The election of the first majority Conservative government in Canada in more than 20 years has some industryites concerned it will cut funding for TV, film and the arts.
Before the election the Conservatives, then a minority in the government, said that they intended to institute a strategic review of spending in all departments, including pubcaster the CBC, film and TV funding agency Telefilm Canada and arts funder the Canada Council, as part of plans to reduce costs.
But during the campaign that put Prime Minister Stephen Harper in power, culture was rarely mentioned, in sharp contrast to the 2008 campaign, when arts funding became a key issue.
In that earlier campaign, Harper famously said that “ordinary people” didn’t care about the rich artists who went to ritzy galas, sparking outrage in the arts community.
Because of Harper’s comment, there is a wariness in the film and TV biz toward the new government, said Ian Morrisson from the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an independent watchdog group that supports Canadian programming on TV and new media.
“There are two warring tendencies” in the government, said Morrisson. “On the one hand, people high in the administration have said they’re going to maintain or increase support for the CBC. On the other hand, you have people in the Conservative (party) making anti-culture statements. I could see it going either way.”
He believes Harper will put aside unpopular, neo-conservative moves to close down public broadcasting and end Canadian-content regulations.
“I think he’ll see that building the mainstream brand of the Conservative Party is the most important thing. He wants it to become the dominant mainstream party, occupying the center and thus be in power for a long time. So I think it’s more likely that the Conservative will not enact anti-culture policies. But it’s not a slam-dunk.”The other fear is related to the government’s reform of the Copyright Act, delayed by the election. Many in the film, TV and music business feel this law will not do enough to protect artists’ rights.
There are also concerns that the government will have more influence on broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, which is supposed to operate at arm’s length from the government.
But the Harper government recently showed support for the TV business by permanently renewing the Canada Media Fund, the main financing motor of the TV production biz, which gets C$100 milllion ($103 million) a year. It was previously renewed on a year-by-year basis.
But the move was contained in the government’s last budget, which was voted down by the opposition parties and led to the election. But most in the TV business believe the Tory government will bring this measure back.