Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has painted Bill C-10, his Broadcasting Act reform bill, as a big win for Canadian creators, telling the House of Commons that the bill will mean “more opportunities for our creators and talent in the production sector.” The Broadcasting Act blunder series continues today with a closer examination of how the bill alters the way Canada has traditionally tried to ensure that Canadian talent plays a pivotal role in creating that content. It finds that bill actually downgrades the requirements and opens the door to reduced Canadian participation in productions in their own country.
Section 3(1)(f) of the current Broadcasting Act features the policy on use of Canadian creative talent:
each broadcasting undertaking shall make maximum use, and in no case less than predominant use, of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming, unless the nature of the service provided by the undertaking, such as specialized content or format or the use of languages other than French and English, renders that use impracticable, in which case the undertaking shall make the greatest practicable use of those resources [emphasis added]
Bill C-10 drops the expectation of maximum or predominant use. The policy provision now states:
each broadcasting undertaking shall make use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming to the extent that is appropriate for the nature of the undertaking
No one yet knows what that means since it will fall to the CRTC to determine what is “appropriate given the nature of the undertaking”. Presumably the change was needed given the expansive regulatory approach taken by Bill C-10. Despite the government’s claims otherwise, the reality is that there are no economic thresholds in the bill nor are news sites specifically excluded. Since the bill effectively captures foreign streaming sites both big and small, news sites, and podcasters, the government apparently felt that it could no longer require predominantly Canadian creative talent or even meet “the greatest practicable use of those resources” standard.
This once again highlights the blunder of bringing foreign Internet streaming services into the Canadian broadcast system. Much like the removal of Canadian ownership and control policies, the government has also backtracked on the maximum use of Canadian talent since there will many instances where that no longer makes sense. Given the need to overhaul the current Canadian content certification rules, the implications could be significant. If this is undertaken with the changed policy priority in place, the role of Canadian talent in their own productions may be further diminished and – as will be further discussed in an upcoming post – the rules surrounding Canadian copyright ownership in Cancon will also likely change as well. The net effect is stunning for a government that claimed the mantle of protecting cultural sovereignty: reduced Canadian broadcast ownership, reduced Canadian creative talent, and reduced Canadian copyright ownership.
(prior posts in the Broadcasting Act Blunder series include Day 1: Why there is no Canadian Content Crisis, Day 2: What the Government Doesn’t Say About Creating a “Level Playing Field”, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t, Day 4: Why Many News Sites are Captured by Bill C-10), Day 5: Narrow Exclusion of User Generated Content Services, Day 6: The Beginning of the End of Canadian Broadcast Ownership and Control Requirements, Day 7: Beware Bill C-10’s Unintended Consequences, Day 8: The Unnecessary Discoverability Requirements, Day 9: Why Use Cross-Subsidies When the Government is Rolling Out Tech Tax Policy)