The debate over Bill C-11 was frequently marked by politician and lobby group claims that failure to act would place the future of Canadian film and television production at risk. While internal government documents admitted that claims regarding the contributions from Internet streaming services understated the actual contributions by failing to account for “unofficial Cancon”, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez was happy to feed the narrative that the bill was a critical support for an industry in jeopardy.
Profile 2022, the well-regarded annual report on the state of industry funding was released yesterday. It conclusively demonstrates that the claims on the state of Cancon production are wildly exaggerated. Indeed, the data speaks for itself: record production, record Cancon production, record French-language production. Over the past decade – as streaming services has grown in popularity, Canadian film and television production has more than doubled. The following three charts and graphics taken from the Profile 2022 report tell the story. There is no Cancon emergency and no risk to film and TV production in Canada. The Bill C-11 panic over the viability of the sector was little more than a fraudulent lobbyist-inspired talking point with little basis in reality.
Read more ›
The government’s support for Bill C-11 has often been framed on economic terms with Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez arguing that the bill will “create good jobs for Canadians in the cultural sector”. I’ve long maintained the government’s claims that the bill will generate billions of dollars in new money was massively exaggerated and that a far more likely scenario would be that the bill would simply lead to a reshuffling of existing expenditures.
Using the Access to Information Act, I have now obtained a copy of the government’s internal estimates for the economic and production impact of Bill C-11 (methodology, memorandum, PPT), which confirm many of my suspicions. While the government is pinning its hopes on massive spending from Internet streamers such as Netflix, it admits that even if the bill did not pass it would not affect net new employment in the sector. Moreover, internally the government recognizes the claim that Netflix and foreign streamers don’t contribute to Canadian content is false, as it has identifies a new category of “unofficial Cancon” which would qualify as Cancon under every measure but for the fact that it is owned by companies like Netflix and Disney. And as for the payments from social media companies that the government insists are so essential that it has fought for years to include user content regulation in the bill? The estimated economic benefit represents just one percent of its total projection for Bill C-11 with pure guesswork about what percentage of content on the platforms might require contributions.
Read more ›
Senator David Adams Richards, an acclaimed Canadian author who has won Governor-General Awards for both fiction and non-fiction as well as a Giller Prize, provided the most memorable Senate speech for the ill-fated Bill C-10, stating on the Senate floor in June 2021 that “I don’t think this bill needs amendments; I think, however, it needs a stake through the heart.” Bill C-10 died on the order paper soon thereafter, but its successor, Bill C-11, is in its final stages of debate at the Senate. Yesterday’s first day of third reading debate was notable for several reasons, none more than the re-emergence of Senator Richards, who provided a stunning rebuke of the bill and Canadian cultural policy.
Read more ›
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who is hosting a culture summit this week in Ottawa, has said that he is open to modernizing the definition of Canadian content and that he is “open to all kinds of suggestions and ideas.” I’ve devoted many posts to the Cancon definition issue (even creating a Cancon quiz), noting that the current system is a poor proxy for “telling Canadian stories.” This system matters since the government’s Internet regulation policies are ostensibly designed to support Canadian content, but if the existing definitions don’t do that, they cannot reasonably be expected to achieve their objectives.
While I’m supportive of Rodriguez opening the door to reform, I have my doubts the government will make any significant changes to the current system. The challenge is that Cancon policy stands on a shaky foundation that is really three policies in one: an economic policy, a cultural policy, and an intellectual property policy. These three policies are often at odds with one another and used by politicians and lobby groups interchangeably to justify mandated contributions, content regulation, and foreign ownership restrictions. When the data doesn’t support one of the policies, they simply shift the discussion to one of the other policy objectives.
Read more ›
Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act that serves as the government’s follow-up to Bill C-10, was the subject of debate in the House of Commons yesterday as the legislation slowly makes it way through the legislative process. There are still committee hearings to come, but it is readily apparent that many of the concerns that hamstrung Bill C-10 have returned: virtually limitless jurisdictional, overbroad scope, and harmful discoverability provisions. Further, this bill has attracted mounting criticism from Canadian digital-first creators, who note that one of Canada’s biggest cultural exports could be hurt by the bill leading to millions in lost revenues.
While none of these concerns should come as a surprise, what is surprising is how ill-prepared the government appears to be address the criticisms. Indeed, the communications strategy seems based primarily on presuming that Canadians won’t bother to read the legislation and will therefore take misleading assurances at face value. Consider the latest attempt to assuage concerns: a cartoon of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez providing an assurance that the bill’s changes won’t affect individual Canadians since “the changes only apply to companies.” That cartoon sparked an instant mashup that pointed to the direct effects on digital first creators. Further, the changes don’t apply only to companies. Bill C-11 treats all audio-visual content as programs subject to potential regulation. With exceptions that could easily capture TikTok or YouTube videos, the bill is about far more than just large companies.
Read more ›