Minister Joly’s Expert Advisory Group

The recent addition of a team of Expert Advisors to Canadian Heritage’s overhaul of our Canada’s content rules is good news. Charles Falzon, Dean of FCAD, is among a group of experts being called on to advise Minister Joly on the massive task ahead.

The Honorable Mélanie Joly

In addition to the inclusion of Charles Falzon, the following experts will also advise Minister Joly:

  • Rob Blackie, a producer whose credits include the CBC TV series Republic of Doyle
  • Katie Boland, an actor, writer and producer
  • Catherine Cano, chief executive officer of public affairs channel CPAC
  • Loc Dao, chief digital officer at the National Film Board
  • Lisa de Wilde, CEO of public broadcaster TVO
  • Michael Donovan, executive chairman of DHX Media Ltd.
  • Philippe Lamarre, owner of production house Urbania Media
  • Jean La Rose, CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
  • Monique Savoie, president and artistic director of Société des Arts Technologique
  • Justin West, founder and president of Secret City Records
  • Kenneth Whyte, senior vice-president of public policy for Rogers Communications Inc.

Over the course of five meetings between now and the end of the calendar year, Canadian Heritage will gather information to try and reconcile current policy with the rapidly advancing digital technologies and changing user patterns. The Expert Advisory Group will be relied on to provide their “diversity of skills” to the Ministry but will not have any decision-making power.  Much has been made of the various disruptive technologies that have shaken traditional business models so there are at least 8 different federal acts up for review.  By January 2017, the ministry’s What We Heard Report will be released which will playback much of the perspectives shared in the more than 10,000 surveys completed in the pre consultation stage and the cross Canada consultations. Clearly there is significant information captured, but one wonders if the voice of young people will be heard in the six consultations?  If there is concern over disruptive technologies upending the creative industries, then the perspectives of early adopter youth who may also be the future creators in the creative industries needs to be a part of the mix. Early adopters, as Malcolm Gladwell reminds us, are those who are on the cutting edge, experimenting and experiencing digital technologies long before they are discovered and consumed by the masses.

As early as a decade ago in 2007, I had met young people streaming YouTube as their home television screens, long before I had ever heard of Netflix.  Young people in particular experience an over mediated reality, not intimately experienced by generations before them.  For many early adopters being plush with various digital options means developing an ethic of seeking out and discovering that new webseries or that beta version app that appeals to them. While this may not be a 21st century skills taught in schools, the persistent search through the increasingly clutter digital world is a rare skill in such rapidly moving times.  It might be interesting to see how a young person finds an Angolan pop song or a Maori radio station on their smart phone.  Hackathons and creative jams are great arenas for risk taking, infinitely adding value to a traditional consultation process.  With more than 600,000 jobs in the creative sector, all of which we would like to keep in Canada, the stakes are high, which might mean our risk tolerance should also be high.

Despite the breadth and depth of the Expert Advisory Group, of course not all folks in the cultural industries are overjoyed with the news. Creating a dynamic and innovative panel of experts will ostensibly leave out some as Arts Reps and CARFAC’s open letter clearly relays their disappointment at the lack of representation of the arts.  Similarly, for book publishers, their voices will have to be heard in another way outside of direct representation in the Expert Advisory Group.  Regardless of those fractions not directly represented by the Expert Advisory Group, the idea of bringing Canadian Content rules into the digital era will benefit our country as a whole.  We just need to wait and see which sectors will quickly adapt to the new changes.