The Globe asked five Canadian artists for their thoughts on Bill C-10, the Liberal government’s proposed update of the Broadcasting Act. Critics have suggested the law might infringe on freedom of expression on social media, but musicians, actors and screenwriters are broadly supportive of the attempt to regulate online streaming services, and expressed frustration about politicking over the issue.
Screenwriter (Fraggle Rock) and actor (Kim’s Convenience) now starring in Transplant
If we are going to be a sovereign nation with our own culture, we are way behind, in terms of updating our Broadcasting Act. Every other country in the world keeps up to date, not Canada. It’s 10 years late. If they’re going to waste more time getting it done, I’ll probably be retired. These are the same arguments from the last time the Broadcast Act was revised [in 1991]. Come on, the entire world has changed twice since then.
I chose to spend my career in Canada. And most Canadians would say: “Well you’re an idiot. If you’re any good, you’ve gone to L.A.” So, those of us who are stupid enough to stay think, okay, I understand I’m not going to be a big star, but I do want to be visible in the culture of my own country. And that’s what I decided to do 40 years ago was to be visible, especially as a brown person. That was a real radical thing to want to do. And I feel betrayed by my own country when this stuff happens time and time again, that we don’t respect the artists who committed to telling stories here. And it’s like a big joke for the politicians and for the public. I’ve gone before the committees in Ottawa speaking on behalf of the writers and the sneering contempt that the Conservative Party members have is insulting, this whole libertarian thing: We can’t regulate the internet, otherwise people won’t be able to download their movies for free.
It’s just really frustrating when it gets up to the political level.
Cadence Weapon (Roland Pemberton)
Rapper and Polaris Prize nominee who just released his fifth studio album, Parallel World
I’m not concerned about user-generated stuff being regulated; I don’t think that’s really going to be a big issue. I think it’s great to encourage Canadian content, forcing somebody like Netflix or Spotify to kick some money into Cancon is a good thing. But my concern with Canadian content is usually only these big artists benefit. The regulations that make you play Canadian artists: All I hear on the radio is Drake, Justin Bieber, the Weeknd, over and over and over again. They’re talking about regulating Spotify and here’s an example: My album came out a few weeks ago and it wasn’t listed among the new releases on the main page. If this bill could promote more Canadian artists, maybe there would have been more of a chance of my album being seen.
The algorithms [on social media] are very anti artist. On Instagram, a very small percentage of my audience sees anything I post. I feel like that would be amazing if there could be some kind of regulation. I don’t like the idea of forcing Canadian content down everybody’s throats but I do think there should be some levelling of the playing field.
Singer/songwriter and host of CBC Music on Sunday mornings. Her most recent album is Liquor Store Flowers
We are forgetting what happened 50 years ago. Fifty years ago, Canadians could not get played on the radio. It was all American music, it was all British music until the government stepped in and made sure that Canadians were played on Canadian radio. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have the Tragically Hip, we would not have Sarah McLachlan. The ’60s for Canadian artists was really this wasteland, full of talent but no opportunities. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for Cancon.
So, take that template and apply it to streaming somehow.
It’s discoverability. Most people that I know on Spotify, they go into to their Daily Mix, or [ask] what’s on this playlist? So if you have 30 or 40 per cent of that Canadian artists, Canadian artists are going to do better. It’s like advertising in a corner store or record store back in the day: We need to be front rack right by the cash register. We do it on radio, we’ve been doing it for 40 years.
If this bill doesn’t fly, we are killing opportunity, we’ve cut ourselves off. Our ability to play on the international stage would be gone because we aren’t doing the cultivation of artists at a grassroots level. That needs to happen in order to grow incredible artists like Drake or the Weeknd.
I’m sure there are some politicians who are honestly looking at this bill thinking it’s going to be an impediment towards free speech but they don’t understand the practicality of it and what it actually means.
It’s so upsetting for me to see this turn into another political issue with misinformation. This is not about free speech. That’s total baiting. And frankly, it’s so insulting. I don’t go to somebody and ask them to come to work for no money.
That’s essentially what the people who are opposing this bill are doing, they do not understand what it’s like to be a musician. They don’t seem to have any desire to find out and it’s going to be at the ruin of our country, culturally.
Actor, best known for playing the role of Umma in Kim’s Convenience both on stage and on screen
My impetus as an artist has always been the creation of original Canadian work, from a culturally diverse perspective. That is always my preference as an actor in terms of film and television, to work on Canadian shows. A nation that doesn’t tell its own story doesn’t know who it is. Within Canada, there are so many different communities that haven’t had an opportunity to share their stories. So how are we to understand each other if we don’t know who we are? National identity is not just defined geographically; it’s obviously not just defined in terms of some sort of bloodline, especially in a country like Canada, but it’s always in flux. It’s a dialogue, it’s a discourse. Canada’s identity is that of constant change, constant adjustment and inclusion and discovery, because we are a nation composed of people from all over the world.
So in terms of Bill C-10, anything that is going to bring revenue back into Canadian production is going to make a huge difference in terms of our quality of life on a cultural level. And our ability to understand ourselves and each other.
It seems to me that some of those attacks [on C-10] are rather disingenuous. How we consume culture now is over the internet. My concern is if regulation doesn’t bring some of that revenue back into the Canadian Media Fund, one of biggest forms of distribution is systemically under-contributing to Canadian culture. Netflix, Amazon Prime, all these different streaming services are not contributing the way that cable broadcasters have to contribute and [Canadian] networks have to contribute. It’s not a level playing field, but also it’s not sustainable if we expect to have Canadian television, Canadian news, Canadian films, Canadian music.
Any self-respecting nation should want that culture. As a Korean-Canadian, I’m seeing people get excited about Korean drama and K-pop. This wave of cultural product that’s sweeping over the world has been a government policy. The South Korean government made a long-term commitment to developing culture and celebrating Korean culture. To grow something you need water; to build cultural industries you need money.
Television actor, director and producer who is starring in the new mental-health drama Sortez-Moi de Moi (Way Over Me)
As long as we’re not doing anything about the Netflixes of this world we have to have a bill of some kind to protect our work, to protect our place in this universe, because we’re just going to disappear in no time. In Quebec we have to fight every day of our lives to be able to survive in this ocean of products that is overwhelming our culture.
I’m vouching for my own stuff, that’s for sure. But I think it’s bigger than that. I think Canadians in general have to protect their own cultures, as any other country has to, whether it’s in French or in English. It may be even worse for you guys because we have something a bit distinctive [in Quebec] that may save us.
That bill doesn’t go nearly half as far as it should go, as far as I’m concerned. Industries like Netflix and Amazon, these people are not paying any taxes. They’re not investing in anything, not in Quebec, not in our series, our films. Our culture is not travelling far enough.
All the creators, actors, technicians, directors, producers working in Quebec, all these people are tremendously talented. The subjects, the talents, we have plenty of that. What we need is the space, and the space to show off is on these platforms. If no one gives us that space, well, we have to force ourselves in. That’s what Scandinavian countries have done. They produce less but they invested more in their shows and they made themselves known in the rest of the world.
The shows that you’re looking at on Netflix, they’re from all over the world, but they’re from people who have invested in their own culture to make it known. Because when you’re looking at a show from England or from Norway or Sweden, you’re not only looking at a different storyline or different actors, but visually you are looking at something else as well. We have this in Canada: We have to use the territory. It’s part of what the audience is expecting and wants to see.
If we don’t have these opportunities, who’s going to give them to us? No one. If we don’t take it ourselves, it won’t be given to us.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
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