British Columbia

B.C. Knowledge Network president raises concerns over Netflix deal

A big voice in B.C.'s television industry weighs in on a recent investment by Netflix in Canada's media production.

'For all we know, it could be the value of its forgone taxes all these years,' says Rudy Buttignol

The president of B.C.'s Knowledge Network says the recent Netflix announcement isn't good news — it's a disappointment to Canada's film production industry. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The president and C.E.O. of B.C.'s Knowledge Network says the new deal between American streaming company Netflix and the federal government lets down Canada's film industry.

Rudy Buttignol said the recent policy announcement allows Netflix to continue operations in Canada entirely tax free and outside regulations set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

On Thursday, federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced the internet streaming service will spend at least $500 million over the next five years to fund original Canadian productions.

After months of public consultation, Joly delivered the news as part of a speech where she outlined her vision for the future of Canadian content and cultural industries in the digital world.

In a conversation with CBC's Stephen Quinn during On the Coast, Buttignol expressed his concern about the investment.

"Netflix has been enjoying the benefits of operating in Canada and it has never had any regulations," said Buttignol.

Independents need control

He said it has paid no taxes and "contributed very little as far as we know. And now it's dictating what it will contribute."

"For all we know, it could be the value of its forgone taxes all these years."

Canadian broadcasters are required to fulfil a certain quota of Canadian content in their broadcasts. As well, they must deliver a portion of their revenues to the Canada Media Fund (CMF).

Buttignol believes Netflix has done neither.

He said it's important that funding put towards Canadian productions is allocated for projects that are "in the national interest."

He stressed independent producers need to be given some control over their work, so if their film or television program is successful, they share in the rewards and have a say in the control of an intellectual property's copyright.

Buttignol said this new deal doesn't specify how much control Canadian producers will maintain over projects if they partner with Netflix.

"When you're a giant like that you have so much market power and you tend to dictate," said Buttignol. "I feel it will be very very hard for producers to maintain effective control."

With files from On the Coast and Tina Lovgreen


  • An earlier version of this story said ACTRA expressed its approval of the Netflix announcement. In fact, ACTRA expressed its approval of the heritage minister's general direction but is still raising critical questions about the deal with Netflix.
    Sep 29, 2017 3:41 PM PT