On a panel organized by the Canadian Media Producers Association in Ottawa last Thursday, CBC boss Catherine Tait compared the growing global influence of Netflix to colonialism.
It was one of those "Wait... what?" statements critics could easily seize upon because, on its face, the comparison sounds bizarre, tone-deaf and melodramatic all at the same time. After all, it’s not as though the streaming service is subjugating nations of people, erasing their languages and cultures, and also giving them smallpox. And before one evokes imagery of "cultural imperialism," it’s probably worth remembering that, without colonization, neither Canadians nor their television shows would exist in the first place.
Of course, that’s not what Ms. Tait said or even implied, which is the trouble with these kinds of statements in the nuance-bereft era of Twitter. Set aside the imperfect and inflammatory analogy for a moment and you’ll find Ms. Tait has a point.
Netflix’s spread into Canada has been less of a violent takeover and more of an insidious creep. And its influence sounds positive. Netflix will be the very first to point out, as Stéphane Cardin, Netflix’s director of public policy for Canada, did, that it has already committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on production in Canada — of its own volition, not because of some regulatory policy.
Netflix’s massive reach is also able to get Canadian programming onto screens all over the world. For example, the streaming giant made U.S. hits out of Canadian TV series such as Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience — both CBC shows, by the way — and Netflix Canada is home to an even larger stable of CBC originals that tell Canadian stories.