Canada’s Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez is reviewing the rules around what qualifies as a Canadian Film or TV program.
The move comes as a new bill goes through Parliament. The bill could mandate streaming services to feature Canadian programs in their offerings and invest in “Canadian stories”. Previously the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime were outside the regulations.
The current rules seem to somehow not go far enough while also being seen as too lax. There is the Toronto Maple Leafs Prime Video documentary which some critics believe isn’t Canadian enough. Then we have the case of Disney’s Turning Red. An animated film about a Chinese-Canadian teen in Toronto featuring Ottawa native Sandra Oh. Still with those credentials it didn’t pass the Canadian test under the current regulations. Neither does The Handmaid’s Tale the critically acclaimed TV adaption of the novel by Margaret Attwood.
Supporting Canadian Talent
The Canadian Media Producers Association have concerns about Canada’s creatives losing out when dealing with streaming platforms. They want the new rules to properly ensure that Canadians will retain ownership of the intellectual property rights of their work. They also want to ensure that those creatives get a bigger slice of the earnings when their partnerships with streamers prove successful.
“Our Broadcasting Act must ensure that Canada’s independent producers have a fair opportunity to negotiate with content buyers, including streamers, to own, control and monetize the intellectual property that they develop and produce,” said Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO.
For his part Rodriguez stated that he was open to all kinds of suggestions and ideas when he spoke at the National Arts and Culture Summit in Ottawa. He is actively consulting with arts and culture ministers in other countries to look at their approaches.
Rules are Rules
One example is the United Kingdom. The UK uses a wider definition for “British content” is such as the life of Shakespeare. Some argue that if Canadian content’s definition is not widened it could discourage investment from studios to Canadian creatives.
In Canada rules require a Canadian producer and a Canadian director or screenwriter. Points are awarded for the number of Canadians in leading roles or other key creative positions. Canadians must also feature prominently in production and post-production. The Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office oversee these rules.
The minister seeks to get two bills through Parliament C-11 and C-18. C-11 aka the online streaming bill would bring broadcast laws up to date. The main point being the regulation of streaming services like Netflix. C-18 aka the online news bill would make online services like Facebook and Google pay for reusing news packages from Canadian news orgs.
Should the new bills make their way to law the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would regulate streaming and digital platforms. Rodriguez had this to say at the summit:
“Some critics argue that the CRTC is not responsive to consumers and creators, that it lacks the expertise and resources to deal with the new legislation. Basically, they say that the CRTC doesn’t get the internet, I hear these concerns. Government and technology haven’t always worked together so well. But let’s not forget that the CRTC has a long history of supporting Canadian culture.”