NDP vows to modernize Broadcasting Act in 2021 election platform

The political party says it will "level the playing field" for broadcasters and independent producers if elected in the snap fall election.

A  modernized Broadcasting Act and additional funding for Telefilm, the Canada Media Fund and CBC/Radio-Canada are part of the New Democratic Party (NDP) platform ahead of the Sept. 20 federal election.

The 115-page platform from the Jagmeet Singh-led party devoted two pages to their plans for Canada’s arts sector, clearly outlining its intent to introduce legislation to update the current Broadcasting Act. The Liberals’ Bill C-10, which was tabled in November 2020 to amend the Act, died after Parliament was dissolved on Aug. 15 to trigger the snap fall election.

“New Democrats will do what the Liberals failed to do and modernize the Broadcasting Act fairly in order to create a level playing field between Canadian broadcasters and foreign streaming services,” read the platform.

Notably, the NDP’s plan to modernize the Broadcasting Act includes a commitment to “rebalance negotiating power for Canadian independent producers and the Canadian cultural sector,” hinting that a terms-of-trade agreement would be included. It also mentions a plan to “prioritize partnerships” with domestic producers.

The Canadian Media Producers Association previously called for the Liberals to include a code of conduct in Bill C-10 as part of a presentation to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The code, which would be overseen by the CRTC, would help Canadian producers and creators retain the rights to their own intellectual property and monetize it.

Other measures to modernize the Act includes ensuring companies such as Netflix, Facebook and Google would contribute to the system through corporate taxes, supporting Canadian content in English and French and “take responsibility for what appears on their platforms.”

The plan to ensure digital giants pay corporate taxes fits into the party’s overall plan to raise revenue, by rolling back corporate tax cuts to 18% rate held in 2010 and maintaining current tax rates for small businesses.

The NDP — which currently holds 24 of the 338 federal Parliament seats — also vowed to increase funding for Telefilm and CBC/Radio-Canada, as well as “enhance financial support” for the Canada Media Fund, though no explicit figures were included. The party also plans to introduce income tax averaging for arts and culture workers, noting it recognizes “the special challenges faced by people who make a living in the arts and culture industry.”

More support for industry workers was one of several issues raised by unions and guilds such as the Director’s Guild of Canada, ACTRA and IATSE in the 2019 federal election.

The Conservative Party platform has also promised changes to the Broadcasting Act. Among the party’s promises is to ensure streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ reinvest a portion of their Canadian revenue to domestic programming and reduce regulatory burden on Canadian broadcasters.

Image courtesy of the NDP