Best Single Overview of Canadian
Media Industry Ever Provided
Canada's Cultural Industries: Broadcasting,
Records and Film
Paul Audley, Canadian Institute for Economic Policy
James Lorimer & Company, 346 pages, $12.95
Reviewed by Michael Connolly
For anyone who has plodded through endless pages of studies and
reports to get an understanding of the culture and media industries
in Canada, Paul Audley's book will be a welcome relief. Canada's
Cultural Industries is the first work to give a complete overview
of the multi-billion dollar industry which includes periodicals,
books, records, film, television, radio, and newspapers. Drawing
on the information contained in all the major studies in this field,
Audley presents the strongest case ever made for eliminating foreign
control of Canadian culture.
This isn't by any means a radical manifesto. Audley unemotionally
synthesizes the analyses and facts presented by government and
industry studies, and makes sense of them. He proves with numerous
tables of statistics what is hampering the development of our cultural
industries, and he suggests ways to ensure the growth and prosperity
of Canadian expression.
Two basic threats to Canadian culture are pointed out: American
penetration and the control of the industry by monopoly.
The free flow of information between nations, advocated so forcefully
by our southern neighbor, simply permits the free flow of its culture
to swamp the cultures of others. Take periodical publishing. Forty-six
per cent of consumer magazine circulation in Canada is accounted
for by imported foreign magazines. Of the Canadian-produced magazines
which make up the other 54 percent of circulation, about half is
attributed to Time, Reader's Digest and TV Guide. More than 60 per
cent of the books sold in this country are printed in the United
Almost 92 per cent of books published in Canada and then exported
are written by foreign authors. Ninety per cent of records and
tapes sold here are manufactured from masters produced outside
Canada. A 1976 study showed that 93 per cent of all revenues from
the rental of films to theatres in Canada was paid to the seven
major Hollywood studios. Audley points out that 88.4 percent of
TV entertainment viewing is of foreign programs.
Most of the distribution systems for periodicals, books, records,
and films are controlled by American interests.
All this is bad enough. But Canadian government policies actually
subsidize American penetration. Imported magazines are exempt from
the federal excise tax and get special postage rates when mailed
in Canada. U.S. publishers benefit to the tune of about $45 million
a year. "The provision of tens of millions of dollars in subsidy
to foreign magazines, in a period when many Canadian companies in
the cultural industries are experiencing severe financial difficulties,
is unacceptable," Audley writes.
American record companies sell their master tapes to subsidiaries
in Canada or to Canadian companies where they are used for the manufacture
of records for the Canadian market. The master tapes come into Canada
valued as though they were blank tapes, paying a customs duty of
only $4. This is unfair competition for Canadian producers who must
spend $10,000 to $100,000 producing an original master.
The six largest companies increased their share of record and tape
sales from 59.2 per cent in 1977 to 77.3 per cent in 1980. Yet it
is the smaller Canadian companies, accounting for just one per
cent of the total industry's revenue, which played the truly creative
role. These companies initiated most of the new Canadian recordings.
Monopoly — the other albatross around the neck of our cultural
industries — is especially evident in the newspaper sphere where
75 per cent of the 117 daily newspapers are under group or chain
ownership, accounting for 77 per cent of total daily circulation
in 1981, up from 56 per cent in 1970. Southam and Thomson papers
account for 48 per cent of national circulation. The lack of effective
government anti-monopoly legislation ensures a profitability for
the newspaper industry described by the Kent Commission as "more
. . . than the steel industry, or the manufacturing sector as a
whole, or the retailing and service industries." How this concentration
affects news coverage has long been a major concern. More than half
of the people surveyed by the Kent Commission felt that newspapers
tended to represent one group's interests more than others.
Ownership is becoming more concentrated in television as well.
In 1975, 56 per cent of all television stations were group-owned,
up from 38 per cent in 1965.
Private ownership of the cultural industries has tended to dictate
development almost solely along economic lines with little regard
for Canadian culture. It is cheaper to buy American programs than
to produce home-grown talent. In just two years, private-sector
television's spending for foreign programs increased 47.4 percent,
from $30.2 million in 1977 to $55.2 million in 1979. The effect,
Audley claims, was to slow expenditure on Canadian programs during
the same period.
CTV is criticized for its miserable record in Canadian content.
Audley says: ". . . CTV does not really exist. Instead, it is
a creature of its member stations, whose priorities appear to include
giving the network no more revenue than is absolutely necessary
to provide certain essential categories of programs required to
meet CRTC regulatory requirements at the lowest possible cost."
He suggests the CRTC "consider divestiture by the member stations
Audley considers the CBC to be the most important institution in
Canadian culture. He points out: "Despite the fact that its
gross revenues were 11 per cent lower than those of private-sector
television broadcasters, CBC invested 59 per cent more in Canadian
broadcasting." He calls for long-term, increased funding for
the underfinanced public corporation.
Audley believes that the cultural industries, especially the private
sector, are unlikely to solve their problems on their own. He drives
home the need for legislative action: to provide incentives for
Canadian content, to reduce American penetration and control, and
to prevent further concentration of ownership. He puts forward
many proposals which would achieve these goals and provide millions
of extra dollars to Canadian-owned industry. Audley advocates a
cultural policy which puts national expression ahead of immediate
economic goals. He claims, however, that Canadian content can be
profitable and attractive to Canadians and cites several examples
to prove it.
Reading Audley's analysis of the situation and his proposals for
change gives one a sense of urgency. He has laid out clearly what
needs to be done. His study may be the single most important book
on Canadian culture.
Published in SOURCES Summer 83
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