Writers Guild of Canada Questions 2004

From: Gail Martiri <g.martiri@wgc.ca>
Subject: RE: more information on WGC positions on Canadian drama

From: Craig Hubley
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 4:07 PM
To: Gail Martiri
Subject: RE: more information on WGC positions on Canadian drama


I have scoured the current policy and platform, and recently proposed items to see what's in the pipeline. I don't see a specific call to reinstate the longstanding requirement for drama production, but, in general, I read the Green platform as very supportive of this type of production, and have noted all the specifics below. Any member of the Green Party of Canada can propose any change to any policy, and so I'd urge you to take any clarifications or issues with the below to a Green Party member and have them advance it "through channels".

The Green Party does not in general let its Leader write policies on demand although they can certainly interpret standing policies and respond to other Leaders' commitments. That might be the case here, though it seems that what you want is too specific to be considered simply an interpretation of existing policy. Which I try to do here:

On Wed, 23 Jun 2004, Gail Martiri wrote:
> You asked for my comments on the City as Art paper — on the whole it looks
> like a positive policy direction.
>The thing our members is most interested in is obviously policy for film and tv,
> and I note your party's strong allegiance to diversity of programming.

Diversity implies abundance, and when there are more productions, there
are necessarily more writers being paid, even if fewer people are seeing
each production. This will be of interest to the struggling writer who
presumably benefits the most from the activities of the WGC and artists'
collectives. We are more concerned with this base of writing talent than
we are with ensuring that already-successful writers have guaranteed film
or TV access, as our basic view is that creative activity in general has
vast benefits for whole populations, not just those that are making large fees. With respect for diversity one of six fundamental Green principles
we are committed to multi-lingual, community-based, publicly-seeded works
and are unlikely to compromise this in favour of any form of monoculture.

>Aside from this, do the Greens have
> a position on Canadian content rules, the role of the CRTC, the use of
> expenditure and exhibition requirements on broadcasters to support
> drama?

INCREASE SHARE FROM 4.4% (in 1997)

The standing GPC policy since 1997 is that
"A Green party government would undertake:
A- to increase the share of Canadian programming watched by Canadians beyond the present figure of 4.4%.
B- to require the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to promote the cultural diversity of Canadian music, literature, dance and drama, many of which are already funded by Canadian taxpayers."

More broadcast of existing material would help to address your concern;
certainly we are here directly supportive of Canadian drama as an art form.

Quebec has been very successful at improving its share of native produced
dramatic TV. In general Greens would propose following the Quebec model
which includes strong support for dramatic production and guaranteed TV


"C- to maintain and increase arts funding, especially for smaller,
community-based, participatory arts and recreational activities.
D- to eliminate the Goods and Services Tax on books, magazines,
newspapers, films, videotapes, audiotapes, compact disks and all other means of artistic expression."


E- to ensure that CBC-TV will be required to produce programs that are
educational, thought-provoking, useful and unavailable elsewhere.
F- to provide stable funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's
both radio and television services."

interprets these as the 2004 platform promising that "the Green Party will:

"Tighten restrictions on the ownership of radio stations. The CRTC will
only allow one AM radio station and one FM radio station per owner in each
broadcast area."


"Require that not less than 50% of a radio station's programming will be
locally produced and community focused.

Require all television stations to air 60% Canadian content in prime time."

So we see a continued strong role for the CBC and Canadian content rules.
There seems to be nothing new with respect to the "drama requirements",
but these of course were a given in 1997, and only have been lost recently.

"Provide stable base-funding for the CBC to provide quality television and
radio programming in both national languages," as we propose, and it might
be that some of the problem disappears, as lack of stability in funding is
particularly harmful to dramatic shows that rely on steady cast commitment
and sets and such.


In the officially published platform, the plank on Heritage promises to
"develop, in consultation with representatives of national educational
groups, common institutional curricula related to natural and cultural
heritage." http://www.greenparty.ca/platform2004/en/policies.php?p=61

This would necessarily include a lot of historical drama production from
the "Heritage Minute" to "four part mini-series" scale. You could expect
a lot of support for productions like "Trudeau" or "Riel" for instance.


Some policy proposals that are not yet part of the 2004 platform are:

"Enact a Royal Commission to create a set of principles and policies to
propagate an independent, competitive and diverse media industry." It
seems that this is a bit premature given Internet media aren't yet fully on the map as competitors and as complements to film, TV and radio. At
a future time when broadband and high quality wireless media merge more
fully with analog broadcast and cable TV, and digital TV either emerges
or flops in the US, it will be easier to determine a viable direction
for public policy on these issues in Canada. Also the appeal of so-
called "reality TV" and one-off documentaries in film and TV may also
be much clearer soon - are these a fad, replacing drama in the public's
mind, or not? It's not for government to fight a general trend away
from drama, but, to preserve dramatic programs in the public interest.

"Have the CRTC reserve more bandwidth for independent and non-profit
stations." Presently the FCC is undergoing rule shifts that will affect
border stations and which may allocate some UHF stations to wireless net


We are very concerned with emerging artists. We are concerned that
"Telefilm Canada reserves 75% of its budget to finance commercially
successful companies while the rest of newcomers have to compete
intensively for the remaining grants" as Diego Briceno has put it.


According to the Canadian Conference of the Arts, Canadian cultural
industries support $17 billion in economic activity annually with a
federal investment of $2.9 billion. One quarter of the federal investment
is returned in taxes.

> If you do have a position on this, I would appreciate a copy.

I think I cannot answer the question specifically about drama requirements,
other than to interpret closely what has already been published as above.

I'd suspect that we simply have not formed a response since the last time
our positions were seriously revisited in depth was in 1997. Much has
changed in the interim. I'd encourage you to make the case for a drama
requirement via any members of the WGC who are also members of the Greens.
We are a participatory party and very open to this kind of member input.

However, it is that very participatory process which sometimes fails to
have a position on an emerging issue ready and approved in under a year.

> Thanks,
> Gail

Hope the above is useful,
Sorry I can't make any specific commitments on behalf of the party, but,
that's just not how we work. Not even the Leader can do that, actually.
It has to come from the members.