The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) put Canadian broadcasters, Netflix, the CBC and paperwork firmly in its crosshairs in its Canadian content consultation submission to Heritage Canada.
The organization submitted a 12-point plan for moving Canada’s production sector forward. Among those recommendations, the CMPA called for: an independent review of the CBC; more incentives to drive third-party investment; an expansion of the definition of Canadian content; the creation of a National Discoverability Strategy; more power for indie producers to retain their IP; and a requirement that services such as Netflix pay into the domestic system.
In its opening recommendation, the CMPA suggested a “Brand Canada” strategy, which targets domestic and select international audiences with the objective of creating demand for Canadian content. This, it said, would need to be supported by a significant marketing push to build audiences on traditional and digital platforms.
The CMPA also said a “separate and distinct” review of the public broadcaster is required. The CBC, it said, should be commissioning content that speaks directly to Canadian audiences. It suggested that the pubcaster should be required to enter into a Terms of Trade with independent producers in Canada. In its recommendation, the producer’s association pointed out that CBC receives two-thirds of its budget from Canadian taxpayers, but is not currently mandated to partner with indie producers in Canada. “And rather than be the broadcasting partner of choice for independent producers, the CBC is instead among the most aggressive of all broadcasters in the negotiation of rights to the programs it commissions from producers,” the submission read.
“This kind of behavior towards its producing partners is not commensurate with the status and stature of a national public broadcaster,” it continued.
Export, the buzz word of the moment, was also on the agenda, with the CMPA suggesting Heritage should collaborate with industry stakeholders to “implement a concerted national export strategy for Canadian screen-based content.” The CMPA pointed to the UK, Germany and France as having export models that Canada could learn from.
On the topic of how Canada can attract more third-party private funds from investment, the CMPA suggested a push toward public-private partnerships, which it said would allow indie producers and private investors to work together and grow the sector.
In answer to Heritage Canada’s question of how to encourage risk-taking from creators and cultural entrepreneurs, the CMPA said the system must see to it that “appropriate safeguards are implemented by all federal screen-based cultural agencies to ensure a fair and equitable playing field in Canada in the negotiation of rights to made-in-Canada content.”
The producer-broadcaster relationship in Canada has become “decidedly one-sided,” argued the CMPA, with broadcasters wielding “increasingly enormous leverage in negotiations for the rights and revenues to producers’ shows.” This it attributed to the removal of Terms of Trade as a condition of license in the Let’s Talk TV decision, coupled with increasing consolidation.
“If this imbalance is not meaningfully addressed, it could effectively convert the independent production community into a fee-for-service sector, where broadcasters reap the rewards while independent producers bear all the risk.”
Elsewhere, the submission called for Heritage Canada to partner with other Ministries such as Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) to further the development of business and innovation in Canada’s content sector.
It also suggested a partnership between Heritage and ISED to implement a “Screen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fund” that could address the innovation needs of Canada’s content creators, and help give rise to innovation in the virtual- and augmented-reality space.
Lessening the paper-work load was also on the docket. An overly heavy administrative burden is slowing indie producers down, said the CMPA, with waiting times for Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office approvals and inconsistencies in the interpretation of some program guidelines all incurring time and monetary losses.
The CMPA also suggested that additional incentives be added to the tax credit system to encourage the use of Canadian talent in key roles. While, currently, the tax credit rate for six-out-of-10 and 10-out-of-10 productions is the same, the CMPA proposed that a scaled tax credit be introduced that is relative to the number of Canadian content points a certain project has.
In its fourth recommendation, the CMPA called the current funding triggers too restrictive and says funding should be accessible to Canadian producers regardless of whether it is through a traditional TV channel.
More predictably, the CMPA also called for Over-The-Top (OTT) services and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be required to pay into the Canadian system.