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FROM THE DESK OF Alain Pineau: A little of this, a little of that …

CCA Bul­letin 33/11

Decem­ber 1, 2011

Well, this week has been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than oth­ers. For once, I was able to put aside my pri­mary pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the last few months – the rein­ven­tion and finan­cial auton­omy of the CCA (I will come back to that at the end of this bul­letin!) – to par­tic­i­pate in other forums where the stakes were just as important.

This started Mon­day morn­ing with a half-day ses­sion on the impor­tance and the chal­lenges of pub­lic broad­cast­ers. This event was orga­nized by the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (CBC) as part of an annual meet­ing of the Cana­dian sec­tion of the Inter­na­tional Insti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions that took place in Ottawa. If there is a sub­ject that makes a lot of ink and saliva flow in the cul­tural sec­tor and polit­i­cal cir­cles lately, it is cer­tainly that of the CBC. The upheaval over access to infor­ma­tion has, it must be said, caused the CBC to lose ground on sev­eral fronts, includ­ing the At Issue panel aired on CBC’s Eng­lish tele­vi­sion. Rumours of bud­get cuts to the CBC are spread­ing, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing the unprece­dented attacks launched by cer­tain gov­ern­men­tal MPs, with the eager sup­port of Québé­cor Média. In this con­text, it was very inter­est­ing to hear the Pres­i­dent and CEO of CBC, Hubert Lacroix, present a heart­felt, fact-based plea for the national pub­lic broad­caster. I retained three main points from his ener­getic speech:

  1. The more rad­i­cal pro­pos­als for what to do with CBC/Radio-Canada aren’t based on fact or math and would sig­nif­i­cantly reduce Cana­dian con­tent. Their impact would be felt on the whole eco­log­i­cal sys­tem of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion in the country;
  2. The pri­vate broad­cast­ing sec­tor also ben­e­fits from a high level of pub­lic fund­ing in one way or another. Lacroix esti­mates that this sup­port is more than $900 mil­lion per year; and,
  3. If we wish to have a Cana­dian broad­cast­ing sys­tem, we have no choice but to finan­cially sup­port both pri­vate and pub­lic broad­cast­ers finan­cially as well as through appro­pri­ate regulation.

The con­fer­ence also gave me the more dubi­ous priv­i­lege of hear­ing Sun TV’s ranter emer­i­tus, Ezra Lev­ant, estab­lish a link between the sub­si­dies received by the CBC over its 75 years of exis­tence and the national debt! (In the inter­est of trans­parency, I must con­fess that I worked for our national broad­caster for 34 years and that, like CBC jour­nal­ist Carol Orff who was on the same panel as Mr. Lev­ant, I under­stand very well the notion of pub­lic ser­vice which he seems inca­pable of grasping).

The National Sum­mit for the Char­i­ta­ble and Non­profit Sector

Tues­day and Wednes­day, I attended a sum­mit orga­nized by Imag­ine Canada in Ottawa along with 500 par­tic­i­pants from all cor­ners of the coun­try and areas of activ­ity. This sum­mit is the result of more than two years of work and con­sul­ta­tions across Canada. Its goal was to mobi­lize the sec­tor and to draw plans to repo­si­tion itself in Canada’s chang­ing environment.

The meet­ing was a work­ing ses­sion above all and was pep­pered with very inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions, includ­ing the open­ing ple­nary by the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral, the Right Hon­ourable David John­ston. Equally remark­able were the pre­sen­ta­tions by Allan Gregg, well-known researcher and social com­men­ta­tor, and Naheed Nen­shi, the new mayor of Cal­gary, whose refresh­ing approach delighted the entire audience.

I was par­tic­u­larly impressed by the con­text pro­vided by Mar­cel Lauz­ière, CEO of Imag­ine Canada: the cor­re­spon­dence between his remarks and the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion con­fronting the arts and cul­ture sec­tor was strik­ing in my view! Also note­wor­thy is the empha­sis placed on arts and cul­ture by Imag­ine Canada. Poet Nathanaël Laro­chette kicked off the event with a poem in both offi­cial lan­guages which was received with sur­prise and enthu­si­asm by the room (he closed the sum­mit with another poem!). There was also Emmanuelle Hébert’s cap­ti­vat­ing pre­sen­ta­tion. Hébert is co-founder of MU, a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to sup­port and pro­mote pub­lic art through projects that are both artis­tic and social in nature, the cre­ation of murals within and for local com­mu­ni­ties. This dis­cus­sion of the com­mu­nity and cit­i­zen involve­ment through art demon­strates the impor­tant and often over­looked role occu­pied by arts orga­ni­za­tions in the non­profit com­mu­nity, where they are rare but often have char­ity sta­tus. There are more avenues to be explored in that direction…

Télé­film Canada’s Annual Report

Télé­film Canada pre­sented its annual report on Novem­ber 23rd and announced new suc­cess cri­te­ria for Cana­dian films, a turn­ing point in my opin­ion in the eval­u­a­tion of pub­lic invest­ments in this impor­tant cul­tural sec­tor. The com­mer­cial cri­te­ria of box office receipts and gross sales will make up 60% of the cal­cu­la­tion, while the num­ber of inter­na­tional film fes­ti­val selec­tions and prizes will rep­re­sent 30%. Lastly, the indus­try report that estab­lishes the ratio of pri­vate fund­ing ver­sus pub­lic fund­ing will amount to 10%.

I have always found the sole cri­te­ria of box office receipts sim­plis­tic and unfair. We pro­duce excel­lent films that don’t nec­es­sar­ily attract big audi­ences – in part because we do not con­trol the dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works and we don’t have, par­tic­u­larly in Eng­lish Canada, a star sys­tem or ade­quate mar­ket­ing bud­gets. How­ever, our film­mak­ers are appre­ci­ated by fes­ti­val­go­ers world­wide and con­tribute to Canada’s rep­u­ta­tion as a cre­ative nation. In this regard, Télé­film means to put more empha­sis on mar­ket­ing. So I can only con­grat­u­late Télé­film for this real­ity check!

Some inter­est­ing sta­tis­tics pulled from the Télé­film report:

  • 53 out of 92 Cana­dian films released in 2010 were financed by Télé­film Canada;
  • Cana­dian films were awarded 127 prizes last year; and,
  • The Imag­i­nar­ium of Doc­tor Par­nas­sus and Bon Cop Bad Cop are the Cana­dian flims most pur­chased on DVD.

A word on intel­lec­tual prop­erty (yes!)

We don’t often pro­vide updates on the World Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Orga­ni­za­tion (WIPO). But now the copy­right treaties in nego­ti­a­tions for sev­eral years are at a cru­cial phase.  WIPO is cur­rently exam­in­ing two very impor­tant ques­tions for the Cana­dian cul­tural sec­tor: the pro­tec­tion of audio­vi­sual pro­duc­tions and the pro­tec­tion of broad­cast­ers. Meet­ings in Geneva this week aimed at prepar­ing the next sum­mit on the audio­vi­sual treaty. In 2000, treaty dis­cus­sions rein­forc­ing the rights of per­form­ers made sig­nif­i­cant advances. A pro­vi­sional agree­ment was reached on 19 out of 20 arti­cles: the only unre­solved issue was whether or not the treaty should gov­ern the trans­fer of rights. This span­ner in the works led to the sus­pen­sion of the diplo­matic con­fer­ence. In June 2011, the mem­ber states agreed upon a com­pro­mise text, thereby open­ing the path to fin­ish­ing the treaty. The diplo­matic con­fer­ence will be con­vened in 2012. CCA’s per­former mem­bers have been wait­ing for this moment for a long time!

In con­clu­sion, where are things at the CCA?

I must thank the forty or so mem­bers who par­tic­i­pated in November’s con­sul­ta­tions in Mon­treal and Toronto. The val­i­da­tion process that will lead to a new busi­ness model for the CCA is pro­gress­ing well. Another con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion will take place Decem­ber 7th in Ottawa. Then, after the hol­i­day break that, I must con­fess, will be most wel­come, I will hit the road. I leave Jan­u­ary 8th for a cross-country tour that will take me to 13 towns before the end of Feb­ru­ary. We will pub­lish my itin­er­ary next week. Please take a look to see when I will be in your area and  mark the date in your agenda. Your opin­ion and your par­tic­u­lar inter­ests are cru­cial to the devel­op­ment of our action plan.

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