Updated Broadcasting Act to be tabled in fall, says Heritage minister

Steven Guilbeault said the government is "trying to find a solution" to the COVID-19 insurance problem, and provided details on phase-two emergency funds, in his opening BANFF remarks.

guilbeault_200x200_V2A modernized Broadcasting Act will be tabled as early as the fall, confirmed the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault.

The minister opened a full day of panels as part of the Banff World Media Festival’s virtual BANFF Day on Tuesday (June 16), taking part in a Q&A session with The Wire Report editor Anja Karadeglija.

During the session he confirmed that while the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the timeline for new legislation around the broadcasting and telecommunications acts, he still plans to table a new act before the end of 2020.

The minister confirmed the new act won’t follow all of the recommendations of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review report, but the government is looking into certain items such as giving the CRTC more regulatory power, reinstating terms of trade and ensuring web giants fairly pay into the system will be part of the legislation.

In terms of Cancon contributions from global streamers such as Netflix and Disney+, Guilbeault noted that there will be variances between what will be asked from content providers, saying “we need to find the right tools for the right players.”

“My take is our legislation should be nimble,” said Guilbeault, noting it should be able to adapt to different models, since the act won’t be revisited for some time. “We shouldn’t have something that’s extremely strict and difficult to change.”

The minister also addressed short term concerns for the screen-based industry with the COVID-19 crisis, which he noted has taken up more than half his tenure. Guilbeault said he’s heard producers’ concerns over a lack of insurance coverage for COVID-19 and said the government is “trying to find a solution to the problem,” confirming they are looking into the CMPA’s proposed $100-million backstop from the federal government.

Guilbeault shed light on a few details regarding phase two of distribution of the $500-million emergency funds provided to Canada’s arts and culture sector.

The minister confirmed the funds – approximately $200 million of the $500 million given by the federal government – will be distributed by Canadian Heritage, with a portal expected to launch on its website in the coming days. Guilbeault said full details on the distribution of phase two will be available in the coming weeks and named smaller broadcasters and third-language media as among the organizations that will receive financial help. “We don’t want this to be complicated,” he said. “We know people need money and they need it now.”

He added that the purpose of the financial aid is to help as many companies as they can survive the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis and doesn’t cover long-term recovery efforts. The government’s goal is to “save the [arts and culture] ecosystem,” so that even if not every organization is able to recover, whole elements of the system won’t be lost.

When asked about Creative Export Canada, Guilbeault said the government intends to maintain the program and its funding, but will need to find better ways to deploy it. He added that any financial agreements made by the government will be honoured, and that they’re currently assessing proposals from the third application period.

In regards to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, Guilbeault said the government will be working with the sector to come up with initiatives to support BIPOC communities, rather than impose legislation. He noted that their responsibility is to accelerate racial equity in the industry rather than continue to make gradual change. “This is the expectation we’re hearing,” he said. “We need to do much better and much faster.”