Global digital giants should be legally required to contribute to Canadian culture and be held to the same standards of accuracy as traditional media, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation president Catherine Tait said Wednesday at a communications industry conference.
Tait, who took the helm of the CBC in July, used her speech at the International Institute of Communications conference in Ottawa to outline the CBC’s recommendations to a government review panel that is looking to revamp the broadcasting, telecommunications and radiocommunication acts to deal with the internet’s disruption of traditional media.
Specifically, Tait called for legislation requiring giants such as Netflix Inc. and Amazon Inc. to support Canadian content, whether it’s by taxation or service agreements.
“If global companies are doing business in Canada, taking Canadian dollars out of Canada, should they be reinvesting into production of Canadian content? We think they should be,” she told reporters at the event.
Netflix agreed to spend $500 million on Canadian content production over five years, but Tait noted that was voluntary.
She also called for rules that would treat digital media companies like traditional media companies when it comes to responsibly spreading information. As it stands, “information disorder” on online platforms undermines trust in media and institutions, Tait said.
She emphasized the importance of investing in journalism at a time when newspapers and local broadcasters are struggling.
“The antidote to fake news is real news,” she said.
Her recommendations come as the CBC faces criticism from private media players who argue the public broadcaster shouldn’t be allowed to compete against them online for digital advertising dollars given its federal funding advantage. But she defended the CBC’s move online.
“It’s not the public broadcaster that’s hurting private media in Canada,” she said. “Making the public broadcaster smaller or weaker won’t stop the Googles and Facebooks of the world, or the spread of disinformation.”
The CBC’s move online was to meet audience needs, not to compete with private media, she said, adding the CBC is mandated to serve Canadians whether they’re online or in front of an old-fashioned TV set.
Responding to questions why CBC doesn’t reveal how much it spends on digital journalism, Tait said it doesn’t put platforms in spending silos since the same journalist often files a story with radio, television and digital aspects.
“I really caution people about trying to treat digital as a standalone spend,” she said. Tait proposed that Canadian media better collaborate to tackle problems of trust and fake news. She recommended sharing resources for commodity news so individual players can focus spending on investigative work.
The legislative review is critical to the CBC, given its mandate and independence are both enshrined in the Broadcasting Act. A preliminary report on proposed changes is scheduled to come out in June.
© Ottawa Citizen