What does the Conservative platform say about the screen-based industries?

The party's platform, released yesterday, outlines plans to make streamers invest in Cancon production, relieve regulatory obligations for Canadian broadcasters and to review CBC's English-language TV mandate.

The Conservative Party has outlined some of the changes it would make to Canadian broadcasting policy and the CBC, should it emerge victorious in the fall federal election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past weekend.

In its 164-page election platform, released Monday (Aug. 16), the Erin O’Toole-led party said it will introduce legislation that “updates the Broadcasting Act to deal with the realities of an increasingly online market and the need to provide businesses with certainty and consumers with choice.”

One of the ways the Conservatives plan to do that is by requiring streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ to reinvest a “significant portion” of their Canadian gross revenue into producing original domestic programming, with a portion of that also being invested in French-language programming. Those reinvestment requirements will “recognize and incentivize partnerships with Canadian independent media producers,” it said

Based on the literature, the party would not support the idea of streamers paying directly into the Canada Media Fund. The 600-word platform titled “A Detailed Plan to Strengthen Cultural Industries” states that if a streaming company fails to reinvest a significant portion of its Canadian revenue into the creation of original Canadian product in a given year, “they will be required to pay the difference into the Canada Media Fund.”

In terms of how much each OTT service would pay toward Cancon, the proportion will be dictated by “the nature of the streaming service,” stated the election platform, adding that a new approach would implement best practices adopted in markets such as Europe and Australia, as well as catering to the specific needs of the Canadian marketplace.

On the broadcasting front, the Conservatives would “streamline and reduce” the regulatory burden placed on conventional Canadian broadcasters and cable companies, “including CRTC license fees and Canada Media Fund contribution requirements.” The resulting decrease to CMF’s budget would be “compensated” by a portion of the revenue from the new digital services tax.

The Conservatives said they would abolish CRTC Part II licence fees, if elected, and conduct a “full review” of the CRTC’s mandate to “ensure that it better reflects the needs of Canadians and doesn’t prevent Canadian broadcasters from innovating and adapting to changes in the market.”

The party also says it will exempt the content Canadians upload onto social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Tik Tok from CRTC oversight, which became a bone of contention and controversy during the Heritage Committee hearings on Bill C-10.

Elsewhere, the platform indicated that the Conservatives will examine the public broadcaster’s mandate if elected to office in September.

“CBC and Radio Canada have made important contributions to Canada over the past 84 years. While parts of it remain as relevant as ever, including Radio Canada, CBC Radio, and CBC North, many question whether CBC’s English TV continues to live up to its mandate,” stated the platform, which also noted “concerns that CBC’s online news presence is undermining the viability of Canadian print and online media, reducing the diversity of voices available to Canadians.”

In terms of reviewing CBC’s English-language content offerings, the platform said it would look at CBC English Television, CBC News Network and CBC English online news “to assess the viability of refocusing the service on a public interest model like that of PBS in the United States, ensuring that it no longer competes with private Canadian broadcasters and digital providers.”

At the same time, the Conservatives plan to give Radio-Canada a “separate and distinct legal and administrative structure.” According to the document, this would “reflect [Radio-Canada's] distinct mandate of promoting francophone language and culture while maintaining its funding and providing for continued sharing of resources and facilities where applicable.” The Conservatives would also stop Radio-Canada from charging user fees for its online streaming services, and operating branding services such as Tandem.

With Trudeau calling a snap election on Sept. 20, Bill C-10 officially died. The bill, which was first introduced by Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault last November, went through a second reading at the Senate in June and was sent for further review with the Senate committee for Transport and Communications when the Senate adjourned for the summer. If the Liberals win the election, the bill can be reintroduced after the 44th Parliament has formed, but it will start from scratch with another First Reading at the House of Commons.

If the Conservative Party is successful, it will introduce its own bill – one that will likely look considerably different than Bill C-10, which the Conservative platform said “gives too much power to regulators while failing to provide businesses with the clear guidelines they need to operate.”

An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News indicated that the Liberal Party is the front runner to win the fall election, but it may struggle to hold a majority government. The poll said that if the election was held tomorrow, the Liberals would receive 36% of the vote, with the Conservatives taking 31% and NDP 20%.