Where is the Canadian media industry now, how did we arrive at this moment, and where are we going? Guests Charles Falzon, founding chair of the CMPA, and Reynolds Mastin, the current CEO and President of the CMPA, give us their hot takes on Canada’s newly proposed media legislation, The Online Streaming Act, now in its second reading in the House of Commons. We chat about what they like about Bill C-11, changes that they think need to happen to future proof the Canadian media industry, and why audiences need to be empowered to redefine successful Canadian content. Along the way we cover diversity, terms of trade, discoverability, producer accessed platform agnostic funding, and market performance.
Charles Falzon (external link, opens in new window) - Among many firsts, Charles was the founding Chair of the CMPA, then CFTA, Canadian Film and Television Association, in 1984. Charles was in the room, leading the meetings when the groundbreaking agreements, such as today’s ten-point system were created. A multi-award-winning TV producer, Charles was a member of the expert panel for Creative Canada and has been Dean of The Creative School at Toronto Met since 2015.
Reynolds Mastin (external link, opens in new window) - The President and CEO of the CMPA, Canada’s national trade association for independent English-language media producers. Formerly CMPA’s Chief Legal Officer, Reynolds has been the Chief Negotiator for key agreements with key players including Hollywood studios, Canadian broadcasters, CMF and CRTC, on key issues, such as copyright, terms of Trade and much else. His first legal gig was articling with the CRTC.
Executive Producers: Irene Berkowitz and Playback
Host: Irene Berkowitz
Content Producers: Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend
Production Producers: Sam McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee
Reynolds Mastin 00:00
In our world, the industry has changed radically. And the independent production sector certainly has had to adapt to that. You cannot survive, let alone thrive, which is what producers, you know, want to do in their own careers for their companies, if you aren't able to deliver content that audiences both want and love.
Charles Falzon 00:27
And I think it's important in this day and age that we keep the public and public demand and public value center. I know philosophically it's there, but in a pragmatic way, is it really at the core?
Irene Berkowitz 00:41
Hey everyone, you're listening to The Sessions, a four-part weekly series where we'll dive deep into The Online Streaming Act and unpack history being made right now, as Canada's media industry leans into the global online era. I'm your host, Irene Berkowitz, Senior Policy Fellow at The Creative School. I've been watching this space for a decade and so excited we're finally here, about to take a huge leap forward...or not. Those two voices you heard at the beginning are today's guests. They bookend this historic moment. Reynolds Mastin (external link) , President and CEO of the CMPA (external link) Canadian Media Producers Association. Formerly its Chief Legal Officer, Reynolds was the chief negotiator with key players including Hollywood Studios, Canadian Broadcasters, CMF, CRTC, on key issues such as copyright, terms of trade, and much more. His first legal gig was articling with the CRTC. Joining him is Charles Falzon, Founding Chair of the CMPA. Charles has been an award-winning television producer, including Geminis and Emmys, and is now Dean of The Creative School at Toronto Met. Charles was in the room back then leading those meetings when groundbreaking agreements such as today's 10-point system were created. Together, we'll discuss where the Canadian media industry is right now, how we got to this moment, and where we're going...or not. So, let's dive in. The future of Canadian media is finally here. So, what is your hot take on the Online Streaming Act? Reynolds? Would you like to start?
Reynolds Mastin 02:29
Sure Irene, and I just want to say how honored I am to be participating in this inaugural podcast with the two of you. So, what's my hot take? I'm very excited, I feel that this bill has the potential to move the industry forward in a way that enables us to build on the success that we've achieved, in no small part due to the foundational work that Charles did 40 years ago in this industry. And also at the same time, I address some of the challenges that the industry is confronting today and seize the opportunities that we have in front of us. So, you know, I would say the top three strengths from my perspective, first the bill makes a key policy priority, ensuring that the full demographic spectrum of our country is fully represented in our Canadian broadcasting system, starting with the primordial place of Indigenous peoples in this country. And of course, including racialized people, those with disabilities, those of different gender expressions, and just the full range of our society today. That's number one. Number two, a focus on ensuring equitable treatment between domestic and foreign broadcasters operating in the Canadian marketplace. And three, a renewed focus on ensuring that IP or intellectual property, the shows, the content that are made by Canadian producers and creators, that that IP also is monetized in Canada, and when a show is a success, that everyone shares in the success of that show. Because ultimately that's how you build strong Canadian companies that are able to invest in the next great show. So those are the strengths, I'm happy to talk about maybe an omission or two, but maybe I'll turn it over to you Charles for your thoughts.
Charles Falzon 04:30
I think for me, and it's a subject that is a delicate one that I know is close to every independent producer's heart and certainly close to Irene's studies, that I still question whether it's central to it, is the notion of their raison d'etre, right? Is it a birthright to be a Canadian producer? Is it a birthright to have every corner of this country and everybody represented? Is it a birthright to really have that level landscape? No, I don't think it's a birthright. I think what's missing, and the reason for it, is the central protagonist, the public. And whether the public is a commercial audience that is moving to Netflix or moving to other places, whether the public is somebody who's interested in narrowcasting a very specific need, whether the public is somebody…it doesn't matter to me how you define the value relationship with that public. But I always am cautious about that being forgotten. Because as I have been, you know, I've mentioned them in different discussions, I think that some of us who were there in the early days of Canadian content may have forgotten to point that out as loudly back then. And I think it's important in this day and age that we keep the public and public demand and public value center. I know philosophically, it's there. But in a pragmatic way, is it really at the core? And that's my only little concern because I've seen it gone astray in the past, in my opinion.
Irene Berkowitz 06:10
So, can I follow up with both of you, because I think you both very much underscored the learning from the crisis the whole industry and the whole planet has been through in the past two years, which is the urgent priority to address inequities and diversities across the industry and across our nation and across the world. So that priority is reflected in the Act. Now the longer standing issue of content, both of you sort of approach that a little differently. So, can I ask, is this Act a visionary paradigm shift that represents the solving of a problem in a shift to a borderless global online era? Charles mentioned the thing that I always write about, which is the shift from supply to demand on audience? Or are we to pick up on some of the things that Reynolds you mentioned? Are we still looking at a supply driven system in an era when we have cases like Netflix and YouTube really proving the power of a demand driven system?
Reynolds Mastin 07:25
Well, I think, you know, it's a very interesting question, because certainly there was a time really not that long ago where we didn't have much of a production industry to speak of, right? And the focus at that time as a matter of policy was in no small part driven to build an industry and to sort of create a structure and infrastructure, a level of crews and creative talent that prior to that maybe didn't exist at a critical mass. And that is something I think we can look at with great pride in terms of mission accomplished. At the same time, of course, our world, the industry, has changed radically. And the independent production sector certainly has had to adapt to that. You cannot survive, let alone thrive, which is what producers, you know, want to do in their own careers and for their companies, if you aren't able to deliver content that audiences both want and love. And so, you know, given the level of competition, particularly, I would say, in our sector, where you've got many production companies that are still competing for access to a small handful of gatekeepers, if you're not laser focused on demonstrating the audience that this show is going to deliver, you're simply not going to get greenlit. That's just the reality of today. So, you know, I think that the system has evolved, the industry has evolved to face the fact that now we operate in a global marketplace.
Irene Berkowitz 09:04
So Charles, what's your take on that? Does the Online Streaming Act (external link) really make a visionary shift to reflect the global market, which wasn't even envisioned in the 1991 Broadcast Act (external link) ? It wasn't technologically possible and therefore it wasn't envisioned?
Charles Falzon 09:21
Yeah, these are tough questions. My whole focus has been for all my life in investing in Canadian talent led by Canadian producers. It's been a very simple mantra of mine. From the very first days when I said, You've got to make sure that you've gotten funding whatever way shape or form, leveling the playing field of ensuring that the supply is happening and maturing and nurturing and let high end Canadian talent make good work that is going to be successful only if the audience clicks with it. And so I think that that is still unclear. I think things like intellectual property rights and management are steps in the right direction. I think the messaging has to be, in my opinion, louder in terms of the empowerment of the audiences as to how we define success. Because to me, success is not based on percentages. Success is not based on, look, ‘we've given X amount of money in tax credits.’ Success is that Canadians are hungry, and the world is hungry for quality content being created by Canadian producers. That's a very simple equation. And I think it's broader than in the past. But you know, I'll make one last comment. I agree. You said there wasn't an international scope or international, you know, in the Broadcast Act, or whatever. Isn't that sinful? When every Canadian producer I knew, was desperately looking at an export market for decades. This didn't happen because of the internet. And yet there was this myopic, in my opinion, approach to it. And so hopefully, this is not going to be that here. And I don't think it can be, I think this thing will be short lived, if the interpretation of it is synced simply from a protectionist, bureaucratic, paint by numbers set approach to creative content. I think it'll die right away. But I think what hopefully is going to happen through leadership of independent Canadian producers and Canadian content creators who are passionate about a way to maybe make it a little bit more of a level playing field, because after 40-50 years of doing this, it's still not fully a level playing field for the producers. I think the bottom line answer is I feel really good about this, with some philosophical caution as to what we do with it, and why it exists.
Irene Berkowitz 11:48
This is very deep territory. So I think all three of us will agree that the Act does address the urgent priority of achieving equity and diversity, it spells that out, changes the definition of what Canadians…and this is a separate conversation, we may have a huge advantage in telling stories because of our wonderful diversity. But it's unclear. I think Charles is saying that whether it addresses the longer standing chronic problem, the omission of the concept and the word audience, and now global audience, from the goal. So, is it possible that this Act sort of is sufficiently vague that it kicks the can to the CRTC (external link) to unhook the old fashioned legacy broadcasters and create and elevate the producers to a platform agnostic producer accessed system? Or that the CRTC will even kick that can to the CMF (external link) ? Where does this missing shift in the fundamental problem that needed to be solved? That doesn't seem to be in the act?
Reynolds Mastin 12:58
I think first of all, really, my question is, is that the fundamental problem that needs to be solved? When I was an articling student, my boss would always say to me, when in doubt, just go back to the Act. You don't need to make it up, go back to the Act. That's what sort of determines our day job state today. And so I was just actually looking at Bill C-11 (external link) , and as you know, there are many objectives enumerated in Bill C-11, as there are in the Broadcasting Act. So here's just one, it's a single sentence, okay? And it's not a matter of dispute amongst the political parties. It's in the Act now. It'll be in the Act afterwards. It says, ‘the Canadian broadcasting system should serve to safeguard, enrich, and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada, because this is foundational legislation that contributes to the country in a myriad of ways’. And so necessarily, our elected members, when they are looking at updating the Broadcasting Act, have to be mindful of how powerful an instrument it is to achieve a range of policy objectives. And then, of course, there are several, you know, many, many other sub objectives of those sort of overriding objectives. So, I think delivering for audiences, that is the industry's job, right? What the industry needs from this legislation is to ensure that there is fairness in the system, there's balance in the system, so that they can deliver on that for Canadian audiences. And I think this bill lays the groundwork for that, even though as you pointed out, and it's 100% true, a lot of that is going to ultimately be determined by the CRTC and the policies and requirements that it ultimately adopts.
Charles Falzon 14:53
I fully, fully agree with Reynolds on this. I don't think it's the job of the bill or any of the organizations you mentioned to determine the relationship with the audiences and how to deliver that success. I think it is the producer, it is the production community, it is the creator. I think that what I'm hoping for, and what I think is a positive, is that it doesn't stifle the producer from doing that back in the day, and again, I'm sorry to talk about back in the day, we started international co-production treaties. And the point of international co-production treaties was to give flexibility to the Canadian producer to make things happen with the internet and access international markets. It wasn't very complicated, international treaties were pretty straightforward. And we, there were many of us who said, ‘Let's do international treaties with as many people as we can other than the US’, and it worked. It was an example of something that worked. I mean, I did 15 or 18 international co-productions over the years, because what we put into that mix was not up to anybody other than the producer and the partner there and the broadcasters in each country. So that's where I keep going with it in terms of saying, let's just keep that. And one last thing. I mean, I think there are so many incredible, independent producers today who really get this. We don't have your bureaucrats who figured out the system and just, let's figure out the point system and get our…it doesn't matter. Let's get a producer. Most of the production community here that I'm aware of are passionate about success through on. It's just, let's not let this bill stifle their ability to do it. And I think it's how we react to it. I think it's a good foundation. I think it's how we interpret it, how we do it, how we push forward, how bold, how confident funding, and also other partners coming into the mix, in addition to the government. Private venture capital, which is a big beef for me, it's like why don't we have more private venture capital going into the system? So I think that it's not about somebody controlling it, like the CRTC or the or any of these organizations. I think it's the producer.
Irene Berkowitz 17:04
I do agree. I think that in some ways, the vagueness of the new bill is really a strength and the Do No Harm aspect. I'm actually really glad you mentioned co-productions because I wanted to move on to ask you about discoverability. One of my favorite lines is by former CBC President Robert Rabinovich, and he says, ‘No one can make anyone watch anything, and no one wants to’. And there is a little specific in this bill about discoverability, which made me say, do they want to make you? Arguably, great content is the best strategy for discoverability. Meaning content is not king, hit content is king. Global audiences are certainly finding Korea's Squid Game, France's Lupin, Spain's Money Heist, and so on without government intervention. So, the question for the bill is, can we regulate discoverability? Or what does that really mean? We incentivize great content?
Reynolds Mastin 18:05
Here's what I would say on that. So let's just take for example, Lupin, which I love, too. I think you could make the argument that part of the reason why we have Lupin is because France has a very robust regulatory regime that has always been laser focused on supporting a strong domestic industry, its production companies, its creators. And as a result of that, is able then to deliver shows for the international marketplace for global platforms like Netflix. So I actually think we can identify any number of examples where it's this magic combination of smart government intervention or regulation specific to the country, the specific country's needs that we're talking about, coupled with unleashing producers and creators to do what they do best. And when we hit that sweet spot, that's where the magic happens. And that's where shows like Lupin happen, and how we then get to enjoy them no matter where we happen to be in the world. Right? And so I think when we're talking about discoverability, certainly when we're talking about a platform like Netflix, the policy issue, it doesn't center around the question of, can we or should we force Canadians to watch anything? First of all, I don't think anyone can actually do that. Maybe if you move to Russia or something, that's something… I don't know. But certainly, that can't and won't happen here. But what I think does matter as a policy issue is to enable Canadians to at least be aware that there is great content that their fellow citizens have produced that's on this platform, right? And let's be clear, Orange is the New Black or House of Cards are all of those original productions that Netflix first began putting out in the marketplace on its platform. Those got global traction because Netflix decided it was going to push them, it was gonna push them on its platform, and it was gonna promote the hell out of them like all studios do, right? And broadcasters around the world promote their product. So discoverability is already being determined by these companies, and they make the decisions and they tweak algorithms to achieve a certain result on the platforms that they control. And I think the debate here is, how do we ensure that Canadians have access to the great content that is coming out of their own country? Doesn't mean they're gonna watch it. Hopefully they do. Hopefully, they watch it and love it. But how is it there's an awareness that it's out there? And that that's a choice that they have that they can make to watch it or not watch it.
Charles Falzon 20:51
You know, going back to your broad question about, ‘is it about your supply or is it about demand?’, and I think it really is about both. You need to have high end supply nurtured that is driven by the demand. Simple. But really, you can't have one or the other. You know, it may be a surprise to you based on my approach to thinking of a market driven environment that I'm really in favor of that access to the shelf space for the producer. What I'm not in favor of is that it's just about filling that shelf space rather than that shelf space delivering to the demand. And what I'm not in favor of is that the shelf space is bigger than the supply can be, so that only the excellent product that does connect with audiences makes it onto that shelf space. So that's a balance, right? There was a time in the process of all this where it was hard to build the production industry and to have content. So really, if you filled the points and you made it and it moved, then it was Canadian content. And it was okay, you made it on a shelf space. And really, the success was just getting it produced for a low budget, and the audience numbers were secondary. Now that's gone by, we're not there anymore. But there was a time and I think that that's sacrilegious. I think that the getting a bit of a push and support for the shelf space and access to make the best product possible. Again, I look back historically at things like the music industry, right? And if you look at the music industry, and there's so many complications of it, I don't mean to oversimplify or complicate it, but the Canadian music industry would not have happened if there wasn't shelf space on Canadian radio. But it also wouldn't have happened if the producer, the artists, the label weren't totally focused on the listener. They were out there making concerts happen, they were all there selling records. And it wouldn't have happened if they also weren't going down to New York or LA and trying to sell their records and the labels there. It was a model that I've always been a fan of in the early days because shelf space was needed, this edge, otherwise we would have been drowned by all the other stuff. But the talent had the flexibility to say, here's how you connect with your audience. And I think that the only group that can do that is those people whose vocation it is to create content for an audience, i.e. producers, artists, directors, talent, only. It’s not government bureaucracy, it's not lawyers, it's not even marketers. It's the passion of the creator. And as long as that is in the middle of the agenda, then it's very great to support the bill in getting shelf space for this thing. And Netflix will buy something in any language if it makes sense to an audience. And Canadians will watch your show if they are entertained, regardless of whether it's Canadian or Japanese.
Irene Berkowitz 23:44
Right. Would you like to see a producer-accessed platform agnostic funding system? Would that bring to life some of the things you're talking about, and that Charles has been talking about? You know, we have these great producers now. We did it. The 20th century, as you said, done. Done brilliantly, strong producers. Why tie the funding to outdated platforms?
Reynolds Mastin 24:08
I think that is where we're likely going to head, Irene. Whether that's going to happen next week? I don't know. But I absolutely believe that the momentum is building towards that. And it has to, right? And I think that the quid pro quo in terms of looking at a more platform agnostic producer-centric approach to this is producers at the same time have to demonstrate that they have an audience. Whether it's literally an audience, or you know, a buyer, I'll call it quote unquote, that will then deliver that show to an audience, right? But so long as that quid pro quo is in place, why would we continue to anchor our system and a structure that just doesn't make sense anymore, right? It just plain doesn't make sense anymore.
Irene Berkowitz 24:58
So the tricky connected question, maybe this is a false flag, because if we really mean to be pushing for globally popular content, don't the producers who need to have the broadcasters or the financiers, whoever they may be, have the product on their side, and everybody needs to be pulling in the same direction? That's the way Hollywood has achieved globally popular content. Why are we fighting over something which we should be partnering on?
Reynolds Mastin 25:31
Well, you know, I think there's often a really interesting dichotomy that takes place in the relationship between independent producers and whether it's, you know, the Canadian broadcasters, the platforms, the global platforms, I do think that there is often incredible symmetry between what the creative production executives at a streamer broadcaster want to achieve, and what the producer and the creative team on a show want to achieve, right? They are vigorously rowing it in the same direction. Where it diverges is when the deal actually has to be structured in terms of okay, assuming that we hit all the marks and the show is a success, who is going to share in that success? Is there going to be an equitable sharing in that success between the production company and whoever has commissioned that show? And there, because of the structural imbalances, both in the market and in our own system, partly because our system is tethered to broadcast triggers, right? This creates a huge asymmetry in the bargaining power when the lawyers and the business executives have to work out what the deal is going to be. And what results is, because of the power that these buyers and commissioners have, they just basically say, this is the deal. This is the deal, take it or leave it. Right? And where it is going both in our market dealing with the domestic players, but also the global platforms are reducing the role of the producer to a fee for service model, where essentially our domestic industry gets converted into the service industry. We have a great service production industry, it's thriving, I'm not saying that as a criticism of what we have on the service side. But part of the success that we've enjoyed as an industry and as a country is we've had that balance. And if you move our entire production industry to a fee for service model, at that point, essentially all that we are are factory workers, with no actual Canadian factories. And I think this would be a huge mistake. And that's why you do need to have some kind of tool and the regulatory toolkit of the CRTC to enable some kind of baseline rules of the road when it comes to negotiation of these deals, so that the creative people both at the streamer, the broadcaster and the production company, and the creators on the show can continue to do what they do best. And when the show is a success, everyone shares in that success and creates a virtual cycle for all the key players in the industry.
Irene Berkowitz 28:21
Wow, I'd love to unpack that. But Charles, you weigh in on that. This is a big issue.
Charles Falzon 28:25
First of all, let’s distinguish between IP and upside. IP is a tool to have a share of an upside. And I think just like in the early days, every producer, including yours truly, may not have shared an upside with co-creators or writers or producers or actors. And then we had residuals and we had profit sharing. And we had that. And we realized that to get the best talent, you had to do that. I fully, fully agree that there's a difference between producing something that comes and goes and does okay and The Sopranos, or whatever the version of it is, where the producers, the creators, should have an upside and major upside. And I also agree about the bullying of the bigger partners and being in that position. And I understand why the independent producers say okay, this is a time where the CRTC can really help us, saying if you're going to take advantage of the system, the IP needs to remain in Canada. I will tell you that I was the owner of a lot of IP that never made any money. Right? Tons and tons of things copyright this copyright...And so I think it's a question of how you navigate that deal. And they can't just rely on audience success for that because there's a lot of middle ground, there's big successes they want. They want the renewal. There's a lot of stuff that's mediocre, but then in the middle, there's a lot of good stuff that should be an upside. So, what I would say is that I think the whole industry is going to have to look at the old model of the studio system because the Americans are used to this. The Americans and big independent producers in the States never had distribution companies, never had libraries. They had collaboration, housekeeping deals, partnership, upsides, development deals with the studios of the time, and they still exist. I think that's the kind of spirit of a relationship we come to, and how we get there? I'm not quite sure. I'm not sure that the IP regulation is the be all and end all. But I can see how it's a tool in the roster of negotiating the deals.
Irene Berkowitz 30:18
Maybe we can have a whole session on this, because this is so big. Arguably, in any business, and including the Hollywood business, the person who risks the money gets the large part of the upside. And if you're a producer that produces a hit, next time you come around, you'll get a better deal. Get everyone rowing in the same direction, because it will benefit everybody. And if I guess, if the legacy broadcast arena is in a sunset phase, maybe here's a new potential role.
Charles Falzon 30:59
Look, I have a passion, because I come from the independent production and distribution world and I am as invested in the Canadian independent scene as anybody you would know. So I know that that's my vision. I always think that for me, it's not about free enterprise in the sense of let's not have any government support. It's, let's let the shopkeeper be connected with the agenda. And the agenda is to sell the stuff to the person who wants it. And the shopkeeper to me is the content producer, always has been always will be. It's not the lawyer nor the minister in Ottawa. And so, how do you do that in a world where you still need the government’s support and the incentives, that's something that we've been navigating. I just think that that's the balance that we need to keep talking about. The more input from young people or young producers or young creators into the mix of this on an ongoing basis, not just a one-time thing, the better. That's just where I go.
Irene Berkowitz 32:01
Yeah, Charles and I, we're constantly at that one place where the rubber meets the road, which are the young producers coming up that we work with every day. They just don't get all these old, old outdated rules and regulations. They are global media citizens, they have YouTube as their role model, and TikTok, and they just get that you produce something great. Everybody wants to watch it. And for them, it's just not that complicated. Right? So I do have one final question. As the purpose of this four part series is to capture this moment where we're just about to sort of make that turn to acknowledging and endorsing and embracing the global era, a quick question about the Online Streaming Act: Pass or no pass, and why?
Reynolds Mastin 32:53
Strong pass. And why? Because this legislation is 30 years old, and the world has changed. And I'm going to now sort of show my own bias having started, as you mentioned off the top Irene, having started at the CRTC. One of the things that I truly loved about working at the CRTC is the public hearings process, the public consultation process, where it was sometimes like the whole world was offering its opinion and expertise about where to go on any given issue or file. And that, of course, is where, if this bill is adopted, the conversation will go next. And we'll obviously, all three of us, I know, be carefully observing and also actively participating in that as I hope Canadians will across the country. And I'm confident we will, as Charles did working with industry leaders in the mid-80s to build the foundations for what we have today, we will renew that foundation in a way that makes sense for the future and which your students will say, yeah, this works. This makes sense. And this is something that I can buy into and want to be a part of.
Charles Falzon 34:04
Hear hear, I fully support. I think it absolutely needs to move forward. I just think unlike the last round, we shouldn't be stuck for so long. It should be a living dynamic thing. And how that happens is yet to be seen, but absolutely...it's about time we get unstuck.
Irene Berkowitz 34:23
Agreed. Five. Yeah, four commissions in six years and two acts? Let's move on.
Reynolds Mastin 34:29
Well, if we can't get it right after all that Irene...(laughs)
Irene Berkowitz 34:33
Well, it's got a title, a great title! The Online Streaming Act!
Reynolds Mastin 34:37
Good start. (laughs)
Irene Berkowitz 34:37
Yes. Well, if we weren't virtual, I'd give you a standing ovation. Thank you beyond words for this. It's been absolutely fantastic. And we should reconvene at the least once we get this Bill to the next stage. Thank you all for listening. For transcriptions, show notes, and more coverage on the Online Streaming Act, please visit the Playback website (external link) . And because our mission with this series is to inform and help push Canada's media policy into the future, we would love it if you would spread the word about this podcast on social media or recommend the show to your colleagues, your friends and family. Thanks everyone for listening.
The internet is the center of the digital age. The Online Streaming Act kicks the can to the CRTC for huge decisions, but is the CRTC prepared to implement the bill with regulation and policy?
Guests Konrad von Finckenstein and Peter Menzies, former CRTC Chair and Vice Chair, give us their hot takes on Bill C-11. We discuss new changes to the act and what those changes mean for the CRTC and the industry at large. They call for the scope of the bill to focus on big players such as online streamers and for the protection of user generated content. Along the way, we cover the structural changes that need to happen to implement producer-accessed platform agnostic funding systems, the extent to which discoverability of CanCon should be regulated and the difference between protecting Canadian content and incentivising its creation. With their insider knowledge we examine the barriers that stand in the way of positive change and the government’s struggle to grapple with the changing landscape of Canadian media that the internet presents.
Konrad von Finckenstein (external link) - CRTC Chair from 2007-2012. During his term, the CRTC became the first regulator in the world to establish a net neutrality policy. Konrad has been head of Canada’s Competition Bureau, a Justice of the Federal Court, and founding Chair of the International Competition Network.
Peter Menzies (external link) - a Senior Fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute (MLI), and former CRTC Vice-Chair and President of Telecommunications from 2013-2017. Peter also served as the CRTC Commissioner from Alberta and NW Territories, and President and CEO of the Calgary Herald.
Executive Producers: Irene Berkowitz and Playback
Host: Irene Berkowitz
Content Producers: Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend
Production Producers: Sam McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee
Peter Menzies 0:01
That's one of the real flaws when we get into C-11 and that sort of stuff, are the big missed opportunities. Right? You could have come up with a new Canadian Communications Act. You could have redesigned the whole Commission, done something visionary and forward looking that captured the 21st century. But now we're dealing with the Internet as kind of an annex.
Konrad von Finckenstein 0:22
I would say that the Internet is really the center of the new digital age, and so the commissioners should understand the Internet. This is what's driving our new digital economy, This is the centerpiece.
Irene Berkowitz 0:36
Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Sessions presented by Playback and The Creative School, a four part series that unpacks the history being made right now as Canada's media industry leans into the global online era, or not. Join us as key stakeholders weigh in on Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act. I'm your host, Irene Berkowitz. Today we're discussing the Online Streaming Act and the CRTC, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. If C-11 passes, the CRTC's job will be to implement the bill with regulation and policy. With the current CRTC planning to weigh in after the House of Commons’ Heritage Committee reviews the bill, we chat today with two CRTC icons and hear their advice. Konrad von Finckenstein was CRTC Chair 2007 to 2012. During his term, CRTC became the first regulator in the world to establish a net neutrality policy. Konrad has been head of Canada's Competition Bureau, justice of our Federal Court, and founding chair of the International Competition Network. Peter Menzies was CRTC Vice-Chair and President of Telecommunications from 2013 to 2017, and previously CRTC Commissioner from Alberta and the Northwest Territories and President and CEO of the Calgary Herald newspaper. He's now a senior fellow at MLI, the Macdonald Laurier Institute. For transparency I'll just add that Peter and I collaborated on a report for MLI last fall about how Canada can become a leader in digital communications, and Peter and Konrad just released an MLI report that solves the online harms puzzle, the next big thing on our national media agenda. But back to C-11. Warm welcome to you both. So here we go. The future of Canadian media is here, or is it? What are each of your hot takes on the Online Streaming Act?
Konrad von Finckenstein 2:46
So a host of regulatory and subsidy measures, and why the whole Internet, which is a huge innovator, an engine of innovation, of growth, of economic wealth, et cetera. Why do you try to subject them to this? You may stifle innovation, you may also have unintended side effects, et cetera. I just do not understand why they chose this. And secondly, if you actually implement the present act, I don't think CRTC as constituted with the present resources could possibly manage this. It would take years of litigation and hearings. It is just a backward approach to a very simple problem: to bring the streamers, i.e. the people who broadcast over the Internet, into the system and make them contribute.
Peter Menzies 3:35
What they've tried to do is throw a harness around change in that sense and rein it in. I'm more inclined to say here's change. How can we figure out how to ride it? How can we figure out how to make this into something really special? What they need to do is carve out the part that worries them. Define the problem. And the problem is probably companies that make more than $100 million a year. And if folks want money, just carve that out and go get the money.
Konrad von Finckenstein 4:05
All the power that you're giving the CRTC under 10.2 to register, over 9.1 to impose should be limited. Don't add interest in the small fry. You are interested in the people who run it as a business and limit the act to that. And then you have dealt with the problem. And by the way, you have no more problem about freedom of speech and user generated content, et cetera. You can actually leave the act as it is. You just say that those who can insist that they be registered and those who can insist that they contribute to the system of various things are limited to this class of people. Leave the rest of the Internet in peace. What you're trying to do is protect the existing system against Hulu and Netflix.
Peter Menzies 4:56
This legislation creates so much hesitancy. And the one thing markets dislike is uncertainty. They need to know if they're going to invest and you're going to get prosperity and innovation and all the sorts of things you want in the economy, you have to have some sense of certainty. And this C-11 used to be C-10, it creates so much uncertainty and leaves so much up to the CRTC to define. And the powers that it grants are so sweeping, even once the CRTC fences it off once, which they'll have to when they go through it the first time, people will still be wondering how solid the fence is.
Irene Berkowitz 5:39
You're both talking about the whole of Internet scope, the need to limit the scope according to a well defined purpose. Where would this change ideally happen? Now, in the bill while it's proposed legislation or down the road at the CRTC? What do you recommend?
Konrad von Finckenstein 6:04
Oh, now, absolutely. This is a government decision. This is not something that you give to an appointed body. I cannot see how you will leave this to the CRTC. It's not a body that's capable of doing this. This is a government decision. The government should decide, yes, we want to go after large scale streamers. These are the streamers, and this is what you can do, CRTC.
Peter Menzies 6:29
Near as I can tell, the proponents want two things that they're not going to lose the financial support they've had to create Canadian content and have built their business models on. So why don't we just take all of that stuff off the table and just deal with the big streaming companies and have a discussion about how much they're investing in Canada, how much they're taking out of Canada, and how much we want to make sure is reinvested because it's kind of erratic that you'd let anybody in any other industry come in and take a billion dollars a year, or I'm just picking that out of the air, in revenue and not leave anything behind.
Konrad von Finckenstein 7:06
And there is a second problem. Even once you establish any kind of funding that we have, you have to be Canadian owned and controlled, and you have to own the IP rights. So you establish a new regime. Netflix is fine, and they pay whatever it is, they can't access it [the funding] because they're not Canadian owned and controlled and of course they want to own the IP, right? So they can sell it anywhere. But no, it has to be owned by Canadians. So if you're going to do this, you actually have to do the second step. You have to somehow provide that they can also access it. So if they want to produce a Canadian movie, with Canadian actors, filmed in Canada, based on a Canadian screen, they are still not eligible because they're not Canadian owned and controlled. And by the way, as I pointed out many times, this is going to fall smack into the Canada-Mexico-US agreement. There's no way that this is going to stand up. You can't force people as part of regulation to pay into something to which only their competitors have access, but they don't.
Irene Berkowitz 8:14
So I'm glad you're bringing this up, because I had wanted to ask you about two questions on this exact thing you mentioned, Canadian content. It was actually never conceptually defined. So it sort of got a procedural definition, the CRTC ten-point system. But post C-11, and this gets into what you were just saying. Konrad, how will CRTC manage to define Canadian content?
Konrad von Finckenstein 8:42
Well, unless they abandon the whole existing structure. Right now, as you know, you can get funding from the Canadian Media Fund. You can get it from the CRTC, you can get it from Telefilm Canada, or you can get a tax credit if you comply with CAVCO. All four of them have the same rule. You've got to be Canadian owned and controlled, and you have to be the owner of the IP rights. So unless the CRTC says we're going to establish a whole new subsidy regime which takes this away, which I cannot see them doing, and besides, I can imagine the outcry there would be, I have no idea how they are going to do this.
Peter Menzies 9:24
There's a broader issue here, too, that has never been resolved, and the CRTC has struggled with it forever. What is the point of CanCon? Is it cultural or is it an industrial subsidy? Decide what your primary purpose is and focus on that. Pick a lane.
Irene Berkowitz 9:41
This is also connected to what I'm calling, the great unhooking from legacy broadcasters. Momentum is said to be building for producer accessed platform agnostic funding. How will CRTC even begin to implement that?
Peter Menzies 9:58
One of the tricky things with this is that it decouples, as being said, Canadian ownership from the traditional Broadcasting Act definition of the necessity of being Canadian owned and controlled. So in a sense, you're kind of outsourcing your cultural funding. American companies are going to be providing funding for Canadian culture. It's not irrational, but you are outsourcing it and the opportunities there. A cynical person would take a look at it and say, well, that's an opportunity for the Canadian companies to lessen their funding burden and ask for that in exchange, where they would go in and say, like, right now, 30% is the ask of your revenues for Bell. I think it's lower for Rogers, but for Bell, 30% of your revenues have to go into the production of Canadian programming. Right. It would be very easy for them to go into that upcoming CRTC hearing whenever it happens and say, well, look, now you've got all this money you're going to get from Netflix. You've got all this money you're going to get from these guys. You don't need 30%. That's more money than people can spend. That's way more money. I mean, there's going to be a lot of money in there if you look at it with current formulas. So at the end of the day, it could be a lesser commitment from Canadian companies being replaced by a larger commitment from non-Canadian companies.
Konrad von Finckenstein 11:27
Well, Peter, in all fairness, the logic, whether you accept it or not, is that you want to expose Canadians to Canadian content. Nobody but Canadians will produce it. So therefore, you have to subsidize a Canadian industry, production industry in order to get Canadian content. That's the logic that has been advanced and the CRTC still sticks to it,
Irene Berkowitz 11:52
Does that logic make any sense in the 21st century when lots of countries, including some Canadian shows, are killing it on the global stage? Let's talk about discoverability and whether that can even be regulated. We have Kim's Convenience and Schitt’s Creek and many other shows that are really popular on the global stage. Is the logic that you need to incentivize creation valid?
Konrad von Finckenstein 12:25
I would think, no. I mean, somebody, let's say Netflix, wants to make money in Canada. If there is a demand and if there is a desire for people to watch something that reflects Canada, of course they will produce it because of the Canadian market. But they will produce it in such a way that they can also sell it in other markets. Besides, again, they know they are not going to produce something only for Canada, but they will produce it, I don't see why they would not. If it's a good story, they can see the potential for it, it's selling, sure. No problem. If it sells in Norway. Wonderful. So there is this very narrow view that actually only Canadians can do it and you have to subsidize, otherwise you won't get any stories out of Canada. In today's age, I just think it doesn't make any sense anymore.
Peter Menzies 13:19
First of all, making hits in film or TV is a really risky business. It's like one of the worst businesses you can possibly go into if you're looking for a guaranteed return on investment. That said, the best way to do it, I think, is on a market basis, where you are creating programming that appeals to people, because there's not much point in creating it unless you're just designing it for purely industrial subsidy. There's not much point in creating it unless somebody's going to watch it. It's a cultural failure unless you do. And you have to understand that probably eight out of ten aren't going to achieve the sort of audiences you want it to. But as Konrad said, if it's a good story, well told, it will succeed.
Konrad von Finckenstein 14:07
I would go further than Peter. I would say that the Internet is really the center of the new digital age, and so the commissioners should understand the Internet. This is what's driving our new digital economy, et cetera. This is the centerpiece. You have to understand how it functions and your decisions have to reflect your knowledge of that. And on that basis, it should be chosen,
Peter Menzies 14:31
Actually. And that's a good point, it's not the first time I've been corrected by Conrad and it won't be the last. But I think it was a good correction. That's one of the real flaws when we get into C-11 and that sort of stuff is the big missed opportunity. You could have come up with a new Canadian Communications Act. You could have redesigned the whole commission, done something visionary and forward looking that captured the 21st century. But now we're dealing with the Internet as kind of an annex to the broadcasting world. Broadcasting is just a teeny, teeny, tiny part of the Internet.
Irene Berkowitz 15:09
If you were the leadership, chair or vice chair now of the CRTC, what would you do? What's your advice?
Konrad von Finckenstein 15:17
Let's reduce the scope. Only those people have to register with these criteria. So you catch the big streamers. The other ones, clearly say you’re exempt. I don't want to deal with you. It doesn't make sense. And how to apply the Broadcasting Act to you makes no sense. So here is my universe that would be the very number one, and then hold a hearing and have them all appear and say, what is it you can do to help us meet the goals as set out in this legislation? And what does this capability mean in terms of streamers? What is the reflection of the Canadian arena? What would you do, et cetera? And then on the basis of those hearings, et cetera, you can then construct the policy, but you have a manageable universe,
Peter Menzies 16:14
Very much the same sort of instincts. The first thing you would want to do and you would want to signal it right away because you don't want to risk it. The legislation itself will create uncertainty. A lot of those small YouTube creators and that sort of stuff, they're really scared right now, from what I can understand. They're really nervous. They don't have enough money to get into this, but they're really scared and nervous. So the first thing is to signal that, okay, we're going to fence this off and we're going to just from an operational point of view, like if you're running that, make sure whatever you're going to do, you can do well. And if you spread your resources too thin, you're going to create confusion, dry up investment, and you're going to do harm. So it's almost, I guess, going back to the medical thing to rephrase Konrad. It's like first, do no harm, but fence it off, get the piece you want. You might be tempted to take more, but just take what you can chew.
Konrad von Finckenstein 17:13
User generated content is off the table. We don't want to deal with it. We have no intention to deal with it. It has nothing to do with broadcasting. And so anybody who's worried about us touching free speech, that's not on the table, I would take that off at the very beginning.
Peter Menzies 17:31
Yeah. A regulator really never wants to be in the news. You don't want to be the story any more than a referee wants to be the story from a hockey game. Figure out the rules, keep it simple, apply them fairly.
Konrad von Finckenstein 17:41
When we've seen everything, when you come, please address the following points, sort of six or seven, et cetera, clearly showing what our thinking was and what you wanted. So just to narrow things and get people to focus and they can see that's where our concerns are. I think that would be very helpful in this case too.
Irene Berkowitz 18:00
With all we have discussed, this is about missed opportunities that don't come along very often because legislation is a very big deal. C-11, pass or no pass, and why?
Peter Menzies 18:13
I think it'll pass because Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said that we'll listen to people. They'll show some flexibility. Whether that goes the way I want it to or whether it goes the other way, I don't know. But he said he's open to amendments.
Konrad von Finckenstein 18:30
Unfortunately, I agree with you. I think it will pass, but two things. One, it has a much better exemption for user generated content than C-10 did, and that will take a lot of steam out of the opposition, I think. Secondly, under this bill, the government gets a huge power of direction, far more than they have in the present legislation. I think they are now committed to doing it this way. I'm just hoping that both the Senate and in light of public pressure, there will be some sensible directions coming out limiting the vast power that's being given to the CRTC.
Peter Menzies 19:08
But whatever happened to the government's innovation agenda? This government, like five years ago, that's all you heard about was what we're going to do about innovation and that sort of stuff. And maybe they're doing it someplace else, but on this file, there's nothing innovative about it.
Konrad von Finckenstein 19:23
Why has the Minister of Heritage become the Minister of Internet? I just don't understand it. And most other governments have either formed a new department or Minister and given specific responsibility for this. It made sense 30 years ago. It doesn't fit now.
Irene Berkowitz 19:40
I can only hope that the two of you will be front and center, if not in those conversations in the House of Commons and in the Senate and I hope that the government will listen to you.
Peter Menzies 19:54
Well, Rodriguez did say they listened to experts and I'm hoping the three of us are included in his definition. (Laughs) I'm not sure we will be, but I hope.
Irene Berkowitz 20:07
Well for sure you two are. I want to thank you both for your truly valuable time, your incredible depth of expertise and your amazing wisdom. It has been just so fabulous chatting with you.
Peter Menzies 20:23
Thanks. I really enjoyed it.
Konrad von Finckenstein 20:24
Thanks for inviting us.
Irene Berkowitz 20:25
For previous episodes of The Sessions, transcriptions, show notes and more coverage on the online streaming act, please follow the link from the Playback website. And because our mission is to inform and future proof Canadian media policy, we would love it if you could spread the word about this podcast to your colleagues, friends, and on social media. Thank you so much for listening. I'm Irene Berkowitz and this has been The Sessions.
Big announcements are coming. Valerie Creighton, President and CEO of the Canadian Media Fund, tells us how the CMF is getting future-ready in wake of Bill C-11.
Teasing a global content fund and other big changes to the CMF later this spring, we get Creighton’s hot take on The Online Streaming Act. Creighton identifies what producers are most concerned about: Urgency for change and addressing the global market. We discuss what the CMF will do to support creators from equity-deserving groups, how to bring streamers into the CMF, and if user generated content from platforms like, YouTube and TikTok, can fit into the CMF going forward.
Looking forward we examine how incentivizing and codifying diversity into legislation can help Canadian content reach global audiences. We revisit the possibility of producer accessed, platform agnostic funding systems, unhooking from linear broadcasters and how the CMF will address the data desert identified in the 2021 Spark Courage report.
Valerie Creighton (external link) - President and CEO of the Canada Media Fund since 2005, leading the organization through its origin in a merger between the Television Fund and The New Media Fund, through CMF’s official founding on April 1, 2010, and onwards, conquering countless national and global challenges. Creighton steered the industry through the pandemic, the searing inequities it revealed, as the shift to a global, online media market gained steam, increasing stress on our funding model – navigating the industry to record employment and preparing it for new legislation.
Executive Producers: Irene Berkowitz and Playback
Host: Irene Berkowitz
Content Producers: Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend
Production Producers: Sam McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee
Irene Berkowitz 0:00
Valerie Creighton 0:09
Not quite yet. We're very close. There are some significant changes that will be happening at the CMF. No, I think I'll stop there because I can't spoil the surprise. We're going to try to turn this ship so that the focus is really as a global content fund.
Irene Berkowitz 0:27
This podcast will drop on March 8, a week from today. Will there be any public announcements between now and then?
Valerie Creighton 0:36
I think it will probably be sometime the week of March 14.
Irene Berkowitz 0:43
Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Sessions presented by Playback (external link) and The Creative School. Our four part series unpacks history being made right now as Canada's media industry leans into the global online era. Listen in as key stakeholders weigh in on Bill C-11, The Online Streaming Act. (external link) I'm your host, Irene Berkowitz. Today in episode three, we explore Bill C-11 and the CMF, Canada Media Fund. We are so excited to chat with CMF’s legendary leader Valerie Creighton (external link) . Valerie has been President and CEO of CMF since 2005, leading the organization through its origin in a merger between Television Fund and New Media Fund through its official founding in 2010 and onwards. Conquering countless challenges, especially in the last two years when the industry faced a triple threat from the pandemic, the searing inequities it revealed, all while the digital shift to a global online media market gained steam and put our funding model under increased threat. Navigating all of this, Valerie steered the industry towards record employment and prepared CMF for new legislation, which is here. For listeners who may not know. CMF is the private public partnership that finances Canadian content. Half of its annual budget of about 470,000,000 used to come from Canada's cable companies, matched by Canadian Heritage (external link) . But Heritage has contributed a bit more in recent years to offset cable decline. Above all, CMF is where policy meets producers and shows them the money. Positioned as champions of courageous storytelling to share with the world, CMF is the centerpiece of the Canadian content system. Valerie is its pinnacle. And it's fair to say the industry's hero, including mine. Valerie, very warm welcome.
Valerie Creighton 2:43
I don't know what to say, Irene. Nobody could do any of that without a whole village working together. And I think the reason we've gotten to where we are not just at the CMF, but as an industry, is because so many people contributed with ideas and energy and interest. But thank you for that introduction.
Irene Berkowitz 3:04
I'll start with the same question that I asked both the CMPA and the CRTC in episodes one and two. Valerie, what is your hot take on Bill C-11?
Valerie Creighton 3:15
The Online Streaming Act, Bill C-11, is actually the key to unlocking a very dated structure that we have in the country. Without it, yes, life will go on, but it is the key that will change I think the future for all of us to make a better Canada and its passage is really important. The steps afterwards are important. And, of course, the CMF’s role comes at the end of the day after both the legislative and regulatory process. But it is absolutely key. And I think the Minister has done a really good job of addressing many of the issues that came up around Bill C-10 (external link) . I know there's still debate out there about what else has to be done, and that's the job of a democracy. That's the job of the Canadian Heritage Committee (external link) as they look to review the bill.
Irene Berkowitz 4:00
I think even producers in the industry, most do not understand the ins and outs and the technical details of the bill, and they just want to work, be paid and have a career trajectory.
Valerie Creighton 4:14
Irene Berkowitz 4:15
We are going to get to Canadian content, the streamers, diversity, and a level playing field shortly. But I do want to ask you something. You mentioned last month at Prime Time that big announcements would be coming from the CMF. Has the moment arrived?
Valerie Creighton 4:32
Not quite yet. We're very close. There are some significant changes that will be happening at the CMF. No, I think I'll stop there because I can't spoil the surprise, but some big shifts in what the future is going to look like. We have an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, making sure that the CMF does create the opportunity in our organization for systemic change to allow that to happen. Canada has no shortage of storytellers, innovation, creativity and ideas. We are rife, we are wealthy in that regard. But our structure, especially us at the CMF, and the way it was set up really doesn't help us embrace all of that. So the changes at the CMF are structural. We'll be getting the CMF future ready for what we can best anticipate might happen. What we're going to try to do at the CMF is do as much as we can within the current restrictions so that when the higher authorities and legislation and regulatory are done their work, we're ready to hit the ground running. So that's the information that will be coming in a couple of weeks.
Irene Berkowitz 5:46
You have also mentioned what I'm now calling the great unhooking from the gatekeepers being only the legacy broadcasters. In terms of the structural changes, what can CMF do in the next year?
Valerie Creighton 6:00
Well, there's a few things we can do. There are about three levels of authority for change. Some of the change is what the CMF is able to do under the current terms and conditions of our contribution agreement with Canadian Heritage. So some things we have our own authority for. So, for example, what we want to do in the growth and inclusion area that has been sanctioned by the government. They provided the extra money to do so. That's really up to us now. How to make that happen? There's another level of authority which is at the Minister's level, and he can give us the ability to make some changes. The big ones, as you say, the great unhooking, will not happen until the legislative and regulatory process is complete because it's all tied into that change for the future. And with all the issues that COVID brought us, it also brought us some great opportunities. We certainly learned how fragile our industry is. We learned that project by project financing is not going to hold us well in the future, going forward. We learned that the community works together and came it up with phenomenal ideas to survive through COVID. The way production companies make content is likely to change. There were some good lessons learned from COVID, so through that we will pick up what we learned and embed that in the new program. If C-11 didn't happen, that change will still have to come if we want the Canadian production and creative industry to remain whole and to also remain competitive on the global market. So another way will have to be found.
Irene Berkowitz 7:40
If there's no immediate shift to a producer-accessed platform agnostic funding model, how will the online streamers be brought into the CMF, and what do you think their reaction will be?
Valerie Creighton 7:55
The streamers are in the system now in a way. They've been in the country for a very long time. There's lots of discussion about the issue on intellectual property rights and service production and what their role really is. But I think with evidence of them establishing a presence, an office presence in the country, I've had many conversations with some of the streamers around the CMF’s role, and content. And don't forget that we've done many projects where CMF is in the budget, the Canadian broadcaster will be in the budget and a foreign streamer will be in the budget. And those were quite successful. We kind of view the streamers as the big bad guys in many ways in many sectors, but it's simply not the case. And we can't ever forget that the streamers are global entities, they have deep pockets and they have worldwide distribution, and all of that is good for Canada. I think the bargain has to be, how do we make sure that we aren't completely overrun by content that essentially you could call service production, in the more linear field, or work for hire? Because we know service production is on the rise. Work for hire is on the rise. That's a very good thing for the country. It keeps people employed. It keeps those companies coming here. They value our resources. But the real trick here, Irene, is to find the balance between all that good work and important work and the domestic market and how we don't lose the domestic market in the advent of all of that pressure. That's my fight, that's my passion, is to make sure that our Canadian storytellers and our Canadian content is part of this thriving future environment.
Irene Berkowitz 9:40
You talk to the streamers all the time. Are they going to be on board with this?
Valerie Creighton 9:46
Well, I talk to them all the time. Not all of them all the time, but a few. The feeling I have is that they are serious about the country. They like our creativity, they like our content makers. They're looking for authentic stories. I'm not saying it's going to be perfect because the streamers have a model in the market that they stand behind, and that's fair. That's the business they're in. But I think there just has to be, in the old language, the leveling of the playing field. They're not our enemy. They should be really strong partners, but fair partners. When it comes to things like intellectual property and how content gets distributed, I think they're open to the discussion, and I think it just remains to be seen where it all evolves. I know that it's not my job to do that for sure. I don't get paid that much. But the government and people who are looking at those systems have been in discussion with the streamers universally for like two or three years now. So I am optimistic that Canada is in for a really exciting ride to our benefit.
Irene Berkowitz 10:46
What about user generated content sites like producers on YouTube and TikTok? They're quite worried about being included in this new vision. As you know, one of our most popular creators, Lily Singh, has been very outspoken about not being included in the rules and regulations (external link) . Where do you see CMF as we go forward?
Valerie Creighton 11:12
Well, as you know, the Bill refers to all of that in terms of exempting social media content. And then there's the question of professionally produced content. That's a legislative issue that has to be sorted out. For us, this goes back to what does the future look like? And I was very interested in a document I read recently about a program that Screen Australia has called Skip Ahead (external link) . And they are looking at content creators that come from YouTube, that come from TikTok, that come from many places where they've had tremendous success and opening up the doors of that organization to find a way to bring those content creators in and finding a different way to support them if they want to be supported. Many don't because they've got a system and a way of making content that's getting out to the world. That's fantastic. But there are some who may need other resources, whatever it is, we need to make sure that the blossoming of all this incredible talent and content out there is embraced.
Irene Berkowitz 12:12
Canadian content historically landed on a procedural definition, the CRTC's ten point system, which is very hooked to the legacy broadcasters. All of this worked rather brilliantly to build a 20th century industry, leading us to this amazing day. Now when we have record employment in the industry and a fantastic media workforce, what's next for Canadian content? And does that have its locus in the CMF or the CRTC or elsewhere?
Valerie Creighton 12:46
The CMF is a small part of a very large ecosystem. And yes, we still are the largest financing tool for content, for the industry. But for us, the picture will be we're going to try to turn this ship so that the focus is really as a global content fund. So part of that is looking at ways to allow the production companies to produce content at the development stage without the requirement of a broadcast license. That was one of the pilots (external link) we initiated during COVID. I believe if we do a really good job on that front, we will develop great content, great stories that will be more market ready. So the question becomes, if you have a stellar piece of Canadian content driven by Canadians and there's demonstrated market interest, why wouldn't we be able to support that through the CMF? Our money is still a public private mix, as you mentioned in the beginning. It's Canadian money. So obviously that content would have to be shown in Canada available for domestic audiences, but it could be through linear or it could be through many of the online services that are out there. If you're talking about a platform agnostic world, the world has changed so much. I mean, we see content makers out of Quebec are now working in English. They're working in all formats just like the rest of the world. That content can now be accessible to the world with a couple of clicks of a button. So the world is open to us as a country. And I think for the CMF, the focus is on content centric, platform agnostic, a global content fund. And our true north will be the content. Because if we're not on the side of the content, well, what are we doing here? Like, whose side are we on? What's the point? Because we're not in the business of supporting the tremendously, wonderful and successful service industry. That's not our job. Our job is to keep that domestic element in the overall balance of what happens from the bill, through regulatory, through content support that comes out of the CMF at the end of the day. That's kind of the continuum.
Irene Berkowitz 14:56
So you just mentioned development without a broadcaster. One of the surprising findings that I found in doing my research was that development, in the absence of the proper financial pressure to exploit, doesn't get the best out of the development. I concluded that sort of throwing money at development doesn't sufficiently pressurize it to become successful in the national or the global market. How do you guys approach that question? Which was a surprising finding for me.
Valerie Creighton 15:32
We have done a number of experiments with development, I think, for development, what we're currently doing is assessing, okay, we've tried XYZ, did it work? Did it not work? And of course, development doesn't happen in a day. So for us to suddenly jump on a bandwagon and say, oh, this didn't work or that didn't work. I mean, we have to allow it the time to get through its process. I think there has to be a mix in that. There's a fine balanced approach. I think that has to happen here between serious market interest potentially in the development because it's an interesting idea. But not forcing that process through to meet a structured timeline, because, look, nobody gets up in this industry in the morning and say, I'm going to make a really bad piece of content today because I got $100,000. I think our job at the CMF is to try to dig some of those nuggets of wisdom out of the system and figure out what is the way forward that gives that content the best possible chance. And it could be a mix of things, but the answers to that, I won't have them probably for another year.
Irene Berkowitz 16:42
I suspect you agree that producers have well earned the right to access funds directly after all these years of very hard work. In my 2021 book, Mediaucracy, I suggested an incentive instrument that could be used to reward market performance. How do we use the funding to make sure we're reaching an audience? How will we get this done?
Valerie Creighton 17:12
Producers are our applicants. We don't fund the broadcasters. Our deal is with the producer. Now, can that be a different deal, a stronger deal? Sure. And we're looking at all kinds of ways to do that. In terms of incentives for the audience, the problem with measuring audience is it all depends on definitions. So right now, the CMF model in the performance envelopes, because what we do, it's a very competitive process. The broadcasters compete. We look at their past history, their envelopes. I think we will need to look at different measurements. Audience right now is our major measurement. But we know it's not enough because we know we're not measuring all of the online audiences that are out there. And the thing about content is you never know if what you're making is going to hit that chord with an audience or not. And if we had the magic success formula to that… even in the US, if you look at their development history and the massive amount of content that's put into development. Hundreds of thousands of titles and maybe four or six get squeezed down to the possibility for air and maybe two or three actually get on the air. We're not manufacturing widgets here. And at the same Prime Time, I started to talk about moving to landmark from landfill. Well, boy, I could hardly leave the room because people were so distressed. Because, of course, any time you make statements like that, there's thousands of questions underneath it. Our regulatory bargain required our broadcast community to hit certain targets in order to get Canadian content on the air. And that was a fair bargain at the time. I think now it's not about that bargain. It's really about the opportunity before us. So how we define what success is, is a big question for us. What might the future look like? What could we all guess on that one? What are the tools we need to get underneath that success? And I still come back to the content. I have complete 300% faith in the creativity of our industry to develop content that will resonate in the world. And I really believe if we do a different job getting under the content, we'll have at least a better chance in the market and our producers potentially would have a better chance of negotiating with the IP. There are other models in the world. The UK made a decision a while ago to really lift up the mid tier producer, and now those guys are negotiating hard in the marketplace and they're retaining IP. Some Canadian companies are too. We're all in such a state of flux around this. It's really hard to define precisely today, what are the tools? The reason why I want to get the CMF future ready from an organizational point of view, is to be able to start to have those discussions with the industry to consider the best, most appropriate tools. It could be a million things, but a different way of financing that actually reaches those objectives.
Irene Berkowitz 20:24
Let's talk about diversity and representation and C-11. Given the urgency for equity across our industry, our nation and the world, why is it so critical that this be codified into legislation? And what will be the CMF’s role in making sure this actually becomes real?
Valerie Creighton 20:47
Well, this is a societal change. It's not just a funding change. It's about the door being open to this and we ain't going back. Thankfully, we are never going back to where we were. And I think why it's encoded in legislation is because that makes it real at that level. Now, you can encode a lot of things in legislation and they don't always become real. I think it's stories that change people. It's stories that tell us who we are. Without storytelling, it really doesn't matter what any piece of legislation is in our sector, at least. I said to Jesse Wentay once, I am a white girl of privilege, but I lived with an Indigenous man for 20 years and it was the storytelling of his family and his culture and his nation that opened my eyes. And I think reconciliation comes from storytelling. It comes from a human understanding that this is who we are and we're all in this together, no matter the color of our skin.
Irene Berkowitz 21:50
I read about that. Your new data point around diversity and your other reports such as Spark Courage (external link) , have talked about the data desert. You can't improve unless you can measure progress on either global audiences or diversity and representation.
Valerie Creighton 22:08
So for the CMF, we had started talking about some way to start opening up the door before the events of 2020. We barely scratched the discussion. We were not the hero here at all. But when that tragic summer happened, we brought together in June of 2020 I think, it was a group of black industry leaders to have a conversation. And that led over the year to what we call our equity and inclusion strategy (external link) . And again, you can have a great strategy, but unless you're actually acting on it, nothing much changes. So we have done a number of things. Certainly we hired two great individuals: a young Canadian Ethiopian filmmaker in the documentary community, a young Latino in the French market, Diego Briceño and Tamara Dawit (external link) . And they've been working with us since 2020 to guide us to work with many of those communities out there, Black, people of color, Indigenous, to bring intelligence back into the CMF. Right after this podcast, we're doing a whole session with all of our staff on the sensitivities around this because we all come to this discussion, at least many of us do, these are white, colonial driven institutions in the country. We all bring our own lived experience to it. I know I learned in my personal life that sometimes your language, you don't even realize what you're saying and the impact on other people that it may have. So we hired the staff. We did a lot of workshops. We had an addition to our board of two people from diverse communities. We looked at all our language within the CMF. We did the Seek More campaign (external link) . We took apart many of our programs to include things like initiatives, in the new program architecture, to expand them through incentives to the broadcasters and the digital platforms in terms of licensing and supporting the content owned by under-represented communities, mechanisms to ensure that the content’s creative control were from individuals within those communities. The CMF is also about partnerships, we cannot do this alone. We just launched Persona ID (external link) , which is a pilot to facilitate self identification that helps us to collect data way more effectively so we can actually see, have we moved the bar? Has there been change or not? The only way you can really do that is through good data. We're not done. It's really just beginning the process.
Irene Berkowitz 24:44
What are the producers most concerned about now?
Valerie Creighton 24:49
What we heard in our consultation was that the big thing that they're focused on is there has to be change. It's a global market. It's a global business. Our structure in Canada, a lot of elements within it are going to force us to stand on the 49th parallel and look up. That is no longer going to work. The Canadian broadcast system is still absolutely critical to what we do in this country. It's just that now it's impossible to have to be the only trigger at the CMF, the only place where producers can go. And they're doing some phenomenal things. I mean, you just look at The Porter (external link) is probably the most recent example of a co-production with the CBC and BET (external link) in the US, it's a phenomenal piece of content that unlocks a piece of history in this country. So I think for the whole system to change, the producers, what we heard consistently change was top of mind. Urgency for change was actually probably the top thing because, you know, yes, it's a big ship to turn. And I am probably one of the most frustrated people in the country about the rapid pace of change that's happening in our industry and our ability just to keep up with it is very frustrating. Obviously, we had many people from diverse communities who spoke about the issues they have been facing and the really critical need to break down barriers, break down doors. And I was really frustrated when all of that happened because all of a sudden many organizations were jumping on the bandwagon and saying things like, well, we're going to have 50% of people of color in our organization by this date. And that's good. That's a good thing. But to get a really deep systemic change in the thinking of an organization, it has to be bigger than that. For many, it's not fast enough. And I'm on their side. I don't think it's fast enough either.
Irene Berkowitz 26:46
CMF in five years, with or without C-11?
Valerie Creighton 26:51
In five years, I would expect and hope and sometimes even pray that legislation has passed and the regulatory process is over. We're ready to jump on the future in terms of the new program architecture and all the things we've talked about today, and that we have a blossoming and burgeoning industry focused on content creation and innovation. Without C-11, I would say the same thing has to happen. It's just we'll have to find a different way to do it. We would have to work with Canadian Heritage. We are, after all, their program. We're not a stand alone. We're embedded in there. They've been in consultation with us. They've heard from the industry firsthand. So I don't know what the way forward could possibly be without C-11, but I know there will be one, because the industry is poised and ready for that change and there is an urgency to the change. But for now, we're all going to get behind the C-11 because it's the critical tool to make all this happen.
Irene Berkowitz 27:52
This podcast will drop on March 8, a week from today. Will there be any public announcements between now and then?
Valerie Creighton 28:02
No, because I'm taking all of the work that we've done into the board next week. And so it will be after that time. I think it will probably be sometime the week of March 14, but it won't be before the 8th. There won't be vast program changes coming up for April 1. We will continue with the increased flexibility we were given during COVID. So to do things like development without a broadcast or some slate financing, et cetera, so that will help us get the ball rolling. But the real big program structural changes in terms of the new architecture, Irene, we're gearing up for that to happen in 2023.
Irene Berkowitz 28:46
I would agree that it's all tied to structure. One of the things I found very useful in my research was not only looking at other industries, but looking at the Hollywood studio system, which is that the financial partners in development are investing money in order to exploit [the content] on the global stage. And therein was a glitch in our system, we don't really have a studio system. And money talks, when you follow the money from the people who really need to figure out if it will work on the national and global stage.
Valerie Creighton 29:23
And I think there are companies in Canada now who are production companies who are almost moving into a studio model. But again, it's kind of structurally tied to their requirements to put a certain amount of content on the air. My hope is that the policy direction and the intent of Bill C-11 is to really look at the industry holistically and put in place the pieces that will trigger that structural change that will really get the right tools under the content making.
Irene Berkowitz 29:52
With all we've discussed, a final question. Bill C-11, pass or no pass, and why?
Valerie Creighton 30:03
Pass! Let's go for it. It's the absolute key to unlocking so much of what so many have struggled with because this is not anybody's fault. This is just the massive change in this industry since the digital revolution. So it is a whole different ball game today than it was even when I started in 2006. It's a totally different industry. Let's get on it and get it moving. And it's not perfect. Nothing ever is. But I do know there's a broad understanding amongst all political parties of the need to look at how we embrace the streamers and bring them into the system. They're important to the country because they are a global distribution network when you talk about global distribution. So I'm very optimistic. I'm always a glass half full person, and I think we're going to get there. I believe in Canada and our creativity above all else. If we all disappeared tomorrow, creativity will happen. Content will still get made. Let's make sure we get the right tools under what we've built in this country for up to 80 years. We built a phenomenal system. We're still in many ways the envy of the world. So let's leverage that real growth and potential that Canada has and not just let it slide away because we're not paying attention.
Irene Berkowitz 31:22
Thank you so much, Valerie. On behalf of Playback and The Creative School and all our listeners for your very precious time, your unwavering passion for our industry, and truly your unparalleled wisdom and work, on all our behalf, your visionary leadership, fantastic chatting with you today. Thank you.
Valerie Creighton 31:45
Well, thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm really honored to be part of this discussion forum that you've got going and I really appreciate the time spent with you. So thanks Irene.
Irene Berkowitz 31:55
Thank you. For previous episodes of The Sessions, transcriptions, show notes and more coverage on The Online Streaming Act, please follow the link from the Playback website. Because our mission is to inform and future proof Canadian media policy, we’d love it if you could spread the word about this podcast to your colleagues, friends and on social media. Thank you for listening. I'm your host Irene Berkowitz and this has been The Sessions.
Joan Jenkinson, Executive Director of the Black Screen Offices; and Jesse Wente, Co-Executive Director of the Indigenous Screen Offices talk about diversity and representation in Canadian media and how it will be impacted by The Online Streaming Act.
Joan and Jesse comment on the impact of Bill C-11 on diversity and representation in Canadian media; the important distinction between these two terms; and how systemic issues inhibit change.They also talk about how Bill C-11 creates new opportunities for creating diverse content, increases equality and inclusion among Canadian creators; and how the streamers have welcomed diverse projects. They explore how a focus on diverse creators and audiences benefits the whole of Canada; increases the potential for developing hit Canadian content for international audiences; and comment on the problematic notion of “colour-blind” storytelling. They round things out with their excitement about the potential of the current moment.
Joan Jenkinson (external link) - a veteran TV executive. Now a partner in Artemis Pictures, she spent 14 years as Vice President of Zoomer Media, five years as Executive Director of Women in Film and Television (WIFT) and was a full-time member of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. She received the Visionary Award from ReelWorld Film Festival in recognition of her work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry. Joan was appointed in 2020 as the first Executive Director of the Black Screen Office. Its mission is to support production and distribution of Canadian Black screen content around the globe, and ensure Black Canadians are represented across screen industries.
Jesse Wente (external link) - an Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster, speaker, arts leader, and advocate for Indigenous Rights. Born and raised in Toronto, his family is from Chicago and the Serpent River First Nation. Known for 24 years as a columnist for CBC Radio’s Metro Morning and 11 years with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Jesse is Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts (through 2025). In 2018, he was named first Executive Director of the Indigenous Screen Office. Playback Magazine named Jesse trailblazer of the year in 2020. The Indigenous Screen Office mission is to champion Indigenous Canadian storytellers and to support their companies and communities to share their stories across all screen platforms.
Executive Producers: Irene Berkowitz and Playback
Host: Irene Berkowitz
Content Producers: Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend
Production Producers: Sam McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee
Jesse Wente 00:02
There's a need for reconciliation, reparations, restoration, repair, all of those things that actually require us to see each other as we are, and not just accept. But actually what is required is that we love what the other is. And we celebrate what the other is. And I want to celebrate the moment that we're in now. And the promise of the moment to come. Because I think it's absolutely glorious. And I think we're getting ever closer to a moment where maybe we can truly dance together and see what comes of that.
Joan Jenkinson 00:37
Representation is a really emotional expression for people. As I mentioned, we spoke to 400 people across the country. And I can't tell you how many times people cried because they were being heard, but also about of how much they've been hurt by the poor representation or the lack of representation that they've seen. And the most passionate expression of that was parents who talked about their kids not having any role models that they can emulate. And the term "you can't be it if you can't see it" was a mantra that kept on coming up.
Irene Berkowitz 01:13
Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Sessions presented by Playback (external link) and The Creative School, a four part series that unpacks history being made right now, as Canada's media industry leans into the global online era. Listen in as key stakeholders weigh in on Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act (external link) . I'm your host, Irene Berkowitz. In this fourth episode, we explore if, how, and how well diversity and inclusivity are encoded in Bill C-11. I'm so excited to chat with Joan Jenkinson, Executive Director of the Black Screen Office (external link) , and Jesse Wente, Co-Executive Director of the Indigenous Screen Office (external link) . Joan is a veteran TV executive. Now a partner with Artemis Pictures (external link) , she spent 14 years as Vice President of Zoomer Media (external link) , five years as Executive Director of Women in Film and Television (external link) and was a full time member of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (external link) . She received the Visionary Award from Real World Film Festival in recognition of her work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry. Joan was appointed in 2020 as the first executive director of the Black Screen Office. Its mission is to support the production and distribution of Canadian Black screen content around the globe and ensure Black Canadians are represented across the screen industries. Jesse Wente is an Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster, speaker, arts leader and advocate for Indigenous rights. Born and raised in Toronto, his family is from Chicago and the Serpent River First Nation, known for 24 years as a columnist for CBC Radio's Metro Morning and 11 years with the Toronto International Film Festival (external link) . Jesse is chair of the Canada Council for the Arts (external link) through 2025 and in 2018, was named first Executive Director of the Indigenous Screen Office. His many awards include Playback, our publisher, naming Jesse Trailblazer of the Year in 2020 (external link) . The Indigenous Screen Office's mission is to champion Indigenous Canadian storytellers and support their stories across all screen platforms. Joan and Jesse, welcome, and thank you so much for being here. I'm so thrilled to meet you both.
Joan Jenkinson 03:43
I'm surprised you found all those things.
Jesse Wente 03:45
Sounds good. I'm always impressed to be with Joan.
Irene Berkowitz 03:50
Jesse, may I add that I'm listening on Audible to your 2021 book, Unreconciled (external link) with awe and tears. In addition to your gorgeous writing, I'm reconnecting to my own experience sharing a bedroom with my beloved Grandma Minnie, and stories about her nightly sobs, losing her entire family in the Holocaust, herself saved from evil by an arranged marriage.
Jesse Wente 04:15
Thank you for those beautiful words.
Irene Berkowitz 04:18
So let's dive in with the same question I've asked all our guests. Joan and Jesse, would you each weigh in with your hot takes on Bill C-11?
Joan Jenkinson 04:27
We've recently launched our study called Being Seen: Creating Authentic and Inclusive Content (external link) . And what we've seen as we've spoken to over 400 people in focus groups across the country over the last several months is that there's lots of choices for audiences in digital and streaming services and in the Canadian Broadcasting System. But not all audiences are satisfied with what they're seeing. But now there's like a general awakening to the need for content for audiences that are created by Black creators. Shows like The Porter (external link) , which has finally been given the support by a broadcaster with enough money and marketing support that the talent of Black creators can actually shine, I see a lot of potential in that kind of support. So, with the Online Streaming Act, I think if it gets it right, will create the landscape for a broadcasting system that can withstand technological and societal changes. And we can ensure that there's more funding for programs like The Porter for Canadian programs that audiences really want to see.
Jesse Wente 05:38
Well, that's a pretty good hot take, Joan, I'm not sure I can equal that. I mean, I think my hot take would be this legislation is beyond long overdue. It's more than a generation, I think since the last time we had an update to this legislation. You know, a lot has happened in that time. And I think certainly a part of that is the, I think, obvious need for as well as demand for stories that come from communities that traditionally haven't had particularly good access to the Canadian Broadcasting sector. With that in mind, I think the proposed bill, which the Indigenous Screen Office fully supports, does take steps to address some of those systemic barriers that exist, particularly for our communities. It removes some qualifying language from the previous set of the bill, which perhaps well intentioned, proved to be a large long term barrier to our growth within the sector. Of course, there are some challenges in terms of the implementation because it still leaves a fairly wide variance for letters from the government in terms of providing direction, and it does require the CRTC to actually implement some of these changes. But I certainly think we're optimistic at this point. Joan and I represent specific communities that have specific desires. And I think it's often framed that the benefits of inclusion or for my community, a little more self determination, are benefits that are reaped solely by our communities. But that misses the entire point. The benefit is actually for Canada as a whole. Stories from these communities benefit everyone, not just us. If we think of the challenges we are currently having around social cohesion, and sense of community and belonging and togetherness, if we'd had a better or more fundamentally equitable story ecosystem for the past 30 years, maybe some of those challenges would be, I don't want to say eliminated, but maybe lessened. And so I think it is a very future-looking bill, in that it's trying to help Canada get to a more mature place, while addressing systemic barriers and addressing the realities of broadcasting in 2022, which are radically different than the early 90s when the last time we saw this bill amended.
Irene Berkowitz 08:03
So do you think the recent past, not only the pandemic and the inequality of COVID death rates, the searing long tolerated inequities that it revealed, the unspeakable horror of mass graves of Indigenous children raising murder of people of color by state authorities, the rise as you mentioned, yet again, of white supremacy, the weaponization of hate, all of this in the last two years, do you think this finally made us act? Because section three includes inclusivity for all diverse people and forbids discrimination on the basis of colour, race, gender, religion, LGBTQ plus ability and age? Is it a good start? Is it enough?
Jesse Wente 08:51
I think my concerns are that the bill tends to take a carrot approach to the situation in terms of offering supports. And I think that is certainly a key part of it. Where I have concerns is around the stick end of the equation. Will there be...I think they once called them like, conditions of license. I think now they're conditions of service. Will those be applied to certain measurables around the creation and exhibition of content from marginalized communities created by marginalized communities? We don't know yet. I think we've tried the carrot for at least a little while. And we haven't seen huge results with just the carrot. And I think we understand so that there may be more measure of a stick. To the first part of your question, sure, the last two years may bring stark relief to some of these issues. But I think we always have to be cautious. I think we frame it as well, the larger culture has suddenly decided that this should do this thing. And we erase the fact that our communities have been asking for these things to be done for generations. And so sure, the last few years are important in that a large portion of the population who maybe had not been as aware, are maybe a little bit more aware and are acting, but the ISO exists because of 25 years of solid advocacy of people that have been doing the really hard work for a very long time. We could have done this before. We shouldn't need to see harm caused to actually get us to respond when our communities have been saying these things for so long.
Irene Berkowitz 10:34
Joan, that BSO's recent press release zeroed in on this concept of systemic change. Do you think most people get what that really means? How do you define it and why is codifying this into legislation, not just regulation or policies, so important?
Joan Jenkinson 10:52
So I think the current system of funding, commissioning, and broadcasting Canadian content favors straight white, able bodied, often male creators. They have been the gatekeepers for a very long time. And that's what we've lived through as a system. So when we talk about systemic change, we're not talking about, you know, tweaks here and there, or one or two programs that we get excited about, we want to change the entire way that content is created, funded, commissioned and promoted. That's what we need to do to ensure that the content reflects Canadian audiences. If it's systemic, it has no choice but to stick because it's been changed. With section three of the Broadcasting Act (external link) , it already refers to the need for programming that reflects the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society. So, diversity is already codified in the law. So, we have seen that when it's used, it can have a good effect. But the Online Streaming Act is more specific in the morning and reflects a greater understanding of the need to ensure that all Canadians are reflected in the Canadian broadcast system. So, I think it's a commitment. And it will be used by stakeholders like the BSO and the ISO to argue for regulatory support at the CRTC. It's long overdue, some parts of it have been there but hadn't been enacted. And we're certainly going to do everything we can to support this bill that is really going to change the landscape of the work that we do.
Jesse Wente 12:38
I really agree with what Joan said there. Do people understand systemic issues? I'm not sure they do. So I'm going to give you a quick example. But it's going to be slightly outside the sector. I'm going to use the Crown Corporation of which I am a chair as an example, the Canada Council for the Arts, the single largest arts funding body in the country. So, when the Canada Council was founded in 1957, after the Massey Commission, it was given this endowment and was there to promote and encourage Canadian culture. So, 1957, if you were a First Nations artist, and you wanted to apply to the Canada Council for the Arts for a grant, you had to be practicing a European art form. All Indigenous arts were ineligible for funding at the Canada Council for the Arts, they were considered primitive or craft. So, if you were a First Nations artist, you had to be a ballerina, you had to be a concert pianist, you had to be an opera singer. All art forms, of course, that are not of Canada, but are in fact imported to Canada from other places. If you think of what that means, right, then the Canada Council for the Arts, when it was launched, was part of a tool of assimilation that the Canadian government has used, of which in the same tool bag, and I'm not equating them, I'm just saying they are in the same tool bag, that includes residential schools (external link) , the 60s Scoop (external link) , the Indian Act, all of the various ways that the Canadian government and the state has used to dispossess Indigenous people of their land, their language, their culture, their families, their communities, and so on and so forth. So, there you have codified exclusion into a Crown Corporation that then exists. Now you fast forward to 2017. So, 60 years later, which is when I first joined the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts, and it was just about a year after they had launched the Creating, Knowing and Sharing Program (external link) , which is an Indigenous-designed arts funding program, Indigenous administered, Indigenous led for Indigenous peoples and their style of creation. So you begin to see some measure not of inclusion, but actually of self-determination and sovereignty, even within a Crown Corporation for a community that when that system was first created, were not only excluded, but were expected to erase their cultures in order to be assimilated into the culture. So, I just gave you the story of how you have a system built that excludes by its very creation, it is meant to exclude, and not just to exclude, but to assimilate. We should be asking ourselves, are they serving a different purpose in 2022? Because I think a lot of our communities would say, actually, they're serving the exact same purpose. And so that if we don't want that anymore, then we have to either have systems change, or we have to not have the system. We have to build a new system entirely. And the other thing I would say is systems change is incredibly hard. Incredibly hard. These systems were not built to change. So, can you transform something that was built with that intent into something that doesn't? I think we're seeing some progress. So, there's definitely been movement. But we do need to see systems change. And I think the bill presents an opportunity to actually further that system change. And if not change the system, allow us to begin building something that serves us.
Joan Jenkinson 16:03
I'm hoping I'm seeing something different with the Broadcasting System. And I'm trying very hard to be optimistic, we happen to be at a time of heightened change. So maybe that's going to help to move things further along. But I think we need to be so diligent right now with this opportunity with this government and this groundswell desire to make that change that we have to do everything we can to keep our foot on the pedal to help move it forward.
Irene Berkowitz 16:36
Joan, in your panel at Prime Time (external link) , there was a deep discussion about the difference between diversity and representation. Could you weigh in on this distinction? And do you think that is or needs to be reflected in Bill C-11?
Joan Jenkinson 16:52
One of the things we spoke about a lot in the consultations was about checkbox diversity. And so, diversity is about counting how many of those people are on screen, like how many Black people are in a show, how many Asians, how many Indigenous people, but what we're not seeing is representation, which is about characters and stories. It's about, you know, their complexity as individuals and in communities, we've said it over and over again. But as Black people were just tired of showing up as gangsters, or drug dealers, or slaves, that diversity really is nothing more than stereotypical representation. We want authentic representation, which is why we wrote this report. It's easy to say equity, diversity and inclusion is foundational to what we believe now. So, representation is a really emotional expression for people. As I mentioned, we spoke to 400 people across the country (external link) . And I can't tell you how many times people cried because they weren't being heard, but also about how much they've been hurt by the poor representation, or the lack of representation that they've seen. And the most passionate expression of that was parents who talked about their kids not having any role models that they can emulate. And the term "you can't be it if you can't see it" was a mantra that kept on coming up. You know, I think we're all thrilled that this conversation is happening. We think that the Online Streaming Act does talk about the needs and interests of Canadians, and that the Canadian Broadcasting System should reflect these circumstances and aspirations. However, it will be up to the CRTC to enact the policies and regulations to ensure that this happens. So, we want to have a close relationship with the CRTC as this is moving forward.
Jesse Wente 18:51
You know, I think representation is vitally important, because it means that you're seen. When you're unseen, it means a whole lot of things can happen to you that go unnoticed. So, I agree with Joan that you need the representation just on the baseline so that people can see themselves. A great example is advertising, where we've seen a huge shift in just the people who are in ads. And I think it's so great. I think it proves a couple of quick things, which is one, the idea that brown faces or faces that don't look like the majority on their screen would somehow prevent people from buying whatever product. It doesn't, it doesn't matter at all. So, I think it's erasing some barriers. But of course, like that's just sort of a very surface and very capitalist sort of way to position it. What we really need is authenticity, and I think that another key part of representation is broadcasters, content creators to not just consider us as people they should put on screen. Consider us as people who are watching what you put on screen. Consider us as an audience who's going to react to what you are putting out. And if you actually think of us, not just as objects to be consumed, but as consumers, as people who are going to take this in. What will that do to what you were putting out, if you actually have to consider us as someone who's going to watch? How you might be positioning our communities, and then it might actually begin to dawn, why it's important to have the communities not just on screen, but in all the phases behind the screen that lead up to the onscreen part. And that includes everything from funding bodies, to crew, to the greenlight rooms, to the executive offices, to the commissioner chairs at the CRTC, to all various points where these decisions and the stuff gets made, also require those communities to be present. There is a huge chasm of trust there between communities that haven't been a part of these systems, who are now suddenly asked to be a part. The streaming giants, as much as they seem a threat to the legacy players, to many of our communities. Well, those streaming giants haven't said no to us for 30 or 40 years. They don't have that history of not portraying us, of exclusion of all of that. The ISO, who was among our first partners? Netflix and Amazon. Where were our partners from the private broadcasting sector in Canada? Crickets, crickets Irene. We don't have them. And so there might be a bigger eagerness or opportunity to build relationships faster with those organizations and broadcasters who don't have that history. I think we also need to focus on that. And the fact that the bill onboards those folks into our system means that that can be an avenue for our communities, where traditional broadcasters have not been an avenue for our communities.
Irene Berkowitz 21:52
Let's shift to the storytelling part of this. Both of you, in addition to your executive positions and advocacy work are skilled storytellers. And Jesse, I was just enthralled this year at Prime Time, when you spoke about the connection between diversity and globally popular storytelling, and how will strengthening diversity strengthen Canadian storytelling on the global stage.
Joan Jenkinson 22:22
I really like the quote from your book, Irene, Mediaucracy, where you say in Israel, they say radical specificity creates radical authenticity. I love that saying because it's so true. And I think one of the heartbreaking things over the years has been to see Black filmmakers who made their very first feature film 13 years ago, but to great acclaim and travel the world and went to Cannes and literally waited 10 to 13 years before they got their second film made. And I'm not exaggerating. So to be in this moment, after having gone through the trenches, I think it's so important to people. And the talent that we're seeing behind a show like Porter, it was always there. These people just didn't come out of nowhere to create this spectacularly rich and beautiful, well told story. And I think we'll get a broader and deeper talent pool as these opportunities come up. And that will definitely increase the chances of better storytelling. We'll always be telling stories that have never been told before, because we've been holding them in for such a long time.
Jesse Wente 23:38
I've always found it interesting that the Canadian content that the system seems so invested to create often looks like content created elsewhere. And it's an interesting phenomenon, because I'm not sure that's what makes you stand out in a global marketplace. And so just speaking for, when I think of say, Anishinaabe community of which I'm a part of, or if you want to speak more broadly of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit storytelling, well there are stories that actually you can't get anywhere else in the world, they actually only come from here. And it's interesting that for so long, Canadian culture systems have been sort of, their point has been to not share those and try to create something different, instead of embracing the actual storytelling that is inherent to this very place. I think there's a huge opportunity there to differentiate ourselves in empowering some of these communities. We have lots of evidence that just storytelling that is actually very culturally specific travels enormously well. And so, I think that is where enormous opportunity lies. For a long time this industry pointed the audience to where we wanted it to go. That isn't true anymore. The audience is already way ahead. And so, it's us trying to catch up to it. I think if we just listened a little bit more, we'd realize there's opportunity in these stories, it's not about forcing them in. It's like this is actually the new phase and the new way Canada's going to grow into itself.
Irene Berkowitz 25:11
Considering shows like the Netflix hit Bridgerton, a multiracial period drama, where race is never acknowledged, is so-called "colourblind" storytelling a goal?
Joan Jenkinson 25:23
I think that our ultimate goal is not to have a colourblind world, but one that recognizes the differences, but doesn't impose values on those differences. You know, what we really need is authentic representation, where, shows like We Are Lady Parts, which shows a range of Muslim women, some Asian, some Black, some straight and gay, some different religions, that we see those people authentically represented, because we are individuals, and we do have very complicated lives and communities that we live in. And personally, I don't want to gloss that over.
Jesse Wente 26:05
You know, the whole notion of color blindness has been around for a very long time. And it's actually one that in the end supports white supremacy, because there is a need for reconciliation, reparations, restoration, repair, all of those things that actually require us to see each other as we are, and not just accept. But actually, what is required is that we love what the other is, and we celebrate what the other is. The Anishinaabe teaching would be, if you imagine you're in a forest clearing, and you've asked all the creatures of the forest to come to this clearing, they all come bearing their unique gifts, their unique histories, their special talents, all of these things. But if you were to ask all of them to climb a tree, would all of them be able to do it in the same way? Of course not. Because some are going to fly right up to the top, and some are going to go "I'm not climbing that tree ever." And the point is to celebrate all of that, that that is all of what humanity is, and to love all of it. Because I think we all have this ideal of organic diversity, like where it just is. But we have to understand that the systems that we've inherited have overlaid that organic diversity and created one that is farmed. And if we think about how we would let a farm go back to grow [into a forest], one of the things to do would be to tear down some of the systems that have kept it and to actually allow those things to crumble, and to be reabsorbed and something new to grow in its stead. That is the project as a globe we are undertaking as we try to understand and unpack what 500 or 600 years of European colonialism has wrought on this planet. And it in fact has sought to turn forests into farms. And what we need to understand is we need to reforest and that will require some very difficult decisions. And the decision to let some things that we've invested in go away, because all they do is produce farms. And what we want is the forest.
Irene Berkowitz 28:21
This is big. We're getting towards the end. So, with all we've discussed on C-11, pass or no pass, and why?
Joan Jenkinson 28:30
Yeah, I definitely think that C-11 is a very, very important step as well as the CRTC hearings to implement it. So I'm definitely for it. And I'm optimistic and believe that the efforts will definitely bear fruit.
Jesse Wente 28:39
I want it to pass, I think it will pass. And I want to celebrate the moment that we're in now. And the promise of the moment to come because I think it's absolutely glorious. And I think we're getting ever closer to a moment where maybe we can truly dance together and see what comes of that.
Irene Berkowitz 29:04
Thank you, Joan and Jesse, for a remarkable conversation. Wonderful chatting with you today.
Joan Jenkinson 29:09
Thank you for the opportunity. And Jesse, you always remind me of my mother who was one of the best storytellers I've ever come across. She was able to tell you the most mundane thing and you'd be at the edge of your seat, and it [the story] doesn't have an ending and the ending would be her laugh.
Jesse Wente 29:28
To be compared to any mother is an enormous compliment.
Joan Jenkinson 29:33
Anyway, I really appreciate you.
Jesse Wente 29:35
Yeah, and I have to say I've been called mother before but in a very different context. So, I certainly appreciate that and Irene, Miigwech for the opportunity. It's always a pleasure to talk.
Irene Berkowitz 29:48
For previous episodes of The Sessions, transcriptions, show notes and more coverage on the Online Streaming Act, please follow the link from the Playback website. Because our mission is to inform and future proof Canadian media policy, we'd love it if you could spread the word to colleagues, friends, and on social media. The Sessions is presented by Playback and The Creative School. Executive produced by myself, Irene Berkowitz, and Playback. Content producers are Victoria Ahearn and Kelly Townsend. Technical producers are Samantha McNulty and Ethan Geoffrey Lee. Thanks for listening. I'm your host, Irene Berkowitz. This has been The Sessions.