On May 31, 2018, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued its report on the future of programming distribution in Canada. The report examines Canadian broadcast distribution market trends and reaches certain conclusions on the types of legislative, regulatory and policy changes the CRTC believes would best support the production, distribution and promotion of Canadian programming.

The CRTC issued the report following a request for input by the governor-in-council on future regulatory models that could support the creation and distribution of Canadian content in the digital world. This request was made as part of the federal government’s “Creative Canada” strategy, first announced by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, in 2017, as a sweeping legislative, regulatory and policy reform that would help support Canada’s creative and cultural industries in a rapidly evolving global and digital marketplace. For more information on Creative Canada, please see our October 2017 Blakes Bulletin: Canada Looks to Boost Can-Con Presence in the Digital World Through Funding, Legislative Reform.

The CRTC report follows months of consultations with the public and industry stakeholders, and proposes several sweeping legislative and regulatory changes to be further considered by the federal government, including:

  • Replacing the traditional broadcasting licensing regime with comprehensive and binding service agreements between the government and industry players, pursuant to which obligations and incentives relating to Canadian content would be flexible and adaptable
  • Including all industry players (including over-the-top streaming services, which were not previously subject to licensing) as part of the new binding service agreements regime
  • Ensuring that all industry players (not only traditional television broadcasters) contribute financially to the creation and distribution of Canadian content.

On this last point, the CRTC concludes that digital broadcasters providing services in Canada and telecommunications service providers deriving revenues from the distribution of audio and video content should help fund Canadian content. The CRTC identifies fixed percentage revenue-based contributions and revenues derived from spectrum licensing and auctions as possible ways through which Canadian content may be supported without necessarily increasing service costs for consumers. The CRTC believes that any revised funding strategy should ultimately “be based on a revised contribution structure that is broad-based, equitable and sustainable.

Further details regarding the federal government’s review of the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and Copyright Act as part of the Creative Canada strategy and its comments on the CRTC report are expected to be released in the coming months. In the meantime, interested parties may consult the Creative Canada Policy Framework document (accessible here), which details the legislative, regulatory and policy tools proposed by the federal government in support of Canadian content.