CBC rolls out Canada 150 programming plans

Docuseries Canada: The Story of Us from Bristow Global Media and a digital series from Antica Productions and eOne are among the event series greenlit.
Canada 150

CBC/Radio-Canada has started to unveil its programming for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations next year, including a 10-part docuseries from Bristow Global Media (BGM) and a six-episode series produced by Antica Productions and eOne.

The pubcaster has been planning the rollout of its sesquicentennial programming for more than two years, Sally Catto, general manager of programming for CBC English TV told Playback Daily, with every CBC department involved from day one.

The programming strategy for the 2017 content did not deviate far from CBC’s current mandate, added Catto, though the scope of the project has been broadened to meet the broadcaster’s “ambitious 2017 agenda.”

The BGM series, Canada: The Story of Us, is a 10-part hour-long docu-drama charting the stories of Indigenous peoples, immigrants and pioneers that have shaped Canada’s history. Based on an international format from British factual producer Nutopia, Catto said the The Story of Us is among the biggest docuseries ever commissioned by the CBC. The format has already been adapted in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

BGM founder Julie Bristow pitched the project to the CBC two years ago, with the show going into production 18 months ago. The series will also include a VR component created by digital studio Secret Location, which is currently in production.

Becoming Canadian, produced by Antica Productions and eOne, is a six-part half-hour series based on the story of the approximately 250,000 people who will take the Oath of Citizenship in 2017. In development with the CBC for a year, the series recently started production and is scheduled for completion this fall. The show was created by Antica president Stuart Coxe. Both Becoming Canadian and The Story of Us are funded by CBC.

Also announced was Proper Television-produced series True North Calling, which explores Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians living across the Arctic.

Catto added that last year’s change of government, and the increased funding that resulted from it, meant the CBC was able to allocate additional funds to its programming for 2017. “Finances are always an issue in terms of the scope of what you can do, particularly when it’s content that’s speaking to Canadians without the opportunity to have a lot of international partnerships,” said Catto with reference to other CBC projects, such as The Book of Negroes, which have been greenlit as international coproductions. 

On the French side, Radio-Canada greenlit a TV series, La Grand Traversée, giving 10 young participants the opportunity to recreate the voyages taken by settlers traveling from France to Quebec. The series is produced by Les Productions Rivard and Zone3. The pubcaster also greenlit a two-part, Nova Média-produced miniseries, Stanley Vollant: de Compostelle a Kuujjuak. The show tells the story of Stanley Vollant, the first Indigenous surgeon in Quebec.

The pubcaster also announced the CIBC as its first Canada 150 partner, with the company’s CMO Rob Assimakopoulos noting that the deal will allow the bank to create a storytelling platform. Further details on the sponsorship are not yet available.

In addition, CBC/Radio-Canada is the official broadcast partner of touring multimedia event SESQUI, a Signature Initiative of Canada 150. SESQUI will travel the country next year, engaging Canadians through 360° film, interactive content, live events, online activities and education programs, all aimed at showing the best in Canadian culture and innovation.

CBC is planning a number of additional programming announcements which will be made in the coming months.

Image: Shutterstock

With files from Val Maloney, Media in Canada