The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report calls for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law – leading to increased consumer costs, violations of net neutrality, news regulation, CRTC intervention into discoverability, and USMCA violations – due in large measure to concerns about support for the creation of Canadian content. While the data confirms fears about the Canadian film and television sector have been overblown with record setting production in Canada, the panel insists that measures are needed to preserve Canadian jobs.
Yet what the panel did not disclose – in either its report or subsequent comments – are the results of benchmarking research on the Canadian television production sector it commissioned from Nordicity. That report was made available yesterday to those who asked (all the commissioned research can be requested from panel secretariat) and it reveals that Canada ranks first among peer countries with respect to expenditures on television production per capita, expenditures on domestic television production (ie. Cancon or equivalent domestic production) per capita, hours of television production per capita, and employment in film and television production per per capita. In other words, the panel had data that Canada spends more on television production, produces more hours of television programs, and employs more people per capita in the film and television sector than peer countries yet said nothing about the findings in its report.
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The Canadian Media Producers Association has just released the latest data on film and television production in Canada which confirms that foreign sources are now by far the biggest contributor to Canadian English language television production. Despite warnings of cultural imperialism and repeated calls from some in the industry for Netflix taxes to fund production, the data suggests that it already does since foreign investment in Cancon now larger than the primary Canadian sources. In fact, when it comes to Canadian English-language fictional programming, foreign financing is now larger than private broadcaster licence fees, public broadcaster licence fees, and Canada Media Fund contributions combined.
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The case against the Bell coalition’s website blocking plan continues with an examination of the state of new digital business models and Canadian content production (earlier posts looked at Canadian copyright law and weak evidence on Canadian piracy). Given the high threshold needed to gain CRTC support for website blocking (which requires exceptional circumstances), the coalition proposal must not only make the case that there is a significant Canadian piracy problem, but also that piracy is having an enormous impact on the business and creative sectors.
The proposal tries to meet that standard by claiming that Canadian piracy “makes it difficult if not impossible to build the successful business models that will meet the evolving demands of Canadians, support Canadian content production, and contribute to the Canadian economy.” Yet as with the actual data on Canadian piracy, which firmly rebuts claims that Canada is a piracy haven, the Canadian data on the digital economy and Canadian creative sector show a thriving industry.
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This year in digital and broadcast policy is likely to be dominated by two lobbying efforts: the radical website blocking plan proposed by the Bell coalition and the ongoing efforts from Canadian culture groups to impose new regulations on online video services such as Netflix. At the heart of both lobbying efforts are similar claims that seek to paint the Canadian cultural sector at risk of collapse without new regulations in the form of blocking or mandated contributions. Last week, the Canadian Media Production Association released Profile 2017, its annual report on the state of the industry. The latest report tells a remarkable success story. Far from the doom and gloom, the Canadian industry is achieving record growth, suggesting that website blocking and new Internet regulations are ill-advised solutions in search a problem.
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