I have spent my entire career in Canada’s cultural industries – and have followed with interest the varied opinions on the impact Bill C-11 will have on content creation and online delivery. I thought it might be helpful to separate fact from fiction.
Having worked in music, film and television, I have experience developing, buying and selling content. And while Canada has a deep and impressive pool of creative talent; the truth is that our actors, producers, and writers face an uphill battle.
The fact is that traditional broadcasting is in decline. As these revenues decline, sales of Canadian content to Canadian buyers also fall.
Meanwhile, global streamers like Netflix, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ are thriving here. They see Canada as a great place to sell subscriptions and shoot productions, but are not predisposed to investing in Canadian-made shows and are under no obligation to do so.
Where does that leave our creators? On the one hand: fighting for a share of a declining market in traditional broadcasting. On the other: trying to strike a deal with a global streamer who can dictate terms without obligation to our country’s content system. Often, streamers demand complete control and ownership before greenlighting a project.
To be clear, I’m a fan of the streaming giants. It’s just about creating a fair and equal playing field where parity can exist.
What chance does a small independent producer from Halifax or Calgary have when he sits at the table of a global titan? Heck, how lucky is a traditional broadcaster like CTV or Global – when they have to work within a system while streamers can work outside of it, with no rules or regulations.
When the broadcast rules were last updated, the BlackBerry hadn’t even been invented. We find ourselves in a situation where our national broadcasters have a mandate to invest heavily in Canadian content, but the global broadcasters do not. The disparity becomes more apparent as broadcasters begin to look more and more like traditional broadcasters in Canada, as in the case of Netflix, which will launch new ad-supported tiers in November.
Why is this important? A country must be able to develop and produce its own stories. This is part of what unites us as Canadians. How will we ensure that our stories continue to be told and heard?
It’s time to bring streamers inside the system. That’s what C-11 will do. We are very close to a new era in which the playing field is leveled and the future of Canadian stories is authentically strengthened.
To be absolutely clear: the legislation will not punish streamers. He will not treat them unfairly. They will simply be subject to the same rules as everyone else.
I’m really excited about the possibilities. When we put in place a system that mandates real and meaningful investment in domestic content, Canada will benefit as streamers grow. More Canadian stories will be told and watched here at home and around the world. More Canadian talent will be recognized. More Canadian creators will be able to control — and benefit from — their intellectual property. Our economy and our culture will reap the rewards.
Canada has always exceeded its weight in actors, hockey players and music. I believe we can do the same thing on TV and in movies. We have the talent. We just need a system that gives us a fair chance.
There has always been something in Canada to prove to the world that we are the little engine that can do it. We can be polite about it, but we’re ready to show the world what we’re made of.