The online broadcasting bill will generate at least $1 billion a year for Canada’s creative sector, including Indigenous programming, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told a committee of MPs on Monday.
Rodriguez leaked the figure to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, which is considering a bill updating broadcasting laws and applying them to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus.
Rodriguez said some of the money will go to support productions from Indigenous and minority communities, as well as French productions from Quebec.
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The Department of Heritage initially said the online broadcast bill would generate about $830 million a year by having broadcast services fund Canadian creative work, as traditional broadcasters currently do.
Rodriguez said the sum would exceed $1 billion because since his department made its initial calculation, more people have subscribed to streaming platforms, such as Netflix.
Other platforms, including Disney Plus, have also arrived in Canada and have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said part of the funds would support diverse programming, including in French.
“We want to be able to hear more diverse voices. We want to hear more indigenous voices. Maybe we could do that with a mandatory provision. Maybe we can find other ways to do that – and also looking at official languages, and maybe other languages,” he said.
“The money will go towards these goals and it will be over a billion dollars a year. »
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The minister said “strengthening provisions to help Indigenous peoples and racialized Canadians” in the bill was one of the “big ideas” he heard about in committee.
MPs heard the bill would also force some platforms to carry channels like OutTV, which airs LBGTQ shows and movies.
In an earlier committee hearing, OutTV said some of the major foreign streaming platforms refused to carry the channel and told them there would be no demand, which OutTV disputed.
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Peter Julian, the NDP’s heritage critic, who highlighted the OutTV issue to the committee, said the billion dollars a year was a “significant sum.”
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Conservative committee member Kevin Waugh said he was surprised it was so large and asked for more details on how it was calculated.
Thomas Owen Ripley, associate assistant deputy minister at Canadian Heritage, said part of the $1 billion could be used to support Canadian productions, including dramas, documentaries and children’s programming.
Ripley said “just over $900 million” per year would come from “spending needs” in the bill, causing streaming platforms such as Netflix to spend a certain percentage of their revenue on Canadian productions, as traditional broadcasters currently do.
He said traditional Canadian broadcasters currently spend just under $3 billion a year on Canadian programming, including news.
Ripley said Netflix already has a “tremendous amount of production activity” in Canada, but “most of it wouldn’t currently be considered a Canadian show,” under the current definition.
“Part of the impetus behind this bill is to get them to do more on the Canadian side,” Ripley said, including involving more “Canadian creatives” and telling “more Canadian stories.”
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Rodriguez said he will ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the country’s broadcast regulator, to modernize the definition of what would be considered Canadian content, including a movie or a television program after the bill was passed.
The minister, in often tense exchanges with Tory MPs, reiterated his assertion that the online streaming bill will not affect people who upload videos to YouTube.
Rodriguez said the CRTC has no interest in regulating the posts of millions of people.
The minister said the bill would not cover user-generated content and would only cover commercial material. When the bill was launched, Rodriguez said it could include a professional video played on Spotify that also appears on YouTube.
Rodriguez has faced persistent questions from Tory MPs over the definition of “commercial” content with Rachael Thomas, MP for Lethbridge, repeatedly demanding that he put a number on it.
“What is the income threshold? Who’s in, who’s out? she asked, accusing the minister of not answering her questions.
Rodriguez’s appearance is the second on the committee. Last week he was forced out before he had a chance to speak as Tory and Liberal MPs squabbled over procedural issues, accusing each other of delaying tactics.
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