Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television rewards the best in Canadian Television at the Gemini Awards.

Winners from the 1998 season include:

Best comedy Series: "This Hour has 22 Minutes"

Best Documentary Series: "The Nature of Things with David Suzuki"

Best Dramatic Series: "Traders"

Best Information Series: "Undercurrents"

Best Pre-School Series: "Theodore Tugboat"

Best Children's Series: Ready or not

Today, American television still has a backbone in networks.

Of 900 local commercial stations, two thirds are affiliates of one of three major networks, ABC, NBC or CBS.

The national television system in both the United States and Canada began to undergo changes in the 1980s.

Dozens of new networks led by TSN, First Choice and SuperChannel and other cable program services, bypassed local stations, delivering programs via satellite and local cable systems into individual homes.


A network affiliation is an asset to a local station.

  1. Programs offered by the networks are of higher quality
  2. With quality programs, stations attract larger audiences
  3. Larger audiences means higher rates charged to advertisers
  4. Ads every 6 to 8 minutes per hour embedded in network shows.

In recent years unhappy affiliates have been known to leave one network for another.

Example: 1994 Fox lured 12 stations away from the networks, 8 from CBS alone.


Vulgar lines and risque scenes were once verboten on the television networks.

On the "Dick Van Dyke Show" Rob and Laura Petrie slept in separate beds.

1980s society seemed to become more tolerant and independent programs were being offered by local stations that the networks never had.

Example: "America's Most Wanted"

"Phil Donahue" and frank examinations of once taboo subjects.

The beginning of what detractors call "tabloid journalism" and 'Trash TV".

The cable stations were also siphoning viewers to programs that the Standard and Practices reviewers would never approve.

Also viewers began turning to home videos which even included "smutty" or 'adult movies'.

Now the new network sitcom show couples who not only sleep in the same bed but hardly ever in pj's.


In Canada: CBC (1952) and CTV (1961) with 8 affiliates and CanWest Global (shows the Simpsons)

CTV's mandate is to provide 60% of Canadian programming, 50% in prime time

In the United States: ABC (1953 based primarily on radio), NBC AND CBS

1967 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United Staes

Media Baron Rupert Murdoch launched a fourth network in 1987 named FOX which now has 180 affiliates.

ABC, NBC, CBS have each about 200 affiliates


1972 Home Box Office began providing movies and special sporting events by microwave relay to local cable stations, which set up a separate channel and charged subscribers a monthly fee.

No as significant as Ted Turner's Superstation in Atlanta which increased the variety of cable-delivered programs.

Today cable is available in 20,000 communities in the United States. Six out of ten households subscribe, representing 180 million viewers.


  • 66% OF Canadians are wired for cable
  • 40% of Canadian cable services like TSN and MuchMusic reach the Canadian population
  • 27% of specialty U.S. Cable shows like A&E and CNN reach Canadians
  • YTV, TSN and Newsworld are the most popular Canadian cable programs


A lot of speculation about the future of interactive television, in which people can send and receive messages through their television.

Home shopping networks are doing it now. Home shopping is a mainstay in the 2 billion dollar a year electronic retail industry.


Because of the prestige associated with quality news programs, the networks and local stations produce their own; Examples include: "ABC World News", "The National", "The CTV News".

The role of freelance television is mostly limited to PBS and documentaries. Nova and The National Geographic Specials issue contracts to producers to cover specific subjects.

The networks produce some entertainment programs themselves. Example is ABC producing NYPD Blue, which pushed some people's tolerance and caused advertisers to be cautious about signing up for the program.

However, most of the networks rely mostly on independent companies for their shows or buy motion pictures that have already made the movie circuit or pay television.

The stations go to distributors, called syndicators, who package programs specifically for the sale to individual stations, usually for one time use.

Many television stations have elaborate facilities that produce commercials for local advertisers. The fees are based on studio time.


1975 signaled a new era when Gerald Levin took over Home Box Office.

HBO offered movies and special events to local cable systems that sold the programming to subscribers willing to pay the extra fee.

The effect was profound on the three traditional U.S. commercial networks.

The networks had claimed 93% of American viewers by 1978, before the cable networks offered alternative programming.

Within 6 years, ABC, CBS and NBC, together drew only 77%.

With fewer viewers, the traditional commercial networks invariably faced declining advertising revenue.

At CBS the news division was cut from 1,400 employees to 1,000. ABC, NBC, CTV and CBC soon downsized with similar cuts.


DBS short for direct broadcast satellite service could be cable's own comeuppance.

DBS allows companies to transmit an array of channels directly to subscribers who have special antenna dishes, bypassing local cable companies.

DBS has the potential to undercut cable rates sand further fragment the cable market.

Telephone companies, meanwhile are upgrading their lines with fiber-optic cables, that can carry a great number of high-quality signals, including video which means that telephone companies have the potential to compete with cable companies in delivering television services.


Meanwhile, other pay services have joined HBO. These include Showtime, Cinemax, Disney and Playboy.

In Canada, these include TMN, Moviepix and The Family Channel.


SOURCE: Abridged version of Chapter Six from:

Vivian, John and Maurin, Peter. (1997). The Media of Mass Communication. Allyn and Bacon Canada. Scarborough, Ontario.