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If action’s further delayed ‘little or no chance of saving English Canada from complete absorption into U.S. cultural ecosystem’: Stursberg

By Richard Stursberg      

The issue of ensuring Canadian culture survives the technological change in the production and distribution of digital content is front and centre in policy debate in Parliament. Here, industry veteran Richard Stursberg clearly outlines the threat from FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google), providing both historical context and explicit recommendations, including a clarified definition of Canadian content, as well as possible approaches to subsidizing that content. He paints a very dim portrait of the status quo and conveys a sense of urgent need for policy action to level the playing field. The Tangled Garden: A Canadian Cultural Manifesto For The Digital Age, by Richard Stursberg, is one five finalists for this year's $50,000 Donner Prize, the best book on public policy. The other four are: Empty Planet, by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson; Living With China, by Wendy Dobson; The Wealth of First Nations, by Thomas Flanagan; and Breakdown, by Dennis McConaghy. The winner will be announced in the fall.

Richard Stursberg, author of The Tower of Babble and former executive vice president of CBC/Radio Canada, pictured on April 24, 2019, at The Hill Times' office. 'As Canadians have had to isolate at home, the virus has also accelerated their purchase of the foreign streaming services. Time is short. If we are to save our great cultural institutions, the government needs to act now.' The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Canadian governments have always known that if there was to be a Canada, there would have to be Canadian media. Since the 1930s, successive administrations, whether Liberal or Conservative, have struggled to strengthen the foundations of Canadian culture, often in opposition to the desires of the United States. They passed laws, created regulations and provided financial support so that Canadian music, books, films, newspapers, and TV shows could flourish. For almost 100 years, they worked—sometimes at significant political cost—to build counterweights to the great centripetal force of the U.S.

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