|by:||Feb 5, 2007|
A thriving homegrown TV industry is a major priority for Tina Keeper, the former actress who has taken her place in Parliament across the aisle from Bev Oda as Heritage critic for the Liberals.
"We have to be committed to our TV or it will become American," says Keeper, the MP for the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill, who is perhaps better known as Michelle Kenidi, the RCMP constable she played for five seasons on CBC's North of 60. Keeper points to Global Television's heavily promoted Canuck version of Deal or No Deal as a "prime example of how we can lose the integrity of our own industry."
The 44-year-old Manitoba Cree arrives at a chaotic time for the Heritage file. She was tapped for the job by Liberal leader Stéphane Dion shortly after ACTRA began its controversial strike and within days of the pullout of Shaw Communications and Videotron from the Canadian Television Fund.
Keeper is pleased that Oda, the Heritage minister and former CTV executive, calmed the waters by reaffirming the government's annual $100-million commitment to the CTF for two years, but she also believes the TV file needs more vision. "We have to be really definitive about who we are and be committed to that. The stories we tell on TV are integral to our identity," she says.
Despite her experience in television, Keeper is still getting up to speed on other Heritage issues, and like many new appointees is choosing her words carefully for now. She won't comment on the ACTRA strike, but notes that one of its central issues, how to compensate creators for using their stuff on the Internet, is a major concern.
"The Internet is the big elephant in the room and we have to start dealing with it. Copyright legislation is really important and we have to hear from stakeholders so we can figure out how to regulate it," she says. "It's a challenge. We have to respect the rights of people to be compensated, but we can't be too punitive."
Keeper was first elected in 2006 and served on Parliament's standing committee for Heritage. She has also come out in defense of funding for museums and aboriginal languages.
Keeper won a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2004, and a Gemini in 1997 for North of 60. MPs went back to Parliament Jan. 29.