We need to discuss why Canadian culture is a public good (The Globe and Mail)
Posted by The Globe and Mail in Toronto on Feb 05, 2016

We need to discuss why Canadian culture is a public good

The professional life of a cultural policy nerd is a lonely thing. No conference calls with the Governor of the Bank of Canada; no annual convention in Banff, Alta. I’ve been excited just to be invited to publicly discuss issues in the field on no less than two occasions in the past nine months – a sure sign, I optimistically predicted, that Canada is finally awakening to a crisis.

The policy tools that have protected and nurtured Canada’s cultural industries since the 1970s are unknown to transnational distributors of foreign content – that would be Google, YouTube and Netflix – while Canadian consumers are increasingly sidestepping the domestic distributors who, whether by inclination or by regulation, produce Canadian content.

How big a crisis? A new report prepared by the research firm Nordicity for the annual Digital Media at the Crossroads gathering held at the University of Toronto last weekend assembles some shocking economic evidence. Netflix is taking an estimated $445-million a year in subscription fees out of Canada; YouTube is taking an estimated $22.5-million in annual advertising revenue out of Canada; iTunes and Google Play are taking $50-million in annual music sales out of Canada. And half of the estimated $432-million in ad revenues that the newspaper and magazine industries are losing every year to digital platforms is also leaving Canada.

The report is a powerful reminder of the ripples that spread out from the cultural industries: As consumers shift to digital platforms and digital formats, they export not only their media spending but also the ad revenue that follows their viewing, reading and listening. Here’s a wake-up call to government: Canada is now bleeding $700-million to $800-million in cultural spending every year – dollars that used to support, whether directly or, more often, indirectly, the creation of Canadian films, TV shows, recordings, books, newspapers and magazines.

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