Media Beat: October 06, 2017

Is Mélanie Joly’s political capital spent?

The federal minister of culture’s much-ballyhooed Cultural Roadmap is proving to be a lot of hocus-pocus boasting promises and threadbare of prescriptive policy to address the challenges of changing times.

Promises to review the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act, and Copyright Act, and modernizing the Copyright Board of Canada sound right —but the reforms form the backbone of policy, and without them, none of the affected industries has a clue as to what the status quo is and what the plan will be.

Effectively her prescription for change is is nothing more than a call for another round of discussions and anyone with any memory of promises made by parliamentarians knows that they count for little if anything at all.

So we end up with a topping up of the Canadian Media Fund, an investment in a so-called Creative Export Strategy, and a vague outline for federally funded creative hubs designed to emulate Silicon Valley R&D labs, but scaled smaller.

Dragging on all this is a series of policy decisions made recently by the CRTC that effectively erode independent television production, and shut down promotional opportunities for recording artists by allowing Corus and Bell to minimize their CanCon commitments for CMT and Much.

And then there is the Netflix deal.

Netflix has become a tripwire that has ignited a storm of criticism for Joly’s hollow policy framework, and the fact that the cry of a sell-out is loudly reverberating in Quebec must have the PM seeing red.

Lose Quebec voters, and the Liberals lose the next general election.

Mélanie Joly has stepped on a landmine of her design. She has triggered a firestorm of controversy that she can’t back out from, and it is this fact that lays question to her continuing to hold the brief.

For those with a stake in the game, having a new cabinet minister handling the portfolio is a bigger nightmare than the one she has created herself. The learning curve is steep in the portfolio and comprehending the complexity of issues a challenge. Understanding the differing opinions of creators and telecom interest and finding mutual ground requires intellect, diplomacy, and an attribute that Joly has failed to illuminate and that is a vision of what action is needed.

Joly has squandered the public purse on a paper chase that has become an incendiary bomb for the Liberals in Quebec. Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau has called her out on the Netflix deal and Quebec's culture minister, Luc Fortin, said her Netflix agreement left him "speechless."

The grimness of her future is made clear by Globe & Mail columnist Robert Everett-Green in an opinion piece that appeared in yesterday’s paper.

Headlined ‘A stunning fall from grace for Mélanie Joly,’ Everett-Green writes: “Her fall from grace in her home province has been swift and merciless, sped by her maladroit attempts to sell a deal with Netflix that would give the company a free pass from tax and regulation in exchange for an ill-defined Cancon investment of $500-million over five years. The Minister has been roasted and ridiculed to her face on live radio and TV, and dismissed by commentators of all stripes as naive and – worst of all – unable even to understand what the fuss is about…”

It smells of a roadshow that isn’t going to see its director re-appointed in the next round of promised discussions, but in politics, one can never know for sure what tomorrow might bring.

This is my take on the current disposition of Canada's new policy framework, but I would love to hear what you think and, more important, what changes you can suggest in getting policy on the right track. This is an important cultural marker and we absolutely need to get it right as a nation.

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