Arts & Entertainment, Pop Rhetoric

Pop culture journalism keeps the arts alive

On Oct. 6, Entertainment Tonight (ET) Canada aired its final episode, marking the end of an 18-year-long run in Canadian entertainment reporting. Although the closure appeared sudden, it would not come as a surprise to those following the state of Canadian arts and entertainment reporting in recent years. A decline in viewership for both broadcast and cable programs with the advent of streaming, combined with the closure of daily newspapers, has left major publications vulnerable to significant staffing cuts

Entertainment reporting sections are frequently among the initial casualties, regarded as the most frivolous form of journalism. Despite often being categorized as low culture, pop entertainment journalism plays a marquee role in helping Canada distinguish a separate identity within the entertainment industry outside of an American context. Reporting centred on Canadian music, film, television, and celebrity news is critical for helping Canadian artists and reporters cultivate a cultural ecosystem that is not just a mere spin-off of our neighbours to the South. This is especially important for shedding light on artists based outside of major metropolitan areas, such as Toronto or Montreal, whom American news outlets may completely pass over. 

ET Canada cited a struggle to retain advertisers as the primary reason for the sudden closure, an obstacle shared by many news programs internationally. Shaky TV ratings have led to a 4.1 per cent drop in ad revenue for traditional media in the last quarter, while new media, including social media, saw an 8.7 per cent increase—a result of shifting cultural attitudes towards the ways we consume news. Advertising revenue drops when ratings are down, meaning that at 7 p.m., all eyes are on Twitter (now X) instead of the nightly news. Since advertising dollars greatly influences the longevity of TV shows, a major pivot in the go-to source for news directly impacts the future of media, inadvertently collapsing an entire industry.

An absence of traditional media dedicated to celebrity and entertainment news may not seem like the biggest loss, but it has major ramifications in smaller Canadian markets. ET Canada often covered stories relating to Canadian artists and athletes, showcasing the country’s best and brightest in a way they often aren’t in the American iteration. Last September, ET Canada featured Plains Cree entrepreneur and activist Shayla Stonechild as a co-host in an episode dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ‘Indigenous Artists & Icons.’ Stonechild uses her organization, Matriarch Movement, to elevate and foreground the voices of Indigenous peoples working in the wellness and entertainment sphere. This is particularly important as often content produced by Indigenous peoples, but especially Indigenous women, gets marked as difficult to market and not worth the expensive production. Providing proper coverage of this content is critical in increasing viewership and demonstrating its place in the media landscape. 

While some argue that social media provides a wider reach and allows for marketing directly to an audience, the sheer breadth of content on these platforms can make it difficult for smaller artists to stand out and gain visibility among the competition.

Entertainment news programs and papers are essential in fostering a national arts identity. Whether it influences box office numbers and concert attendance or serves as a catalyst for social change, establishing a national arts identity creates a landscape in which a career in entertainment is viable for Canadians without having to leave the country. Their absence from the airwaves is bound to have far-reaching consequences on the entertainment industry and journalism as a whole in Canada. Programs such as ET Canada are unassumingly valuable, offering Canadian artists a platform for exposure and the chance to nurture a distinct national identity. 

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