Cultural diversity

Newsletter
The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 4, no 12, Monday, March 29, 2004

"Cultural Diversity: Summary of Preliminary Work and Category VI Meetings of Experts, and Prospects".

IN THIS ISSUE :

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Publications and Studies

Other News of Interest



Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Journée mondiale du théâtre : "Souligner la contribution exceptionnelle des artistes québécois à la vitalité culturelle du Québec et à son rayonnement international"

Mme Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications - Québec, le 25 mars 2004 - 2004/03/25

Ms. Beauchamp marked the celebration of International Theatre Day, March 27, established in 1961 by UNESCO and the international theatrical community, by highlighting the contribution of Quebec’s artists. Indeed, Quebec’s writers, actors, directors, and stage designers have won renown all year long on stages in Quebec and in a dozen other countries, thus contributing to Quebec’s cultural vitality and international influence. For Ms. Beauchamp, “Quebec’s international presence and the great success it has achieved confirms the need for us to continue our efforts to maintain so-called cultural diversity, meaning the right of nations to support those who create, distribute and produce distinctive cultural content.” Numerous demonstrations and activities have been organized to celebrate this Day, with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of dramatic expression. Among these activities is the traditional public reading of the International Message, which is written by a well-known playwright or a personality from the international theatre scene. (Available in French only)

Top of page

L’industrie québécoise du disque, du spectacle et de la radio fait la promotion de la diversité culturelle

Mme Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications - Québec, le 22 mars 2004 - 2004/03/22

On the occasion Les Rencontres de l’ADISQ, the annual French-language recording industry conference, Ms. Beauchamp continued her efforts in promoting cultural diversity by highlighting the 25th anniversary of ADISQ and by congratulating the organization’s stance of defending musical diversity. In this respect, she stated, “Protecting cultural diversity means safeguarding the right of States and governments to support culture. Without State aid, specifically our support programs and fiscal measures, our cultural industries will no longer enjoy the vitality and success they do today. If cultural production is subjected to a purely commercial mentality, its influence will be diminished.” While stressing the importance of gaining support for cultural diversity from as many countries as possible, Ms. Beauchamp called on ADISQ members to increase its efforts to mobilize Quebec’s vibrant strengths in promoting cultural diversity, an issue that eminently underscored her discussions with Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie. (Available in French only)

Top of page

Diversité culturelle : "Sortir du cadre de l’OMC"

M. Jacques Parizeau, ancien premier ministre du Québec, le 26 mars 2004 - 2004/03/26

In this speech, a follow-up to that of Louise Beaudoin, entitled “La Francophonie à l'avant-garde de la lutte pour la culture: marchandisation et diversité culturelle,” Mr. Parizeau asks the following question: “Are cultural products and services trade items, therefore falling under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and subject to its regulations, or are they expressions of cultural diversity, which should be governed by a different international organization (UNESCO, for instance) and subject to different regulations?” In answering this question, Mr. Parizeau stresses, “If we accept that cultural products and services should be subject to WTO regulations, it follows that every national cultural policy aimed at safeguarding cultural diversity would become illegal.” He states, “A national cultural policy is based on a principle that contradicts the WTO’s fundamental code: non-discrimination. A cultural policy is, by definition, discriminatory.” For example, quotas applied to foreign film distribution, quotas on broadcasting songs on the radio, national film subsidies, and publishing subsidies are based on the notion that artists from the native country should be treated “differently” than those from foreign countries.
According to Mr. Parizeau, “For cultural diversity to be maintained and to flourish, it requires rather large doses of discrimination.” He also maintains, “For a country, seeking to develop a national cultural policy within the framework of the WTO means that it will sooner or later expose itself to commercial or financial retaliation. We must therefore leave the WTO framework, establish regulations for creating national cultural policies, flag inevitable discrimination, and create a legally binding framework preventing cultural diversity from falling in with any type of practice.”  Referring back to UNESCO’s decision to create an International Convention on Cultural Diversity, he stresses that support for this decision set into motion an “irreversible movement” and notes, “The American administration, which is incapable of stopping this movement, is now trying to slow it down, perhaps stop it, or in any case, tone it down.” This explains the United States’ strategy aimed at increasing “bilateral trade agreements where each party agrees not to increase preferences or advantages granted to its cultural industries.” Mr. Parizeau maintains, “The free entry of textiles or fruit into the United States from another country is surely worth a few infringements on the development of cultural diversity.” (Available in French only)

Top of page

Cultural Diversity : "Putting Canadians First"

Mr. Glenn O’Farrell, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) - March 25, 2004 - 2004/03/25

In this speech entitled, “Les Canadiens d’abord,” given in Toronto before the Broadcast Executives Society (BES), Glenn O’Farrell, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), underscores the need for private Canadian radio broadcasters to collaborate with government in an effort to: obtain a balanced copyright regime, protect the integrity of the television broadcast system, and adopt an international instrument (on cultural diversity) for the trade of cultural products in order to put Canadians first in the global marketplace. Mr. O’Farrell declares CAB’s intention to continue to play an active role in creating a new international instrument on cultural diversity. (Available in English only)

Top of page

Aides d’État au cinéma : Préparer l'avenir et valoriser le passé - la Commission adopte une communication sur le cinéma européen (DN : IP/04/343)

Commission européenne, Bruxelles le 16 mars 2004 - 2004/03/16

The European Commission has adopted a Communication that serves as a follow-up to its Communication of September 26, 2001. This new text extends the regime governing State aid to the audiovisual sector until June 30, 2007, and proposes the adoption of a Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council on film heritage. This Communication, which was adopted at the suggestion of Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education and Culture, in agreement with Mario Monti, Member of the European Commission responsible for Competition, is also the result of several months of consultations with Member States and professionals in the film sector. Hailing this decision, which confirms that “the Europe of cinema exists,” Ms. Reding stated that all members need “to preserve the diversity of these State aid schemes, which have the virtue of being adapted to the particular needs of each country.” She also stressed her determination to support film production in the European Union, “which only represents 30% of the films released in European theatres,” the rest being almost exclusively “made in Hollywood.”  She also stated, “We have an obligation to support this area of the cultural sector, which offers enormous potential for growth if we provide it with sufficient aid…  Hollywood is not doing much for cultural diversity in Europe.”
Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, is also pleased that the Commission decided to maintain until 2007 the legal framework it established in 2001, which specifically addresses national systems of subsidies to the film and the audiovisual industry.  According to Mr. Aillagon, this decision conveys a positive and open approach to the cultural challenges facing the film sector. He emphasizes that its position has always been one of promoting the consideration of cultural diversity and the specific aspects of creative works in Community policies, and in particular, the issue of competitiveness.
The French Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) and the Association de producteurs de cinéma et de télévision (Eurocinéma) welcome the Commission’s decision “to extend specific compatibility criteria for State aid to the film and audiovisual production industry.” The latter, however, plans to remain “vigilant” concerning the details of the study the Commission plans to launch. (Available also in French, English, German)

Top of page

Publications and Studies

Follow-up to the Commission communication on certain legal aspects relating to cinematographic and other audiovisual works (Cinema communication) of 26.09.2001, and Proposal for a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on film heritage and the competitiveness of related industrial activities - COM(2004) 171 final

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 16.3.2004 - 2004/03/16

This new Communication on State aid to European cinema, which was adopted by the European Commission, extends the previous regime by three years. The following conditions of the Communication of 2001 on national support regimes have been confirmed: first, it must be verified that conditions for aid eligibility do not contradict general legal principles (discrimination based on nationality, for example); second, it must be ensured that specific criteria for aid to the film and television sectors are met.
In addition, the Commission will take advantage of the entry into force of the new Communication to conduct a study on the economic and cultural impact of the current regime in order to determine whether it fully meets future challenges facing the European audiovisual market, and whether changes should be introduced during its next revision on June 30, 2007. It will also verify, in particular, whether the controversial issue of “territorialization,” required by some Member States, is fragmenting the European audiovisual market by hindering European co-productions. A State that applies the “territorialization” clause requires producers to spend 80% of their allocated budget within its country.
The Commission proposes adopting a Recommendation solely concerning cinematographic works, which would cover all of aspects of protecting film heritage. This Recommendation is aimed particularly at highlighting the importance of ensuring the lasting protection of assistance for cinematographic works, which have a limited lifespan and are part of Europe’s cultural diversity. (Available also in French, English, Spanish)

Top of page

Other News of Interest

"Cultural Diversity: Summary of Preliminary Work and Category VI Meetings of Experts, and Prospects".

This item appears on the provisional agenda for the 169th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, to be held in Paris this April. In its Resolution 32 C/34, the UNESCO General Conference of September-October 2003 decided that “the question of cultural diversity as regards the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions shall be the subject of an international convention,” and invited Director-General Koichiro Matsuura to submit at the 33rd session of the General Conference “a preliminary draft of a convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions.” During its 169th session, the Executive Board will consider the results of meetings by category VI experts, who were called in by the Director‑General to assess the progress made in the reflective process that should lead to the preparation of the international convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. It will also obtain from the Director-General details of the future timetable relating to that question.

Top of page

The Universal Forum of Cultures

Cultures from around the world will meet in Barcelona, Spain this summer for the first edition of an international forum aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and celebrating cultural diversity. From May 9 to September 26, the Barcelona Universal Forum of Cultures will offer a new type of international conference, centered on three main themes: cultural diversity, sustainable development, and conditions for peace. This Forum is unique in that it will invite only civil society representatives, with the exception of two active political directors: Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil. Over the 141 days of the Forum, five million visitors are expected to participate in 45 symposiums, discussions, and conferences; 20 expositions; 450 concerts; and 110 theatrical, dance and musical performances.
On this occasion, the Office of Quebec in Barcelona is pleased to promote cultural activities from Quebec in partnership with the Universal Forum of Cultures, which will be held simultaneously in Barcelona. Quebec’s cultural program in Spain will include theatre, dance, and films in several Spanish cities in March and April 2004, and other cultural activities will be added for the period of May-September.

Top of page

Diversité culturelle: Vers une convention internationale ?

This is the theme of a conference organized by the Groupe de Recherche sur l’Intégration Continentale (GRIC), the Centre d’Études Internationales et Mondialisation (CEIM) and the Institut d’Études Internationales de Montréal (IEIM) of the Université du Quebéc à Montréal, in collaboration with the Blue Metropolis Foundation. This event will take place in Montreal on March 31, 2004 and will last all day, with three workshops and a round table discussion on each of the following topics: culture and trade; culture as a fundamental right; cultural diversity and the information society; and working towards an international convention. Participants will include: Pierre Curzi, Alain Ambrosi, Amaryll Chanady, Dorval Brunelle, Francois de Bernard, Georges Azzaria, Gilbert Gagné, Louise Beaudoin, Raphael Canet. To view the program :

Top of page

Global trade talks begin to gather momentum

Mr David Crane, The Torontor Star, March 20, 2004 – 2004/03/20

In this edition of The Toronto Star, Mr. Crane reports on the speech by Pascal Lamy, the European Union’s trade commissioner, who maintains that the globalization lauded by the WTO cannot become synonymous with the homogenization of markets. According to Lamy, with the opening of markets and liberalization of trade, societies must retain the capacity to uphold social choices which may be at odds with commercial or mercantile logic. He feels it is essential for every country to have a “sovereign duty” to sustain collective choices, which reflect individual preferences, through domestic public policies. For Europe, and similarly Canada, these collective choices include the environment, food security, cultural diversity, public education and health-care provision, and social entitlements. That is why, he argues, the WTO should be seen as “an international instrument that should enable states to continue opening their markets while still retaining the capacity to make public policy choices.” (Available in English only)

Top of page

L'industrie du logiciel dans le cadre des négociations entourant la réglementation du commerce international : "Le logiciel est-il un produit ou un service?"

M. André Mondoux, Direction informatique Express, 18 mars 2004 – 2004/03/18

The Alliance canadienne des technologies avancées (CATA) is concerned with protecting the software industry in negotiations on international trade regulations. It feels that “considering software as a service in international trade agreements could have a negative impact on the Canadian software industry.” “As a good, software is subject to the GATT,” maintains Dave Paterson, National Director of CATA, “and essentially free trade prevails on a global basis. If software is reclassified as a service, subject to GATS rules, it will be subject to all the protective practices which continue to prevail in the world of services.” As the Canadian International Trade Minister, James Peterson, states, “health care, public education, social services, and culture are not on the table for negotiation.”  For CATA, this also means that software, which is linked by e-commerce to books and music, should be considered a cultural product, and thus not subject to current negotiations. (Available in French only)

Top of page