Canada Broadcast Act Update Would Require & Codify Big Streamers’ Investment In Local Content

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Canada has proposed an amendment to its national Broadcasting Act to require streaming services from Netflix and Disney+ to Amazon and Spotify to invest a portion of revenue in local production.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, tabled the bill yesterday. It establishes a new class of players called “online undertakings” including U.S.-based streaming platforms operating in the country that would be required to contribute to the local industry alongside Canadian broadcasters, which are already required to do so under current broadcast law.

A government briefing note cited by the CBC said that if the law applied the same requirements around Canadian content to streamers that it applies to broadcasters, online platforms could contribute as much as $830 million worth of Canadian content by 2023.

A Disney rep wasn’t immediately available to comment. A Netflix spokesperson told the WSJ the company is reviewing Canada’s proposed changes and will work with the creative community.

“We all have a role to play in supporting the future of film and television created in Canada. We are reviewing the legislation and remain committed to being a good partner to Canada’s creative community while also investing in local economies.”

In 2017, Netflix established Netflix Canada  to invest a minimum of CAD $500 million in original productions in the country over five years under the Investment Canada Act.

“We’re not asking these companies to do things they’re not already doing,” Guilbeault told the CBC. “They are investing in Canada. What we’re doing is putting a regulatory framework on how those investments should be made in light of things we’re already asking from Canadian broadcasters.”

“A modernized law will require all companies that want to access the Canadian market, especially the digital market, to contribute to the production of our stories. For our economy, this means more investment & jobs,” Guilbeault added in a series of tweets. “Result: more Canadian and local stories, programs & music on platforms like Netflix and Spotify!” He said an updated broadcast law will “establish a level playing field for everyone” and “generate more investment and employment in the Canadian Broadcasting sector.”

“What we offer is not a luxury, it is a matter of fairness. Without modernizing the #BroadcastingAct, web giants will continue to benefit from regulations that favour them at the expense of Canadian broadcasters,” he said.

The Québec Association for the Recording, Concert and Video Industries called it a historic day. “We will be forcing web giants to invest almost $1 billion [CAD] in Canadian culture, in our artists and in our stories. Special attention is being paid to the francophonie all across Canada, to first nations, to indigenous productions and to racialized groups wherever they may be in the country.”

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