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Directors Guild of Canada Questions 2004

Key Cultural Policies - The Election and Beyond

No matter who wins the federal election on June 28, there are some key cultural policy issues that will continue to be extremely important for DGC members and for Canada's film and television industry. Below, you will find background information on the important questions that must be raised during this campaign - these are the key issues that the DGC and its allies will keep working on well beyond the election.

The federal election is now just days away . Cultural policy has barely been discussed by the political parties or the media in this election campaign. Canada
Òs cultural workers must take the initiative
Ö we must urge the political parties and our local candidates to address our issues, to clarify their positions, and to commit to supporting the growth and vitality of our cultural industries.

We strongly urge Directors Guild members to talk to your candidates about issues essential to artists and to Canada
Òs film and television industry
Ö and make your vote count on June 28.

Here are some key questions you should ask your candidates in e-mails, in phone calls, or on the doorstep
Ö on subsequent pages you will find some background information on the key issues. (You may have also received this by mail - sorry for any duplication, but this information is very important.)

1.   What is your party
Òs policy with regard to Canadian broadcasting policy, including requiring broadcast of Canadian drama and reinstating broadcasters
Ò expenditure requirements for Canadian drama protecting Canadian content rules  maintaining current restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcasting

 2.  What is your party
Òs policy with regard to providing stable, multi-year operational funding for cultural institutions such as Telefilm Canada, The Canadian Television Fund, the CBC, the NFB?

3.  What is your party
Òs policy with regard to the CBC (such as broadcasting policy, funding arrangements, content rules, etc.)?

4.  What position does your party take with regard to the proposed Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Content and Artistic Expression? If elected, what steps will your party take with regard to this initiative? What other proposals or policies does your party have with regard to trade and culture?

5.  Does your party support giving directors and screenwriters statutory recognition as
Óaudiovisual authors
Ô under the Copyright Act?

6.  Does your party support an income tax exemption on artistic and copyright income for artists and creators, similar to that which already exists in Quebec and countries such as Ireland?

7.  In recent years, what specific policy initiatives or positions has your party taken with regard to cultural policy issues?


Background on the Issues

Canadian Drama

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) 1999 Television Policy eliminated broadcasters
Ò expenditure requirements with respect to Canadian drama
Ö since then, there has been a significant decline in production of Canadian drama and in broadcasters
Ò expenditures on it. (Between 1998 and 2002, English Canadian TV stations decreased their spending on drama by 20%.)

The latest CRTC plan is to give broadcasters advertising incentives to broadcast original Canadian drama, but Canada
Òs broadcasters must also be required to spend more on Canadian drama. They can certainly afford to do so - the broadcasting regulatory system provides them with significant advantages, and they are becoming increasingly profitable.

The political parties must clearly specify their policies with regard to regulatory supports for Canadian drama. (see the next section for more on the CRTC role.)

Broadcasting Policy

Maintaining current restrictions on foreign ownership in broadcasting and telecommunications is another key regulatory issue. According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, 85% of Canadians oppose allowing foreign ownership in broadcasting. These restrictions ensure that Canadians can maintain control of our key media and can make effective policy to protect and enhance our culture. At present, CRTC regulations allow foreign interests to own up to 47% of private Canadian broadcasting, cable, and telecommunications companies. (The CBC is a publicly owned company.)

Within the Liberal government, the Heritage and Industry Committees completely disagree on this issue
Ö Industry favours eliminating foreign ownership rules. The Conservative Party supports relaxing or eliminating foreign ownership rules in broadcasting (and telecommunications and airlines), and says it will conduct an immediate review of the rules if elected. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois strongly support maintaining restrictions on foreign ownership. The Liberals must be asked to clarify their stand on this issue, and the Conservatives must be urged to support foreign ownership restrictions.

A related issue is satellite television rules. The Conservatives propose to negotiate a reciprocal agreement with the US on satellite broadcasting, which would create an open market in the licensing of TV satellite distribution, allowing a flood of foreign programming into Canada. While the Conservatives say that the reciprocal agreement will allow Canadian programming to be broadcast in the US, we know that in practical terms this will not be the case. The flow of programming will be one-way only: from the US to Canada.

The role of the CRTC is another important broadcasting policy issue. While the other three parties do not propose any change in the regulator
Òs role, the Conservative Party supports restructuring the CRTC and reducing its role to registering and/or marketing bandwidth only (and undertaking international negotiations). Currently the CRTC has the role of licensing broadcasters
Ö television companies
Ò licenses require certain conditions, such as Canadian content rules. At the same time, CRTC regulations offer companies certain advantages in the market, such as allowing them to sell advertising time during
simulcasts of American programming.

Radically restricting the CRTC role in broadcasting regulation would eliminate key mechanisms that now support the production and broadcast of Canadian programming such as requiring broadcasters to fund and air Canadian programming, and would greatly damage the viability of Canada
Òs cultural industries. The Conservatives must be urged to abandon this idea.  

Arts and Culture Funding

By now there is plenty of evidence of the very important contribution that the cultural sector makes to Canada
Òs economic health. The cultural sector contributed $26 billion to our GDP in 2001 and accounts for 5% of all Canadian jobs (and this share is growing faster than that of other job categories). The film and television industry alone provides jobs for more than 134,000 Canadians.

Apart from the direct economic benefits of its activities, the cultural sector also creates incredible multiplier effects
Ö that is, cultural production and activity helps other sectors of the economy thrive. The film and television sector is a great example, contributing to numerous other sectors as it goes about its business
Ö restaurants, hotels, trucking, and so on.

Federal contributions to cultural institutions, activities, and production are not charity
Ö they are investments in a healthy, diverse economy. Moreover, they nurture our unique culture and project it to the world. All the parties must be urged to make specific commitments on arts and culture funding and on policies to strengthen our cultural industries. There are sound economic and cultural reasons for them to do so.

Funding Issues

In recent years, funding levels for many cultural institutions have fluctuated unpredictably, and federal funding to Canada
Òs 25 leading arts organizations has declined by 20% in real dollars over the last 10 years. In some cases, funding is heavily project-based, rather than operational. Canada
Òs cultural institutions are not able to make long-term plans and effectively manage finances unless they know they will continue to receive stable, adequate funding. This is particularly the case for institutions such as the CBC, the Canada Council, Telefilm Canada, and the CTF, which must plan programming far in advance and which have mandates to foster and strengthen Canadian culture over the long term.

To take an example, the CTF is funded through broadcasters
Ò contributions and federal funding. The Liberal government recently restored federal CTF funding to the previous level of $100 million for the next two years, after previously cutting funding by $25 million per year. The CTF must be given a commitment of stable, multi-year funding
Ö the federal contribution should be at least the current $100
million. Likewise, Telefilm Canada is currently developing its 5-year plan for
supporting the long-term sustainability of Canada
Òs audio-visual sector and needs to know how much money it will have.

All the parties must be urged to endorse stable, multi-year funding for our important cultural institutions. The Bloc Québecois and the NDP have done so, and the Bloc has gone so far as to specify dollar amounts for some institutions in its election platform (including for the CTF).

The Liberals say they support the Heritage Committee recommendations, contained in its report Our Cultural Sovereignty, to provide stable, multi-year funding. The Conservatives, however, have said nothing.

CBC

The CBC needs stable, multi-year funding so that it can  fulfil its mandate, and its budget must increase so it can broadcast more and better Canadian drama. The CBC, a major broadcaster of Canadian drama, has undergone funding cuts under recent Conservative and Liberal governments. Although the Liberals promised in the 1993 campaign to restore previous Conservative cuts, they instead made further cuts to the public broadcaster. The Liberals did somewhat better in 1997,
finally giving the CBC a five-year funding commitment to work with. The CBC budget in 2002-2003 was just over $1 billion.

Parties must affirm their support and commitment to the continued strength and presence of the CBC as a public broadcaster and to providing it with adequate, stable, multi-year funding. While three of the parties officially support the CBC, the Conservatives have not announced a CBC policy this election. However, some Conservative candidates have made troubling statements, and Stephen Harper recently suggested that public subsidies for the CBC
Òs main English-language television and Radio Two be eliminated. (Before it became part of the new Conservative Party, the Canadian Alliance policy proposed to sell CBC-TV to the private sector.)

Convention on the Protection of Cultural Diversity

The movement to create an international instrument to keep culture off the table in negotiations on trade agreements (and to shield it from their effects) has moved to UNESCO, which has agreed to spearhead efforts to create an international Convention on the Protection of Cultural Diversity. Creating a strong and comprehensive Convention is very important for Canada
Òs cultural workers and industries. Canada has been a leader in this movement, and the federal government recently committed a $350,000 contribution to UNESCO to finance
intergovernmental meetings to enable the Convention
Òs development. It has also created the position of Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to act as our lead negotiator.

The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebécois have all affirmed their commitment to creating the Convention and to protecting culture in trade negotiations. The Conservatives have made no such commitment, and have not mentioned it in their platform nor in their briefing notes for candidates. The Conservatives must be urged to commit to supporting development of the Convention and to protecting Canadian culture in trade negotiations.

Recognition of writers and directors as audiovisual authors

The Directors Guild of Canada submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage review of the Copyright Act in the fall of 2003. In it, the Guild argued that the Act must be amended to extend statutory recognition as
Óaudiovisual authors
Ô to directors and screenwriters. For most copyright works, it is easy to identify the author or creator, but cinematographic works are created collaboratively and thus need special treatment under the Act. A modernization of the existing Copyright Act is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2004. Neither of the two Heritage Committee reports on this legislative review has made any recommendations on this question, and none of the parties has taken a position on this question. The parties must be urged to support the statutory recognition of directors and screenwriters as
Óaudiovisual authors
Ô of their works.

Income tax exemption on artistic and copyright income for artists and
creators

Many artists and creators subsist on low incomes or have widely fluctuating earnings. Moreover, most cannot contribute to Employment Insurance or benefit from other income supports. Efforts to help artists survive financially have led to support for creating an income tax exemption for them, on a sliding scale, to apply to artistic and copyright earnings. This type of exemption already exists in Quebec, where the ceiling on income is set at $60,000 (making it a progressive tax measure that only benefits low income earners). The Bloc Québécois platform calls for harmonizing federal taxation laws with those of Quebec on this issue. 

The House of Commons has voted on two Private Members
Ò Motions on this issue in the last five years, both introduced by the NDP. They were supported by the Bloc Québécois, but not by the Liberals or the Conservatives. This is a fair tax measure that has already been proven to work
Ö the Liberals and Conservatives must commit to supporting it.


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