Disney Urges Ottawa to Update Definition of ‘Canadian’ Content Under Bill C-11

Disney is urging the federal government to expand the definition of “Canadian” content and make it more flexible as the Liberals’ controversial Online Streaming Act, also known as Bill C-11, makes its way through the Senate after being passed by the House in June — reports The Globe and Mail.

According to Disney, some of its productions don’t qualify as “Canadian” under the current definition despite being made in Canada, with a Canadian cast and crew, and telling a Canadian story.

David Fares, Disney’s VP of Global Public Policy, told a Senate committee on Thursday steps should be taken to make the definition of Canadian films and TV programs more flexible and inclusive.

Fares said that recent Disney productions, including Turning Red, the story of a Chinese-Canadian teen growing up in Toronto that stars Ottawa-born Sandra Oh; Barkskins, a National Geographic series filmed in Quebec that explores the experience of immigrants to New France and their descendants; and Washington Black, an upcoming TV series adapted from a novel by Canadian author Esi Edugyan, don’t qualify as Canadian content because Disney, which owns the intellectual property rights to all of them, is a U.S. company.

Bill C-11 is an amendment to the Broadcasting Act that would give the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulatory authority over online streaming companies like Disney+ and Netflix. It would also require them to promote and invest in Canadian content.

Under the Online Streaming Act, companies that produce and promote Canadian content to certain standards could receive financial incentives, including tax breaks.

During the Thursday hearing, Fares expressed the need for a CRTC definition that offers “flexibility around Canadian content.”

He said that Disney has a “special relationship with Canada,” adding that the company has spent about $3 billion in the country over the past few years, including spending on 18 TV series.

“We hope to invest further in Canada, and a flexible regulatory regime will allow us to
maximize those future investments,” he said.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said he will approach the CRTC about updating how Canadian content is defined.

The current eligibility system for Canadian content is geared more toward Canadian ownership of intellectual property than the nature of the content itself.

Music streaming giant Spotify has made a similar request to amend the definition of Canadian content. According to the company, even a song by Canadian music sensation Justin Bieber might not qualify as Canadian under Bill C-11’s current rules.

Bill C-11 has been the subject of much controversy since it was tabled. Many stakeholders have raised concerns the bill might give the CRTC the power to regulate user-generated content on the internet. What’s more, Canadian content creators have explained it might actually harm them rather than help them.