This was always going to be a risky move. But after the past few weeks it has never been more obvious that, though “broadcasting” does occur on the internet, the internet is much, much more than a plaything. Far from being just “the new cable,” the internet is a magnificent, free and open industrial, social, economic, cultural and commercial marketplace.
Moreover, regulatory interference with it in order to support a mythical crisis in Canadian screen production is based on a complete misunderstanding of the facts. Lost in the madness of the past two weeks, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) released its report on the state of the industry through 2019. It shows that total film and television production in Canada grew last year by an impressive 5.8 per cent to $9.3 billion — an all-time high. There was growth in every sector while Canadian film and television content production grew eight per cent to $3.22 billion. TV was up seven per cent to $2.89 billion while film was up fully 25 per cent to $337 million. English-language production was up six per cent, French-language production 13.6 per cent.
This means that over the past 10 years, during which regulators and policy-makers wisely took a laissez-faire approach to internet content, the film and television production industry in Canada has not struggled, as a handful of self-serving but influential activists insist, but has prospered, growing by 85 per cent. According to the CMPA report, by the end of 2019 the on-screen sector was supporting 180,900 full-time equivalent jobs and producing $12.8 billion in GDP. When it comes to the fallacy of a crisis in Canadian broadcasting, the numbers are in, the science is settled.
Now more than ever, policy-makers need to pause, breathe deeply, think wisely and make sure Canada’s first priority is a strong and unfettered internet.
Peter Menzies is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a past CRTC vice-chair of telecommunications.
© Financial Post