Further Proof That the Canadian Entertainment Industry Exists


More C-10 testimony, this time not from industry people but from an arguably more important source: mayors whose cities depend on film/TV crews, and therefore on unambiguous tax credit rules.

I also like this bit at the end:

Members of the house of Commons gave C-10 their unanimous approval but opposition politicians later said the clause affecting entertainment tax credits had escaped their notice.

With today’s technology, it really should be a little harder to miss important things buried in a piece of legislation — I mean, 100 years ago, you couldn’t automatically search a document for every instance of the phrase “contrary to public policy” — but it seems like the problem of legislators not reading legislation is more, not less prevalent.

Maybe I’m hopelessly naïve, but I’ve never been convinced that C-10 was introduced with particularly ill intent. It has an intent I don’t agree with, but I don’t think Minister Verner is entirely wrong when she says that it’s a clarification of rules that already existed. (There are other, subtler ways to censor or cripple the entertainment industry without making the wording as clear as in C-10.) The problem is that when you put unwritten rules into specifically-worded rules, the “Law of Unintended Consequences” kicks in. It’s a bit like in baseball, how every attempt to re-write the rules to redefine the strike zone, telling umpires exactly when and where they’re supposed to call a strike, has huge consequences for the way the game is played. E.g. when Major League Baseball rewrote the rules in 1963 so the strike zone starts at “the bottom of the knees” instead of “the knees,” batting averages dropped by like 30 points in one year. When you try to put into words that which has previously been unwritten, like what is and isn’t “contrary to public policy,” it’s bigger than the few words suggest.

Also from the Globe, more on the Canadian Television Fund business: it’s now up to the Federal government to define a hit show. But this can have no unintended consequences whatsoever.

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Further Proof That the Canadian Entertainment Industry Exists

  1. The effect of no-strings-attached subsidy is to remove the pressures of an free market in entertainment content from producers. If any smugly unwatchable high-concept Cancon will qualify for tax credits, what incentive is there to actually create a product that appeals to viewers?

    That the proposed “hit factor” would put the federal government in the position of having to gauge that appeal only emphasizes the illogic of the underlying premise. Why shouldn’t the Canadian entertainment industry have to service an entirely free market, and live or die on the quality and success of their product – as determined by viewership, ad revenues, and merchandising?

  2. Why shouldn’t the Canadian entertainment industry have to service an entirely free market, and live or die on the quality and success of their product – as determined by viewership, ad revenues, and merchandising?

    In theory, I don’t really disagree. But in practice, no government is ever going to force/allow Canadian entertainment to operate in an entirely free market. (Probably no industry anywhere operates in an entirely free market, come to think of it.) And as you probably know, once a government program is in place it’s almost indestructible.

    And if the subsidies are going to exist, which they are, there needs to be a fair and comprehensible basis for giving them out.

  3. Here’s the problem. There isn’t any mass body of “viewers”. There’s just all of us. The individuals that watch. We all have different tastes, we all have different things that make us want to watch and, more importantly, make us not want to watch.

    In a completely free market, producers and writers would have to create shows that offend the least number of people in order to keep their demographic. Of course, the more you do that, the more you water down the content until the point where, while few people find anything terribly wrong with it, there’s nothing really good about it either.

    Why is it that we have over 200 channels yet people complain about there being “nothing to watch”? Because of this very thing. You can’t really appeal to a mass audience, you can just appease them. To really appeal, you have to go for niches, and hope in doing so you find one of those ones where the group who actively tunes it out is a very small one.

    Of course, this legislation is just silly. Government funding should not have any relation to saleability, good or bad. The market can handle that just fine. Government funding should be for those projects that stand to benefit a lot of people, primarily by strengthening the industry in the region or by being able to show ancilliary benefits (like Just for Laughs spurring the tourist industry in Montreal)

  4. All due respect to Paul’s economics 101 lesson, which part of the free market is Paul talking about?

    Is it the free market where Canada, like no other country in the world, has broadcasters who benefit from protected status through simulcasting?

    Is it the free market where the Canadian channels boast of being 75% the same as the exact same channels we already get anyway?

    Or are we talking about the free market of the cable companies who were mandated to create the CTF in the first place, way back in 1995, as the price for being allowed to jack their rates to Canadians? (regulated, as they are, by a protectionist broadcasting policy.)

    There is absolutely zero — ZERO — free market in the entire Canadian broadcasting system. This is a matter of simple math; a recognition of the fact that a country with a more or less open door policy on culture and a population of 30 million cannot really compete in any kind of level way with a market next door with 300 million people and the largest media corporations on the planet.

    Canada, by the way, is the only nation in the world where this ridiculous argument takes place. From England to France to Italy to South Africa, governments realize the value of cultural industries and the need to both support them robustly and also to try and do so in a way that encourages, not stifles, creativity.

    But no, we should probably play market games with the creators.

    Why not. Let’s make them the first players in the entire crooked game to have to “compete freely in the market.”

    By the way, I also agree that entertainment should compete in the free market.

    In the same way that I believe that anyone who wants one should be able to have a puppy, and that we should all work together and live in peace.

    Oh, and in the same way that everyone’s opinion is valuable — no matter how simplistic and ill informed.

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