A person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Streaming companies like Netflix will have to fund Canadian content: CRTC chair

Traditional broadcasters are required to pay into the Canadian Media Fund

Canada’s broadcast and telecom regulator says it’s inevitable that foreign media companies streaming content into Canada, including Netflix and Amazon, will have to make an “equitable” contribution to the production of Canadian content.

But the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says it’s not as simple as making those companies pay what has often been referred to as a “Netflix tax.”

Ian Scott says some companies such as Netflix are already paying more to generate content in Canada than many consumers might think.

Scott made the comments in an interview with The Canadian Press as an independent expert panel is set to release a comprehensive report this month detailing the changes that are need to bring the Broadcast Act and Telecommunications Act into the new century.

Until about a year ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his then-minister of heritage were dismissing the notion of taxing international streaming companies.

But during the fall election campaign, Trudeau was joined by all the major opposition leaders in agreeing that international tech giants need to contribute to Canada’s economy.

“Companies who are extracting a profit, they are participating in the Canadian market and deriving revenues, should be contributing,” Scott said while being interviewed in his CRTC office in Gatineau, Que.

“That includes Netflix and all of the others in that situation,” he said.

“The manner that they contribute is what’s at issue.”

Companies such as Bell Media and other so-called traditional broadcasters are required to pay into the Canadian Media Fund to help finance production of Canadian content.

Netflix has argued it should not have to pay into such a fund because it can’t draw on it. Instead, it has committed — without being required to do so under current regulations — to spending on the production of movies and other content in Canada.

The U.S.-based company has pledged to spend at least half a billion dollars over five years to fund original Canadian productions.

As a result, Netflix is “probably the single largest contributor to the (Canadian) production sector today,” said Scott.

“They are filling up production facilities across the country,” he said. “So is Amazon, so is Disney.”

READ MORE: Netflix and streaming means Canadian feature films struggle to find audiences

European countries have enacted legislation to force streaming services to pay for original domestic content. In France, Netflix pays a set tax on its revenue from French subscriptions.

In the case of YouTube, which provides content produced by its users, a tax is applied to its ad revenue.

The Liberals revealed during the election campaign a plan to impose a three per cent tax on multinational tech giants operating in Canada, worth an estimated $2.5 billion over four years. The tax, they said, would be applied to the sales of online advertising or any profits generated through Canadian user data.

The CRTC is also hoping the review will recommend it be granted new enforcement powers and more flexibility in dealing with broadcasters that fail to comply with regulations.

Currently, the regulator has the power to take away a broadcaster’s license. But unlike in the telecom sector, it is unable to impose monetary penalties for what are considered lesser administrative infractions.

“Think of it like speeding tickets,” Scott explained.

“You speed, we can stop you, pull you over and say, ‘You were speeding, here’s your ticket, you have to pay.’ We don’t have to take away your car, we don’t have to put you in jail,” Scott said of current telecom regulations.

“On the broadcasting side, all we can do is take away licenses,” he noted.

“That’s draconian. That’s putting you in jail and taking away your car.”

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Outrage over illegal dumping at Nakusp Landfill

Online photo shows garbage bags, cardboard boxes and bottles thrown around landfill container

FortisBC pausing power disconnections and late-fees amid COVID-19 crisis

Company says they plan to work with customers affected by COVID-19 on a “one on one” basis

Don’t avoid doctor’s office if you need help, say Kootenay Boundary physicians

There are alternatives to coming in physically to offices, docs say

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

School District 20 to improve childcare services for those working in emergency services

The district has launched a survey to aid in the consultation process

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Most Read