February 11, 2023
Bill C-11 continues to be the cultural wedge issue that won’t quit. The MediaPolicy view expressed (incessantly) over the last year is that the Bill is frequently misrepresented and misunderstood.
Those misunderstandings caught up to Margaret Atwood recently when she sympathetically retweeted a Michael Geist post featuring a video of fellow novelist and Canadian Senator David Adams Richards “tearing apart” C-11.
Senator Richards was denouncing the very notion of Canadian content as a state-sponsored assault on artistic expression. (Richards compared the ‘bureaucrat’ controlled funding and promotion of Canadian content to ‘cultural committees’ in Soviet Russia and Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda in Nazi Germany).
An enterprising Globe and Mail reporter got Atwood to elaborate on her endorsement of Richards’ comments.
The MediaPolicy report on the whole affair is here and seeks to clarify what if anything Bill C-11 changes in our decades-long federal policy on funding and promoting “Canadian” creators and their creations.
After that MediaPolicy post was published, Atwood revisited her Globe comments in a lighthearted Substack post and, suffice it to say, she hasn’t done any further reading on the subject matter.
However her post concludes as follows:
I think – I think – that the idea is to enlarge the space available to the creative folk in Canada by helping them profit fairly from their endeavours, insofar as that is possible, and to encourage the availability of platforms via which they may serve up their cheeseburgers. Is that it?
Yes, that’s it.
The facts aside, the Atwood-Richards episode of the C-11 soap opera begat its own epilogue.
The always controversial Guy Fournier wrote a pugnacious column in the Le Journal de Montréal accusing the two English Canadian authors of attacking Québec —see the quotation at the end of this post—- claiming without a shred of evidence that the two writers were insinuating that francophone supporters of the Bill were soft on fascism.
Michael Geist pounced on the column, suggesting Atwood and other critics of C-11 are being victimized by the Bill’s supporters, referencing by hyperlink “columnists” (in fact, only Fournier) and a tweet thread from the Writer’s Guild “respectfully disagreeing” with Atwood.
The victim politics are best left behind. Still, Richards’ cri de coeur on the Senate floor makes interesting reading.
The Senator offers up a straw-man description of Canadian content as a government-approved narrative of national experience that, as a Maritimer, doesn’t speak to his identity let alone what he wants to write about.
Such a narrative, official or otherwise, does not exist except in urban myth. But the enduring riddle of Canadian cultural identity is the subject of a longer MediaPolicy reflection published last year, ‘Telling Canadian Stories in Not a Slogan.’
On the subject of free expression and censorship on regulated platforms, Conservative MP Michael Chong wants the CRTC to ban state-supported Chinese TV from Canadian cable services.
Readers will recall that Canadian cable companies voluntarily pulled Russia Today television from distribution shortly after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The federal government jumped in anyway and more or less commanded the CRTC to officially confirm the expulsion. MediaPolicy covered that story here.
While we debate the appropriate regulatory approach to supporting Canadian content in the age of Internet broadcasting, industry leaders are beginning to talk out loud about ‘how much time television has left.’
A worthwhile read is a survey of American TV and streamer executives trying to answer just that question.
A useful Canadian side-bar to the US piece is a Globe report on the state-of-the-industry gathered from CMPA’s annual Prime Time conference.
One last dig on the C-11 story.
If you stop and start streaming subscriptions to avoid paying for those fallow months in between seasons of hit shows, you may discover those streamers want you back right away and they are relying on Google’s data-engorged combination of Ad Tech and YouTube to do it.
When I cancelled Paramount Plus this week Ad Tech bombarded me with Paramount ads on every website I visited and —here’s the C-11 hook– a Paramount Plus invasion of my YouTube recommendations.
Yet the prospect of the CRTC asking YouTube to include a few Canadian videos in those top-ranked recommendations —whatever Google chooses in its curatorial wisdom as responsive to your search history— is considered ‘censorship’ by C-11 opponents.
Have a look below. Including the unsolicited Paramount content, five of the eight recommendations do not match my YouTube viewing history.
That means YouTube’s algorithm has downranked and removed the majority of content recommendations responsive to what I have told them I want, in favour of a 62.5% ‘Google content’ quota of what they want me to want.
(If you are trying to figure out the five out of eight, here’s a hint: I don’t golf, I’m stupid for dogs, and I subscribe to Bell Crave.)
From Guy Fournier’s column in Journal de Montréal:
Cette hargne contre le projet de loi C-11 ne cacherait-elle pas autre chose ? Comme la conviction secrète qu’ont certaines élites anglophones que les Québécois sont prêts à faire taire tous ceux qui ne pensent comme eux. Les lois 21 et 96 sont pour ces élites le début d’un nouveau fascisme. Comme pourrait bien l’être cette maudite loi sur la radiodiffusion. Le fait qu’elle ait été conçue, rédigée et défendue par trois ministres issus du Québec, Mélanie Joly, Steven Guilbeault et Pablo Rodriguez, ne la rend-elle pas suspecte d’emblée ?
If you would like regular notifications of future posts from MediaPolicy.ca you can follow this site by signing up under the Follow button in the bottom right corner of the home page;
or e-mail email@example.com to be added to the weekly update;
or follow @howardalaw on Twitter.