Canadian Content in Porn

All television channels in Canada must meet Canadian content regulations, including “adult entertainment” channels. The CRTC recently noted that three of these channels are not meeting the requirements for content and captioning. The news was reported with the usual level of adolescent snickering that occurs whenever the mainstream media contemplate what might make pornography Canadian. An editorial cartoon in the Globe and Mail was typical of the media response (scroll to image 17). It’s also been fodder for groups like the Fraser Institute that are always eager to throw out the Canadian content baby with the dirty bathwater.

Making and broadcasting pornography is legal in Canada, and it is a regulated industry. It is true that the Canadian content regulation helps support what many consider to be an undesirable industry.  However, it can be argued that the product is going to be made and consumed anyway, and keeping some of the production at home ensures greater control. CRTC license conditions for adult channels have included production requirements such as meeting USC 2257 proof of age requirements, passing provincial board review, and the stipulation that “Performers must be paid a competitive fee for the type of scene they appear in and the locale in which they shoot.”

Snickering aside, there is distinctly Canadian pornography. In some cases it is labeled and promoted as Canadian, and within the dominant American market it is a niche or fetish product. In other cases the Canadian origins are downplayed or hidden. One series is produced in Edmonton, but set in Milwaukee. Despite the disguised location, the Canadian regulations under which these films are made, and other local factors, influence the content and result in a product that is slightly different than that made in the United States. A common assumption is that pornography is the same everywhere, but national differences are being discovered and explored, in work such as International Exposure: Perspectives on Modern European Pornography, 1800-2000.

Canadian pornography exists, whether we like it or not. Maybe one day the media can stop snickering about it, and move on to more substantive issues such as ensuring the production is well regulated – something we can only do if we ensure it is made here.

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