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Canada’s Bill C-11, also known as the Online Streaming Act, is set regulate digital platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify for the first time after it became law.
Another round of lobbying in Ottawa will now take place as the CRTC, the country’s media regulator, is tapped to hammer out a new framework to ensure foreign streaming giants subsidize local film and TV production, and also defines how deep the Americans will be forced to dip into their pockets to do so.
The prospect of American dollars paying for homegrown films, TV and music product has been applauded by Canadian content creators. Netflix projects to have filmed in Canada include The Umbrella Academy, which shot in Toronto.
“This new Act puts us on the path to requiring that global streaming services invest in original Canadian programming. It will help secure the fiscal future of Canadian film and television, protect our cultural sovereignty and preserve our ability to share stories from a diverse range of Canadian voices for decades to come,” Directors Guild of Canada president Warren P. Sonoda said in a statement.
In the run-up to passing Bill C-11, American video and audio streamers convinced Ottawa to create a two-tier Canadian industry where foreign players will be allowed to use fewer local creators, like directors and screenwriters, than traditional broadcasters already have to as part of their regulatory obligations.
“This flaw must be addressed in the pending policy direction to the CRTC, or Bill C-11 risks reinforcing, rather than reducing, the ongoing pressures faced by the domestic production sector,” the Canadian Media Producers Association, representing indie film and TV producers, said in their own commentary on the new law that the lobby group hoped would level the playing field between foreign streamers and local broadcasters.
As the CRTC decides on how it will regulate U.S. digital giants — and crucially defines what does and doesn’t count as Canadian, especially as it applies to user-generated content on YouTube, TikTok and Facebook or as part of a streamer’s local spending obligations — the American players will continue to argue they already invest in indie Canadian production and shouldn’t be bound up in red tape when doing so.
Mark Bishop, co-founder and executive producer at indie producer marblemedia, which has an office in Los Angeles, argues U.S. streamers want a quick decision from the CRTC on how it will regulate them north of the border to continue growing their local market presence.
Bishop’s company produces the unscripted series Blown Away and Drink Masters for Netflix and has another two projects with Amazon Prime Video in Canada in the works. This includes a feature documentary about a classic Canadian kids show, Mr. Dressup, which was hosted by the late Ernie Coombs as Mr. Dressup, and his puppets Casey and Finnegan.
“There’s already a great foundation that’s been laid by a lot of the streamers already working here. Our industry needs to move quickly through the CRTC process to figure out and define what those rules are going to be around Bill C-11, so we can give clarity to the streamers,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
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