Mary Wolf, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Tuesday he will review the definition of “Canadian content” in film and television businesses, as part of an update to the country’s broadcast laws.
The definition of “Canadian content” is at the heart of Bill C-11, in front of Parliament, which would see streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ run a number of “Canadian shows” and that they invest in “Canadian stories,” as traditional broadcasters should .
However, some argue that the current rules need updating. So shows that talk about Canada, like an Amazon documentary series about the Toronto Maple Leafs, don’t tick enough small boxes to fall into the “Canadian content” category.
Likewise, Disney’s animated movie “Red Alert,” which tells the story of a Chinese-Canadian teenager in Toronto, has the voice of Sandra Oh in English, an Ottawa-born actress who studied at the Canadian National Theater School in Montreal. He was not considered “Canadian” by today’s standards.
Nothing more than the TV series “The Scarlet Handmaid,” an acclaimed adaptation of the novel by Margaret Atwood, the assertive Canadian writer.
But according to the Canadian Media Producers Association, the new rules should ensure that Canadians continue to own the intellectual property rights to their work. The authority also wants to force streaming platforms to pay a larger share of the profits to Canadian producers if their work is paying off.
“Our broadcasting law must ensure that independent producers in Canada have a fair opportunity to negotiate with content buyers, including broadcasters, to own, control and invest the intellectual property they develop and produce,” said Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO of the association.
Minister says it’s “open”
In an interview on the sidelines of the National Culture Summit, which opened in Ottawa on Monday night, Minister Rodriguez acknowledged that the definition of “Canadian content” needed to be “updated,” and said he was “open to all kinds of suggestions, ideas, and ideas.”
Mr Rodriguez said he was discussing this with arts and culture ministers from other countries to “look at what they’re doing” back home, and then “of course adapt it to our country”.
“I will meet with the German Minister of Culture on Thursday and that is one of the things that I will discuss with him and I will do the same with my other counterparts,” Rodriguez said.
The UK has a broader definition of ‘British film’, including works on very ‘British’ themes – the life of William Shakespeare, for example.
Some experts argue that studios may be reluctant to invest in Canadian talent if the content these artists contribute is not officially considered Canadian.
Michael Guest, Head of Canadian Research in Digital Law at the University of Ottawa, believes that “the current rules are woefully outdated” and do little to promote “Canadian stories.”
Professor Guest recalls that the current system is a little more complex “than an exercise in little boxes of ticking”: thus, works by Canadian authors may escape classification, while other products with little relevance to Canada are accepted.
Marvel’s Deadpool, set in Vancouver, starred Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, and Canadian Paul Wernick co-wrote the script, based on a Canadian comic book character. However, the film was not considered “Canadian” under the rules of the Canadian Audiovisual Certification Office.
These rules require that a Canadian producer and Canadian director or screenwriter appear in the credits. Points are also awarded for the number of Canadians in leadership roles or other key creative positions. Canadians should feature prominently in production and post-production.
The National Culture Summit runs through May 4 at the National Center for the Arts in Ottawa, as well as in virtual format.
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