The coming into force of the Online Streaming Act (C-11) means that now the Netflix, Amazon and YouTube of this world will be subject to Canadian law and will have to contribute their fair share as do Canadian private broadcasters. for moons. The latter, evolving for decades in a highly regulated and inflexible environment, have suffered too long from inequity in the face of these web giants.
While the Minister of Canadian Heritage declares that he is “standing up for our stories, for our artists, for our producers and for our creators”, it is disturbing to see his silence regarding broadcasters here. Do we need to remember the primordial role of the latter, without whom Canadian viewers would not have been able to discover, appreciate and love all the talent of our artists, our producers and our creators?
It would be highly prejudicial to forget that Canadian broadcasting companies, such as TVA, Videotron and others, are major drivers of our television culture, particularly through the colossal investments they devote to content production.
However, our industry faces major risks that not only jeopardize the sustainability of Canadian businesses, but also undermine our ability to maintain these investments that are necessary for the development of original and journalistic content.
The new broadcasting law is a step in the right direction, but the federal government still needs to quickly issue clear directives to the CRTC to support Canadian private broadcasting companies and enable them to do well.
The real solution lies in the adoption of leaner and more flexible regulations that will allow broadcasters and cable operators to compete with their foreign rivals. Isn’t it counterproductive that a company like Quebecor has to devote time and resources to demonstrating to the CRTC that it is indeed broadcasting content from here when it is its raison d’être?
Promoting the emergence of fair competition also means protecting the primary mission of programming companies, which is to provide news and content produced here that resemble Canadians and Quebecers and bring them together. This is what makes us unique and competitive. It would therefore be irreparably harmful for the government to impose obligations on foreign platforms to broadcast Canadian content rather than a requirement to contribute to a dedicated fund for the production of this content.
Let us be clear, in the absence of sustained intervention and the implementation of all the necessary and effective measures to allow the survival of cultural businesses here in a broadcasting system designed by and for Canadians, these businesses will be called upon to disappear, for lack of resources to compete with foreign platforms. There will then remain in this industry only these platforms and the Crown corporation, Radio-Canada, which benefits from parliamentary appropriations amounting to more than $1.2 billion per year. In fact, one of the first measures that should be applied is the immediate removal of advertising on all CBC/Radio-Canada platforms; a measure that would help curb the race for ratings led by the public broadcaster and the unfair competition it deploys.
The next stage of ministerial directives will be crucial for the future of private broadcasters. In the name of the public interest, the federal government must stand up for our businesses and support them adequately, while controlling foreign companies that threaten our entire ecosystem. It is our duty to work collectively in this same direction. In the absence of real and pragmatic intervention, financial losses will accumulate, as well as job losses. Let’s choose to be something more than a contractor for American online broadcasters.