Further screen sector consultations ahead, says Minister Rodriguez

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The Minister of Canadian Heritage discussed the Online Streaming Act in a keynote session on the final day of Prime Time.

Further consultations with Canada’s screen sector on the Online Streaming Act and the role of the CRTC are on the way, according to Minister for Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez.

The Heritage minister spoke publicly about the recent tabling of Bill C-11, known as the Online Streaming Act, during the final day of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) annual Prime Time conference. The chat was moderated by Erin Haskett, Lark Productions president and executive producer and chair of the CMPA’s board of directors.

“We need to hear from you all to make sure that we help you succeed in this competitive industry,” said Rodriguez. “This is something I’ve been hearing since day one.”

Part of the planned consultation process is a national summit on the arts, culture and heritage sectors. An in-person summit had been planned for Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 in Ottawa, but was postponed indefinitely due to the rise in COVID-19 cases with the Omicron variant. Rodriguez says the summit will be rescheduled “as soon as [the Department of Heritage] get the OK” to organize it.

Rodriguez said the main priorities for his ministry include seeing the Online Streaming Act passed to ensure foreign players contribute to Canada’s cultural system. While the Act has been criticized for the potential of regulating monetized social media content, Rodriguez said the changes made from Bill C-10, which died on the order paper last year, are sufficient. He also said that consultations on the role of the CRTC will be able to address concerns from digital content creators.

“I think we brought the necessary changes to the bill to reassure [Canadians] that platforms are in and users are out,” he said, referring to section 2.1, which states that users are not considered broadcasters, and 4.1, which covers user-generated content.

The Online Streaming Act has also received criticism from the union IATSE, which represents approximately 30,000 crew members in Canada, for the potential harm it may bring to the service production sector. During the keynote Rodriguez said that service production is a good thing for Canada, but reiterated the importance of ensuring contributions from “big players” to ensure there is financial support for domestic producers. He added that discussions with foreign players have been “constructive.”

“They have to invest in us, as Canadians, how we tell our stories and how we pass them on to our children,” he said.

Speaking on additional commitments from the Liberal party, Rodriguez said that he is in talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland to include increased funding for the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada. He also stated that an update to CBC’s mandate will be “down the road” as they focus on getting Bill C-11 through the House of Commons and later the Senate.

“My objective is to keep our promises,” he said. “I’m totally committed to the sector, to increasing those funds.”