Canada and the European Community

Cultural Policy Commonalities & Convergence

Harry Hillman Chartrand
Arts Bulletin 15 (2), Spring 1991
Canadian Conference of the Arts

A man standing alone and naked in a desert is sovereign.  

He cannot be influenced by anyone or any power. 

Yet he is impotent.  He is, if you like, in Albania.  Sovereignty means nothing

unless it represents the ability to control our destiny. 

And in the modern world, that means forming

alliances and pooling influence. [1]

Sir Leon Brittain, Competition Commissioner
European Economic Community


Since before the Massey-Levesque Report in 1951, [2] the Canadian arts community has looked longingly across the Atlantic at governments whose commitment to the arts is so great that the box office is not a financial constraint.  Excepting the United Kingdom, European governments typically provide for 80% of the expenses of dance companies, galleries and museums, orchestras and theatres. [3]  In Canada, by contrast, the performing arts receive on average 30% funding from government at all levels; they earn 50% at the box office; and they rely on private philanthropy for the rest.

Strangely, while governmental largesse has freed European art from 'pandering' to the audience, it has not necessarily resulted in more innovative or varied artistic programming or production.  For example, a study of opera repertoire in Germany showed that despite heavy subsidization the companies receiving funding did not venture beyond the classic operatic canon that is the mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which requires 96% seating occupancy to break even on each performance. [4] This is also supported in other studies. [5]

In the last decade, a new player entered the European cultural policy arena - the European Economic Community (henceforth the European Community, Community, or EC).  Evolution of the European Community's cultural policy exhibits, in my opinion, striking commonalities with that of Canada's, including response to external threat, continuing internal controversy and progressive industrialization of culture.

In this paper, the evolution of Canadian cultural policy is outlined and compared with that of the European Community.  In the process, the paper highlights the pervasiveness of contemporary cultural policy, spanning the arts, broadcasting and communications, education, employment and training, the entertainment industry, fiscal and tax policy, industrial design, intellectual property, language, multiculturalism and regional development.


Excepting the Public Archives, National Gallery, National Library and National Museum (all founded in the last century), modern Canadian cultural policy can be said to begin with creation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1930s.  Radio started in Canada as a private industry, paralleling similar development in the United States.  While the Canadian National Railway - already in the telegram business - attempted to create a 'Canadian' broadcasting network, by 1925 the Toronto Telegram found that the 17 most popular radio stations were in fact American border stations. Canadians were developing a taste for US programming. [6]

This state of affairs led to passage of the Radio Act in 1927 and creation of the Aird Commission to investigate how radio should be organized and funded.  The Commission reported in 1929 that the Canadian airwaves were a public asset "enabling Canadians to communicate with other Canadians" and "providing a means of articulating and expressing a unique Canadian culture". [7]  The federal government responded by creating a 'mixed' broadcasting system made up of a state-run radio network (the CBC) and private networks subject to public regulation.  While an affirmation of a unique Canadian culture, creation of the CBC was essentially a defensive response to external threat.

Internal controversy accompanied the birth of modern Canadian cultural policy. Federal jurisdiction over broadcasting was challenged by the provinces. Quebec and Ontario even appealed a Supreme Court ruling in favour of federal jurisdiction to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, which confirmed the Supreme Court's decision.

The next major step in policy evolution was also a defensive response to an external threat.  In this case, the threat was war and the response was creation of the National Film Board in 1939 to promote and maintain Canadian fighting spirit and morale.

The war years witnessed numerous art associations, in all disciplines, in all regions of the country, articulating the Canadian experience in terms politicians and the business community began to understand.  These associations included The Canadian Historical Society, The Canadian Writers Union, The Dominion Drama Festival, The Graphic Arts Society, The Sculptor's Society, and many others. It was this pressure from and lobbying by the artistic community that led to the next major step in the evolution of Canadian cultural policy, the creation of the Canada Council.

In 1951, the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, otherwise known as the Massey-Levesque Report, asserted the need for public funding of the arts.  Canadians were being overwhelmed by British and American arts and letters.  There was little domestic production.  The problem was only heightened with the advent of a new medium - television.

The Royal Commission recommended a British arm's length arts council model as that most suitable for Canada.  The Commission rejected direct funding of the arts through a ministry of culture.

Quite apart from the fact that the problems confronting us have little in common with those in other countries, we find that in general they are dealt with abroad by a centralized Ministry of National Education or by a Ministry of Cultural Affairs, arrangements which, of course, in Canada are constitutionally impossible or undesirable . [8]

In the Canadian Confederation many policy fields, including education and health, are the constitutional responsibility of the provinces.  The Commissioners were concerned about federal encroachment on provincial responsibilities, particularly education because of its relation to the arts and culture. The Commission, therefore, drew a distinction between formal and informal education. Formal education was the special domain of the provinces.  The Commissioners, however, saw "no prohibition in Canadian law against any group, governmental or voluntary, contributing to the education of the individual in its broadest sense", including the arts and culture. [9]

In response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, Parliament, using death duties levied on the estates of two prominent Canadian industrialists - Sir James Dunn and Isaak Walton Killam created the Canada Council for the encouragement of the arts in 1957.  With half of the $100 million endowment, the Canada Council played a role similar to that of the British University Grants Committee, disbursing capital grants to universities.  Where the Canada Council differed from the Arts Council of Great Britain was in the intent to use the remaining endowment for purposes of securing financial independence from government.  In this sense, the Canada Council more closely resembled a United States private foundation.  In fact, the first meeting of the Canada Council, held in the Office of the Prime Minister, included representatives of the Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. [10]  Sentiments of the private foundation tradition were echoed by Dorothy Killam who, in 1963, endowed the Canada Council with $8.5 million to create the Killam Program in recognition of her late husband's role in the founding of the Canada Council. [11]  The Killam Prize has been called 'the Nobel Prize' of Canada. In 1965, through her will, she bequeathed an additional $7 million to the Council. [12]

For its first eight years, the Canada Council was indeed both politically and financially independent of government.  The activities of the Council were funded from endowment income.  Then in 1965, the Canada Council received an appropriation from Parliament, both in recognition of its success in fostering and promoting the arts and so that it could prepare for the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation in 1967.   For a time, the Canada Council became a 'chosen instrument' of the federal government to encourage artistic activity.  Currently the annual appropriation from Parliament represents some 90% of Canada Council income; the remainder is made up principally of income from the endowment.

Between the early 1960s and the mid 1970s, under the direction of Gerard Pelletier, the federal Department of the Secretary of State became the chief instrument of cultural policy in Canada.  The Department initiated policies based on biculturalism (as a result of the Official Languages Act, making Canada officially bilingual), democratization and decentralization.  Beyond encouraging the National Museums Corporation to expand its activities to include support for museums across the country, federal programs such as Opportunities for Youth, the Company of Young Canadians and Local Initiatives Program dramatically affected artistic and cultural life.  For example, in the early 1970s the Local Initiatives Program provided more funding for theatre companies than did the Canada Council.  With termination of these programs in the mid to late 70s, various literary, media, performing and visual arts organizations then applied for Canada Council support.  A host of new arts organizations had attained professional standards and qualified for Council funding, however, there had been no corresponding increase in the size of disbursements to the Council from Parliament.  This led to a continuing crisis concerning the Council's ability to support small, innovative organizations in emerging disciplines while satisfying the pressing needs of large established organizations.

In the late 70s, the Government transferred responsibility for culture to the Department of Communications.  The policy rationale, while not formally articulated, was industrialization of culture - support for the the so-called cultural industries.  Between 1978 and 1990 the government dramatically increased direct and indirect funding to these industries.  This coincided with a decline in support for the performing arts.  Industrialization of cultural policy was justified as a means of ensuring Canadian cultural content on tv, in motion picture theatres and on the bookshelf.

Through the 50s and 60s, provincial governments created arm's length agencies to support the arts, and in which the governments themselves played a relatively small role.  Both the provinces and their arm's length agencies tended to model their program initiatives after those of the Canada Council. [13]  By the mid 70s,however, the arts support pattern had changed to provincial ministries of culture, funded by lottery revenues, playing a leading role in innovative arts support programs.  The role of arm's length agencies declined, both in dollar terms and in terms of initiating innovative support programs to the arts. [14]

By the end of the 1970s, the federal government signed an agreement with the provinces that ended federal involvement in the lottery field in return for an annual payment from the provinces.  These funds were initially used by the federal government to create the Cultural Initiatives Program, which marked the beginning of direct federal grants to the arts in competition with the Canada Council.  Until this time the federal government had restricted its funding to capital grants.  The agreement also marked admission of the federal minister of communications to the conclave of provincial ministers of culture.  This resolved jurisdictional disputes between the two levels of government, at least for a time.

During the 1970s, the government also instituted a number of measures which had the effect of restricting the sale of foreign, i.e. American cultural products.  These included Bill C-58 concerning the deductibility of Canadian advertising in American magazines; special postal subsidies; direct and indirect government investment in Canadian publishers; radio and tv content quotas; tax breaks for certified Canadian tv programs and motion pictures; and a tax (called a garbage tax in Eastern Europe) on U.S. dominated pay tv and cable tv.  This latter tax was used to invest in the production of Canadian tv programming and motion pictures through a Broadcast Development Fund.

In effect, the federal government 'engineered' a. Canadian communications conglomerate consisting of: Telefilm Canada, funded by the special cable television tax and involved in financing tv programming and motion picture production; independent producers, supported by tax expenditures and investments by Telefilm; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and independent tv networks, both responsible for distribution; and the National Film Board, responsible for process research and development. Unfortunately, the synergy that could reasonably be expected from such a communications conglomerate has yet to be realized.

The trend of the Department of Communications towards industrialization of cultural policy was followed in the late 1980s by changes in copyright protection (including rediffusion rights for broadcasters), proposed legislation concerning the status of the artist and entry of the Federal Business Development Bank into the investment market for cultural products. In 1991 a new Broadcasting Act was passed by Parliament. It eliminated the 'national identity' mandate of the CBC and extended the 'commercialization' of Canadian broadcasting.

The provinces became increasingly involved in supporting the industrialization of culture. Competition among the provinces for film and tv program production included introduction of special tax breaks and programs of grant support.  The result of industrialization of cultural policy was a dramatic increase in Canadian content on TV, at the movie theatre and on the bookshelf. It also led to rising levels of exports to the USA and other foreign markets.  A less desirable result has been declining government support for the live nonprofit arts, which are, in effect, the research and development sector of the commercial arts - they provide new scripts, scores, talent and technique required for the long term international competitiveness of the Canadian entertainment industry.

Two other trends emerged during the 1980s.  The first involved the spread of federal cultural policy beyond the Department of Communications.  In the early 1980s, Employment & Immigration Canada recognized the contribution of the arts to employment and initiated programs of support for training and development.  These programs contribute about $30 million a year to the artistic community.  The Department of Regional Economic Expansion began to include cultural development as part of its Economic and Regional Development Agreements with the provinces.  The Department of External Affairs became more active in supporting the export of Canadian cultural product, particularly after forming the International Cultural Affairs Bureau.  What is now known as the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology, through Tourism Canada, supported research and promoted the role of culture, including festivals and museums, as tourism resources.  This spreading of cultural policy within the federal government was accompanied by many interdepartmental `turf fights.

The second development was the emergence of multiculturalism as a major element in cultural policy.  While formal responsibility for cultural policy was transferred from the Secretary of State to the Department of Communications in the late 1970s, official languages and multiculturalism remained with the Secretary of State.  The growing importance of multiculturalism, both in political and economic terms, resulted in an investigation by a Parliamentary Committee.  In its 1987 report, the Committee recommended that the commercial arts remain with the Department of Communications, that official languages and higher education remain with the Secretary of State, and that the arts, including the Canada Council, be transferred to a new Ministry of Multiculturalism. [15]  The rationale was that Canada had adopted official multiculturalism and, therefore, the minister of culture must be the Minister of Multiculturalism.  The Committee also recommended a dramatic restructuring of agencies, departments, ministries and programs which flowed from this argument. No significant action was taken on these recommendations, other than creation of a Ministry of State for Multiculturalism.

One of the unrealized developments was passage of a new Industrial Design Act. Canada is the largest timber-producing country in the world, but, according to an official of the European Community, Germany is the largest exporter of furniture. Similarly, Sweden's IKEA has successfully combined aesthetic and utilitarian values at affordable prices, and recently opened a 240,000 sq. ft. furniture store in New York City.  European success does not reflect superior wood, but the contribution of design to international competitiveness.

It is necessary to briefly describe the European Community itself, before examining the evolution of the EC's cultural policy.  The European Economic Community was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.  The objectives of the Treaty are: the establishment of a 'customs union; dismantling of quotas aid other trade barriers; and free flow of goods; services and persons among the original six members - Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany.  In addition, the Treaty has specific clauses requiring member states to apply common policies in fields such as agriculture, transportation, competition policy and external trade.  A general clause calls for common policies in virtually all other areas of economic and social life. Over the years, an additional six states joined the EC: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973; Greece in 1981; and Spain and Portugal in 1986.

While the original Treaty was concerned with economics, in 1970 member states extended the role of the Community by establishing an instrument for voluntary coordination of foreign policy - European Political Cooperation.  Similarly in 1986, member states extended the range of the Community through the Single European Act to encourage closer cooperation in important areas of the internal market such as the environment, economic and monetary policy, and research and technology.  This Act streamlined Community decision-making and is to be fully implemented in 1992.

The European Community is often referred to as the 'European Communities'.  In addition to the European Economic Community, the term embraces the European Coal and Steel Community which was formed by the Treaty of Paris in 1951 and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) which was created in 1957 by another treaty signed in Rome.

The European Community operates through four principal institutions: the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Court of justice.  The Commission is the central: bureaucracy of the Community.  It consists of 17 Commissioners appointed by unanimous agreement of all member states. The Commissioners act independently of their national governments and are responsible for an administrative staff of about 15,000, which is divided into more than 20 directorates-general and agencies.  The Commission proposes legislation, implements Community policy and enforces EC treaties. It has investigative powers and can take legal action against member states or companies that violate EC rules.

The approximately 20 Directorates-General exercise administrative and program responsibilities for the Commission.  The Directorate-General (DG) formally responsible for cultural affairs is DG X: Information, Communication and Culture.  Since 1989, cultural responsibilities have been centred in DG X-2: 'Action Culturelle'.  In fact, responsibility for cultural affairs is spread throughout a range of DGs.  The DG responsible for broadcasting and copyright at the Community level is DG III: Internal Market and Industrial Affairs.  Directorate "D" of DG III is titled Approximation of Laws, Freedom of Establisbment and Freedom to Provide Services. The DG responsible for competition policy in the media industries is DG IV: Competition. Directorate "B" of DG IV is titled Restrictive Practices: Abuse of Dominant Position and other Distortions of Competition.  This 'spreading' of cultural policy beyond the domain of a specific ministry or department of culture is similar to developments in Canada - at the federal, provincial and local levels.

The Council of Ministers is made up of the ministers from member states responsible for specific policy areas including culture.  In addition, the heads of state or government meet as the most senior Council of Ministers.  The Council acts on proposals from the Commission and is the ultimate decision-making body of the Community.  One of the most important reforms of the Single European Act was introduction of majority voting in many areas previously requiring unanimity.

The European Parliament is made up of 518 members directly elected by citizens of the Community's member states.  At present, the Parliament debates issues, questions the Commission and Council of Ministers and reviews proposed legislation.  It does not have legislative powers but can dismiss the Commission and has final approval of the EC budget.  Powers of the Parliament were increased by the Single European Act. Members of Parliament tend to form into political rather than national coalitions.

The European Court of Justice is the Community's Supreme Court.  It interprets EC laws and rules on treaty questions raised by the Community's institutions, member states or individuals. Its rulings are binding.  The Court consists of thirteen judges assisted by six advocates-general.  They are appointed for six year terms by mutual consent of member states.

The Community has four distinct types of legislative instruments.  A Regulation is a Community law applicable to all member states.  A Decision is binding only on member states, companies or individuals specifically named.  A Directive sets out compulsory objectives but allows member states to translate them into national legislation.  Finally, a Recommendation is a non-binding directive.

The institutions that make up the Community are funded through contributions from member states as well as from its own revenue sources. Contributions from member states in 1988 amounted to 1.3% of the GNP of each member state.  The Community's own revenue sources include customs duties and agricultural levies on imports as well as 1.4% on a uniform assessment of Value Added Tax (VAT) collected by member states.


As in the Canadian Constitution, there is no specific reference to 'culture' in the Treaty of Rome, with, however, one exception.  Articles 30 through 34 of the Treaty call for elimination of all quantitative restrictions on imports between member states. Article 36, however, explicitly exempts a number of items including restrictions intended for "the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value".  This exemption continues to be a matter of controversy between the Community and member states.  In particular, member states in the South such as Spain, Italy and Greece fear that when this exemption is abolished in the Single Market of 1992, a significant loss of national patrimony will result.

Because culture can never be wholly conscious, [16] it is not surprising that it emerged only slowly as a Community issue.  In fact, culture, as a distinct policy sector, arose relatively late within member states themselves.  With the exception of France's highly developed cultural policy (reported to be second to national defence as a budgetary item of the French government, it was only in the 1960s and 1970s, coinciding with the economic boom and rise of the welfare state, that member states began to set up separate departments of cultural affairs.  Responsibilities formerly exercised by other agencies, especially ministries of education, were transferred to these new ministries of culture. In most cases the new departments were set up at the central government level; and their terms of reference were nationwide. [17]  This timing roughly corresponds with the creation of provincial ministries of culture in Canada, excepting Quebec which established the first ministry in 1961.

For many years, culture was considered strictly a concern of member states. Two initiatives, tabled by the Commission on behalf of France in 1977 and in 1982, were blocked.  Little progress was made despite endorsement of joint action in the cultural field by the European Parliament and EC Heads of State or Government. [18]  Minor initiatives were, however, undertaken.

In 1978, the European Community Youth Orchestra was created and partially funded with Commission scholarships  In 1982, the first Expolangues fair was held with support of the Commission.  This fair, with exhibitors from the ministries, cultural associations, language schools, universities, publishers of all member states, exposed the general European public to the extent of European multilingualism. In this regard, it is reported that 35% of the Commission's staff and nearly 50% of its administrative budget are committed to translation.  These costs of doing business in the Community dwarf the costs of bilingualism in Canada.

Also in 1982, the Commission issued a document entitled Stronger Community Action in the Cultural Sector. [19]  While no reference was made to content or European values, emphasis was placed on employment and working conditions of cultural workers.  Community involvement in determining the status of the artist and, especially, the training of cultural workers, became a matter of controversy.  The Commission determined, however, that vocational training fell under Community jurisdiction in contrast to formal education which remains a member state responsibility.  This is similar to the Canadian situation regarding manpower retraining, which is not considered education, and, therefore, can become a program responsibility of the federal government.

In June 1985, a European City of Culture resolution was passed by the Commission, establishing what is known as the annual European Cultural Capital.  So far, this has included Athens (1985), Florence (1986), Amsterdam (1987), Berlin (1988), Paris (1989), Glasgow (1990) and Dublin (1991). In May 1990, the concept was extended to include nonmembers of the Community, through creation of European Cultural Month.

The first major step leading the European Community into cultural affairs occurred with the Madrid Manifesto in October 1985.  The Manifesto, on European Cultural Space, established that Europe was not only a trading area but also a distinctive cultural space in which economic unification requires that culture be recognized and dealt with at the Community level. The Madrid declaration reflected a widespread feeling in European intellectual and artistic circles concerning the relative impotence of those working in the cultural field.  The Manifesto was, however, more than an appeal for a European culture; it was a protest against the slow response by national governments and the Community to the growing needs of the cultural sector, and to their growing fears of American domination, particularly in the audio-visual industry.  It was believed that solutions could be found only through active cooperation at the Community level. [20]  This sense of the impotence of cultural workers as well as the fear of foreign domination are major themes in Canadian cultural policy.

The critical breakthrough leading to Community involvement in cultural affairs took place at a conference held in Florence in March 1987 under the aegis of the Commission, titled Changing Europe. The Challenge of Culture, Technology and Economics.  The conference highlighted that Europeans must preserve their distinct cultural assets, adapt to new means of expression (particularly audio-visual ones) and maintain competitiveness vis-a-vis the rest of the world.   The stakes were considered high because of the growing economic importance of cultural activities.  Furthermore, progress towards a single European market without internal frontiers carried risks to those working in the cultural field. [21]   This concern was expressed by the cultural sector in Canada during the Free Trade debate.

A major theme emerging from the Conference was the anticipated impact of new technologies such as satellite and cable TV - and the dominance of American entertainment programming.  Privatisation of television in France and in other European countries, as well as the conglomerate communications merger movement of the 1980s (particularly those initiated by Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell) served as backdrop against which the linkage of these new technologies to dominant interests took on distinctly threatening features.  To a degree, the introduction of pay tv, and the increasing capacity of cable tv to carry American channels generated similar fears in Canada during the early 1980s.

Partially in response to this Conference, the Commission instituted a five part priority action plan for 1987 to 1992. The strategy is:

(a) to provoke debate on the ways and means to support culture at the Community level;

(b) to complement and cooperate with the activities of cultural workers; and,

(c) to become directly involved in various aspects of cultural affairs if the Treaty of Rome permits and if the Court of justice confirms the Commission's jurisdiction, or alternatively, through close cooperation with member states.

The five parts of the plan include:

An extension of the Madrid Manifesto, this priority reflects a shift in vision from A Europe of Traders to A Europe for the People. [22]  Its four objectives are:

a) to facilitate adjustments of the cultural sector to the demands of a single market. This involves encouraging:

i - the free circulation of cultural goods and services, through special measures to regulate movement of works of art including "harmonization" (see below) criteria and procedures for the protection of national treasures; establishing a code of ethics; developing descriptive records and a specialized information centre to combat art theft; "harmonization" of fiscal regimes of member states, including VAT; abolishing temporary import deposits for national treasures moving between member states. In Canada, the GST and its differential impact on the various art forms may require a similar review;

ii - better living and working conditions for artists, including a study of national legal systems in an attempt to reconcile artistic pursuits with the need for genuine social protection. This parallels passage of special Status of the Artist legislation in Quebec and the introduction, in Parliament, of similar legislation for Canada as a whole;

iii - creation of new jobs in the cultural sector in cooperation with regional, rural, tourism and technological development agencies. This is similar to Canada's experience with Economic and Regional Development Agreements between the federal and provincial governments, and with the efforts of Employment & Immigration Canada in designating arts administration as an occupation of national importance; and,

iv - emergence of a cultural industry competitive within the EC and on a world scale. This is similar to the objective of the Department of Communications to promote the Canadian cultural industries; 

b) to develop an information bank on the cultural aspects of Europe, including working with the Council of Europe to establish a reference centre for cultural statistics, initiating a survey program concerning cultural activities and habits, and compiling a European cultural diary;

c) sponsorship, especially by small and medium sized business, of cultural activities at the Community and member state level, through legal and fiscal measures, including the encouragement of national foundations to match business contributions, and the development of a European data bank to exchange experiences.  This parallels recommendations made by the Bovey task force on funding the arts in Canada; [23] and,

d) to develop a publishing policy that would balance the interests of authors, publishers, distributors and readers.  This would include: upgrading EC support for translation; examining book pricing through the European Advisory Committee on Books; protecting authors' and publishers' rights against copyright infringement; and encouraging cooperation between European libraries, including the development of common standards for indexing and computer interconnection.  In Canada, the introduction of Public Lending Rights, and copyright revision including a reprography right, parallels these European developments. 


The emergence of satellite and cable tv has heightened fears within the EC that increased American product on hundreds of new channels will squeeze European programming out of the Community's own market. This threat has led to two priorities aimed at promoting the European audiovisual industry:

a) a Directive concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities. [24]  Perhaps the most controversial initiative taken by the Community, the Directive establishes content quotas for television programming.  In many ways these quotas are modeled on the Canadian experience. [25]  Essentially they are intended to reserve time in each member state for programming from other EC countries, specifically programming not previously broadcast; and,

b) a MEDIA program to exploit, at the EC level, the distinctive qualities and diversity of Europe, and to create synergies within the Community so as to make it internationally competitive.  In many ways, the MEDIA program amounts to a European Telefilm Canada. Currently, the MEDIA program covers two areas:

i - Distribution, which involves: a cooperative of European distributors to administer a budget partially financed by EC for advances on revenue; a program to advance the use of minority languages; and, cooperation with the European Broadcast Union in technical research to perfect multilingual satellite programming received in the language of viewer choice; and,

ii - Production, which includes: financial support for major fiction series and for computer-assisted production.

In response to the MEDIA program, several European banks now provide financial backing for the cinema and audio-visual industry.

The Community is attempting to place the rich diversity of cultural heritage into the hands of every citizen, through a series of programs and proposals.  The Commission has programs to strengthen language training in schools and to support translation of literary works into minority languages, for example Friesan in the predominantly Dutch speaking Netherlands, Breton in France, and Gaelic in England.  As well, travel grants are made available to students for cross cultural visits, involving at least two member states.

The program of improved access also includes promotion of culture in the regions through support of local initiatives and encouragement of cultural tourism. The annual program European Cultural Capital is one part of this strategy; preserving and exploiting Europe's cultural heritage is another.  The Community assists in research to preserve monuments and is extending its support for the preservation of museums and libraries.

With respect to cultural assets, the European Investment Bank is now engaged in supporting cultural projects in "Underdeveloped" or "Assisted areas" and in other parts of the Community.

The basic idea that investment to preserve and enhance European heritage can make a significant contribution to the competitiveness of the tourist industry and through tourism to the development of less developed areas and to the health of the European economy.  This is justified as, according to many, the European Community enjoys a comparative advantage in architectural and cultural heritage relative to many other parts of the world.  [26]

The role of the European Investment Bank parallels Canadian experience with the recent entry of the Federal Business Development Bank into cultural investment. However, in Canada, activities are currently restricted to the so-called cultural industries, specifically publishing, but in the next few years recording, motion picture and tv production projects will become eligible for FBDB investment.


The Community has proposed various ways to improve training. in .the cultural sector, especially for cultural, administrators, and for the audio-visual occupations, and in the areas of communications, translation, interpretation, and preservation and restoration of precious objects. These proposals have been developed despite internal controversy that they infringe on member state responsibilities for education.  The Community has determined that such 'vocational' training is not an infringement of the responsibilities of member states.  In Canada, a joint Department of Communications and Employment & Immigration task force is currently holding hearings across the country to determine how to improve training in the cultural sector.

To present the world with a vision of the Community that extends beyond economics and trade, various initiatives have been undertaken, including the promotion of international book fairs, and tours by the European Community Youth Orchestra.  In Canada, the International Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Department of External Affairs supports Canadian dialogue with the rest of the world. As well, cultural exchange plays a major role in Canada's participation in "La Francophonie".


The evolution of cultural policy in Canada and in the European Community has been influenced by external threat, internal controversy and progressive industrialization.  External threat has taken the form of American entertainment programming, which apparently appeals to a wide audience in both jurisdictions, and threatens to become even more pervasive with the advent of satellite, cable tv and video technologies.

In Canada and the Common Market, there is continuing controversy about intrusion by the higher level of government into what many consider strictly a member state or provincial responsibility - culture.  To avoid controversy, the higher level of government tends to spread responsibility for cultural policy beyond the formal department or ministry of culture: authors' or creators' rights become "industrial" property; educating cultural workers becomes "vocational" training; educating the audience becomes "informal" education; broadcasting becomes "communications"; financial support to the arts becomes "regional" development and tourism; commercial culture becomes "industry"; national patrimony becomes the "free flow" of goods and services within a single market; the status of the artist becomes "social" policy; and the like.  At present, it is virtually impossible to disentangle cultural policy, nominally a responsibility of member states and provinces, from a spectrum of legitimate responsibilities exercised by the higher level of government.

The threat and controversy surrounding cultural policy is matched by an increasing need to be competitive in an increasingly important industry - culture.  After defense products, the largest net export of the USA is in fact entertainment programming. [27]  The global entertainment industry is estimated to earn $150 billion per year and is growing at 15% annually. [28]  But there is a dramatic new trend - the internationalization of American cultural enterprise. Four of seven major American film Studios are now foreign owned.  Only Warner Records remains a major American label in the USA itself. Japanese firms own Columbia Pictures and Records as well as Universal Studios and its theme parks; German firms own RCA records and Doubleday; a French publishing firm owns Grolier; Australians own 20th Century Fox; Italians, MGM/UA.  Broadway is dominated by British Phantoms.  The Europeans and Canadians want a piece of the pie culture increasingly becomes economics.

There are two significant differences in the cultural policy of the European Community relative to Canada.  These are the push for "harmonization" and the role of "subsidiarity".  The Commission has the authority to harmonize policies and practices of member states to ensure a fair and equitable single market.  In cultural policy, this means increasing stress is being placed on member states to adjust policies, one to the other.  This is unlike the Canadian situation where any attempt to impose standardization on the provinces is constitutionally impossible.

The Commission has also created a new policy that is gaining influence throughout the Community - subsidiarity.  In Canada, this would be like saying `policies and programs should be conducted by the level of government closest to the people and the problem'.  In Europe, subsidiarity amounts to the Community targeting policies and programs at the regional or sub-national level, e.g. Sicily and Calabria, not Italy.  Some member states fear the Commission will cut them off at the knees by fostering regional cultures and languages. The equivalent fear in Canada was expressed in the early 1970s when the `tri-level' process, i.e. federal, provincial and local governments working together, nearly resulted in enhanced status for the municipalities, potentially reducing provincial power and authority.  The attempt at achieving a power balance between levels of government failed, though in the cultural sector the process continues.  Today, Canadian municipalities are referred to as `creatures of the provinces'. In Europe, it remains to be seen if the Community's subsidiarity policy strengthens regional cultures at the expense of the power and authority of member states.  No matter the outcome, however, the role of the EC vis-avis member states, as likewise that of the federal vis-a-vis provincial governments in Canada, remains highly controversial.


I wish to thank Roy Christensen, Head, Information and Press, Delegation of the European Community in Canada; Christopher Maule, Director, Paterson School of International Studies, Carleton University; Vladimir Skok, Head, International Comparative Policy, Department of Communications, and Sidney Freifeld, retired Canadian Ambassador for their time and effort in responding to the argument and for documentation provided.  The very breadth of the argument has required sacrifice of depth and detail.  Errors and faults in interpretation are those of the author.

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