Canadian actors descended on Parliament Hill yesterday to make their case for greater government funding for Canadian television and movie productions. Not the best day to do so, however, since it coincided with the Auditor General' s report on Canadian cultural funding. The report makes for interesting reading as it provides a good sense of how much money is spent by the federal government to support the creation of Canadian cultural products (roughly $800 million per year, not including CBC funding). The report criticizes several aspects of the current approach including insufficient oversight over Canadian content rules and the lack of a broader Canadian culture strategy.
While the department was very responsive to the Auditor General' s concerns, I found that the most interesting criticism involved the lack to tools to measure the results of Canadian culture programs. At the moment, the government can provide short-term measures such as how many Canadian films or CDs are released, but there is very little on the long-term impact of the billions of dollars that is spent on these programs.
Certain results are already obvious – -Canadian English language films have not reached the goal of five percent of the Canadian box office (most Canadian box office revenues comes from French language films in Quebec) and the vast majority of new Canadian music (about 90 percent) is produced by small Canadian independent labels, not the multinational labels whose views are represented by CRIA. In fact, the decline in new Canadian music releases over the past five years is almost wholly attributable to those multinationals.
The Auditor General is right to point to this data – and more like it that we don' t have that links program spending with results – which should play a key role in the development of Canadian cultural policy.