was watching the Adam Sandler classic “The Waterboy” the other day on TBS when I noticed that a commercial for an Atlanta Christian radio station featured the exact same clip of hugging, multi-ethnic children that is also in a public service announcement on Global TV, touting Global’s commitment to cultural diversity (sorry, I could not locate an online clip for either commercial).

“How can that be?” I asked myself. Surely Global, a national network with massive production resources at its fingertips would have produced original film with 100% Canadian, ACTRA-card-holding tykes?

Nope. The clip is stock footage from Seattle-Washington based Getty Images, from their “People” category of film CDs. (You have to scroll down to the last two CDs entitled “Lifestyles 2 – Portraits”, click on the “i” to view details, then click on the fourth thumbnail in the top row.)

Ontario political observers may remember that in June 2003 a flap occurred when the McGuinty Liberals revealed that the Eves conservatives had used American stock photo images in a TV ad for their election platform.

A little digging on the Tories’ part soon unearthed that the McGuinty Liberals had used over a dozen American stock photos in their own platform documents, including photos of an MRI machine, a moose, and a guy fishing from a boat with five lines in the water – something that is illegal under Ontario fishing laws. (Full disclosure: I was working for the PC caucus at Queen’s Park at the time and the guys doing the digging were my colleagues.)

Demonstrating the communications skills that have come to serve them so well in explaining their broken promises in office, the Liberals spun back that (1) they had not attributed “voices” to their fake Ontarians as the Tories had in their TV commercial and (2) the guy in the boat represented an American fishing in Northern Ontario. I guess they airbrushed out his assault rifle.

Turning back to Global, if a national network with dozens of cameras, cameramen, and production facilities at its disposal would rather use canned American film than go to the trouble of producing their own footage, there must be good reasons. The ones that I can think of are: convenience, cost, time, not having to find actors/participants, pay them, get releases or pay royalties for each airing.

Someone skilled in this field could probably list a bunch of other reasons. In the case of Global, and in their defence, I might add the CRTC’s policy that “broadcasters accurately reflect the presence of ethnic, cultural and racial minorities and Aboriginal peoples in the communities they service.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that a network called Global is using film of (probably) American kids to remind viewers that it is jumping through whatever flaming hoops of political correctness Canada’s broadcasting poobahs may erect from time as a condition of keeping its license.

The CRTC are the same folks who seem unconcerned that CP24 is ripping off cable subscribers by re-running old CITY-TV newscasts from the 70s and 80s instead of original programming in the dead of night (no offence to the relatives of Colin Vaughan or Bob Hunter). When a 24-hour news channel is allowed to collect basic cable fees plus ad revenue for, say, only 17½ hours of news, it is fair to suggest that Canadian broadcasting regulations operate on the same level of farce as the Canada Health Act, the gun registry and Liberal leadership rules (gosh, I hope I don’t have to add NAFTA to that list). But I digress.

Maybe Global’s use of American stock footage to impress Canadian regulators is some kind of sly inside joke on their CRTC whip holders. I guess there’s no harm in that. But if huge media organizations with in-house production capabilities are resorting to stock images, then perhaps the next time a party is “caught” using them, the media will add some quotes from communications professionals and their own bosses to put the issue in context.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I work in the ad industry; the government/Global are making the sensible call.

The cost of talent for a single photo can range into the thousands of dollars (usually $5,000+). Add to that the cost of the film crew, editing, etc, and you get a cost into the tens of thousands. Want to use the image beyond a year? You have to pay the talent, again, to do so. Because you don't pay the talent based on *taking* the photo, you pay the talent on the *use* of the photo, so the longer you use the photo, the more you pay.

So yes, the government COULD have spent thousands of tax dollars getting authentic "Ontarians" to take the pictures. OR they could pay $100 to Corbis/Getty and put up stock pictures which nobody will notice is anything other than an Ontarian. The messaging is still sound and countless thousands of tax/corporate dollars, not to mention man-hours are saved. I don't see anything wrong there.

Chris Chapman said...

From a cost perspective, "anonymous in advertising" has it right.

From the optics perspective, which is the stock-in-trade for public credibility for tv stations, "journalists", political parties and politicians, it's disingenous because it's fronted as being something it's not.

I am wholly unsuprised that someone in "advertising" fails to understand this.

Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',

Neil

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