Federal candidates address screen sector concerns in virtual town hall

Five federal candidates fielded questions on the Broadcasting Act, diversity, sustainability and the support of Canadian talent in the event hosted by the DGC, ACTRA and ARRQ.

With a snap federal election looming on Sept. 20, Canada’s major political parties went to the screen sector directly to address their concerns, emphasizing the need to amend the Broadcasting Act.

Candidates from five political parties fielded questions from the sector in a virtual town hall yesterday (Sept. 7), with the fate of Bill C-10, support for CBC/Radio-Canada and the need to promote diverse content among the top discussion points.

Participants included Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, candidate for Laurier-Sainte Marie, on behalf of the Liberal party; Kevin Waugh, candidate for Saskatoon-Grasswood for the Conservative party; Martin Champoux, candidate for Drummond, for the Bloc Québécois; Heather McPherson, candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona, for the New Democratic Party (NDP); and Sandy Crawley, the Green Party’s shadow cabinet critic for arts, culture and heritage.

The virtual town was co-organized by Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and l’Association des Réalisateurs et Réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ). The conversation was moderated by Trina McQueen, formerly president and COO of CTV and a professor at the Schulich School of Business, and Patrick White, a media professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

The discussion was split into four core topics: modernizing the Broadcasting Act, investing in Canadian talent, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion and sustainable production practices.

Modernizing the Broadcasting Act

NDP’s McPherson, one of the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage who oversaw the study of Bill C-10 alongside Conservative’s Waugh and Bloq Quebecois’s Champoux, said it was stressful and disappointing to see the bill die before passing through the Senate; however, she noted that conversations within the screen sector have helped politicians understand the urgency needed to amend the Act.

“The one thing we heard from everyone was that the legislation that was brought forward, Bill C-10, needed to be fixed and that it was so late and so delayed, they would rather have flawed legislation than no legislation,” she said, adding that the sector should continue to make noise with politicians during the election and beyond to make their needs clear.

Both McPherson and Champoux spoke about the need to carry over the work from the committee for the next bill that will be tabled, with Champoux addressing the need for more regulation to promote Francophone content in Canada, specifying a push for a 60/40 split for English and French content, rather than 70/30.

Guilbeault emphasized the Liberal party’s plan to reintroduce legislation to amend the Broadcasting Act within the first 100 days of Parliament if re-elected, along with other platform promises to increase funding for Telefilm, the Canada Media Fund (CMF), the Indigenous Screen Office and CBC/Radio-Canada. He also stressed that taxing web giants will bring millions into the system to support the next generation of creators.

He pointed to Australia’s legislation to force web giants such as Facebook and Google to pay for content shared on their platforms, which he says Canada should look to as a model to adapt, but not fully adopt.

Waugh focused much of his discussion on broadcast news due to his past work as a sports anchor and accused the CRTC of having “too much power and way too much regulation.”

“The CRTC has run its course in this country, in my opinion,” said Waugh, stating that there needs to be more consultation with broadcasters on clear guidelines to “deal with realities of an increasingly online market.”

The Green Party’s Crawley disagreed with Waugh, stating that the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Copyright Board of Canada are needed and should be working in tandem. He also noted that copyright laws are in need of reform, including giving directors authorship rights on content.

Supporting Canadian talent

CBC/Radio-Canada was a core discussion during the town hall, with most parties agreeing that the public broadcaster needs more support. Guilbeault stated that the $400 million mentioned in the Liberal party platform to reduce advertising in news would also partially go toward the support of more content, especially diverse content.

Crawley stated that the pubcaster should receive at least $2 billion per year to support the creation of Canadian content. “We haven’t invested the resources [in Canadian talent] and it’s not going to come from the private sector,” he said.

Champoux noted that Radio-Canada is an essential part of the broadcasting landscape and a future amendment to the Broadcasting Act must look at the needs of the French-language pubcaster with a closer lens.

In terms of supporting Canadian talent, all parties were in agreement that Canada has a rich talent base which needs resources to keep them from moving on to opportunities in the U.S. or the U.K. Crawley stated that independent production is the key to success for the screen sector. He emphasized Canada’s history of rich film culture, giving the example of the National Film Board of Canada documentary City of Gold (1957), which is cited as an early inspiration for famed American documentarian Ken Burns.

McPherson again emphasized the importance of collaboration within the screen sector and that any programs or legislation set in place should be made in consultation with industry members, not separately from them.

Tackling diversity, equity and inclusion

Guilbeault looked to his own record on diversity and inclusion when it came to the topic, including the increased funding for the Indigenous Screen Office and the emergency funding allocated to organizations that did not previously receive support from Telefilm or CMF.

He also noted his track record on the nominations he’s made for key positions in crown corporations, stating of the more than 200 positions he oversaw, 30% identified as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour (BIPOC), 10% as Indigenous and 57% as women.

He also pushed for more diversity within the public broadcaster. “We need to make a bigger place for diverse creators and storytellers within the CBC,” he said. “I want to reaffirm the role of the public broadcaster in promoting diversity and also French language and francophone cultures, and ensure Indigenous cultures are present on our screens.”

Waugh agreed that CBC needs to promote more diverse content, specifically Indigenous content, noting APTN as a critical broadcaster that stepped up to fill a void within the marketplace. He also credited the rise of podcasts as an important medium to promote a wide range of Canadian stories.

When asked, Champoux stated that he felt Bill C-10 adequately covered the needed regulation to require diverse content in Canada.


Guilbeault also noted his track record on sustainability, specifically the creation of two consulting committees to tackle a green shift in the arts, culture, heritage and sport sectors, which was announced last month. He stated that the arts plays a critical role in the communication about the climate crisis.

McPherson, Champoux and Crawley went on further to state that there should be incentives created within the screen sector to have more sustainable productions. Crawley added that the government should fund more content that addresses climate change.

Waugh did not address issues with the climate crisis directly, but stated the importance of showing Canada’s landscape to the world through the media.

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