Monday, March 3, 2008

Regarding Bill C-10

A shocking new bill has been passed:

A new bill that would give the federal Heritage Department the power to deny funding for films and TV shows it considers offensive is creating shock waves in the industry.

Changes now before the Senate to the Income Tax Act that would allow the federal government to cancel tax credits for projects thought to be offensive or not in the public interest. The amendments have already been passed in the House of Commons. (CBC)

David Cronenberg comments: "It sounds like something they do in Beijing... You have a panel of people working behind closed doors who are not monitored and they form their own layer of censorship."

The denial of funding or tax-cuts is not censorship. It is unfair, but only because my tax dollars shouldn't be supporting such exemplary programs as those that John Ivison describes in an article for the National Post:

...I'm outraged as a taxpayer. Telefilm Canada handed out $158-million last year, including to such productions as Sperm and The Masturbators. But while they or the other yet-to-be-released movies and shows may well prove to be the next Away from Her, Barbarian Invasions or Trudeau, all of which were award-winners and received substantial Telefilm funding, they are just as likely to be the next Web-dreams, Kink or G-Spot, titillating late-night fare designed almost exclusively to provoke hand-to-gland combat.

These three shows received substantial public funding over the years through Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund. But why? Telefilm's mission is to foster productions that reflect Canadian society, with its linguistic duality and cultural diversity. Where's the Canadian distinctness in the G-Spot episode Sexorcist, where Gigi (Brigitte Bako), experiences a visit by a ghost that leaves her extremely "satisfied"? It's not that it's a bad show -- if it's on, I'll watch it because I'm Scottish and I know I'm paying for it. But the only connection to the Great White North is that Gigi is a struggling Canadian actress in Hollywood.

Why, indeed?

Part of the problem is that the broadcasters control where the Canadian Television Fund spends its $250-million. Not surprisingly, they direct funding toward shows they think will make them money. The new policy on tax suggests the government will, sooner or later, impose the same guidelines on Telefilm and CTF.

But that's not censorship. If the makers of Bliss or Webcam Girls want to continue to produce their shows -- or if they have a vacancy for a backscrubber -- then that's terrific. But they should do it without our tax dollars. As Pierre Trudeau so rightly said, there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.

The system by which "the arts" gets funding has been seriously flawed for some time. Naturally, I would prefer that the government simply stop funding all arts, no matter the content. If an artists wants to make something, they'll fund a way to make it; if the people want something, they'll find a way to get it. The good doesn't need the government to provide for it, only to protect it.

Calling the denial of a tax-cut to a production "censorship" means that you would have to also call refusing to buy a ticket to one of Cronenberg's latest "censorship." At the very least, it is mutilating the word, degenerating it to mean whatever you wish it to mean. Do they have censorship in Beijing, as Cronenberg says? Yup, they do. They also put you in jail for protesting the government's decisions. They also, reportedly, take organs out of prisoners for transplantation. This is not the kind of thing that Beijing would do - this is something Beijing would laugh at, giving it an inferiority complex.

Withholding tax credits only counts as censorship if you also consider the theater patron with discriminating taste to also be engaging in censorship when he doesn't buy a ticket to your performance. As has been repeated, ad nauseum, elsewhere, the right to free expression is not the right to an audience. Simply because you have a half-baked, poorly-considered idea for a TV series does not obligate the CBC to fund your notion, or to provide it with air-time. There are plenty of places on the internet that will happily host your mediocrity. If you can't convince anyone with money to fund your artistic endeavor, or convince those able of giving loans that enough people will want to watch your masterpiece that you will be able to pay them back, then your idea, for all intents and purposes, is worthless.

The free market always has been, and always will be, the best arbiter of the worthiness of ideas. Any program which does not provide the giving organization with a method of "discrimination," so that they can decide which projects get funded and which do not, will not survive for long. When people are left to their own devices, they decide which projects are worthy of funding by buying tickets to movies, comedy shows, and plays; by tuning in on their televisions; by visiting the websites. The quickest way to ensure that the Canadian public is not forced to pay for something that it objects to is simply not to presume to act on behalf of the Canadian public. There is no better steward for my choices than me.

I expect no government hand-out or tax-break from my artistic endeavors. As I sit in my apartment, tapping out my first novel unremittingly, I search out no government grants, no special privileges that I have not earned with regards to my work. Sure, I get a GST credit every now and then, but that's not related to my writing in any way. If the public likes my writing, then they, on an individual basis, will determine if I am worth supporting - no government agency will take over their decision-making processes, their value judgement, and decide for them. Like all values, the individual must decide which will help him to survive, and which will kill him. A man on deserted island in the Pacific Ocean must rely on his own reason to determine which of the island's fruit will poison him, and how to take the salty sea water and make it drinkable. There aren't any government bureaucrats to come along and tell him, as decided by majority vote, what he will do for food, or how to build a shelter. There is no replacement for individual judgement.

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