September 18, 2017 2 years 2 months ago

ANALYSIS: Minister Joly’s new strategies may have no teeth (money)

Release date likely September 28th

I FEEL FOR HERITAGE MINISTER Mélanie Joly. Seventeen months ago when she kicked off her wide-ranging review into Canadian Content in a Digital World, she bravely put “everything” on the table. She said that a LOT and you know what, if you want to take a holistic look at Canadian content in the midst of a swirling media world that seems to evolve daily into something new, it’s a good idea.

However, it’s gone a bit off the rails.

The problem with everything on the table – is that it’s a damn crowded table, complete with stakeholders from all sides piling their issues onto that table, while also trying to grab money from the table and maybe trying to push other folks’ important stuff off the table. It’s led to massive confusion and much worry throughout the Canadian content industry, especially with a very active CRTC merrily changing regulations in the meantime in spite of the politicians, as is its wont.

Then earlier this year, the federal government used the budget to say it plans to overhaul the Telecom Act as well as the Broadcasting Act – which further complicates whatever are Minister Joly’s Digital Cancon plans (even though literally no work that we can see has been done on how or when to update those Acts). I mean, if the CRTC is changing the regs while she’s studying everything AND the federal government plans to change the laws governing all that everything anyway, what is this paper going to say and what sort of teeth will it have? (We also don’t know if the new NAFTA negotiations will have an impact on our cultural sector, either.)

"The Prime Minster’s Office and the Department of Finance have been adamant no new money will be made available for this to Heritage."

According to several well placed sources (who have all asked not to be named as they are not allowed to speak publicly), Minister Joly’s hard work won’t have much in the way of teeth – and by teeth we mean funding. Our sources don’t know what’s in the paper for sure, (but the Ministry has let leak to some that it will be announced September 28th) but they all say the Prime Minster’s Office and the Department of Finance have been adamant no new money will be made available for this to Heritage.

What that means is funding for Minister Joly’s new ideas or pet projects will have to claim cash from other areas already allocated through the Department of Heritage, something that won’t be easy.

Also being speculated is that the Minister could take a timeout when it comes to finding cash for her new things and instead turn to a handful of members of her original advisory council, pointing them towards the many Canadian content funds and agencies currently drawing taxpayer dollars, from the National Film Board to the Canada Media Fund to the Feature Film Fund to FACTOR, looking to make all those resources somehow more efficient and possibly fund new strategies in her Digital Cancon paper which can later help churn out more Cancon that can be taken to a global stage – something else the Minister has said a LOT.

As we approach the announcement of Minister Joly’s findings, expectations in the industry for any sorts of sea-changes are actually quite low, although she is getting pressure from Quebec, whose culture minister said this weekend that Netflix and others should be taxed just like Canadian companies.

Will the Minister come out with something that helps our fretful broadcasters? That’s considered unlikely, according to our sources. Will she come with something that favours writers, directors, actors, songwriters and musicians? With the recent demand that the CRTC review its group licencing decision and programs of national interest expenditures (something the creatives demanded), coupled with the complaints from Quebec’s cultural big wheels as a backdrop, our sources think that is far more likely.

But without any new money to back it all up, will it matter?

Photo borrowed from Minister Joly's Instagram.