The Star Editorial Board: 'It's Time For An Online Streaming Levy'

"... The Internet giants have too long ducked paying their fair share of both content creation and taxes — and it’s costing Canadians dearly.

"John Anderson, author of a study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that called for a tax on Internet media services, says if Netflix collected HST as Canadian-owned media companies do, it would pay an estimated $89 million a year on revenues of about $685 million. And if it contributed 5 per cent of its gross revenues to the Canada Media Fund, that would mean $34.5 million more per year to make sure Canadian content is produced, distributed and promoted.

"Unfortunately, the government been reluctant, to say the least, to impose taxes on the Internet content giants or require them to make mandatory contributions to the media fund.

"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in 2015 not to bring in a so-called Netflix tax. He wasn’t alone; all three federal parties took the same position, reflecting a popular view that anything that potentially raises the cost of access to the Internet is bad.

"Indeed, after the CRTC report was released the consumer advocacy group OpenMedia came out with guns blazing. “This proposal is a disastrous idea that will raise monthly bills and force the most vulnerable Canadians off-line,” it argued.

"Still, political views seem to be changing as the impact of the online services gets even larger. The NDP, for example, is changing its tune. “When you read this report, you realize that if you still want Canadian content on our screens for the coming years, everybody has to chip in,” says the party’s heritage critic, Pierre Nantel.

"He’s right. It’s time the government levelled the playing field between old-line broadcasters and the new online services."

Impose a content levy — and taxes — on online streaming giants, The Star Editorial Board, June 3.

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