Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Canadian Content, Regulations, and Audiences

Canada's federal government is interested in revisiting rules and funding regarding Canadian culture.  In the TV business, broadcasters and cable channels are required to play a certain percentage of Canadian content daily in order to guarantee local producers access to audiences and give audiences access to local content.

As broadcast and cable were the only ways to get a show into homes, the old regulations focused on distribution.  A producer needed a letter from a broadcaster or cable channel in order to qualify for money from various funding bodies.

These days, broadcast and cable have become less relevant with streaming and torrents.  In effect, the audience has left the building and advertisers are going with them, leaving the broadcasters and cable channels with shrinking markets and dubious futures.

The question is whether the government will be smart enough to understand this and resist vested interests who will fight to preserve their positions. 

With distribution available to everyone now, through Netlix, YouTube, etc, the focus should turn to creators.  The problems creators face are financing production, earning enough to live on, and making the audience aware of their work.

While I am obviously biased in favour of creators, I'd be the first to say that those who can successfully engage the audience are a rare breed.  Many can write, draw, direct or act, but only a few can hold an audience's attention. 

Everybody can sing.  No doubt with lessons and practice, everybody could sing better.  But only some people sing well enough to sell tickets.  I teach around 150 animation students a year.  While there are usually a dozen who are genuinely good animators, there are rarely more than one or two with the ability to engage an audience.

The challenge for the government is setting up a system where those creators with the ability to engage an audience can survive economically, and the audience can be made aware of their work.

If creators succeed, government support should be withdrawn and the money and resources put towards discovering other people.  If people fail, they should be barred from reapplying for a period of time.  Too often in the past, people succeeded by working the government's system rather than creating successful products.   That ends up being a wealth transfer from tax payers to mediocrities.  Avoiding that and discovering new talent should be the focus of any revised set of cultural regulations.  It's a big challenge and I hope that the government gets it right.