The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced significant changes to ensure Canada’s television system adapts to an audiovisual environment that is in profound evolution. This is the third in a series of announcements related to Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, and the changes focus on the creation of content made by Canadians for both Canadian and global audiences.
Canadian television supports a thriving industry that employs nearly 60,000 people and invests over $4 billion each year in the creation of content made by Canadians. The television system, however, is undergoing a fundamental shift brought on by broadband Internet and wireless networks. Increasingly, Canadians are bypassing the traditional curators of content, the broadcasters, and watching programs in new ways: on their mobile devices, by binge-viewing multiple episodes of a TV series in one sitting and by accessing vast online libraries of content from around the world. In this age of abundance, the viewer is in control.
To foster the continued success of Canada’s creative talent, the CRTC is removing barriers that stand in the way of innovation and reinventing its approach to content made by Canadians. These measures will ensure the creation and promotion of compelling and high-quality content that audiences in Canada and abroad want to watch.
Promoting and discovering content
For Canadian-made productions to succeed in a sea of digital content, they must be well-promoted and easily discovered by viewers, both within Canada and abroad.
As such, the CRTC will host a Discoverability Summit in the fall of 2015. This Summit will bring together innovators and thought-leaders from the public and private sectors to explore how technology can be used to help viewers find programs made by Canadians. Further details on this summit will be released at a later date.
The CRTC is also providing more flexibility to broadcasters, so that they can better promote original Canadian television programs.
Creating Canadian-made content for global audiences
The CRTC is also launching two pilot projects that provide a more flexible and forward-looking approach to the production and financing of Canadian programs. Under these pilot projects, live-action drama and comedy series that either have a budget of at least $2 million per hour or are based on best-selling novels written by Canadian authors will be considered as being Canadian productions, provided certain additional criteria are met.
These changes are intended to support a production sector that has the financial capacity to develop scripts and concepts, as well as to create and market big-budget productions that can attract global audiences.
The CRTC is calling on other policy makers and funding agencies to follow suit for the benefit of the television system and Canadians. For instance, existing funding models could be updated to provide incentives for international co-productions and co-ventures, promotion and international distribution opportunities, and the creation of online content.
Removing barriers to innovation
The CRTC is confident that content made by Canadians can compete with the best in the world. Certain protections are no longer needed in a world of abundance and choice, and where many Canadians no longer watch shows according to a broadcaster’s schedules. The future of television lies in Canadians’ proven ability to create compelling, high-quality content.
As such, the CRTC is reducing the quotas setting out the amount of Canadian programs that local television stations and specialty channels must broadcast. At the same time, the CRTC is ensuring that the majority of these stations and channels reinvest a portion of their revenues into the creation of content made by Canadians. For certain types of programs, such as drama and documentaries, broadcasters will continue to invest at least 75% of these funds on content created by independent producers.
To foster a more open and competitive market, the CRTC is also eliminating rules under which specialty channels, such as HGTV Canada and MusiquePlus, can only broadcast certain types of programs. As a result, existing channels will be able to acquire or produce shows that better respond to their audiences’ interests and needs. Moreover, new specialty services will be able to enter the Canadian marketplace and compete with existing channels. Both existing and new channels will need to be innovative and creative to succeed.
Finally, the CRTC is allowing video-on-demand services to offer exclusive content to cable and satellite subscribers, as long as they are available to all Canadians over the Internet without a television subscription. This will enable Canadian services to compete on a more equal footing with online video services.
“Canadian television rests on a solid foundation. We have more than enough money and talent to tell our stories. But the system cannot remain frozen in time when the world around us is changing. That’s why we are adopting bold and forward-looking measures to ensure that Canadians can produce and promote compelling content that attracts audiences within and beyond our borders. We know that it will not be easy for everyone to adapt to this shift. We are confident, however, that Canadian creators have the know-how and tools to succeed.
“We are also asking: What makes a production Canadian? For too long, narrow criteria have prevented potentially successful content from being made by Canadians. In a world where the content’s origin is secondary to its quality and desirability, we need to show more flexibility in determining which productions can benefit from financial support. We are taking the first steps in this direction with two pilot projects, and encouraging others to join us on this exciting journey. Let’s give the world great content made by Canada.” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC