Digital Media at the Crossroads

An Annual Conference on the Future of Content in Digital Media

An “In the Weeds” Presentation and Roundtable Workshop

Thursday March 31, 2022 7:00pm – 9:00pm EST

Defining a Canadian Program for the Digital Age - What is it now and what should it become?

For a link to this presentation, go to: YouTube iconIn The Weeds: Defining A Canadian Program For The Digital Age

For a link to the slides, go to: pdf icon In The Weeds: Defining A Canadian Program For The Digital Age


Jessica Bay, Teaching Assistant, University of St. Michaels College, University of Toronto, PhD Candidate
Carolyne Sumner, Teaching Assistant, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, PhD Candidate Musicology


Douglas Barrett, Adjunct Professor, Arts, Media and Entertainment MBA Program, Schulich School of Business, former Board Chair of the Canadian Television Fund
Erin Finlay, Partner, Stohn, Hay, Cafazzo, Dembroski and Richmond LLP, and former Chief Legal Officer to the Canadian Media Producers Association

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For almost 50 years, Canada has developed a group of complex but effective tools for subsidizing the production of Canadian film and television programmes. Some of the tools are by way of the CRTC’s regulation of broadcasters, some are policy driven by both the CRTC and the Department of Canadian Heritage, some are direct subsidies from provincial and federal governments through the tax system, and some are through non-governmental organizations “nudged” by the CRTC.

Needless to say, every creative producer in Canada needs to be deeply familiar with all of these regimes. And now the recently tabled Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, opens the question of how the foreign streamers will make their own contribution to the system.

Throughout these same fifty years, one set of rules, somewhat differently applied in different circumstances, has underpinned the entire Canadian subsidy system: the definition of what constitutes a Canadian program.

This definition will now be placed under close review as Bill C-11 explicitly asks the CRTC to engage on this.

Some of the larger policy questions are:

  • Should we take a lighter touch regulatory approach and let the market work this out?
  • If we continue to want “Canadian” programs in the mix, how do we decide what Canadian means?
  • What cultural goals are we seeking?
  • What industrial goals?
  • How much regulation is too much?
  • How do we support the partnerships Canadian businesses have made with the global production community without giving up our ability to tell our own stories?

And specifically with respect to the definition of a Canadian Program we must ask:

  • Should a Canadian Producer control the production?
  • Should key creative positions in the production of a program should be primarily held by Canadians?
  • Should the costs of a program be spent on Canadians and for Canadian services?
  • Should Canadians own copyright, control exploitation and retain a portion of a program’s value?
  • Should the program subject matter be visibly Canadian?
  • Should independent Canadian producers play a special role?
  • Should equity seeking groups play a special role?

These are weighty questions, and the coming debate will have a critical impact on Canadian policy decision-makers, and on the professional lives of almost everyone in the space. At the upcoming DM@X-tra on March 31,2022, “In The Weeds” will take a deep dive into the issues with a lead-in presentation followed by focussed debate.

The event is free, but registration is required.