Madam Speaker, in my past life before politics, I was an independent recording artist. I was inspired by the music of Dan Hill, Anne Murray, David Foster, Céline Dion and Shania Twain. I discovered them on radio and television. I do not think it is a coincidence that most of my favourite musicians are Canadian; we have a lot of talent here, but the stars whom I mentioned found their big break in the U.S. instead of Canada. I shared this story because I want to affirm the symbiosis of Canadian content creators and Canadian broadcasters in the lives of Canadians and the value of protecting these institutions to allow Canada's cultural and artistic identity to thrive.
Bill C-10 is important in spirit because it seeks to modernize a 28-year-old law that does not take into account diversified broadcasting platforms with the arrival of the digital world, including Internet, social media and streaming. It is critical to acknowledge the reality of new and growing digital platforms and the implications of a global market and of foreign players entering our system, and we must do so with consideration for the long-term sustainability of Canadian content and Canadian broadcasting platforms. This requires adapting the CRTC's mandates to maximize the success of Canadian entities in the broadcasting ecosystem for the furtherance of Canada's heritage and economic prosperity.
We cannot ignore the impact of the broadcasting, film and music sectors on the Canadian economy. Based on a November 2020 report on Canadian Heritage's website, the GDP impact of broadcasting was $9.1 billion, with $16.9 billion in revenues and 41,901 jobs; the GDP impact of film and video was $4.3 billion, with $13.39 billion in revenues and 71,027 jobs; and the GDP impact of music and sound recording was $637 million, with $577 million in revenues and 8,986 jobs.
The trend is also clear. Over the last 10 years, Canadians have increasingly moved toward Internet streaming services for programs, while moving away from paid-subscription TV. These are both viable avenues for viewers today. The implications of these trends plead for a modernized Broadcasting Act. That is the intent of Bill C-10, but I am not fully convinced that the proposed amendments would accomplish what the bill purports to do. I hope to address these issues today.
Canadian content producers and broadcasters have a vital role in the production of quality Canadian drama, reality shows and news. Property Brothers, Schitt's Creek, Kim's Convenience and Wall of Chefs are top-notch Canadian shows that have garnered global attention. We are living in an exciting time for Canadian content, but content requires funding.
Canadian content creators have expressed concern that the proposed amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) of the Broadcasting Act reflects a weakening of the crucial position of Canadian creative resources in the act. As the act currently stands without amendments, it does so under the assumption of a closed system wherein Canadian controlled and owned broadcasters hold a monopoly. Paragraph 3(1)(f) currently reads:
(f) each broadcasting undertaking shall make maximum use, and in no case less than predominant use, of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming,
Bill C-10 excludes the phrase “maximum use, and in no case less than predominant” and other conditions. The amendment reads:
(f) each broadcasting undertaking shall make use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming to the extent that is appropriate for the nature of the undertaking;
Canadian content creators are concerned that this amendment would diminish the critical position of Canadian creators in the Broadcasting Act. My concern about proposed amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) is its overall lack of clarity and accountability on the role of all broadcasters, whether traditional or modern, in contributing to the creation and presentation of Canadian content. I agree with Canadian creators that the amendment would undermine the value of Canadian content in the Broadcasting Act. In a time when Canadian stories are beginning to find larger audiences and are defining our artistic identity, the amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) is a little disappointing.
I would like to add that the lack of copyright and intellectual property safeguards in the amendments in the midst of the current international environment does not reflect modernization. Writers, composers, publishers and other copyright holders depend on royalties for their livelihoods. It is already difficult for Canadians with artistic vocations to make ends meet. Many domestic talents move to the U.S., Europe or Asia to find a viable path. The lack of intellectual property protection in the growing and complex digital world and globalized markets is unacceptable in this age. The Broadcasting Act needs to include a modernized copyright law. If Canada does not work toward optimizing the environment for creators to thrive, our cultural identity suffers. Canadian content is not just a means to help Canadian works to reach audiences; Canadian content should be protected and supported to help our arts and culture sectors help establish our heritage and Canadian identity.
Bill C-10 is important in spirit because it seeks to safeguard equitable programming. Bill C-10 amends the Broadcasting Act to, among other things, update the Canadian broadcasting policies set out in sections throughout the act by providing, among other things, that the Canadian broadcasting system should provide opportunities for aboriginal peoples to provide programming in aboriginal languages that reflect aboriginal cultures, and to provide programming that is accessible to persons with disabilities and free of barriers while serving the needs and the interests of Canadians, including Canadians from racialized communities and ethno culturally diverse backgrounds.
The bill amends the CRTC's mandate to require more content in aboriginal, disabled, racialized and LGBTQ2 people. However, the bill does not address any guidelines to regulate French content. There is no provision of a benchmark to legislate the percentage of French language content. Equitable programming needs to also modernize the Broadcasting Act to ensure that French and Quebec culture content are given adequate opportunities to thrive.
Broadcasters are critical to fostering Canadian identity in the role they have with Canadian content. Whether they deliver Canadian news, reality shows and drama, or contribute to the Canada Media Fund to produce Canadian content, they are critical to our cultural identity, everyday life and our economy. However, in the current Broadcasting Act there are obligations and content regulations that mean well to safeguard Canadian content creators, but inadvertently put them at risk of losing in their competition with foreign digital players who have access to Canadian consumers with little regulation at this time. If Canadian broadcasters fall down, then their support for Canadian content also falters.
The broadcasting system is a delicate realm that requires a delicate balance for all to thrive. Providing an even playing field with foreign Internet broadcasters like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney, Apple TV+ will certainly help alleviate the unfair competition. Foreign companies should also contribute to Canadian content, but with that should also come the right balance of regulations so that all players, domestic and foreign, can flourish. If they thrive, their investment in Canadian content creation and presentation will inadvertently benefit the fostering of Canada's cultural identity and economy.
In an age when many entities are competing for audiences in the digital world, Canadian news broadcasters are suffering from the added drop in ad sales caused by the economic downturn from COVID-19. A fair and modernized Broadcasting Act would benefit Canada's broadcasting sector. However, Bill C-10 is too vague and does not ensure that web giants like Google and Facebook are obligated to compete under the same rules as Canadian companies. That does not explain how digital platforms and conventional players will compete on an even playing field. It does not explain the guidelines that will be put in place for the production of Canadian content and contributions to the Canada Media Fund.
It would be incumbent on the CRTC to enforce regulations to reflect a modernized act. However, the role of the CRTC is vague. The lack of clarity raises concerns for all stakeholders as to how the CRTC will interpret its role. Will the CRTC over-regulate and stifle Canadian broadcasters among foreign digital counterparts? Will it over-regulate foreign players and shut them out of the system and thereby lessen opportunities for the relaying of Canadian content?
Based on the way the bill is written, it feels like the Liberal government is passing the buck to the CRTC for all decisions. They will then need at least nine months to undertake the first regulatory phase. In this COVID environment we need broadcasters and Canadian creators to have an assurance that they will survive and hope to thrive among international players.
I would like to refer to a conversation I had with one of my constituents, Rob, who owns Gearforce, a pro audio company that supports live concerts. He said that many of his technician friends in the entertainment industry are struggling not only because they are financially hurting because of shutdowns, but also because they are not putting their skills to work. They are afraid they will lose all of the skills they honed over their lifetime. There is a certain standard of excellence that circulates in the arts and culture sector, whether among writers, composers, artists, artisans or technical workers, who have had to work hard to get where they are in a sector where opportunities are very competitive.
A Broadcasting Act that is modernized with the right amendments is a small step forward to helping Canadian arts and culture sector workers and artists find their place in life. However, an ambiguous bill can be more damaging because of potential misinterpretations. If Bill C-10 passes second reading, I hope there will be fulsome discussions at committee to amend the bill.