The Canadian music industry gathered in Calgary last weekend for the Juno Awards, the industry’s biggest awards gala that has grown into a week-long event. While the award show is the public face of the Junos, behind the scenes are years of negotiations with governments to provide millions in public funding.
With Ontario hosting the Junos twice in three years – Hamilton hosted in 2015 and Ottawa is slated to host in 2017 – the provincial Liberal government has committed to enormous taxpayer support. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reports that according to internal documents recently obtained under the provincial access to information laws, that funding has sparked concerns within government departments due to the mushrooming budgets, inflated claims about the economic impact of the awards, and what officials have described as a “breach [of] the integrity of the objective grant assessment process.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about the problems associated with the Ontario Music Fund (OMF), the provincial government’s flagship funding program for the music industry. The fund, which is administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), has doled out nearly $30 million in two years despite little public transparency on how the money has been spent and questionable claims about job creation.
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My column/post this week on the Ontario Music Fund’s lack of transparency and exaggerated impact has elicited numerous private responses from people frustrated by the program (some public too) as well as some comments from the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Speaking to FYI Music, OMDC unsurprisingly defend the program and its results. However, the comments appear to confirm that claims about the impact of the program by Michael Coteau, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, were inaccurate.
Coteau spoke to Karen Bliss, Billboard’s Canadian correspondent, in April 2015 about the Ontario Music Fund. As part of the interview, Coteau was asked about auditing or vetting where the money was spent:
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Earlier this month, the British Columbia government unveiled a new $15 million music fund to support the local music industry. The fund matches a similar Ontario initiative that has doled out nearly $30 million over the past two years with a commitment from Premier Kathleen Wynne to make the Ontario Music Fund a permanent program to support the industry.
The millions of taxpayer dollars earmarked for the music industry represents a major success for the industry lobby, which shifted several years ago from focusing on digital copyright reform to identifying new sources of government financial support.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that despite the industry accolades, the Ontario program suffers from a surprising lack of transparency with virtually no public information on how the money is actually spent. Moreover, according to documents obtained under provincial access to information laws, the Liberal government has exaggerated the impact of the first round of funding with the creation of relatively few new full-time positions and limited international investment in the province.
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As CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais anticipated, the Government of Ontario’s call for regulation of online video services attracted considerable attention, including comments from Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover roundly dismissing the possibility. Glover stated:
“We will not allow any moves to impose new regulations and taxes on internet video that would create a Netflix and Youtube Tax.”
Last night, I received an email from a spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau that tried to soften the call for online video regulation. The spokesperson stated:
“The presentation today provided important elements for CRTC consideration as it undertakes its review. The government is not advocating for any CanCon changes, or that any specific regulations be imposed on new media TV, until more evidence is available.”
I asked for clarification on what “more evidence” means. The spokesperson responded that there will be over 100 presentations at the CRTC hearing and that all need to be heard from before moving forward.
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