CANADA, US SOLICIT ADVICE FROM CITIZENS ON REEL MATTERS

CANADA, US SOLICIT ADVICE FROM CITIZENS ON REEL MATTERS

The Canadian and United States governments are asking their citizens what to do about encouragement of cultural industries - from entirely opposite points of view.

Canada has put out a request for advice on how the domestic film industry can be encouraged, perhaps subsidized and protected, in the face of overwhelming U.S. production and distribution dominance.The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is asking its cultural industries whether there are ''onerous or egregious acts'' by Canada that harm them.

If the USTR finds any it considers serious enough, in industry representations to be made by Feb. 23, it can investigate Canadian practices. If the practices remain onerous or egregious in U.S. eyes and law, the remedies are to take Canada through international dispute settlement or to levy trade sanctions.

Canada can exempt its cultural industries from general rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the United States or Mexico may retaliate to secure equivalent recompense. In the World Trade Organization, the USTR successfully challenged Canadian methods of support for its periodicals industry and awaits promised Canadian compliance.

Now Sheila Copps, federal minister for Canadian Heritage, has published a discussion paper on the struggling domestic film industry and invited comments by March 20. American companies are welcome to respond.

Canadian-made films, the paper says, have been stuck at securing just 2 percent of the Canadian film-going market since the 1980s.

Among reasons it gives: vastly greater wealth that goes into U.S. film-making; marketing budgets 10 and 20 times higher for U.S. films; U.S. distributors doing 85 percent of the Canadian theater distribution business dominance, but who ''have shown little interest in the distribution of Canadian films.''

Ms. Copps, in a series of media interviews, says the government is considering legislation in the fall, pertaining to issues such as distribution, an agency to support films and royalties.

The United States and Canada are constantly at loggerheads over Canadian requirements for domestic content in radio and television broadcasting, with foreign investment restrictions to protect broadcasting and publishing.

To the United States, these are simply industries and products. To Ms. Copps, the playing field is so uneven that government must ''play an active role in developing and maintaining a national cinema.''