Our cultural sovereignty is at stake

For two decades, cultural sector organizations across the country have called for the application of broadcasting law to internet businesses, contributing to Canada’s cultural ecosystems.

In recent years, a consensus has emerged for the “web giants” to co-finance local cultural expressions and ensure their promotion on their platforms. The Alliance for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDEC), which includes 43 associations and groups representing more than 200,000 creative and professional professionals and 2,000 companies in the cultural sector across Canada, has made it a top priority.

The CDEC commended the introduction of Bill C-10 on November 3, 2020, and welcomed the agreement among all parliamentarians for the bill to advance at an accelerated rate. This consensus has materialized in the form of an agreement to conduct a prior study of the bill by the Permanent Committee for Canadian Heritage (CHPC) to begin even before the vote on the second reading, a rare gesture that attests to the urgency of need. Change Canadian law and, most importantly, emphasize the support of the various parties for the goals of the bill.

In fact, if the cultural sector has already been significantly affected by the increasing supply of online content, it is now in the process of collapse. We learned recently that one in four people working in this sector lost their job in 2020. Meanwhile, companies providing access to online cultural expressions (CCEs) have made astronomical profits. For example, Netflix’s revenue saw increases of 22% to 27% during 2020. It was also an excellent year for Spotify as the number of paid subscribers and total subscribers increased by 24% and 27%, respectively. Du côté d’Amazon, les revenus d’abonnements pour les services de musique, de vidéo, de livres audio et de livres numériques, incluant Amazon Prime, ont dépassé les 25 milliards $ US, en augmentation de 35% en 2020 par rapport à last year.

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These companies must respect the same obligations as traditional broadcasting companies regarding funding and promoting Canadian cultural content. And that’s what Bill C10 has to do. The Department of Canadian Heritage also estimates potential investments in Canadian content at $ 830 million annually once the legislation takes effect.

As the process progressed, the CDEC proposed changes to the bill and looks forward to participating in the review process that will be conducted by members and then senators soon. For months we’ve been working with all stakeholders, and all parties combined, to help improve the law.

We were shocked when Conservative Rep. Michael Cram introduced an amendment on February 5 calling for the bill to be withdrawn and the CHPC rewritten despite the inter-party deal to push the C-10 bill forward. This gesture, which caused a significant and unnecessary delay in the process, was condemned by many parties in the House of Commons.

Today we call on parliamentarians from all parties to reaffirm their commitment to work together and with all stakeholders who want a brighter future for the cultural sector, and to allow the C-10 bill to pass without a time limit for the second reading vote. Aside from jobs and the contribution of culture to our economy, which in itself is an important contribution, our cultural sovereignty is at stake.

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