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Canadian film and TV unions, guilds and lobbyists have been left divided as the federal government unveils Bill C-11, a legislative update to regulations covering foreign media players in the local film and TV production sectors.
Bill C-11 would compel foreign online platforms doing business in Canada to direct a portion of their domestic revenues to help local Canadian creators get more of their product into the world market. But revived legislation that sees Ottawa put its hands into the deep pockets of U.S. streamers and other digital players — just as they increasingly shoot their originals in Canada and the local production sector surges ahead at a record pace — has exposed rifts among local unions over the impact on Canadian creative jobs.
ACTRA, Canada’s actors’ union, welcomed Bill C-11 as a way to compel financing in local film and TV creators by foreign media players being regulated for the first time like traditional broadcasters. “Streaming services need to be required to contribute to Canadian content production, distribution and development,” ACTRA national president Eleanor Noble said in a statement.
The Directors Guild of Canada also welcomed Bill C-11 as expanding the definition of broadcasting to include online services to force more investment in local story-telling. “The Online Streaming Act will ensure that our industry can continue to thrive and Canadian creators can tell their stories in the digital age, but the Act will also translate to guaranteed investment in original Canadian programming from multi-billion dollar streaming services and promote a diverse range of world-class content for viewers,” DGC president Warren P. Sonoda said in his own statement.
But the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents 30,000 Canadian creative workers, while echoing calls for global studios and streamers to contribute to local filmmaking, voiced concern that first-time regulation could put high-paying jobs from local work on American movies and other foreign content at risk.
“Domestic film production should be supported — but that must not be at the expense of job opportunities with the global studios and streamers, which employ the majority of Canadian creative workers,” IATSE International vp and director of Canadian affairs John Lewis said in his own statement.
IATSE argued global studios and streamers already represent the second-largest source of financing for domestic production after provincial tax credits, and that regulating foreign media players could imperil that investment. “Film is a global industry, and we do not want the cost becoming so prohibitive that the global studios and streamer move these creative jobs elsewhere,” the U.S.-based union, whose members routinely crew American content shooting locally, argued.
Critics of the earlier Bill C-10, the predecessor to Bill C-11, similarly argued that the Canadian government could bring about the unintended consequence of reducing, rather than increasing, U.S. streaming investment in locally made content as legislation to make Canadian content expenditures mandatory gets bogged down in bureaucratic and regulatory channels in Ottawa.
By introducing Bill C-11, the Canadian government has reignited a debate between those who believe foreign studios and streamers should be allowed to continue shooting their originals in Canada to meet global market demand for content, and those arguing the Canadian film and TV sectors need a protective leg-up from Ottawa to compete with foreign media players.
“Modernizing our sector’s legislative and regulatory levers by creating a more equitable structure will help us generate the conditions in which our industry will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the world,” Valerie Creighton, president and CEO of the Canada Media Fund, a key financier of homegrown TV series, argued in her statement.
But Wendy Noss, president of the Motion Picture Association – Canada, which represents Hollywood studios and streamers in Ottawa, insisted foreign media players are already dominant investors in local film and TV production, which includes accounting for 15 percent of financing for Canadian-owned productions in 2021.
“The constantly evolving marketplace and innovative business models that have fueled the growth in production in Canada require a regulatory approach that is nimble and flexible and we believe that the government views this as important too,” Noss said.
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