While incumbent federal party heads have said ‘no’ to applying content levies to online streaming services and Internet providers, the CRTC has edged the Trudeau government one step closer to reassessing its own policy in a new report released last week.
While the regulator doesn’t say as much, the underlying message here is that the time has come to make equitable the regulations that apply to licenced broadcasters apply to online services too. In other words, if Bell Media and Corus Entertainment are required to affix a percentage of revenues to the development of homegrown content, so also the Amazons and Netflixes of this world. Requiring Canadian corporations and not global players is not only illogical and unfair, but it also raises legal questions about why one set of players should play by one rulebook and another set of players by another.
Either way, the funding model for made-in-Canada content is frayed, and as online revenues soar as traditional broadcast models head into decline the need to address the need for a new funding model becomes a looming imperative.
The CRTC proposes that any future policy approaches to content and its distribution should:
Focus on the production and promotion of high-quality content made by Canadians that is available to audiences in Canada and abroad.
Recognize that there are social and cultural responsibilities associated with operating in Canada. All players benefitting from the Canadian broadcasting system should participate in an equitable manner.
Be nimble, innovative and continuously capable of rapidly adapting to changes in technology and consumer demand.
In its report, the CRTC sets out specific policy options that could help ensure a vibrant domestic market, including:
Replace prescriptive licensing with comprehensive and binding service agreements for all video and audio services offered in Canada and drawing revenue from Canadians.
A restructured funding strategy to ensure sustainable support for content production and promotion in the future, including the participation of television service providers, radio stations, and wireless and Internet service providers.