Canada Is Worried About America Taking Over Its Media

It's not just Netflix, Canada is worried about digital print media invading from the old US of A.

Oct 23 2014, 8:11pm

Burning pages of books. Image: Wikimedia Commons

For most of the history of Canada, one of the defining features of our culture is that we're not American. Sounds like a simple formula, but it works: by loving hockey, instituting strict Canadian content laws on our broadcast media, and having French people, we Canadians have managed to stay relatively un-American. 

Maintaining that status quo is still on the minds of the Harper government: it just issued a tender calling for help understanding the decline of the Canadian magazine industry, in the face of popular American magazines and their digital content.

Heritage Canada issued the tender, because it provides financial support to Canadian-made magazines to support domestic culture, even as the those same magazines face "systemic disadvantages in the marketplace" from largely "foreign competition."

Related: The Clash Between Netflix and Canada Will Determine the Future of Streaming

And the department responsible for preserving Canadian culture knows that competition comes primarily from south of the border. 

"Canadian magazines face competition from large American magazine publishers for both advertising and for readership," said the tender. "Canadian magazine publishers are also at a competitive disadvantage from large American publishers who are able to reduce their per unit production costs through economies of scale."

The growth of digital media in general has infringed on some Canadian magazines that have operating costs in publishing print runs, without the larger ad-revenues you see in the States. As the tender puts it, "with the growth of digital technology, magazine publishers are now operating in a new environment."

In comparison, bigger American sites like Buzzfeed hawk hundreds of posts in a day, all online. Readers just don't need to wait anymore for features to come out at the first of the month—especially when regular Canadian content is a click away all over the net. 

"The purpose of this research project is to study the impact of digital technology on the magazine industry," said the tender, adding that it would be examining the competitive disadvantages they produce in Canada.

Being a mostly anglophone nation north of the American cultural behemoth means trading (and mostly absorbing) media from the States. That's why the government has implemented content laws ensuring that foreign companies don't crush the Canadian little guy. 

with the growth of digital technology, magazine publishers are now operating in a new environment

For example, our broadcast regulator ensures syndicators of content comply with broadcasting Canadian content on their airwaves. That way, Canadian writers, actors, and directors can actually get experience and gainful employment in the face of American Goliaths. Similarly protecting Canadian print media is just as much a concern.

After all, the historical Canadian brain drain south is an actual cultural issue within Canada.

This study is clearly an attempt at better understanding the new digital landscape of media for Canadian print magazines, before its too late. Some publications like Maisoneuve and The Walrus have adapted and succeeded, albeit, with hiccups of their own.

In the end, I'm avoiding one big elephant in the room: Canada's most successful publication to date packed up and moved to Brooklyn. That being said, maybe propping up Canadian publications will inevitably lead to the American move, anyways. Either way, this writer is still happy to answer to his American-Canadian overlords.