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Choosing Canada: Canadian Cultural Policy in the Twenty-first Century

Daniel Schwanen
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Daniel Schwanen: C.D. Howe Institute

C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, 2019, issue 558

Abstract: Cultural activities are central to Canadians’ prosperity, identity and well-being, but the evolution and availability of digital technologies has changed the context in which Canadians access cultural content. The promotion of Canadian culture must adapt to this new setting in which content delivery bandwidth is practically unlimited, and viewers are no longer captive to legacy media. Since access to digital cultural content uses the same broadband infrastructure as other commercial activities, policies must facilitate Canadians’ access and discovery of content without inhibiting the growth of our digital economy and affordability of broadband services. In this context, this Commentary recommends that governments support the availability of diverse Canadian cultural and information offerings, promote engagement with these offerings by audiences in Canada and the world, and build a more sustainable economic framework for the cultural and information sectors by: • Focusing more clearly the funding framework for public cultural agencies and for cultural subsidies more generally, including that for the CBC, on the production, dissemination, and exhibition of original artistic or literary works for which a commercial market is not yet established; or for which there is a clear public rationale. A clear public rationale may include educational, informational, or community engagement benefits, or the potential to seed long-term international demand for Canadian cultural offerings. • Working with all Canadian broadcasters and distributors of Canadian content on strategies and development to facilitate the “discoverability” of Canadian content on digitally mediated platforms, considering methods such as search engine optimization, targeted online advertising, mobile applications, and the translation of Canadian works for both foreign and domestic audiences; and encourage collaborative initiatives between content producers, broadcasters and distributors to develop and market Canadian content. • Setting up a new “Canadian Connections Program” to streamline existing subsidies and credits not effectively aligned with the above objectives. This fund will focus instead on initiatives specifically aimed at engaging non-commercially available Canadian content with Canadian audiences. This new program would be administered through an arms’ length body that would evaluate proposals based on criteria including type and diversity of content, and likelihood of engaging Canadian audiences. • In that context, eliminate mandated funding of Canadian content by cable and satellite providers and mandatory Canadian content quotas for broadcasters, and by reducing these costs, facilitate competitively priced communications services; while ensuring a level playing field with respect to the federal taxes applied to digital services purchased by Canadians and the deductibility of advertising expenses across media; • Reducing foreign investment restrictions applying to cultural industries, with the aim of attracting investment in Canada while retaining the ability to require of foreign investors undertakings toward boosting the financing and visibility of Canadian content.

Keywords: Industry Regulation and Competition Policy; Communications and IT (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H4 L82 L88 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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