Judith Brosseau, Part 1: Québec

Interviewed by Fil Fraser at Banff World Media Festival on June, 2011

I'm Judith Brosseau, Senior Vice President Programming, Communication, and New Media for Astral. I oversee the operations of three specialty channels in Québec. Their names are CanalD, Historia, and SériesPlus. I've worked all my life in broadcasting; I don't know anything else. I love it passionately.

Fraser. How did you start?

Brosseau. I started my career as a journalist, then a producer for all the networks, but as an independent. Then I moved to RadioCanada where I became a director of strategic planning; after that, I went to work for Astral.

F. Explain why Québec is so much better than the rest of Canada in television, in theatre and the movies?

B. You cannot ignore the fact that we are protected by language and therefore from the overpowering influence of the States. That's the first answer. The second is that we've managed to build over the last 60 or 70 years, and perhaps even longer, a strong star system that has a close relationship with the people. They love their stars; they want to see them on all platforms. And it's been like that for 70 years. It plays into movies and television. It is a system that is so strong that, for instance, stars in TV go on to become stars in cinema. And all the local star papers talk about them. It's natural and organic. We've been very fortunate that way.

F. It really goes back to the early days of radio. When I was a kid growing up in Montréal, we listened to C'est Lapin on the radio and when you walked down the street, everyone had their windows open, and you could hear C'est Lapin everywhere. Then C'est Lapin becomes a television show, and then a movie..... all of this is wonderful in terms of culture, especially if government takes a position and does some important things. What are the milestones of Québec's cultural policy that led to the supporting development of the industry?

B. I don't think that it is just Québec policy, I think it's Canadian policy. Because culture in Canada needs to be sustained by government, as a province of Canada, we have greatly benefited from the CRTC, from Telefilm. Then there was the CMF (because I'm more of a TV person than a film person). And you can add La SODEC [Société de développement des enterprises culturelles] on top of that. I wouldn't say that it is the role of La SODEC per se; it's the role of Canadian policies that have made it possible for us to thrive culturally speaking. But it's true in all our cultural industries.

F. Whose idea was La SODEC?

B. I have no idea. But I'm really a television person. SODEC was created first and foremost to help the film.

F. They do more than that….

B. Yes, but my relationship to La SODEC is not as strong as if I were in the movie business.

F. Another the interesting thing about Québec is that there is not only a star system, but an industry that supports performance, where people can work in the movies one day, on the stage another day, and in television the next, which is wonderful. But there is also a group of bureaucrats, and I think you are one of them, like the Macerolas and others, who move from Telefilm, La SODEC...

B. NFB….

F. NFB…. and there's a group of people there, the André Bureaus and others.... who have had a tremendous influence on policy and who remain very important to the process. Can you talk about these people, who they are, where they came from, and what they did?

B. I think I can talk about with great respect and admiration for M. André Bureau who, as you know, is Chairman of Astral. He was Chairman of CRTC before and he also made a career in radio. These people believe strongly in the system that can be useful to all players. For incidents, André, even though he is at Astral, believes that we need the CBC as well as an independent sector that is strong. And we all believe that this is an ecosystem where all the pieces need to be healthy. André Bureau and François Macerola… I know these guys… they were never self-serving. They were dedicated to a healthy industry and I think that that is the secret of our success.

Judith Brosseau, Part 2: Future of Québec’s cultural industries