Foreign Ownership and Canada's Feature Film Distribution Sector: An Economic Analysis

by Steven Globerman, Aldan Vining
104 pages,
ISBN: 088975098X

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by Gerald Pratley

This is not so much a book as a report prepared by two machines named Globerman and Vining, which, working at other machines, have turned out a depressing array of figures and statements to the effect that we should not be in the least concerned over Hollywood's control of film distribution in this country. It i's calculated to give Mel Hurtig a heart attack, and for this reason it should be kept away from him.
Not long ago, the national government, in one of its periodic but short-lived outbursts against American control of our film market, introduced legislation requiring American companies to license the films for which they do not own world rights to Canadian distributors. There is no evidence that the Hollywood companies would lose any money or screen time in doing this, but extra revenues would accrue to be used for film production here. It is a perfectly reasonable move but not, of course, to the Fraser Institute, that watchdog of free enterprise.
This study, published by the institute, seeks to prove to us all that "on the basis of economic theory most participants in the Canadian film industry will be economically harmed by the planned intervention (by the government) in the film distribution sector."
This is nonsense, but we cannot tell the machines that. They are interested only in economic facts -- their facts; but since it is impossible to relate accurately the economics concerning filmmaking, distribution, and exhibition (as opposed, shall we say, to an industrial process such as automobile manufacture) to production and distribution performance, public preferences being what they are, these economic facts are doubtful, to say the least.
This study manipulates its findings to support free-enterprise theories and practices, all of which are designed to keep the government out of business (to them, film is solely a money-making activity) and seeks to make it possible for Canadian capitalists to continue to sell Canada to the Americans whenever the price is right.
Unfortunately, so much twaddle is spoken by some of the "nationalists" about art and culture that they play into the hands of groups such as the Fraser Institute. Such very real considerations as hearts and minds, creative imagination. love of one's country, and a vision of nationhood (not to be related to opportunistic speeches from politicians ranting about "their" Canada) have no place in these heartless calculations.
Jack Valenti, that unlikeable little man who represents the Hollywood companies and rushes up here the moment a challenge to their monopoly appears, will approve heartily of this publication. He couldn't have done better himself. And our politicians who cower before him will, no doubt, welcome it and use it to justify their decision to drop the proposed legislation.
For this is what has happened; it has gone into limbo. Flora MacDonald fought for the legislation after boldly declaring her support for the Caplan-Sauvageau Broadcast Report, although she must have known from experience that the Cabinet would never agree to it, especially Mulroney, who seems to fancy himself Reagan's other self.
The most saddening aspect of this publication lies in this question: how can the authors and the officers of the Fraser Institute, if they are Canadian, abandon their country the way they do, arguing that films with recognizable Canadian backgrounds, themes, and characters cannot be expected to have international appeal? If the films of other countries possess these intrinsic qualities, why not our own?

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