OTTAWA – An agreement that Netflix will invest at least $500 million in original productions in Canada is set to be part of a long-awaited reboot of Canada’s cultural policy.
Heritage Minister Melanie Joly will unveil the comprehensive overhaul Thursday that will look at everything from the CRTC to how best to sell and promote Canada’s creative work.
The plan is being dubbed a “creative economic strategy” designed to both update the approach the government takes to encouraging Canadian content production and the laws and organizations which govern it.
Getting companies like Netflix to play a bigger role financially is one of the government’s goals as traditional broadcasters have long complained about an uneven playing field.
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Some had hoped to see the policy force the U.S. giants to charge sales tax for their subscriptions or contribute to the same content funds as Canadian broadcasters.
But a government source, not authorized to speak on the record, says Netflix has agreed to invest at least $500 million over the next five years in original productions here.
The government is eager to see Facebook and Google do the same; the search engine giant did recently launch a dedicated Canadian content channel on YouTube.
The goal is to make sure the government’s approach to Canadian content is not tied to arcane technology of the past, and is flexible enough to bolster content creators, be they musicians, artists, writers, architects or video game designers, while also helping them sell their wares abroad.
The policy is the product of months of consultations and will plot a course for a review of the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, which was promised in the 2017 federal budget.
Joly’s speech — scheduled to begin at noon ET Thursday at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa, in the shadow of Parliament Hill — will cover three themes: investing in creators, helping their content get discovered and distributed and — a staple of any conversation on Canadian culture — a discussion on the future of public broadcasting.
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There are some other announcements likely, including more robust funding to help Canadian film, television and music producers find an audience. Some money was allocated to two programs in the 2016 budget, but the expectation is that they’ll be supported with additional funds.
“As our economy changes in an information age, we need to support creative talent who will be critical in future economic growth,” said David Sparrow, president of ACTRA, the performers’ union.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix said ensuring that all of the players chip in to develop Canada’s cultural content will be essential to the survival of Canada’s relatively small marketplace.
“The levelling of the playing field, so that everyone … contributes to the ecosystem, is key,” Lacroix said. “We’re too small in this world to be doing this by ourselves.”