NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canadian Content: Cultural Or Economic Protection?

May 7, 1999

Under the guise of preserving Canadian culture, Canadian politicians are debating regulations which aim to increase the "Canadian content" (CanCon) in magazines arriving from the United States. Political observers detect more than a whiff economic and trade protectionism in the campaign.

Aside from the French influence in Quebec, is there really an Anglo-Canadian culture distinct from that of the U.S., they wonder?

  • The Canadian House of Commons has passed a bill, now under consideration in its Senate, which would prohibit non- Canadian publications from selling advertising services directed at the Canadian market.
  • Television in Canada has been subject to CanCon regulations since 1961, and radio broadcasting adopted the same principle 11 years later.
  • Fifty percent of television programs must be "Canadian programs" in prime time, and 60 percent in overall daily broadcasting -- meaning that they must be produced by a Canadian; must satisfy a point-based system in hiring writers, performers, art directors, photographers, music composers and editors; and must show that 75 percent of payroll and processing budgets have been allocated in Canada.
  • The current bill affecting magazine content would give Canadian authorities new powers to control advertising by Canadian enterprises -- that is, to deny their right to advertise in Canadian editions of non-Canadian publications where the content is brought in from outside Canada.

The bill has the complete support of Canadian publishers and Canadian media unions.

Source: Stephen Schwartz (San Francisco Chronicle), "Magazine Content Rules Are No Favor to Canadians," Wall Street Journal, May 7, 1999.


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