Thursday, January 10, 2008

Little Mosque on the Taxpayer Dime

In my recent appearance on the John Gormley radio show, we talked about Little Mosque on the Prairie, the Canadian program that obscures its place of origin in hopes of being aired in the U.S. The CTF doesn't care how the show markets itself or how Canadian it is or isn't. What we do care about is the high amount of tax dollars going into these shows.

Funding entertainment is not the role of government. Yet, Canadians keep getting told the main reason we're told for the massive subisdies, tax credits, and even our public broadcaster is to have "Canadian" programming. The Broadcasting Act that mandates the CBC says the network's programming should "be predominantly and distinctively Canadian" and "reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences."

When a program intentionally obscures that in order to have foreign sales, it shows how empty the Canadian content argument is. The conclusions of this is not that Little Mosque on the Prairie should market itself any differently. It's that the 'Canadian content' argument is hollow, and that these subsidies should stop.


Pogo said...

Little Mosque in no way hides the fact that it takes place in Canada: Canadian money, license plates, flags, etc.

They don't specify the province it's set in, and maybe that's where you got your idea.

Tamara said...

Little Mosque does not hide that it is Canadian, even if it did, why does that diminish the value of the program or negate the need for funding?

As to the point that the film industry is vibrant and tax credits are no longer needed, you obviously don't have a real grasp of business of the entertainment industry. With the Canadian dollar being nearly on par with the American dollar, we have lost one of the main attractions of American films coming to Canada. Additionally, other provinces and states are currently offering tax incentives to ensure the viability of their industry, and if Saskatchewan decides to remove those incentives we might as well say good bye to the industry, and the jobs it has created.

Maureen Bader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen Bader said...

If an industry can only survive with subsidies, it means the industry is producing a product that people would rather not consume. If people do not freely choose to consume your product, it has no value.

Why should taxpayers fund the production of something that has no value?

This not only wastes taxpayers money, it wastes the time and effort of those attracted to an industry that, without subsidies, cannot survive.

Grinder said...

I agree that the idea of "Can-con" has long since gone by the wayside as a principal consideration of grant-hungry purveyors of lack-lustre creative material (be it film, visual arts, performing arts, etc). It has been largely replaced by self-reflective critical thinking about socio-psychological forces, and as a mechanism of cultural change (creativity has always been about these things, but never before at the expense of the audience). Nonetheless I do find fault with the notion that the entertainment industry is not worthy of public funding. The problem is not that the funding exists, but that it is being mis-directed and mis-appropriated. Artists are spending public money to create material that would otherwise never see the light of day, rather than using that public money to create successful, sustainable material that would provide a foundation for that more experiemental work later down the road. Furthermore, the people and institutions who dispense public funds actually encourage artists to do this sort of experimental work, and tend to shun "commercial," or "mainstream" projects. In the particular case of Little Mosque on the Prairie the CBC may have actually gotten it right for a change. They have created a show that does have a chance to gain international appeal (not just in the US) and by taking the creative steps that were necessary to make the show palatable around the world they have empowered any number of creative entrepreneurs to exploit this new opportunity to reach audiences.

I'm a rarity in the creative community - I don't believe that the taxpayers should sustain the arts in Canada - only that they should give the industry the funding to create the means to sustain itself. Visit and see how I'm running a rapidly-growing live theatre company without a cent of government assistance.

Lee Harding said...

I don't care much how Little Mosque markets itself or approaches its show except for this: taxpayers are told they should generously fund a domestic arts industry so that we can have Canadian content. This logic is flawed.

OK, here's a show that obscures its Canadian origin, but still takes in $7 million from the television fund, and is broadcast on the CBC, which gets $1 billion per year from taxpayers, and only $500 million anywhere else.

The Broadcast Act that governs the CBC says that its content should be distinctively Canadian and should be directed towards Canadian audiences. This program is intentionally indistinctly Canadian for a purpose of airing outside of the country. This undermines the Act.

As for the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit, a government report showed that every job created by the SFETC cost more than $8000. Even after these workers paid taxes, the province still lost $707. The more successful the SFETC was in creating jobs, the more the province lost. And that was when the base amount of support was 35% and not 45%! (I note that in the former plan the rules for qualified labour were somewhat different.)

I documented some of the woeful history of subsidized film in Saskatchewan in December. Click here to read it.

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