By Momal Khan
Streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have already chosen to invest in Canada; Ottawa has proposed changes to regulate what this exactly means for the Canadian creative community.
In a press conference delivered last Tuesday, Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault discussed the Liberals’ proposed new policy changes to the Broadcasting Act. With the aim of protecting Canadian original content, the changes intend to ensure online streaming platforms such as Spotify and Netflix will also abide under the Broadcasting Act through a new category called ‘online undertakings’.
These changes to the Broadcasting Act through Bill C-10 will ensure online streaming platforms that experience soaring revenues face the same regulations as traditional broadcasters in Canada who have seen profits decline in recent years.
The proposed changes have emerged several years after industry players and advocates have first raised the concern that tech-giants should be regulated in the same way that other Canadian companies are.
The call for change was made urgent by the increasing numbers of Canadians who are turning away from traditional national broadcasters and instead opting for other streaming platforms like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and Crave for their entertainment, video, and music content.
In a report published by the government, it is noted that online video services have grown their revenues by up to 90% over the last two years, while Netflix has made its way into almost 62% of Canadian households.
In an emailed statement addressing the proposed changes, Netflix has said that it is “reviewing the legislation and remains committed to being a good partner to Canada’s creative community while also investing in local economies.”
“This outdated regulatory framework is not only unfair for our Canadian businesses, but it also threatens Canadian jobs and undermines our ability to tell our own Canadian stories,” said Guilbeault.
“Our government believes everyone who benefits from the system should contribute to it fairly”.
These proposed mechanisms could include the ability to force online streaming platforms to make Canadian content more discoverable than before and to make financial contributions to support Canadian music, stories, creators, and producers. A document proposal provided by the government for royal assent estimates these contributions would total up to $830 million by 2023.
“This legislation will provide stronger financing mechanisms and give more preeminence to what’s produced in Canada in English, French and Indigenous languages,” states Guilbeault.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be the organization that receives these new powers as ‘regulator’ of the broadcast industry in Canada. The changes will effectively allow the CRTC to impose monetary fines on platforms for non-compliance or failure to submit information as required.
These new changes will address the long-standing complaint that tech-giants are often fined insignificant amounts that fail to act as a deterrent to their practices because it practically factors into a small part of the business’s revenue.
As of yet, Guilbeault did not offer an estimate of how steep these fines could be but said that they do intend to get the proposed changes implemented as quickly as possible after they are approved by the House of Commons and the Senate.
“We haven’t reformed the Broadcasting Act since 1991, so it takes time to do it properly, but we don’t want to take too much time because we know that there’s an emergency to act quickly,” he said.
“They are investing in Canada. What we’re doing is putting a regulatory framework on how those investments should be made in light of things we’re already asking from Canadian broadcasters.”
Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq, Unsplash