Cultural policy in Canada can be contentious, but there is one issue – support for Canadian content or Cancon – that unsurprisingly enjoys near unanimous backing. Given the economic benefits, federal and provincial policies encourage both domestic and foreign film and television production in Canada, but there is a special place for certified Canadian content, which is typically defended on the basis of the need to support cultural sovereignty by promoting “Canadian stories.”
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Ontario’s Record Breaking, Multi-Billion Dollar Film Production Year: “A Healthy Balance Between Domestic and Foreign Production”
The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report justifies its call for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law – with increased consumer costs, violation of net neutrality, CRTC intervention into discoverability, and USMCA violations – due in large measure to concerns about support for the creation of Canadian content. I previously blogged about how the panel did not disclose – in either its report or subsequent comments – results of benchmarking research on the Canadian television production sector it commissioned from Nordicity. That report reveals that Canada ranks first among peer countries with respect to television production per capita, domestic television production (ie. Cancon or equivalent domestic production) per capita, hours of television production, and employment.
Last week, Ontario Creates, the Government of Ontario’s agency for cultural creation, released new data that reinforced how the panel’s claims regarding the state of Canadian film and television production are not supported by industry data. Ontario Creates touted a “record breaking year” for Ontario’s film and television production sector, citing more than $2 billion in production spending for 343 productions. Of the $2.1 billion, there was a near-even split between domestic and foreign production: $1.1 billion in foreign production and $1 billion on domestic productions.
The CUSMA Culture Poison Pill: Why the Broadcast Panel Report Could Lead to Millions in Tariff Retaliation
As Parliament continues its review of legislation designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA), I have had the honour to appear before both the International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology committees to discuss the digital implications of the trade agreement. While Members of Parliament have expressed concern with copyright term extension that could cost millions of dollars and restrictions on future privacy safeguards, the issue that has sparked the greatest surprise arises from a provision frequently promoted as a “win” during the negotiations.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the inclusion of a cultural exemption was viewed as an important policy objective for the government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting “defending that cultural exemption is something fundamental to Canadians.” The USMCA does, indeed, feature a broad cultural exemption that covers a wide range of sectors. The exemption means that commitments such as equal treatment for U.S., Mexican and Canadian companies may be limited within the cultural sector.
Broadcast Panel Chair Says Canada Already Licenses News Organizations So Why Not Internet Companies?
Janet Yale, the chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, appeared earlier this week before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to provide an update on the report. Her opening remarks directly addressed concerns regarding the regulation of news, claiming that there has been some confusion on the issue. Yet far from clearing up any “confusion”, Yale proceeded to inaccurately describe the state of news regulation in Canada and advocate for an expansive regulatory framework for Internet-based news aggregators:
The Motion Picture Association – Canada this week promoted the Canadian link to Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the top grossing movie in the world at the moment. Much of the movie was filmed in British Columbia, generating millions in production spending and creating nearly 1,500 jobs. Normally, this would be viewed as a good news story and indicative of the global competitiveness of film and production in Canada. Yet the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report downplays the importance of this production, crafting policy recommendations that emphasizes the importance of supporting Canadian stories as a critical aspect of its approach.
Indeed, the willingness to violate net neutrality norms, impose discoverability requirements, and establish a global levy system for websites and services around the world is primarily based on the argument that Canadian policy must work to promote the production of Canadian content. This policy goal is framed as the need for Canada “to continue to assert its cultural sovereignty and Canadians can continue to express their identity and culture through content.”