Cultural Policy: And Our Readers Write...

Last week, David Farrell wrote a column suggesting Heritage Minister Joly’s cultural roadmap was a policy paper short on policy and long on promises.

In the editorialIs MélanieJoly’s political capital spent, he asked readers to fire back with what they think and, more important, what changes can be made to get future policy on the right track.  Here’s what we have received so far.


Gord Dimitrieff

President & Founder of Aporia Records

There is no doubt that Heritage’s deal with Netflix sets a precedent, and I think it's unlikely that the domestic telecom companies won't be trying to negotiate similar agreements for their digital content/broadcast businesses.

The music industry is now a fully transitioned digital business that accommodates customers for physical goods, and the same thing is about to happen to radio. 

The history of modern popular music is inextricably linked to the history of the automobile and the growth of terrestrial radio that was fueled by a car-driving public.  If self-driving cars are indeed the future, it is a future that will depend on the telecom companies for wireless data – and in connected cars, the future of radio is undoubtedly in the form of streaming Internet services. 

I do not believe it is by accident that Bell partnered with iHeartMedia for their radio app, rather than develop their own (as they did for their Netflix competitor Crave TV): virtually every aftermarket car receiver now comes pre-configured for the iHeartRadio, Pandora and Spotify apps.  Similarly, Rogers is partnered with Spotify via their Fido Pulse subscription package.

The Radio Starmaker fund is drying up, and without any contributions from broadcasters’ digital businesses, CCD commitments to FACTOR and other industry partners are next. 

Are we comfortable with an industry funding model that is wholly dependent on government's desire to maintain the Canada Music Fund?  And perhaps more importantly, is the government comfortable with this? 

It's hard to believe that the optics of requiring tax payers exclusively to fund Canadian cultural content are better than requiring private, for-profit users to pay their fair share.

There are only are three possible options when it comes to funding cultural production:

1) The public purse can pay for everything, an approach that is often resented;
2)  Private businesses can pay for everything, an approach that tends to favour the lowest common denominator; or
3) A hybrid model in which the government and the private sector are partners, the path that Canada has historically applied via the CTD and CCD programs.

By refusing to bring digital consumption into the CCD system, Minister Joly has effectively signaled the demise of the hybrid model of cultural funding and is leading Canada’s creative industries down a path that quite literally combines the worst of both worlds.

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Geoff Kulawick

President, True North Records & Linus Entertainment

Here's what I think!

It was Justin Trudeau who decided Netflix and other global digital distributors of content were not to be regulated for a political popularity motive. This has stripped his culture minister and the CRTC of any power or credibility. If only he could look at the courage of his father whose value of Canadian culture and identity gave him the courage to bring in Canadian Content for culture distributors of the day - broadcasters. Netflix and YouTube, along with all of today's other foreign distributors of content should be contributing to production of Canadian content without controlling its distribution (into a FACTOR like independent funding body without conditions of distribution as opposed to a Canada Media Fund type system where the contributor controls the distribution), and charging tax on advertising and subscriptions sold in Canada.

Without real leadership to enact policy like this, the future of Canadian identity and culture will be shaped by Silicon Valley, and not by Canadian creators and entrepreneurs.

The prime minister is the author of this failed cultural policy, and the minister of culture is simply the messenger.

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Olie Kornelsen

Perhaps the HST tax collected by the Feds that applies specifically to anything in Canada’s Entertainment Consumer Culture could be repurposed, redirected and renamed as “The Cultural, Sight, Sound, Script and Sport Appreciation Fee.” 

Effectively, instead of all (or a portion there of) HST tax revenue generated from these areas going into the general federal government tax coffers, could be reassigned specifically to a dedicated C.4S.A. Fund. 

Funds would then be assigned proportionally across all the applicable Cultural Entertainment sectors for application.

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Name withheld

I am intrigued by some of the quotes and comments from the industry and forgive me as I have not read the policy nor am I familiar with the details, so I may be way off base.  But I wonder when it's said:

  • This policy will, "reflect little of Canada" or it won't do anything to "promote or protect our stories" I'm always reminded of the CanCon regulations for radio. 

  • Now, I concede there are dozens of reasons why CanCon regulations have benefited Canadian artists and the Canadian Music Industry.  But, my memory is still clear enough that I remember that one of the overriding reasons often stated for the need of Can Con regs was also to reflect Canada and the Canadian experience.  Now we've had some great talent emerge from Canada and thousands of hit records I'm sure.  But really how many of these successful recordings have really been reflective of Canada in any way?

I'm hard-pressed to come up with five. 

Music is written, produced and recorded to be relevant to a worldwide audience isn't it?  I suggest the same is true in television or movies.  Billions of dollars are spent in Canada on TV and film production and some top box office feature films have been directed/produced by Canadians.  I doubt if 10% have ever had anything to do with promoting "Canadian stories."  You might be able to argue for many good reasons why this new policy is damaging to the creative community, but not "reflecting Canada" is a false narrative now as it has been for the past forty years.

  • I have read in these Facebook rants that Netflix $500 million investment in Canada is accompanied by an increase in Netflix monthly charges.  Probably true but Netflix is jacking their rates in the US as well, and it has nothing to do with their Canadian investment.

  • I haven't seen the policy but I think there was mention that they wouldn't be bailing out failing newspapers.  Well it's 2017 and the decline of the printed daily newspaper all over the world continues in major free fall. In most markets less than 15% of the population under 35 even read a daily newspaper. Should the government really be bailing out an industry that is truly on its last legs?  No sane investor whether public or private should be investing in the newspaper business

  • Finally, the criticism that "The Trudeau Government is breaking from the past" with this new policy. And I ask, "What’s the bad part about that?"

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