Canada: Canada Looks To Boost Can-Con Presence In The Digital World Through Funding, Legislative Reform

On September 28, 2017, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, delivered a long-awaited speech on the future of Canadian cultural and creative industries. Together with a policy framework document published concurrently, the speech introduced "Creative Canada", the federal government's strategy to support these industries in a rapidly evolving global and digital marketplace.

Creative Canada is the result of the federal government's year-long consultation with Canadians and industry stakeholders to discuss the sustainability, discoverability and distribution of Canadian content. The consultation was aimed in part at assessing how best to support Canadian content in the digital era, an era in which content is increasingly being consumed via digital platforms to the detriment of more traditional forms of media such as conventional television broadcasting, which has long been subject to various regulatory requirements in support of Canadian content.

Much of the media coverage following Minister Joly's speech has focused on Netflix's decision to commit C$500-million to the federal government in support of the production of Canadian content, while continuing to avoid more burdensome regulatory oversight as compared with traditional broadcasting players. However, Creative Canada details many other policy tools aimed at supporting cultural and creative industries. These policy tools are built on the following three strategic pillars:

  1. Investing in Canadian creators, cultural entrepreneurs and their stories: The federal government has proposed several strategies to assist with the production of content under the Creative Canada framework. In particular, the federal government plans to increase federal contributions to the Canada Media Fund (which supports the production of Canadian content) to counter declining contributions from the traditional broadcasting sector. The federal government also announced that it will fund creative start-up hubs, improve the administration of certain film and television product tax credit programs and launch a review of the Copyright Act to ensure content creation is properly incentivized.
  2. Promoting the discovery and distribution of content in Canada and globally: Earlier this year, the federal government announced its intention to review the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, as the regulatory landscape established by these laws is out-of-step with the digital age and requires modernization. The federal government has also indicated that it will push for more commitments from private players in support of Canadian content, similar to the commitment made by Netflix, and intends to adopt measures to promote Canadian content abroad, including through increased export strategy funding, participation in new cultural trade missions, and negotiations to maintain NAFTA exemptions for cultural industries.
  3. Strengthening public broadcasting and supporting local news: The Creative Canada framework aims to also bolster the digital development of journalism in Canada, including through government funding initiatives and partnerships between private companies and university journalism programs. As part of its review of the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, the federal government also intends to examine the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada and its role as a platform for supporting and promoting Canadian content.

Details regarding the federal government's review of the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and Copyright Act are expected to be unveiled later in fall 2017. Leading up to such review, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has been tasked with preparing a report by June 2018 addressing future regulatory models that could support the creation and distribution of Canadian content. As such, despite the federal government's recent strategic announcements regarding the path forward for Canada's cultural and creative industries, many of the concrete changes to Canada's regulatory landscape in this regard will be determined following additional rounds of research and consultations, which could take years.

In the meantime, interested parties may consult the Creative Canada Policy Framework document (accessible here), which details the policy tools summarized above and several additional measures proposed by the federal government in support of Canadian content.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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