CMPA calls for code of practice in Bill C-10

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The producers association took part in a Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meeting to discuss ways to address IP retention in a streamer-dominated landscape.

The perceived disparity in the power dynamic between producers and content commissioners was the key topic of discussion as the CMPA went before a Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meeting to discuss Bill C-10.

Producers Erin Haskett and Damon D’Oliveira and CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin spoke on behalf of the producers association, supporting the passage of Bill C-10 but urging government to ensure that a CRTC-overseen code of practice – also known as terms of trade – is added to the legislation to ensure that Canadian producers and creators are able to retain and monetize their intellectual property.

“Global streaming platforms are not just aggregating unprecedented catalogues of content, they are amassing enormous control, leverage, economic power and cultural influence,” argued Conquering Lion Pictures partner D’Oliveira.

Mastin meanwhile said that as the influence of global streaming services has grown, deal making is increasingly been done on their terms – and not the terms of the producers and creators who develop and invest in its early stages.

“A ‘successful’ streaming deal means this: [producers] get a payment upfront, they surrender global rights, and if they’re lucky they become an employee on their own show, while forgoing future revenues that would arise if the show becomes a hit, or if it is replicated in other markets,” said the CMPA head. “The result is a vacuuming sound that’s getting louder the day. The sound of Canadian IP, and the revenue it generates, being sucked out of Canada by foreign web giants.”

The solution, argued the CMPA, is a code of practice that would enable production companies to retain some of their IP and reinvest it into the development of future projects.

Haskett pointed to the Lark-produced series Motive as an example of a show that helped build the Vancouver-based company, as it reinvested distribution revenues derived from the series into developing more shows.

D’Oliveira, who produced the CBC miniseries The Book of Negroes, also highlighted the importance of IP ownership for that series and Conquering Lion Pictures. “[Conquering Lion Pictures is] now in development for a spinoff of The Book of Negroes with the CBC, which [was a result of us] maintaining ownership of the underlying IP. Had I done this with a digital streaming service, it might not have come to pass,” he noted.

Is Bill C-10 strong enough to address the perceived imbalance between local producers and global streamers? 

One theme that emerged from the meeting is whether, in its current form, Bill C-10 is forceful enough to address the perceived disparity between producers and the broadcasters and platforms which commission their content.

To this, Mastin said he believes “the key elements are all there. We have mentioned a couple of other elements we would like to see in the bill but there’s no question it represents a giant step forward from where we’re at.”

First tabled in November, Bill C-10 includes amendments to the Broadcasting Act that would bring OTT services into the Canadian regulatory system, grant more powers to the CRTC and bring new money into the domestic funding ecosystem.

The bill is indicative of a shifting approach to digital giants, added Mastin, as several countries make moves to address the increasing economic and social influence of U.S.-based digital platforms.

“I believe the tide has shifted,” said Mastin, adding that the Canadian industry is carefully watching the situation unfold between the Australian government as it attempts to force Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news content. “We see this as part of a global trend,” he said.

The test case for new forms of regulation on the social media industry, closely watched around the world, ended today (Feb. 23) with both social media giants agreeing to pay Australian publishers for news. Rates are subject to a government arbitration process.