Cultural diversity

Interview with Solange Drouin

Biographical notes
Solange Drouin holds a degree in law and has been a member of the Québec Bar since 1998. She practiced law with Byers Casgrain in their commercial law department.

Drouin joined ADISQ—Québec’s association for the music recording, concert, and video industries—in 1992 as a legal advisor and has been the Association's executive director since 1995. She has also been active as ADISQ’s vice president of public affairs since 1999.

Drouin is currently co-president of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity and is a board member of the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity. She has been president of Table du disque et des arts de la scène since its foundation by Observatoire de la culture et des communications (OCCQ) and is president of OCCQ’s coordinating committee. She also serves as treasurer on the board of trustees for Musicaction.

From 1995 to June 2001, Drouin was also active as executive director of Quebec Collective Society for the Rights of Makers of Sound and Video Recordings.

Other roles include member of the board of Conseil québécois des ressources humaines en culture and vice president of the boards of both Re:Sound music licensing company and the Canadian Private Copying Collective.

Question - How would you sum up your experience as co-chair since 2006 of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity?

Answer –I started working in the cultural industry about 25 years ago. I was quickly impressed by its richness and the crucial role it plays in society.

I also quickly realized that in this sector, even artists and performers with obvious talent and entrepeneurs with unfailing energy and determination require support to grow and produce books, songs, and movies that speak to us, move us, and make us laugh. They need a favourable social, economic, and political context at both the national and international levels.

In working with the Coalition for Cultural Diversity to ensure states have the power, now and in the future, to establish their own cultural policies—a principle that is integral to the UNESCO Convention—I really feel that I fought for something that gives meaning to all of the challenges we face every day as cultural organizations. 

There’s a great deal of coherence in my career between what we’ve accomplished at ADISQ and what we’ve accomplished at the Coalition for Cultural Diversity.

Question - What’s your read on civil society and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions today? How have things changed since 2005 when the Convention was adopted?

Answer – After major efforts to ensure the Convention came into being, civil society has been actively participating in the campaign for its ratification since 2005. Today, although many countries have ratified the Convention, more work needs to be done to give it the political weight of other international conventions in all regions of the globe.

Over the last ten years, civil society has also greatly contributed to discussions on the implementation of operational directives regarding certain key Convention provisions. This in addition to its ceaseless vigilance to prevent bilateral and multilateral business deals from robbing the Convention of its meaning.

These three tasks must not be abandoned.

For the Convention to be a concrete source of cultural diversity for its signatory countries and to ensure continued adherence to the goals of this important instrument, other tasks need to be added to those carried out with conviction by civil society. Indeed, organizations on the ground and representatives of the cultural sector are in the best position to make a positive contribution to the deliberation and action of states in implementing cultural policies that enable their cultures to flourish and interact freely.

Civil society has already proven its ability to mobilize rapidly and achieve decisive victories in short-term campaigns. The challenge today is for civil society to prove that it can also win marathons that demand a great deal of effort, endurance, and perseverance.

Question - Perhaps you could say a few words about some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the cultural community in the last few years with the emergence of digital. What do you see as the biggest challenges posed by that issue right now?

Answer  Technological development has had a major impact on how we access local and international cultural content. The music industry was and is the sector most affected by these changes. Other cultural sectors are starting to feel the effects of this major shift in access. If we don’t act, these sectors could face the same challenges as those seen in the music industry today.

For markets like ours (and many others as well), these serious challenges directly affect our ability to support the sustainable development of national cultural content, in all its diversity. The revenues generated by these new practices aren't enough to generate new investments in new content. The visibility of our content on these new platforms is inadequate. Companies at home and abroad are pocketing outrageous amounts thanks to these new practices, without any return to the structures that enable cultural content. In the end, the diversity of cultural content is at the heart of the challenge presented by new technologies.

Yet there are practicable solutions that governments could implement to reverse the trend.  With true political will to reach our goal, we could strongly encourage companies and, in some cases, require them to use their technological tools to help us reach these goals.

Let’s take Spotify as an example. Spotify uses a proprietary algorithm to create continuous streaming playlists based on the user's listening profile. The idea would be to have Spotify include a certain amount of Canadian content on its playlists for the Canadian version of the service. Technically, this would mean rewriting a part of Spotify’s algorithm so that it includes a specific amount of home-grown content. Anyone will tell you that technically, it’s entirely possible.

This is just one solution among many that we need to examine and discuss in short order if we care about safeguarding all the richness of our culture so that we can continue to enjoy it at home and share it with others.

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