Canada aims to end censorship flap


OTTAWA – The Canadian government on Wednesday moved to end an on-going censorship flap as it offered domestic producers an opportunity to help draft guidelines on which offensive film and TV projects should be denied tax credits.

The olive branch came as foreign, mostly U.S. productions came under attack in the federal Senate for not being subject to Bill C-10, controversial legislation that aims to curb indecent material, hate propaganda or child pornography in homegrown films or TV shows.

As federal heritage minister Josee Verner appeared before the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce hearing late Wednesday, she proposed to wait one year from the passage of Bill C-10 to carry through on plans to pull tax credits from film or TV productions that run "contrary to public policy."

Bill C-10 has drawn the fury of domestic producers as it would give the Canadian Heritage minister the power to deny taxpayer subsidies for offending Canadian film or television productions.

The Canadian industry has protested Bill C-10 because Verner has refused to outline the criteria by which domestic film and TV projects will be judged for indecency until the legislation passes.

To break a current impasse, Verner on Wednesday invited the industry to take a lead in the development of censorship guidelines along the lines of existing self-regulating industry standards that Canadian private TV networks follow as part of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

"It reasserts the principal that there is audiovisual material which may not be illegal but which taxpayers should simply not be expected to pay for," Verner explained.

The minister admitted, however, that the Canadian production industry is "hesitant" to get involved in the development of censorship guidelines because it opposes the concept.

Opposition senators also took Verner to task for introducing censorship guidelines that will not apply to foreign producers that receive tax credits when they shoot in Canada.

Liberal senator Pierrette Ringuette argued American producers will have less onerous standards when they shoot in Canada and receive tax credits if the bill passes into law.

"There will be a double standard," Ringuette told the hearing.

In response, deputy minister of cultural affairs Jean-Pierre Blais said tax credits for foreign location shoots aim to draw investment into Canada and are based on expenditures in Canada, not on content.