Thursday, March 24, 2011

Canada: Despite Wikileaked cable, Canadian TV Producers say they don't hate America

Reading the U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, I've generally had the same reaction voiced by many commentators: they show U.S. diplomats to be capable, professional, well-informed and sometimes even witty.

So on a recent reporting trip to Canada, I followed up on one of them: a 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa warning that the television dramas and sitcoms aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were engaged in "anti-American melodrama" and "insidious negative popular stereotyping" of Washington officials. This, the diplomats warned, either reflected or perhaps cultivated anti-American feeling in the Canadian public, with potentially serious long-term consequences.

Heady stuff. But, as my story over at The Christian Science Monitor reveals, largely off-base. (Headline: "Canadian TV producers: We don't really hate America.")

A few items that didn't make it into the story. In initial reports on this cable, many journalists mistakenly attributed it to then-Ambassador David Wilkins, whose name appeared at the end of the cable. Wilkins subsequently denied it, and experts pointed out that the name at the end of each State Department cable doesn't denote authorship, but rather the highest level official on station at the time the cable was sent. The real authors, Wilkins told CBC's As It Happens, were staff with "too much time on their hands."

Also, in the course of reporting the story, I got a chance to watch some of the shows in question, and to interview their creators. For American viewers: Little Mosque on the Prairie evokes Northern Exposure in both tone and its "fish out of water" premise. Intelligence - now available instantly at Netflix -- is a complex crime-and-espionage drama that's been compared to The Wire, with the refreshing twist of being set in Vancouver, and written with a Canadian audience in mind.

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