As Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez tries to modernize what qualifies as a Canadian movie or TV series for American streamers who are now legally required to invest in local content, he has a message for Hollywood.
“As Canadians, we know we love you, our American friends. We love you. But we are different, we are not better. We are no worse. We’re just different,” Rodriguez told Banff World Media Festival, looking to US media players to bring Canadian TV and film productions to international markets.
Rodriguez’s Liberal government in Ottawa recently passed Bill C-11 to force US digital players, including streamers, to invest in Canadian content production for the first time.
But the CRTC, which regulates Canada’s broadcast industry, will now hold hearings to determine how much investment is expected from U.S. streamers in local content, as local broadcasters have long done.
And the federal government will simultaneously hold hearings to clarify what qualifies Canadian movies or TV shows, or “Canadian stories,” to modernize the country’s broadcasting laws. “We’re going to dig a little deeper into these issues,” Rodriguez said.
The upcoming negotiations with industry players will be important because if Ottawa wants Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ to bring Canadian content to the global market through their platforms, it must make it clear to US players what will be certified as “Canadian content “.
As things stand, the rules around what constitutes “Canadian content” are vague and open to endless interpretation.
Disney streamed To blush, the Pixar Toronto-set drama about a Chinese-Canadian teenager and MGM adapted The Handmaid’s Talea novel by Canadian Margaret Atwood, for Hulu, but those projects didn’t count as “Canadian content” because they were funded by American players.
Local industry players want the definition of Canadian content expanded to give US streamers an incentive to invest in local stories. The Canadian Media Fund, the largest local financier of local TV series, welcomed upcoming hearings with industry financiers.
“Minister Rodriguez has been instrumental in modernizing our production and broadcast system and making sure it reflects who we are as Canadians. We look forward to working on the next critical steps that will allow the CMF to better serve our growing industry and ensure Canadians get the content they want across platforms and formats,” said Valerie Creighton, president and CEO of the CMF , in a statement following the comments in Banff by Rodrigues.
Also in Banff on Monday, CRTC Chairman and CEO Vicky Eatrides addressed her own hearings to establish local spending commitments for US streamers.
“We get to work, because there is no time to lose. While we’ve seen an influx of investment into our creative sector, including investment from domestic and foreign productions, not every part of the broadcast system is reaping the same benefits,” Eatrides said of giving an edge to underrepresented talent and content creators like the US streamers’ role in investing in local content will be hammered out in upcoming hearings.
Meanwhile, US streamers continue to invest in local content. On Monday, indie studio marblemedia said it had sold a single-camera teen comedy series, Davey & Jonesie’s locker, to Hulu in the US and Prime Video in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Directed by creator Evany Rosen, the series follows Davey and Jonesie, two eccentric high school best friends who discover that their locker is actually a gateway to the multiverse, allowing the duo to escape their high school for new horizons. The series stars Veronika Slowikowska as Davey and Jaelynn Thora Brooks as Jonesie.
“The goal we are working towards is to give Canadian creators even more opportunities to tell their stories. And by this we mean all creators, including those who may not have been as visible in the past,” Eatrides added.