THE ARTS

A campaign in support of entertainment

BRUCE WALLACE March 17 1986
THE ARTS

A campaign in support of entertainment

BRUCE WALLACE March 17 1986

A campaign in support of entertainment

THE ARTS

Communications Minister Marcel Masse continued a bold campaign in Montreal last week to rally nationwide support for Canadian cultural industries. At the first meeting of its kind, Masse attempted to convince provincial culture ministers to help him protect Canadian publishing and such other cultural activities as moviemaking from further U.S. domination.

The provincial ministers praised Masse for organizing the Montreal meeting, but they agreed only to set up steering committees to examine foreign domination of cultural industries—and to meet in September to grapple with the issues again.

Masse’s position at last week’s meeting was strengthened by his successful attempt to gain an additional $75 million in the Feb. 26 budget for arts funding.

Still, he fought unsuccessfully to convince his provincial counterparts that domestic textbook publishing —an area that, along with the film industry, dominated the conference—is badly in need of federal protection. He needs the provinces’ support because education comes under provincial jurisdiction.

For the past two years Masse has been trying to prevent the acquisition of textbook publisher Prentice-Hall Canada by the powerful U.S. conglomerate Gulf + Western, which already controls four other textbook publishers with Canadian branch plants. A final decision on Prentice-Hall is expected soon. Meanwhile, Masse is continuing to seek ways in which Canadian publishers can take what he has called a “normal share of a normal market like a normal country.” His department’s green paper, which could be released as early as next week, will likely be the basis of his next offensive.

The green paper will also deal with film-making. Canadians now spend more than $1 billion a year to see movies in theatres, on home video and pay TV. But 97 per cent of the distribution

profits go to foreign companies—predominantly U.S.-owned—which rarely reinvest in Canadian films. In Montreal he sought a commitment from the provinces to use their powers to restrict the power of foreign film dis-

tributors, as Quebec’s Parti Québécois government unsuccessfully tried to do last year. But instead of support for new policies, he encountered criticism of existing ones, chiefly those of Telefilm Canada, the federal agency with a $60-million pool of funds to increase film and TV production. Western culture ministers declared that 90 per cent of Telefilm’s money now is spent on Quebec and Ontario productions, and Masse undertook to study Telefilm’s funding policies. But Lise Bacon, Quebec’s minister of cultural affairs, who co-chaired the meeting, told the minister that Ottawa should avoid duplicating provincial responsibilities. Later she added that Quebec is prepared to intiate negotiations with U.S. film distributors.

Masse has had more success on other fronts. Two weeks ago Canadian publishers took the offensive in trying

to redress the weak position of Canadian publishing in the North American market. At a two-day conference in New York, funded in part by the federal government, 75 Canadian publishers met with 220 book agents and representatives of U.S publishers to raise the profile of the Canadian book industry. In a luncheon speech, author Margaret Atwood, one of three Canadian novelists to have appeared recently on The New York Times best-seller list, told the Americans, “It is a mistake to think of Canada as just an extra 10 per cent in sales.” Such comments appeared to have an impact. Declared John F. Baker, editor-in-chief of the authoritative trade magazine Publishers Weekly. “Canadian publishers and writers are i now very much a force I to be reckoned with.”

£ As well, Masse’s budt get victory continues to I win widespread praise, z In addition to targeting ^ an extra $33 million for I feature film production I and winning an extra g $10 million from the » tight-fisted federal budget for the Canada Council, Masse has taken two novel steps: the creation of a $3-million fund to dispense royalties to authors whose books are borrowed from public libraries, and a $5-million fund for the production and marketing of music videos.

Although the minister was unable to achieve tangible results in Montreal, he has clearly gained some important new supporters. Alberta Culture Minister Mary Lemessurier, for one, declared, “Never before have we had a culture minister who has been able to achieve what he has done with his colleagues in Ottawa.” But as Masse begins to promote his green paper’s strategy for bolstering Canadian culture, he will need more than praise to make that blueprint a reality.

BRUCE WALLACE

JOSEPH TREEN

ROBERT ENRIGHT