In a similar fashion to music on the radio, the CRTC regulates television programming. When it comes to private television, Canadian stations must achieve a yearly Canadian content level of 60% overall during the day (from 6AM to midnight) and 50%, measured during the evening broadcast period (from 6PM to midnight). CBC must ensure that at least 60% of its overall schedule, measured during the day (from 6AM to midnight) is Canadian.
Unfortunately, much of these requirements are being fulfilled by low-cost news, current affairs and talk programs in off-peak hours during which it is unlikely to attract a large audience, freeing up other time-slots for American network programming.
Based on bbm measurements, for the week ending May 17, 2009, only four of the 30 most watched shows in Canada were Canadian. These shows included two NHL playoffs games (ranking at #14 and #27), the CTV Evening News (#20) and the CTV National News (#23).
In contrast, 23 of the top 30 watched shows on Québec's French television were local productions. "America's Got Talent" was the first of the seven imported American productions dubbed for French television; it ranked at #4. It was followed by "Desperate Housewives" (#10), "The Biggest Loser" (#19), "So You Think You Can Dance" (#20), "Monk" (#21), "Criminal Minds" (#25) and "Dr. House" (#26).
Based on the number of viewers, the top three French shows fall within the top 30 most watched Canadian shows. If national ratings included French programming, Canadian shows in the top 30 would have increased from four to seven. This startling contrast between English and French watching habits has been consistent over the years.
On March 20, 1995, 4,098,000 people watched "La petite vie". That's more than half Québec's population and the Canadian record for the most viewers of a homegrown production. The program was unsuccessfully adapted by Télévision Suisse Romande, but other original shows have experienced success abroad. "Surprise sur prise" has had an important success in France where it ran from 1989 until 1998. More recently, "Les Bougon - c'est aussi ça la vie" has been adapted for French television as well. Its success or its failure remains to be seen.
Of all the original shows exported to other countries, the most successful has been and remains "Un gars, une fille". Created in 1997, the show has been exported to more than thirty markets around the world. In English Canada, CBC, CTV and Global Television refused the concept for being too audacious, according to the producer. The show ended up on Women's Television Network (WTN, now known as the W Network) and lasted two seasons.