Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Deciding not to fund porn is not government censorship

An excellent article from the Calgary Herald last week.

Deciding not to fund porn is not government censorship
It's called fiscal responsibility

Susan Martinuk For The Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, March 07, 2008

"The sky is falling. The sky is falling."

That's the cry of all the Chicken Littles in Canada's film and television industry. Given their job descriptions, it should be no surprise that their response to a pending change in legislation is overly dramatic.

The industry is alarmed over proposed amendments to Bill C-10 that would ostensibly deny tax credits to TV and film productions containing extreme violence, graphic sex or other content that would be deemed offensive by a majority of Canadians.

Accordingly, those in the 'biz' have stirred public controversy with calls of "censorship" and claims that it will curtail freedom of speech-expression and singularly eliminate all artistic freedom in the Canadian film industry. Some commentators have taken the bait, and the game is on to name popular movies that "would NEVER have been made" under the restrictions of the new bill. One pundit claimed filmmakers like David Cronenberg (known for scenes of sex, destruction and death . . . all at the same time) would be forced to shoot remakes of Anne of Green Gables.

It makes for a good soundbite, but Bill C-10 has nothing to do with censorship. No films are banned; no films will be taken away by force and destroyed. They can fill them with as much sex, violence and controversy as they want. But there is no longer a blind guarantee of government money for films that feature porn stars and go on to premier at events like the FREAKZONE International Festival of Trash Cinema.

When opponents of the bill cry "censorship," they are really bemoaning the fact they no longer have a free pass for government subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Other industries have always had to meet strict requirements and regulations to gain tax credits or subsidies; such scrutiny hasn't been applied to artistic endeavours, but there is no reason for it to fall by the wayside just for the sake of artistic integrity.

Most Canadians would support that notion and that's why opponents have reached into the depths to float the idea that the Conservative government intends to use this "power" over film content to cleanse Canadian culture and transform it into some kind of conservative utopia.
If only. Instead, this outrageous claim stems partly from the suggestion that these amendments are the work of one man with a religious agenda who supposedly lobbied Conservatives for the restrictions. Key Conservatives deny it, but any kind of connection is now being used as proof the Conservatives have appointed themselves as the determiners (and guardians) of decency for all Canadians.

Frankly, I doubt that one man has that much power over the Conservative government, legislators from all other parties who voted for the bill, and members of the Senate where a Liberal majority will pass the final legislation. But if those who oppose him choose to grant him that power . . . who am I to argue?

The above arguments are rooted in rhetoric and fear. The reality is that the Conservative government's agenda to protect taxpayers' money and limit government spending on wasteful projects isn't exactly "hidden." It's called fiscal responsibility, it's one of the most prominent features of the conservative platform and it's exactly what Canadians expect from the federal government.