OTTAWA – Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney and Amazon are the “new big players” and should contribute more to Canadian culture.
During a debate in the House of Commons on a bill to regulate the streaming service, Rodriguez said an update to the broadcasting law was long overdue and should include commercial content on social media as well as broadcast platforms.
He says the last time the law was updated in 1991, people were renting movies from the video store and listening to music at the Walkman.
The new law will regulate broadcasting platforms in addition to traditional Canadian broadcasters who are already obligated to provide Canadian content.
Minister Rodriguez says he wants to see the creation of more Canadian programs to promote local talent, such as “Welcome to Schitt’s Creek” and “Anne with an E,” which also airs on Netflix.
But he says he is “flexible” about how streaming platforms contribute to Canadian culture, and that they can use different models, including putting money into a fund.
“Amazon, Netflix and Disney are already investing in Canadian content and we love this stuff. It’s a lot of fun,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
But he added that Canada had incredible talent and wanted broadcasting services to invest more in Canadian film, television and music.
“Our system should also pave the way for new Canadian artists,” the minister added.
Rodriguez also said that Indigenous Canadians, people with disabilities, and those exposed to racism, as well as people from the LGBT community, “deserve to have a space to tell their stories.”
Speaking on the bill’s second reading, Rodriguez said it “resolved” issues raised by critics of an earlier version of the legislation, who fear it would hinder people viewing or creating content for social media platforms.
This version of the bill failed to become law before the election after concerns were raised that social media influencers or people who upload homemade videos to YouTube might be affected by the law.
Rodriguez said the Canadian Radio, Television and Communications Commission (CRTC), which will be responsible for regulating broadcast platforms in addition to traditional broadcasters, “will not have the authority to regulate the daily use of social media by Canadians.”
But governors said they remain concerned that the law could be applied to people who use and post content on social media. Conservative Heritage critic John Nutter said the “trust us” approach “doesn’t inspire confidence.”
He also noted that there were questions about the definition of Canadian films and television products.
“Canadians want to know what constitutes Canadian content,” Nater said.
Natter said the Conservatives would not support the bill in a second reading, but would make amendments to it when a House of Commons committee considers it at a later date.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Rodriguez said the bill would do a lot to support Canada’s creative industries, including French-Canadian music and film.
He added that the government had heard concerns about regulating social media content, such as “cat videos”, and “fixed the problem.”
Mr. Rodriguez said he has consulted with several influencers and content makers, adding that they are “great people (…) and some of them are making fortunes – but this bill doesn’t concern them”.
He said that only commercial content – for example, a professionally produced song on YouTube that is also available on Spotify – would be affected.
But he added that the law needed updating because “two-thirds of Canadians listen to their music on YouTube”.
“If you find a song by The Weeknd on YouTube and you find the exact same song on Spotify, it should be treated the same,” he said.
Rodriguez said the new law would raise more money for Canadian creative industries from streaming platforms, but would provide “flexibility” for companies like Netflix and Disney to have their say on how they contribute, because they operate in different ways.
“Netflix has a completely different business model than Disney, which is very different from Spotify in terms of music,” he said. We have to understand that they have different business models and we have to add value to the mix and take that into account.”
“What we set are goals and how you will achieve these goals will depend on discussions and negotiations,” the minister added.
Some platforms can commit to returning a percentage of Canadian content and others can contribute to a fund that is then distributed to Canadian artists and creators.
The minister was optimistic about the support of members of the Quebec bloc and the National Party for the bill.
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