Closer to home, by placing an emphatic exclamation mark on the idea that, whatever may be happening in other markets, film is now fully global, the success “Parasite” had at the Oscars undermines a theory that has underlain Canadian cultural protectionism since the 1970s. Even today, it burrows within policy recommendations, such as the Broadcasting & Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel’s Canadian Communications Commission Proposal (CCCP), which would continue cocooning Canadian content in protectionist rules and regulations.
The theory behind Canadian cultural protectionism has always been that the Americans have an overwhelming advantage in the form of their home market, which, it is proved simply by assertion, smaller players cannot penetrate. The immense revenues and profits they earn there enable them to dump their culture on the rest of the world — in the technical economics meaning of dumping, i.e., selling at less than cost. The economic rule they follow is: produce a property if it has a chance of making money in the home market and then, if it does, give it away to foreigners.
If that really is the model, we foreigners have no chance. The big American market finances the slickest, most lavish productions with the biggest, most expensive stars. The rest of the world, Canada included, simply can’t compete. If we are to have any cultural output at all — if we are to “tell our own stories” in the media of mass entertainment — the government has to fund it, either directly with subsidies paid out of tax revenues, or indirectly with regulations that force media companies to share the excess profits from government restriction of the airwaves and fibre-optic cables with “creators.”
But in the world we have now, the world of Netflix and other similar companies — new ones every day, it seems — the strategy of “make profits at home and dump onto the world market” no longer makes sense. If you’re selling into a world market, as everyone now is, why pursue a project only if it makes money in your home market? No, you produce it if you can make money in the world market. Already it’s a rule of thumb in Hollywood that an action film’s make-or-break is Asia, not Ohio.
But if all that’s true, the cultural question gets turned around. If Koreans, Israelis, Icelanders, Swedes, Danes, Poles, the French, the Brits and many other nationalities are making money selling into the world market, what is it again about Canadian culture that requires such protective regulatory and fiscal cladding and coddling? World audiences are interested in the stories of so many different nationalities — Korea just won the Oscar, for Pete’s sake! — they might even be interested in ours.
“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” is now not just true of New York. It’s true of everywhere.
© Financial Post