Last week, the ongoing Senate hearings into Bill C-11 featured an appearance from the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters, who spelled out its expectations for Bill C-11, particularly the contributions from streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime. While much of the Bill C-11 debate has focused on the regulation of user content, the bill’s supposed intent is to bring large streaming services into the Canadian broadcasting system. Fuelled by the government’s dubious claim that the bill could generated a billion dollars per year (even government officials now admit that the number is an estimate based not based on actual data), the Canadian sector came sporting demands wildly out of touch with international standards. Indeed, when compared to European regulation, which is often touted as the global leader, Canada would strongly discourage market entry for streaming services and likely result in reduced libraries of content in order to meet the government and CRTC’s regulatory requirements.
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Why the Canadian Film and TV Production Sector’s Bill C-11 Expectations Are Wildly Out of Touch With Global Standards
Standing on a Shaky Foundation: What Lies Behind The Near-Impossible Challenge of Updating Canada’s Outdated Cancon Rules
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.
Bill C-11’s Foundational Faults, Part Three: Why the Discoverability Rules Are a Flawed Solution in Search of a Problem
My prior posts on the foundational faults in Bill C-11 focused on the virtually limitless reach of the CRTC’s jurisdictional power over audio-visual services and the risks of treating all audio-visual content as a “program” subject to potential regulation. This post – the first of two on the subject – explains why the discoverability rules that purport to better promote Canadian content are a flawed solution in search of problem that will actually make things worse for Canadian creators.
The discoverability provision, which grants the CRTC the power to establish discoverability requirements as a condition on Internet services, states at Section 9.1(1):
The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 16: Mandated Payments and a Reality Check on Guilbeault’s Billion Dollar Claim
The Broadcasting Act blunder series has identified many of the negative consequences stemming from Bill C-10: the beginning of the end of Canadian broadcast ownership requirements, downgrading the role of Canadians in their own productions, risks to Canadian intellectual property ownership, trade retaliation by the U.S., potential capture of news sites and smaller streaming services, and less consumer choice as services work to avoid the costly Canadian regulatory requirements. Yet for some these costs will still be worth it since their singular goal is to mandate that foreign streaming services contribute funding toward Canadian film and television production. Indeed, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has made this the centrepiece of his “get money from web giants” strategy claiming that this will result in a billion dollars a year by 2023 in new funding. As this post documents, those claims massively exaggerate the likely funding impact.
The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 15: Mandated Confidential Data Disclosures May Keep Companies Out of Canada
The Broadcasting Act blunder series has highlighted Bill C-10’s many regulatory requirements for Internet services including registration, regulations, CRTC-imposed conditions, discoverability requirements, and (in an upcoming post) mandated payments. There is another requirement that may raise the ire of some foreign services and force them to consider blocking the Canadian market. The bill establishes significant confidential data disclosure requirements as a condition that may be imposed on Internet services both big and small around the world.