US Country Music Takes Beating in Canada

Article excerpt

EACH day 28 million Canadians watch as relentless waves of American culture - from Ms. magazine to Madonna, Mr. Rogers to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - crash on the shores of Canadian society.

As with all that is American, Canadians both love it and, in a measure, hate it, too.

Nine of 10 Canadian moviegoers are headed to a United States film. Canadian television viewers get NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS and a slew of US-based speciality cable channels. On newsstands, about 3,000 US magazines occupy 90 percent of the space, squeezing out most of 1,400 Canadian periodicals.

Yet cultural anthropologists say Canadians dread waking up one day to find no Canadian TV programs, movies, or magazines - all of it instead made by the big US entertainment machine.

Now there are signs Canada isn't going to take it anymore, and a US-Canada trade battle over entertainment and culture is looming.

"Let us get one thing clear," Heritage Minister Michel Dupuy told Parliament recently. "We must bring back culture to the forefront of society's concerns, for it is essential to our identity ... and our independence."

Recent government moves to make good on the pledge include:

* On Tuesday, a Canadian appeals court upheld a government ban that yanks the US-based Country Music Television (CMT) cable channel off the air after 10 years in Canada. The ban paves the way for a new Canada-based country-western channel with 30 percent Canadian content to air Jan. 1.

* Yesterday, Mr. Dupuy announced a heavy surtax aimed at US publishers that simply repackage "Made in America" editorial material into "Canadian editions" with little Canadian content. New York-based Time Warner's Sports Illustrated, which produces seven Canadian editions a year, was hard hit.

Few Canadians would mistake the target of such actions. Certainly US companies do not. Nor apparently does the US government.

"We are examining all of our rights, including our retaliation rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," says Andrew Koss, a US embassy spokesman in Ottawa. …