The passage of C-11 is in sight—let’s define our future together

*This op-ed was published in Playback on Apr. 26

The imminent passage of Bill C-11 into law is a catalyst for change.

The new appointments of three experienced women as the heads of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Telefilm Canada, and the National Film Board of Canada, as well as the $40 million in Budget 2023 for the Canada Media Fund (CMF) to make funding more open to traditionally underrepresented voices and increase funding for French-language screen content are all indicators of positive movement forward.

The CMF couldn’t be prouder and more optimistic for the future of our sector. Our investment in the many productions that were nominated or won at the Canadian Screen Awards, and the infectious energy of the production teams behind The Porter, Sort Of, Brother, Viking, and many others, gives me great hope that the tidal wave of change will carry us forward to a new landing place. Change is well on its way. It’s inspiring and full of opportunity. 

Change has been a constant companion of the industry.  Change in mandate, direction from government, financial tools, and types of programs. The number of CMF programs has grown from 17 in 2010 to 39 today, with CMF applicants reaching an all-time high of 2,100 in 2022.

Change is hard. It threatens the status quo. It creates a fear of loss. But I also know that the creativity, innovation, and growth of our industry just doesn’t stop.

Nearly 75 years ago, the Massey Commission was the last comprehensive review of our sector, with recommendations to nurture, preserve, and promote Canadian culture, setting us on the road to today. It has been 24 years since the CRTC largely exempted online broadcasting from regulation. It has been seven years since Minister Mélanie Joly announced the Cultural Policy Advisory Group that started the process towards legislative change in 2016.

That’s a long time for uncertainty and fear to grow. Over the last seven years, polarization, frustration, and fear have overshadowed the industry’s usual embrace of opportunity and adaptation, the most effective tools for survival. Our communities are exhausted from waiting, from the wrangling during Bills C-10 and C-11, from the immense stress of the pandemic. I see this most recently in both the enthusiasm and resistance to the CMF’s exploratory national conversation on the definition of Canadian content, even though discussion on the definition launched long before the CMF’s consultation, with many providing their views during the debates on Bill C-11. Opinions range from if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it to adapt or die.

Initiated by the CMF and led by an external research team, the #CanConDef initiative has so far gathered the opinions of over 2,500 individuals from the industry and the public. In the coming weeks, we will host a series of workshops across the country led by the research team to offer further opportunities to participate in this exploratory, complex discussion. A comprehensive “What You Said Report” is planned for publication later this year.

It is the CRTC’s job to determine the definition, and they will hear many divergent opinions through their process. Within our own industry, opinions vary from the retention and monetization of IP as the determining factor, to the softening of use of Canadian talent for market and financing appeal, to the maximum and equitable use of Canadian talent, regardless of ownership, and to making the definition more flexible and adaptable.

We all know that universal consensus on a new definition of Canadian content is impossible. But all these conversations are critical, and we need to invite a wide breadth of perspectives to the table. The industry and the broader public all have a stake in what ultimately defines our national content. The hope for this inclusive conversation is to distill the fundamental principles we want to hold to as a country, to provide input towards a definition that allows Canada to continue producing our stories for a domestic and international audience.

Our industry knows it must continue to adapt and change in a world that is increasingly complex and uncertain.

This is no time to be suspicious, on guard, questioning motives and intentions. Emotions are high. But the collective interest we all share is the fierce defence of Canada’s stories and our right to tell them and share them.

My conviction remains that the collective experience, intelligence, and passion of all communities and interests in our industry can result in a proactive approach. Together, we can help define the core principles we need to reinvent our broadcasting, distribution, and production system,and offer these views to the decision makers.

The answers may not be entirely clear. We may not all completely agree. But while the legislative and regulatory system unfolds over the next two to three years, we have an opportunity to collectively use this wait time to prepare wisely, create momentum, and work together for the benefit of the country.

The new landing place I see is one of common understanding and a future vision for our national content creation that continues to inspire.

Valerie Creighton
Valerie Creighton currently serves as President & CEO of the Canada Media Fund, the country’s largest funder of Canadian content across all audiovisual platforms. She is an industry leader in arts, culture, and media, recognized for reenergizing some of the country’s most important cultural organizations over her storied career. Among many accolades, she has been invested into the Order of Canada and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.
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