Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly launched the next phase of her consultation on supporting Canadian content in a digital world this morning, but the results from the first “pre-consultation” phase – an online poll of the public and stakeholders – already points to the policy challenge faced by the government. The poll received more than 10,000 responses with participants asked to identify the major barriers and challenges for Canadian content. The perspective of the public and stakeholders (I place “stakeholders” in quotation marks in the title because all Canadian stakeholders) are strikingly different, with the public citing the challenges in finding and promoting content and the stakeholders seeking more money.
For example, the survey asked participants to identify “the most urgent challenges facing the culture sector in the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world.” The top answer for the public was foreign competition and making content stand out online. In other words, the public says there is an incredible array of choice led by large foreign providers and that finding Canadian content is not easy. Industry stakeholders do not see it that way, however. Their top challenge – by far – was creator remuneration followed by how public funding is allocated. Foreign competition and making content stand out online rank further down the list.
The divide is similarly apparent when asked about the most urgent barriers. The public says there isn’t enough quality content produced. Stakeholders blame everyone else – their top two barriers are consumers (who they say expect free or low cost content) and the government (they say their programs have not kept pace).
Given these views, the proposed solutions also diverge significantly. The public says the most effective tool to address the issue better efforts to promote and brand Canada abroad. Stakeholders want more money as “enhanced public support for creators” and “direct government support to creative industries” – both essentially more tax dollars for the industry – rank as the top two solutions.
Joly’s latest consultation talks about looking confidently to the future and rightly notes that “the way forward is not attempting to regulate content on the Internet.” The public seems largely on board as their responses focus on the need to better promote Canadian content so that it is easier to find. The industry, on the other hand, seems content to use the consultation to seek more public funding, suggesting that the technologies may have changed, but using the policy process to lobby for more tax dollars remains the same.