Following is a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne from ACME ally and Canadian media educator-activist Rose Dyson. We thank Rose for her ongoing work in our field.
The Hon. Kathleen Wynne MPP
Government of Ontario
Dear Ms. Wynne:
On April 30 it was reported in The Globe and Mail that “Ontario’s video game companies are declaring victory after much sought-after reforms to a digital media tax credit was unveiled in last week’s provincial budget.” This is indeed a bizarre development at a time when the province is experiencing a deficit and cutbacks have been announced in so many areas. It has been reported in the past, in The New York Times, that the videogame industry is one of the most heavily subsidized in North America.
Evidently, this credit will only apply to “entertainment products and educational products for children under the age of 12.”
At the same time, we have numerous studies indicating that too much screen time, of any kind, is unhealthy, especially for children. The reasons and impacts vary—the well-researched harmful effects of violent entertainment, especially in video games; sexual exploitation online; too much sedentary time in front of screens in ways that lead to obesity, especially given the widespread marketing of junk food to children; and electromagnetic radiation that can lead to cancer; to name but a few. We have had countless warnings on these trends for years, from the World Health Organization and from professional health and safety organizations from around the world.
Surely, the growing commercial exploitation of children is not news to you, Premier, given your own background both as an educator and as a mother. Advertising agencies routinely rely on strategies such as the nag factor and pester power to sell stuff to kids, including expensive and often harmful digital toys. The fact that these trends are being overlooked, especially at a time when consumer-driven value systems are being discouraged and given our challenges in dealing with climate change, indicates that the contradictions in the budget announced last week need to be revisited and corrected if your Government is to retain credibility on governing competence.
In most jurisdictions in the developed world, the trends are to eliminate tax credits and subsidies for audiovisual productions deemed to be contrary to the public interest and to introduce legislation banning advertising to children on the basis of research showing harmful effects. Quebec adopted such legislation over a quarter of a century ago, and in its budget last week, the province of Nova Scotia announced a cut in such tax credits. Ontario, sadly, seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
Please advise as to what you intend to do to correct this inexcusable oversight in the budget.
Dr. Rose A. Dyson Ed.D.
President, Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment
Chair, National Advisory Council, Canadian Peace Research Association
Member, Action Coalition for Media Education