Leading figures in Canada’s film and television industry urged the government to reverse Senate changes to a bill to regulate online streaming as it cleared the Red Chamber.
The bill, known as C-11, completed its third reading in the Senate on Thursday evening after a prolonged study of the government legislation.
But film industry leaders called on the government to reverse several of the Senate’s changes, saying they could put Canadian filmmakers and TV producers at a disadvantage.
They also said one provision in the bill creates a two-tier system for Canadian production companies and foreign players. It could mean American streaming platforms, such as Netflix, may not have to meet such stringent standards when it comes to employing Canadians and may get away with investing less in Canada’s creative industries than Canadian production companies.
The Canadian Media Producers Association and Writers Guild, representing screen writers, also called on the Minister to correct a “flaw” in the bill – which they say could cause “permanent and irreversible damage to Canada’s cultural industry” – through a ministerial directive.
The Conservative Leader in the Senate, Don Plett, urged the Red Chamber to steel itself for a fight and insist the government keep its amendments.
Quebeckers are listening to less local music; artists hope Bill C-11 will change that
Pablo Rodriguez, the Heritage Minister, said on Thursday he was optimistic that the bill could complete its passage though Parliament and become law as early as next week.
Speaking at the Prime Time conference for Canadian film and TV industry in Ottawa, he signalled that he would accept many of the 26 Senate amendments, but would not keep those that change the fundamental purpose of the bill.
“There are amendments that have zero impact on the bill and others that may have, so many of those we will not accept,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of amendments that we will accept.”
Reynolds Mastin, head of the Canadian Media Producers Association, said at the conference that it was unfair to “hold Canadian companies to one regulatory standard, and foreign companies to a lower one.”
“It undermines the minister’s entire mission to level the playing field for Canadians,” he said.
TikTok warns people posting videos will be ‘collateral damage’ of Bill C-11
An Oscar-winning head of a prominent Canadian media company warned that another Senate change to the bill could penalize “hybrid” Canadian companies that both produce shows and run platforms and channels, including outside Canada.
Michael MacMillan, CEO of Blue Ant Media, whose shows include Canada’s Drag Race and the nature documentary Orangutan Jungle School, urged MPs to reverse a Senate amendment that would mean that producers affiliated with a broadcaster may not get the same level of financial support as independent Canadian producers.
“Being vigilant about this language is crucial in ensuring Canadian media hybrids, who produce and operate broadcasting channels, continue to be successful in a brave new world where we anticipate more media disruption,“ Mr. Macmillan told The Globe and Mail. “As such, we strongly suggest that the House of Commons reinstate its language to include broadcaster-affiliated producers.”
Mr. Plett urged senators to “steel their spines” if the government tears up amendments passed in the Red Chamber.
He said a key Senate amendment clarifying that amateur videos posted by YouTubers and other digital creators would not be regulated by the bill is “essential” to keep in.
If the government overturns the amendment, tabled by Senators Paula Simons and Julie Miville-Dechêne, senators will face a test of whether they have the “courage to stand by the provision they themselves have argued is essential,” he said.
Mr. Plett said senators should stand firm rather than “throw up their hands and declare the government has spoken.”
Film industry leaders at Prime Time expressed fears that the modernized broadcasting law could take years to come into force. After the bill passes, the Heritage Minister will issue a ministerial directive to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on how to enforce the bill.
Industry leaders predicted it could take nine months for the CRTC to create a blueprint for regulating streaming platforms followed by a lengthy consultation to develop a more detailed framework – including on how to define a Canadian film.
Editor’s note: One of the amendments mentioned in the original story was actually a provision in the bill that members of the film industry say will create a two-tier system if it is not corrected by the minister in a ministerial directive.