Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Cultural Road Map Could Change Landscape, but Where It Leads Still Unclear

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Cultural Road Map Could Change Landscape, but Where It Leads Still Unclear

Article excerpt

Mixed reviews: Liberals debut cultural plan


OTTAWA - Heritage Minister Melanie Joly unveiled Thursday what she billed as a road map for the future of Canada's creative industries, but precisely where on the cultural landscape it will end up leading remained far out of focus.

The long-awaited strategy seeks to refashion for the digital age all of the pillars that support and regulate the country's famously fragile culture, but little of the change will become apparent overnight.

Instead, Joly is plotting a course that, over the coming months, aims to rework the myriad laws and regulations that govern broadcasting, telecommunications and copyright, as well as the private and publicly supported funds that back musicians, writers and publishers.

The mandate of the CBC is up for a refresh as well, while the government eyes a strategy for supporting local news as it makes its own transition to the online world.

"We will enact policies that help our creators and cultural entrepreneurs address the challenges of today's digital reality, and ensure that Canada's voice will be heard loud and strong on the world stage," Joly said.

The government doesn't intend to go it alone. A $500-million agreement with video-streaming giant Netflix will see the company set up a Canadian branch of operations and invest over five years in original productions in Canada. They've also committed to $25 million to French-language content.

How much the company would have invested anyway is unclear. The company told the government that in 2016, it "commissioned hundreds of millions of dollars of original programming produced in Canada."

The new deal, however, was made under the Investment Act, meaning that if Netflix fails to hold up its end of the bargain, it could be fined.

It's the opposite of what many in the industry wanted to see: Netflix and other interested streaming companies contributing to the same content development funds that traditional broadcasters are legally obliged to support.

A spokesman for Bell Media suggested the $500 million over five years from Netflix is only a fraction of what Canadian companies are required to pay. Bell, for its part, spent $900 million on the 2017-18 broadcast season alone.

"Our total annual investment in Canadian content in 2017-18 is 9 times the average amount that Netflix would contribute yearly," spokesman Scott Henderson said in a statement. …

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