Cultural Policy and Cultural Production: Maclean's Magazine and Foreign News

Article excerpt

Much Canadian cultural policy has been predicated on the assumption that if market forces were to be allowed to prevail, then it would be very difficult for indigenous material to survive. So a range of measures has been implemented over the last seventy years or so with the basic aim of ensuring a Canadian presence in the more traditional arts such as literature and the theatre, and in the mass media.1 The impact of these has varied - there has been rather more success in imaginative fiction than in cinema for example - but the underlying assumption has changed little. However in the post-nafta world some of the protective measures have been contested. The area of magazines has proved to be particularly fraught, with the Americans mounting a challenge to the restrictions on split-runs - editions of us publications with minimal Canadian content which seek a share of the Canadian advertising market. As a result of a wto ruling in the late 1990s, the Canadian government has been obliged to dilute - though not abolish - its protective measures as far as magazines are concerned.2 A Canada Magazine Fund has been established and it now distributes aid to a large number of publications which previously drew support from these measures.

Maclean's is Canada's national English language news magazine, and as such has been a major beneficiary of government policies. It was started as a monthly publication in 1911, becoming a weekly in 1978 in the wake of the full impact of protective legislation introduced by the Pearson government in 1965 being felt; as a consequence, its principal competitor, the Canadian edition of Time, lost the exemption it had initially been given in the period after 1965. The result was that no Canadian company placing advertising in that magazine could set the cost against tax. This means that for over twenty years Maclean's enjoyed a somewhat privileged status, and at the moment of writing it still has certain advantages over Time as far as advertising is concerned. What this article seeks to do is to consider how that privileged status has been used in recent years specifically in relation to the magazine's coverage of the world beyond Canada. The questions that are being asked are about the extent and nature of Maclean's' foreign coverage - what is covered and within which frameworks of interpretation the material is presented to the readers. Since the natural competitor of Maclean's is Time Canada, some comparative analysis of foreign coverage has also been undertaken with a view to ascertaining what differences might exist, particularly in relation to the scale of Time Canada's coverage, but also in relation to its orientation.

The methodology involved both quantitative and qualitative analysis: coverage was measured (in column centimetres), and the journalistic approaches employed were examined. What was being sought ultimately was the rather elusive phenomenon of the Canadian perspective on the world, the nurturing and sustaining of which is one of the principal justifications of protective cultural measures. The analysis proceeded in two stages: firstly, there was a focus on two relatively short time periods, which enabled manageable comparative work to be carried out, and secondly, there was an examination of an entire year of Maclean's foreign coverage.

Maclean's is published by Maclean Hunter, which since 1994 has been owned by Rogers Communications, a company with substantial interests in broadcasting and print. Maclean's employs over 60 editorial staff. In 1998 it had a circulation of 510,319, which compared with Time Canada's 318,378.3 In recent years, Time Canada has employed two journalists north of the forty-ninth parallel. Maclean's, it should be noted, competes not only with the Canadian edition of Time, but also with the us version, which is available in the Canadian market.

The initial analysis

The periods chosen for initial examination were October 1998 and April 1999, and the relevant editions of the two magazines were considered, as were the American version of Time, and, where relevant, the European one. …