Monday, August 14, 2006

"The Convergence Conundrum: A Cross- Canadian Perspective on the Business of Content"

Marc Beaudet, from Montréal web production and service company Turbulent Media, talked about how the cell phone is not an important medium in Canada at the moment, but that may change as multi-media convergence increases in importance and phone technologies improve. Canadian broadcasters are the major force in convergent media production and the key player in promotion strategies. Media producers, then, are still "taking orders" from those who control the means of "convergent funding" and dissemination. More funding is coming from private interests, so that much original content is emerging in the commercial context. As we're still doing web-based work this is particularly difficult since many people expect web content to be free.

Nichole McGill introduced Canadian Heritage's portal to Canadian content online in both English and French, and the portal to Canadian cultural policies. Susan intervened and asked about convergence, especially in terms of user-generated content. (I'm still amazed that the government still follows the web portal model, but Nichole says they're re-evaluating that right now too. Man, government is slow to change!) Nichole also said that user-generated content is gaining interest, but there are concerns about how to aggregate it and how IP will work since we still work with a government-based, top-down funding model. They'e asking if there should be some sort of Canadian MySpace or flickr because of our "proud to be it, but hard to see it" sense of being Canadian, and the need to foster more Canadian content for local and global audiences. Primary funding vehicles include the New Media R&D Initiative and the New Media Research Networks Fund.

Katherine Lee, from Video in Studios in Vancouver, talked about user-generated content such as music and video, and the blurring of roles in traditional content production. While the technology and means of dissemination are here - and we expect this sort of accessibility - she asked where and how professional (artistic) content producers can position themselves now. She made an interesting, if rough, analogy between home-grown content and coffee-growing, where producers are not as well compensated as they should be. (I imagine a sort of organic, fair-trade Canadian content industry and culture, and I get kind of excited...)

Wayne Clark, from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, wrapped up the discussion by talking about what Canadian media convergence has accomplished so far. He mentioned the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund and convergent media like the Degrassi tv show website, and focussed mostly on ad revenue models and the difficulties of making media fit the mobile phone.

This got me thinking about the success of CBC Radio 3 as convergent radio, web and mobile media, and I asked the panelists to speak a bit about this... everyone agreed that CBC Radio 3 rocks, but it was interesting to learn that it isn't as popular in Québec.

Daniel weighed in with a critique of our continuing top-down funding structure - he believes that culture should not be a "national property" and that we really need to get more in touch with what's happening from the bottom-up and give power to these producers as well. (Score!) Nichole acknowledged that this sort of paradigm shift is in the works, but again, bureaucracy is slow to change. Marc commented also that content producers here are not really independent or self-defined, but I have to wonder what an "independent" sector might actually comprise...

More after lunch.


Blogger John said...

Hi there,

John from Radio 3 here. While it's true that we don't run a French language stream in Quebec, this is because the service is provided by our cousins at

They do an awesome job of covering the province's music scene, and hopefully as we sort out the details, we'll work more closely with them in the future.


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