Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak today to Bill C-10 on behalf of the constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith and the Green Party supporters across Canada.
It has been 29 years since the Broadcasting Act was updated, so this legislation is long overdue. I have decades of experience in music, film and the television industry, so I have a keen interest in seeing this update done correctly. However, Bill C-10 was critically flawed from the beginning.
More than 120 amendments were put forward to fix this bill, including 18 from the government itself. I submitted 29 amendments to Bill C-10. Two of these amendments passed, and another two passed with subamendments. The focus of my amendments was to ensure that industry stakeholders outside of the big media conglomerates are properly represented in the act. This included non-profit community broadcasters; independent producers who work outside of the traditional broadcasting system; small, independent production companies that create much of the content that we watch on the big networks; and independent networks, like APTN, which are not part of the media conglomerates like Bell, Rogers or Shaw.
Some of the key amendments I put forward ensured that the community element is recognized under the Broadcasting Act. The community element consists of hundreds of non-profit community TV and community radio stations across Canada. In Nanaimo, we have CHLY radio, which is a community-based campus radio station with a non-profit mandate that supports local, commercial-free programming.
When I started out in the broadcasting industry, there was a large network of community TV stations across the country, which were originally tied to the local community cable companies. As those small cable companies were swallowed up by Bell, Rogers and Shaw, the community broadcasting element was slowly pushed out. As the cable giants became more vertically integrated, buying up channels and production companies and expanding service into cellular, they started to use their community stations as a way to promote their own products.
Community media plays an important role in a free and democratic society. These stations are not owned and controlled by commercial interests, and their mandate is to provide a platform to community voices that would otherwise be squeezed out of commercial radio and television. It is important to have the community element recognized as the third major element of broadcasting in Canada. I was glad to have some of my amendments regarding the community element pass, although it was disappointing to see the term “non-profit” removed from the definition, because that is precisely what the community element is, a non-profit element of our broadcasting system.
There has been a lot of talk by the government about the objective of this bill being to level the playing field and protect Canadian cultural producers in their relationship to large Internet giants. According to the Yale report, which was presented in committee, the playing field also needs to be levelled in the contractual agreements between independent production companies and large broadcasting or streaming services.
Much of what we watch is created by small, independent productions companies that bring their program ideas to the big companies. There is a power imbalance in the system that needs to be corrected. Two amendments I put forward were recommended by the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada, and the Canadian Media Producers Association. Had they passed, those amendments would have created market-based solutions to a market-based power imbalance.
The U.K and France both have similar systems in place, which are working quite well. After the British Parliament passed legislation, the U.K. regulatory agency required negotiations of codes of practice between independent producers and the public service broadcasters. Every code of practice agreement was worked out by the players themselves, rather than dictated by the regulator. The result was a tripling of the size of the domestic production industry in under a decade. France implemented similar measures, with the effect being that the volume of independently produced productions has continually increased, including those commissioned by web giants like Netflix and Amazon.
In Canada, the CRTC has never attempted to directly regulate the commercial relationship between producers and broadcasters. It has always taken the position that codes of practice should be negotiated by the market actors concerned. It is essential, however, that the CRTC be given explicit authority in this area so that it can require players to negotiate codes of practice between themselves. Unfortunately, those amendments, which would have provided more protection to small producers, were opposed by both the Liberals and the Conservatives and did not pass.
There is no doubt that the Broadcasting Act needs to be modernized and we need to level the playing field to ensure that digital giants pay their fair share. For decades now we have had a system in which the broadcasting industry supports the creation of Canadian content, and this should extend to the Internet giants.
Currently, the streaming and social media giants get away with not paying their fair share of taxes in this country. They also contribute nothing to the creation of content except that which they choose to produce.
The Conservatives have been busy sowing a great deal of confusion about what is and what is not Canadian content and how that is determined. Our Canadian content rules are very straightforward. For music to be deemed Canadian content, there is the MAPL system.
To qualify as Canadian content, a musical selection must generally fulfill at least two of the following conditions: M, or music, means that the music is composed entirely by a Canadian; A, or the artist, is for when the music or the lyrics are performed principally by a Canadian; P, or performance, is when the music selection consists of a live performance that is recorded wholly in Canada or performed wholly in Canada and broadcast live in Canada; and L, is when the lyrics are written entirely by a Canadian.
If we fulfill two out of those four categories, we have Canadian content. It is pretty straightforward. Canadian content rules have made stars out of some great Canadian bands such as The Tragically Hip, a band whose lyrics are distinctly Canadian. Tragically, The Hip never made it big in the U.S.A., but it is great that they have become such Canadian icons, thanks to Canadian content regulations that led to the production of films that were later picked up by Canadian broadcasters and went through the procedure of having the film certified as Canadian content.
It is an attestation-based process where one makes a declaration, and it may or may not be audited in the future. There is a point system where people have must score six out of a possible 10 points. They get two points for a director, two points for the screenwriter, first and second lead performers at one point each, and points are awarded for production design, art design, the director of photograph, camera chief, camera operator, musical composer, etc.
The Conservatives spent a lot of time filibustering at committee asking how anyone could figure out if a production is Canadian or not. In question period, the member for Lethbridge wanted to know if Canadian Bacon was a Canadian film based on the name and one of the lead actors, John Candy, being Canadian. However, Canadian Bacon was produced and directed by Michael Moore, an American, and it was produced mostly with an American crew.
Yes, John Candy was one of the stars, and there was another lesser known but also great Canadian actor Adrian Hough in the film, but other than that, there was a long list of American stars like Alan Alda. According to the formula, Canadian Bacon was not a Canadian film, but it is a very straightforward system.
Social media users are exempt from Bill C-10 and the Broadcasting Act, but the content they upload to social media platforms would be covered under the act. It should be noted that under current CRTC rules, productions under five minutes or less do not require certification as Canadian content. TikTok videos and Instagram videos, which are all less than five minutes, would not fall under the current regulations for discoverability as Canadian content.
Can regulations under the act change? Yes, they can. Does the CRTC think it is a good idea to regulate TikTok and Instagram videos for Canadian content discoverability? I really doubt it. There is an ongoing debate about whether freedom of expression is protected under the Broadcasting Act. In the 1991 Broadcasting Act under part 1, the general interpretation, it states, “This Act shall be construed and applied in a manner that is consistent with the freedom of expression and journalistic, creative and programming independence enjoyed by broadcasting undertakings.”
This part of the act still stands. The CRTC is going to have to respect our constitutional right to freedom of expression under the act. That is just a fact. If it does not, then there will be grounds for a legal challenge to the bill, and it seems pretty clear that freedom of expression will be respected.
In conclusion, Bill C-10 is still flawed and there could be a lot more in the bill to protect small, independent producers and production companies, and to ensure that independent networks such as APTN get their products on those streaming services, so we need to do more to protect Canadian producers and defend them in their relationship to the big companies, and not just the big Internet companies, but also the big Canadian broadcasters.