Liberal platform looks to get Broadcasting Act back on track

Additional funding for Telefilm, Canada Media Fund and the Indigenous Screen Office are included in the 82-page plan.

Canada’s top political parties have an eye on picking up where Bill C-10 left off as the federal election race ramps up.

The Liberal party – led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – released its 82-page platform for the Sept. 20 federal election yesterday (Sept. 1), with a commitment to reintroduce legislation to amend the Broadcasting Act within the first 100 days if re-elected.

“As more and more of us stream shows, movies and music on multinational digital platforms instead of tuning into Canadian TV and radio, Canadian creators and audiences are at real risk of being edged out by foreign giants,” read the platform. “We need a Broadcasting Act that’s built for today’s world.”

The Liberals initially tabled Bill C-10, an amendment to the Broadcasting Act, in November 2020, which would modernize the Act and bring streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video within the regulatory system. The bill died after its second reading in the Senate, when Parliament was dissolved on Aug. 15 to call the upcoming snap election.

Both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) have included the modernization of the Broadcasting Act in their respective platforms. The Conservative platform says the updated Act will ensure digital giants invest in domestic programming while offering regulatory relief to Canada’s broadcasters; the NDP platform mentioned plans to offer Canadian independent producers the ability to “rebalance negotiating power.”

The Liberals platform dedicates $622 million to “supporting Canadian music, film and TV” over the next four years – $63 million in 2022/23, $113 million in 2023/24 and $223 million in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

It says funding institutions such as Telefilm, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and the National Film Board of Canada will be modernized to be “platform agnostic and open to more traditionally underrepresented storytellers, while favouring Canadian productions over foreign ones and ensuring that Canadians are better equipped to own and benefit from the content that they produce.”

The party has promised a permanent increase to Telefilm’s budget by $50 million. Telefilm receives about $100 million from the federal government each year, picking up roughly $109.3 million in 2019/20, according to its annual report.

It should be noted the 2021 federal budget proposed an additional $105 million in funding to Telefilm over three years, with $20 million in 2021/22, $35 million in 2022/23 and $50 million in 2023/34.

The Liberals plan to double the government’s contribution to CMF over the next three years. CMF was allocated an additional $60 million over the next three years in the 2021 budget. They will also allocate $13 million per year in permanent funding to the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO). The 2021 budget had $40.1 million dedicated to the ISO over a three-year period.

Notably, the platform also includes a plan to “increase the proportion of funding for French audiovisual content at Telefilm and CMF from 33% to 40% to support a better presence of French-language productions.”

The Liberals plan to modernize CBC/Radio-Canada, promising $400 million in funding over the next four years “so that it is less reliant on private advertising with a goal of eliminating advertising during news and other public affairs shows.”

The platform says if re-elected the party will “update CBC/Radio-Canada’s mandate to ensure that it is meeting the needs and expectation of today’s Canadian audiences, with a unique programming that distinguishes it from private broadcasters,” noting that the government will help CBC “bring Canada’s TV and film productions to the world stage.” The platform also mentions ensuring the pubcaster promotes and protects French language and Francophone cultures and that “Indigenous voices and cultures are present on our screens and radios.”

For workers in the screen industry feeling the pain of the pandemic, the Liberals plan further extends COVID-related insurance coverage, implements a transitional support program to provide emergency relief to out-of-work creators who are primarily self-employed or independent contractors and to “ensure the realities of artists and cultural workers are considered in upcoming reforms to the Employment Insurance (EI) system.”

The party said it would hold a hold a summit within the first 100 days to outline plans to restart the cultural industry.