Reforming Canadian Content
Culture / May 23, 2016
Within Rust discusses getting in tune with today’s industry
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly has proposed a reform of our government’s Canadian Content laws. These laws haven’t been updated since Mulroney’s administration in 1991, so the goal is to bring them up to date with 21st Century radio and television broadcasting.
Due to radical changes in technology and consumer behavior, CanCon has some catching up to do in order to stay relevant. According to Joly, “everything is on the table,” when discussing the mandatory minimums for CanCon with The Globe and Mail.
Nolen Scott, front-man of the alternative rock/pop band Within Rust, addresses CanCon’s effect on musicians, and the possibilities that could unfold. “Personally, I think the Canadian Content laws are good for the industry, but they’re also kind of bad for the industry,” says Scott. “The reason they exist is to keep Canadian culture alive, but . . .
It could be good if they got rid of some of the mandatory minimums, or at least if they changed how they’re distributed.”
An Internet survey regarding the mandatory minimums was open until May 20. The goal of the survey was to gather information about how Canadians consume media, and to identify the government’s role in regards to supporting local talent. After the survey, there will be a consultations panel, and then the actual changes will take place in 2017.
Canadian Content regulations began in 1929, when the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting submitted its request to have some public ownership in Canadian broadcasting. By 1932, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act was passed, and the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC, Canada’s first public broadcaster) was formed. Though short-lived, its assets were transferred to CBC/Radio-Canada, which has long been the nation’s foremost public radio and television broadcaster.
CanCon has been frequently criticized over the years, sometimes as a result of when the works of popular artists are denied “CanCon status,” (including Bryan Adams and Celine Dion). Another subject of scrutiny is that CanCon doesn’t currently apply to digital technologies.
“In a way [the internet] makes [CanCon regulations] partially obsolete,” says Scott. “The one thing that I feel I don’t particularly like about them is that it just creates a vacuum that’s hard to get out [of]. There are a lot of artists who are massive in Canada because of CanCon but they’re nobodies in other countries. The problem is that you can’t sustain a career just in Canada. There aren’t enough people.”
CanCon laws will continue to be a subject of debate over the next few years, as new developments start to take place. The primary concern is whether or not they will fit around the industry? And if so, how?
“It’s not so much [about] getting an act to thrive,” says Scott, “ It’s [about] getting an act to survive.”