The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Directors Guild of Canada, and the Writers Guild of Canada have each given their thumbs up to a major cultural-policy announcement by the minister of Canadian Heritage.
To date, Mélanie Joly hasn't imposed any restrictions on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from selling digital advertising—despite a call to do so earlier this year from the Public Policy Forum.
And in a speech in Ottawa today, she also said that the government won't impose new taxes on U.S. platforms—such as Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube—that are not regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Instead, the minister announced that Netflix would spend $500 million over five years to fund original English- and French-language programming.
She called this part of the government's "Creative Canada" proposals.
In a statement, CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix said: "In a digital world, Canadian stories now have to compete with the best of the world. It’s a challenge, but we believe they can compete and we’re working hard to make it happen by supporting creators here at home.”
Lacroix also claimed that the CBC has "the digital reach and the creative talent that will ensure Canadian content prospers".
Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of Canada praised Joly "for emphasizing the key role screenwriters play in the industry by announcing a new focus on early-stage pitch document and script development at the Canadian Media Fund (CMF)".
The WGC also approved of the deal with Netflix for the company to spend $500 million on original programming over a five-year period.
The Directors Guild of Canada praised Joly for promising to maintain full funding for the Canadian Media Fund to offset lower revenues from the sale of subscription services.
“It’s great to see the minister embrace the principle that every player in Canada has to be producing Canadian content and investing in Canadian creative talent," DGC Canada national executive director Brian Baker said in a news release. "It’s great to hear her commit to maintain full funding for the CMF. And it’s great to hear Netflix plans to keep shooting in Canada. This could be the first step towards modernizing our cultural policy for the digital age, but the devil’s in the details.”
The only naysayer so far has been Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which accused Joly of coming up "with only a few modest steps to boost Canadian content".
“Advertising dollars that are needed to finance Canadian TV, including local news, are leaving Canada faster than snowbirds in February," Friends of Canadian Broadcasting spokesperson Ian Morrison said. "At a time when many other countries are ending the free ride U.S. Internet companies have enjoyed since their inception, Minister Joly decided to stay on the sidelines."
He also said the Netflix deal raises several questions.
"What did the government of Canada give up in order to obtain this commitment? " Morrison asked. "The minister has negotiated a deal with one company. What about the other foreign Internet giants? How does this level the playing field for Canadian media who continue to have financial obligations foreign media companies do not have?"
Earlier this year, a Public Policy Forum report noted that in 2016, $5.6 billion was spent on digital advertising in Canada. Only $233 million of that went into English-language Canadian daily newspapers.
The CBC collects about $25 million per year in digital advertising, making it a competitor of the newspaper industry.
The bulk of Canadian digital-ad purchases in 2016 went to foreign-owned platforms such as Facebook and Google.