The Canadian Association of Publishers has a long history of opposing any restrictions on the production and distribution of anything in the cultural industries, routinely warning of censorship from any kind of government attention what so ever. For details, read my book "MIND ABUSE Media Violence In An Information Age", based on my doctoral thesis on the subject, published in 2000 by Black Rose Books and distributed by UT Press. It is widely available in most public and university libraries across the country.
Discretionary funding for films, TV shows and video games is long overdue and has been called for since Charles McVety was probably still in diapers. It was one of 87 recommendations made in the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry Report, funded by the Ontario Gov't and released in 1977, chaired by the late Judy LaMarsh. I renewed the call in my own doctoral thesis, entitled, "The Treatment of Media Violence In Canada Since Publication of the LaMarsh Commission Report in 1977". It was defended at OISEUT in 1995 and led to an invitation from American media scholar, the late George Gerbner and chair of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, to participate in the founding of the Cultural Environment Movement at Webster University in St. Louis in 1966. Again, details of this initiative are discussed in my aforementioned book. The thesis, itself, is available to anyone through the National Public Library in Ottawa and the Jackson Library at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto.
Steady, widespread erosion of our cultural environment by profit driven interests with very little interest in creativity and a great deal in profits begs for better distinctions between censorship and freedom of enterprise. Now, unbridled capitalism coupled with the convergence of communications technologies, has resulted in ever widening levels of commercial exploitation of young people, in particular. This is leading to unprecedented levels of violence, bullying, obesity, sexual exploitation (It is reported in today's Globe that 1 in 4 teen girls suffer from sexually transmitted disease).
The unfettered hypocracy of the Ass. of Canadian Publishers here is underscored by their historical record of usually unfailing readiness to weigh in on any charges laid under the Criminal Code against production and distribution of pornographic material. In this case, they are once again, obscuring the difference between censorship, discretionary funding and their right to decide how our value systems and those of our children are to be manipulated.
Some of you may share the association's position that letting anyone other than members of the cultural industries, themselves, decide how our tax dollars are spent to nurture our cultural environment amounts to censorship. Personally, I believe that position is extra ordinarily naive.
Why should anything in film, video or otherwise that TVO and other public broadcasters now consider too inappropriate to be aired qualify for public funding? This was a point raised by Steve Paiken on TVO last Thursday, March 6th in response to examples of films a guest on his show who is a critic of the Bill from the Writer's Union said would be vulnerable if the Bill passed.
Personally, I believe that members of Government who are elected to ensure that our tax dollars are responsibly spent are much more likely to act in the public interest than the Ass. of Canadian Publishers who clearly don't see anything wrong with the eligibility of films such as "Sperm" and "Masturbators" for funding out of the $158 million spent last year in tax dollars by Telefilm, or similar fare out of the $250 million Canadian Television Fund.
They say that, "over the years Canada has built an effective set of criteria to measure the appropriateness of funding cultural works, factoring in both the value of work in artistic terms and the fiscal responsibility of creators and producers". Is there no room for input from government on behalf of tax payers for fine tuning this "effective" set of criteria to ensure that it stays relevant to the needs of the day, or must it be left entirely in the hands of industry for all time? This is tantamount to endorsement of corporate rule by the media industries.
Media scholars have argued now for several decades that, on the issue of censorship, the pendulum has swung almost entirely in the direction of private industrial media interests who now have the exclusive privilege of practicing it. In this context, the Ass. is showing considerable hubris and entitlement, defining what is good for the cultural industry as a whole. During the International Film Festival in Toronto last September, it was reported in the Toronto Star that the film industry alone was down 30% in economic revenues in Toronto. Overall industry woes, in Hollywood as well, were attributed in part to signs of audience fatigue from the unremitting deluge of remade, reinvented genres and reinvestment in them. As anxiety over climate change, grows, the tired old genres of blow-ups, horror shows and sexual thematic material in electronic entertainment in the theatres are increasingly proving to be out of date. A new screen based industry strategy is needed.
In an era where all of us are being expected to make sacrifices and change our habits in pursuit of sustainable lifestyles and sources of livelihood, it is time the cultural industries caught up. If we are to see a shift in our federal tax base to address urgent priorities, cuts are going to have to start somewhere. It seems to me tax credits, exemptions, and grants for extremely violent and pornographic electronic entertainment would be one place to start. This might also stimulate some badly needed creativity in script writing with hits like Al Gore's "An Inconvienent Truth" and Leonardo DiCaprio's, "11th Hour" setting the tone.
C-CAVE is urging the Senate to act on behalf of the public interest on Bill C-10 and not be intimidated by corporate media interests who regard cultural policy as their exclusive domain.
Rose Anne Dyson Ed.D.
Consultant in Media Education
Chair: Science for Peace (Media Working Group),
University of Toronto