Heritage Department Looks at Major Cultural Policy Review

According to the April 22 Globe and Mail article in which Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly’s comprehensive digital cultural policy review was announced, four areas of Canadian governance will be up for reassessment:

  • Laws (Broadcasting Act, Copyright Act, Income Tax Act, Telecommunications Act)
  • Institutions (CBC, National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, Canada Council for the Arts)
  • Policies (Foreign investment rules for publishers and film)
  • Programs (Tax credits, export promotion, Canada Book, Periodical, Music and Media Funds)

Joly seeks to establish a new, integrated model for governing these aspects of the cultural economy – on which more than 600,000 jobs and $47.7 billion worth of GDP currently depend (making it a greater overall contributor to the Canadian economy than fisheries, agriculture and forestry combined).

Such a comprehensive review was neither part of the Liberal Party’s election platform, nor the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Heritage Canada. At the same time, Minister Joly’s talks with cultural industry representatives over the last five months have showed overwhelming concern for making Canadian laws more compatible with the challenging media landscape of 2016.

The Department of Heritage launched public consultations on April 23, with an online questionnaire that citizens can complete until May 20. A second phase of consultations will be conducted under the banner of “Strengthening Canadian Content, Discovery and Export in a Digital World”.

Through its consultations, the government seeks feedback from all cultural industries participants on improvements that could potentially be made to Canada’s media governance regime. The goal is to better stimulate the creation of Canadian content, while promoting its viability in national and international markets.

Digital Shift 5b

As part of this consultative process, CIMA and its Canadian music industry partners will make the case that Canadian government institutions need to be brought up-to-date so they can enable artists to fairly manage and profit from their creative works.

Minister Joly says that politicians have long been reluctant to undertake such a complicated legislative reform project. On the other hand, she believes that the relevance of the current government depends on taking such timely, proactive lawmaking steps.

The last major update to Canada’s media governance framework happened in 1991, when the Mulroney government revised the Broadcasting Act (which had formerly been amended in 1968). Over the nearly two decades since then, technologies like digital streaming and smartphones have become the predominant media platforms through which citizens communicate – both inside Canada and around the world.

According to the first-time MP and Minister, digital issues will be the ‘cornerstone’ of her Department of Heritage mandate. Joly sees additional urgency for conducting this policy review as a result of the way her own communications activities largely take place on the Internet, including her social media-driven 2015 election campaign.

As Heritage Canada and other departments take a fresh look at all communications legislation and institutions in Canada – from copyright law, to telecommunications, to the CRTC and the CBC – Joly has stated that “everything’s on the table”.

The broad-based reassessment of Canadian cultural policy comes at a time when the federal government is already planning a mandatory Copyright Act review in 2017. Now all communications laws in Canada will be reevaluated for their compatibility with digital trends, technologies, business practices and consumer preferences.

Because the majority of our federal governance tools predate the Internet, Joly believes that Canada – like many contemporary countries grappling with 21st century media technology – requires a new, reformulated cultural policy toolkit.

Over the course of 2017, Minister Joly will also work with federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to prepare and implement a culture export strategy to help preserve and expand Canada’s vital $48-billion cultural sector.

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 To read more about the purposes behind Heritage’s digital cultural policy review, click here.
To submit a pre-consultation online questionnaire before Friday, May 20, click here.