The Sessions Episode 3: Canada Media Fund poised for change ahead of Bill C-11

In this third episode of a new podcast series, CMF president and CEO Valerie Creighton discusses "big shifts" at the funder and why the Online Streaming Act is key to unlocking a dated structure.

Playback and The Creative School at Ryerson University have partnered on The Sessions, a weekly four-part podcast series on the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11). Episode 1 explored what’s at stake for the production sector while episode 2 looked at the challenges the bill poses for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

In Episode 3, now available to listen below, Valerie Creighton, president and CEO of the Canada Media Fund (CMF), tells host Irene Berkowitz how the country’s top public funder is getting future-ready in the wake of Bill C-11.

Creighton led the industry through the pandemic as the global, online media market gained steam, increasing stress on the funding model – to record employment.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation about why Bill C-11 is key to transforming the CMF into a global content fund; the value of global streamers; what the CMF must do — with or without C-11 — and big changes to be announced next week. A full transcript is also available, however we encourage you to listen to the audio interview, if possible, to experience the full nuance of the conversation.

Irene Berkowitz: What is your hot take on the Online Streaming Act?

Valerie Creighton: C-11 is key to unlocking our very dated structure. The minister has done a good job of addressing issues that came up around C-10. There’s still debate about what else must be done. That’s the job of a democracy.

IB: At Prime Time 2022, (CMPA’s annual conference), you mentioned what I call “the great unhooking”: linear broadcasters no longer the sole gatekeepers. Will CMF make that happen?

VC: There are three levels of authority for change: our agreement with Heritage; at the minister’s discretion; but the big change, as you say, ‘the great unhooking,’ follows the legislative and regulatory process.  If C-11 doesn’t happen, another way will have to be found if we want our production industry to remain competitive on the global market.

IB: How will online streamers react?

VC: They’re open to discussion. We view the streamers as big bad guys, but it’s simply not the case. They are global entities with deep pockets and worldwide distribution. All of that is good for Canada.

IB: What about user generated content (UGC) producers on platforms like YouTube and TikTok?

VC: That legislative issue must be sorted out. They make content that’s getting to the world. That’s fantastic. We need to ensure this blossoming of incredible talent and content is embraced.

IB: What’s next for Canadian content?

VC: We’re going to turn this ship so that CMF is a global content fund, with tools that support content makers. I have 300% faith in our industry to create content that will resonate globally.

IB: Why is it critical to codify diversity? How will CMF make it real?

VC: This is societal change, not just funding change. Thankfully, we are never going back to where we were. Encoding in legislation makes it real, at that level. Before 2020, we barely scratched the discussion. We were not the hero. That tragic summer led to our equity and inclusion strategy. We’re all in this together, no matter the color of our skin. We’ve done a lot of things, but we’re not done. It’s just the beginning.

IB: What are producers most concerned about?

VC: Urgency for change. It’s a global business. Our structure forced us to stand on the 49th parallel and look up; that will longer work. Yes, it’s a big ship to turn. For many, it’s not fast enough. I’m on their side. I am probably one of the most frustrated people in the country about the pace of change in our industry and our inability to keep up with it.

IB: C-11, pass or no pass? Why?

VC:  Let’s go for it, get moving. It’s not perfect. Nothing ever is. I’m a glass half full person. We’ve built up this sector for 80 years, in many ways the envy of the world. Let’s leverage our potential, not let it slide away.

IB: You’ve signalled big announcements are coming? Are we here?

VC:  Not quite yet, but very close. I’ll stop there because I can’t spoil the surprise.


Irene S. Berkowitz, Senior Policy Fellow, Audience Lab at The Creative School, is author the 2021 book on legacy media, Mediaucracy: Why Canada hasn’t made global TV hits and how it can, and the 2019 study of new media: Watchtime Canada: How YouTube connects creators and consumers.

Podcast credits:

Executive Producers: Irene Berkowitz and Playback

Content Producers: Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend

Production Producers: Sam McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee