Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez took the stage at the Prime Time Conference in Ottawa on February 2nd prepared to take a victory lap on Bill C-11 before the industry crowd. Suggesting that royal assent was only days away, Rodriguez brushed aside Senate amendments to address user content regulation concerns and stated that he would not accept material changes to the bill. Yet within days, the Quebec government altered those plans, indicating that it was unhappy with the bill and demanding changes. The most notable change – reiterated in a motion passed in the National Assembly – would be mandated consultation with Quebec on policy directions from the government directed to the CRTC. Providing any province with a near-veto over federal communications policy should be a non-starter, meaning that Rodriguez risks going from culture hero in Quebec to the person who threatens its regulatory power over culture.
Post Tagged with: "Cultural Policy"
Why Quebec’s Demand for Changes to Bill C-11 Are A Product of Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s Risky Policy Choices
Earlier this year, I posted on the cultural implications of the TPP, noting that the agreement represents a departure from trade deals by creating restrictions on Canadian cultural policy. Assuming services such as Netflix argue that any mandated Cancon contribution is discriminatory if they do not also receive the benefits accorded to established broadcasters or broadcast distributors, the TPP will effectively ban applying Cancon contributions to exempt entities.
Now it appears that the implications of the TPP for Canadian cultural policy are beginning to attract attention. Question period in the House of Commons featured the following exchange this week:
The intersection between the TPP and Canadian cultural policies is likely to emerge as one of the more controversial aspects of the TPP, particularly given the government’s emphasis on a stronger cultural policy in its election platform. Earlier in the Trouble with the TPP series, I wrote that the TPP fails to protect Canadian cultural policy. I pointed to U.S. lobby pressure to limit Canadian protection of cultural policies as well as provisions that restrict Canada’s ability to consider expanding Cancon contributions to entities currently exempt from payment. I have not been a supporter of mandating Cancon contributions to online video provides such as Netflix, but restricting Canada’s right to do so in a trade agreement is shortsighted, bad policy.
Peter Grant has written a careful response to my post on Barry Sookman’s blog. He argues that Canada can still “maintain or enhance our cultural policies.” He opens by stating that “I am not entirely wrong” about the TPP being a departure from Canada’s traditional approach to culture in trade agreements. However, he argues that the TPP approach is not unique since the Canada – EU Trade Agreement adopts a similar approach. Yet CETA contains numerous cultural exceptions within the chapters for Cross-Border Trade in Services, Domestic Regulation, Government Procurement, Investment, and Subsidies. In the TPP, there are only seven provisions in the entire agreement that are subject to the cultural exception and many of the issues addressed by CETA are not covered. Further, the TPP has exceptions to the cultural exception not found in CETA and (as Grant notes) Canada did not get an explicit exception to allow for measures to allow domestic audio-visual content to be reasonably available as did Australia.
The movie Argo may have picked up the biggest prize in last week’s Academy Awards ceremony, but it was the Best Documentary Short winner that had many on the Internet buzzing. Inocente, a film about a 15-year old homeless girl who dreams of becoming an artist, took home the Oscar and in the process became the first Internet crowdsource funded film to win Hollywood’s biggest award. Last year, the film raised $52,527 on Kickstarter, a crowdsource funding website that has raised over US$100 million to support the creation of independent films.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the emergence of crowdsource funding – or crowdfunding – points to the power of the Internet as an important source of financial support for independent creators, whether film makers, musicians, software programmers, or authors. Crowdfunding enables creators to raise funds through small contributions from the public by publicizing their project using the Internet and social media sites. Crowdfunding success stories encompass new products, companies, and community initiatives, but movies have fared particularly well.
As Canadian telecom operators, broadcasters, and broadcast distributors become single entities – Rogers combined with City-TV, Quebecor’s ownership of Videotron, Sun Media, and Groupe TVA, Shaw having purchased Canwest Global, as well as Bell in the process of merging with CTVglobemedia – the biggest hurdle may well be fears about the cultural impact of opening up telecom companies to foreign buyers.
While the link between broadcasting and Canadian culture is obvious, the connection between Canadian broadcasting ownership and Canadian culture is tenuous at best.