Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly urges change at CBC, CRTC to boost Canadian content in digital age
Changes could 'strengthen the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world'
Canada's Liberal government is prepared to overhaul the country's laws governing broadcasting, media and cultural industries, with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announcing Saturday a public consultation on how to "strengthen the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world."
"Canada's cultural and creative industries are important drivers of innovation and a vibrant part of our economy," says Joly.
"As we adjust to the realities of rapid technological advances and changing consumer behaviour, I am launching consultations to better understand the challenges and opportunities brought on by this transformation."
Joly told the Globe and Mail newspaper she was willing to change laws such as the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act, as well as modify the mandates of the CBC and the CRTC — Canada's broadcast regulator.
She added the government could create new laws or agencies based on the feedback by 2017, when she will also prepare a new cultural strategy with International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Netflix as a gamechanger
The CRTC has long had requirements for networks to carry certain amounts of Canadian content. But it cut that quota drastically last year under the Conservative government, after the industry was shaken up by the arrivals of online media services such as Netflix.
Last year, Ottawa eliminated its 55-per-cent requirement for Canadian programming on daytime local TV, with the CRTC saying the protections were no longer relevant in a world of abundance and choice. However, during the weekday prime-time slot, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., the requirement that 50 per cent of programming be Canadian remains.
Also under the relaxed rules, specialty TV channels — which currently have Canadian content requirements that range from 15 per cent to 85 per cent — will see their CanCon requirements harmonized at 35 per cent overall. There will no longer be specific CanCon requirements for the evening hours on specialty channels.
The regulator's decision is not expected to take effect until 2017. Netflix arrived in Canada in late 2010 and does not have to ensure a quota of Canadian content, which is usually less popular than big-budget U.S content.
Netflix and similar services have shaken up the industry by offering more choices than traditional subscription TV at a bargain price point. The number of Canadians cutting their cable cords, meanwhile, is soaring.
With files from Reuters