Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly’s release of the Canadian content in a digital world consultation is likely to spark renewed demands from industry stakeholders for more money from two main sources: unregulated Internet companies such as Netflix and the government. As I noted in my first post on the consultation release, there is a significant divide between the industry and the public on the issue. Industry stakeholders emphasize more public and government support, while the public is focused on efforts to promote Canadian content.
The government will surely wait for the consultation to close before adopting firm positions, but the new consultation paper makes it clear that not everything is on the table. In fact, it adopts several notable policies and sends some signals about future funding sources.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly launched the next phase of her consultation on supporting Canadian content in a digital world this morning, but the results from the first “pre-consultation” phase – an online poll of the public and stakeholders – already points to the policy challenge faced by the government. The poll received more than 10,000 responses with participants asked to identify the major barriers and challenges for Canadian content. The perspective of the public and stakeholders (I place “stakeholders” in quotation marks in the title because all Canadian stakeholders) are strikingly different, with the public citing the challenges in finding and promoting content and the stakeholders seeking more money.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s digital CanCon consultation is likely to spark calls from the cultural establishment for new levies and taxes to fund the creation of domestic content. The Internet will be the primary target with demands for a Netflix tax along with legislative reforms that would open the door to additional fees on Internet providers.
Yet an unimaginative approach that seeks to regulate the Internet imposes costs that would make Internet access less affordable and create a regulatory environment that runs counter to fundamental principles of freedom of speech and access to information. Joly should reject efforts to recycle stale policies and instead embrace the opportunity to shake up Canadian cultural policy.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that the starting point should be a shift in funding for Canadian content creation. The current model, which relies heavily on mandatory contributions from the Canadian broadcasting community, is in decline as revenues from the sector slowly shrink (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently reported that conventional television revenues declined by 2.4 per cent in 2015).
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