Hello, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Sorry for the technical difficulties at the beginning.
Now that we have everybody, I'm going to start by saying that we are now doing our prestudy on the subject matter of Bill , which is currently in the House of Commons where second reading debate has begun. We are going to consider all themes and elements from Bill C-10 throughout this study. This is our first day of the study.
Before we start, I want to say that there have been some issues with simultaneous interpretation noted in other committees last week. Should any of you encounter a problem, please flag it immediately by raising your hand or saying something to the effect that you cannot get the interpretation. Please do not yell into your microphone if you're not getting interpretation; just repeat the words “excuse me” or whatever. We need to be sensitive to our interpreters. As you can well imagine, they have large earphones and, of course, it can be very loud when you shout into your microphone.
There is only one other stipulation about interpretation. If you do not have a headset with a microphone.... Let's say that you're using the Apple headset, where there's a cord with a microphone on it. Please place the microphone close to your mouth. That way, interpretation is able to hear you. We really appreciate this.
We're a little bit behind, so let's get started.
On the subject matter of Bill , we have, to start, three groups with us in the first hour.
From the Association québécoise de la production médiatique, we have Hélène Messier, president and chief executive officer. From the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, we have Martin Théberge, president; and Marie-Christine Morin, executive director. Finally, from the Quebec English-language Production Council, we have Darius Bossé, a lawyer with Power Law; Kenneth Hirsch, co-chair; and Eva Ludvig, member of the board of directors of the Quebec Community Groups Network.
Thank you, one and all.
We're going to start with Madame Messier.
Ms. Messier, the floor is yours for five minutes.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, the Association québécoise de la production médiatique, or AQPM, advises, represents and accompanies more than 160 independent film, television and web production corporations in Quebec. Thank you for inviting me here as the work on Bill begins.
In 2018-2019, Quebec's independent production companies generated a volume of $875 million in producing feature-length movies, television programs and web content, thereby creating the equivalent of more than 16,000 full-time jobs.
For more than 50 years, Quebec's independent producers have been able to provide audiences at home and abroad with original content in French and English. This is because of the determination of a few pioneers like Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt. Their work resulted in the Aird Commission, whose 1929 report led to the passage of the first version of the Broadcasting Act in 1932.
The government thereby recognized that it was essential to strengthen national identity and to affirm Canada's cultural sovereignty by providing local programming to Canadians who, at the time, were overwhelmed by radio programs produced by American stations. Those are the principles that led to the adoption of the first version of the Broadcasting Act and it seems important to me to recall them as the preliminary study of Bill begins.
This bill represents the first major reform to the Broadcasting Act since the one in 1991. It seeks to integrate online transmission services, both Canadian and foreign, into the regulatory framework so that they can all play a role in funding and promoting our national content. It also seeks to give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, the power it needs to ensure that the rules are followed by these new players. The AQPM is delighted with this historic step forward.
Since the first act in 1932, the landscape has changed greatly, with the arrival of our public broadcaster, with the creation of institutions such as the National Film Board, the NFB, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund and the establishment of fiscal and financial measures to support the Canadian audiovisual industry. The industry now has reached an annual production volume in excess of $9 billion. This substantial figure seems to show that the industry is doing well, but it hides a troubling reality. In fact, 52% of the audiovisual content produced in Canada is not Canadian. It is made in Canada by foreign companies.
The rest of the production volume is divided between the broadcasters' internal production, at 13%, which includes sports, news or public affairs, and independent production, which comes to 35% of the total. So, independent Canadian content, which alone ensures the diversity of television broadcasts or feature films, represents only a little more than one third of the production in Canada each year. Can there be any question about the need to better support the creation, production, distribution and promotion of Canadian content?
The AQPM sees that urgent action is needed. Traditional sources of funding are declining, as are the production budgets for original content in French. The whole ecosystem must be overhauled so that production companies can develop, our creative resources can be fully deployed, and our cultural identity can live on. In addition, mass media like cinema, television and music are essential for protecting French and the indigenous languages.
However, Bill lacks some fundamental items, particularly in terms of adequate protection for original content in French, for Canadian talent, and for the intellectual property of Canadian production companies. Canadian content means ensuring that the bill focuses squarely on Canadian creators, that the content belongs to Canadian companies and that original content in French has a major place.
Bill excludes some critical players in the new media reality, such as social media, online distribution companies and the companies that provide Internet and cell phone service.
The task of implementing Canadian broadcasting policy rests with the CRTC. It is therefore the guardian of the objectives set out in clause 3 of the bill and in translating them to the requirements to be imposed on broadcasting companies. This fundamental role must be set within a serious framework provided by the government, something that is lacking in the current bill.
The would like the bill to put an end to the lack of regulatory symmetry between traditional broadcasters and online undertakings. Bill provides for fair and equitable treatment for the broadcasting companies that provide services of a similar nature. The AQPM is afraid that traditional broadcasters may see that as an opportunity to decrease their existing obligations.
If our wish is that bringing new players into the broadcasting ecosystem will result in new sources of revenue to produce and promote more original Canadian content in English, French and indigenous languages, and in content that is better financed and more diversified in genre, the government should quickly state its intentions in that regard.
The AQPM would like to point out that it is a member of the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. We therefore support the coalition's proposed amendments. But we will be producing our own brief, which will be sent to the members of the committee in the coming weeks.
Thank you for your attention.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Martin Théberge. I am the President of the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, the FCCF, and I am accompanied, as you have just said, by Marie-Christine Morin, our Executive Director.
This is a pivotal moment for the Canadian broadcasting system. We welcome the introduction of the bill, which, in itself, represents an essential advance in modernizing Canada's Broadcasting Act. This is crucial in maintaining our country's identity and cultural sovereignty.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before your committee today to present to you the key points of our thinking and our main requests about the bill you are studying, in terms of the issues and the particular needs of official language minority communities.
As well as being the voice of the ecosystem of French-Canadian and Acadian arts and culture, the FCCF is proud to present requests that reflect a broad consensus. Our efforts in horizontal collaboration have borne fruit. Like our members, our partners in the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the FCFA, and in the Quebec English-language Production Council, the QEPC, formally support our position. It is also important to note that the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française has also allied itself with the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, of which we are a member. Finally, to the quality process of our internal work, the FCCF adds assistance from external legal and institutional services that support our position.
The amendments that the FCCF is requesting have four main objectives. First, Canadian broadcasting policy must take into account the particular situation of official language minority communities, or OLMCs, and the unique linguistic challenges and issues of Francophone minorities, through specific objectives specifically set out in Canada's legislative framework for broadcasting.
Second, the mission of the CRTC must be made more specific in order to include the needs of the OLMCs and their particular realities.
Third, the objectives for original content in French must be strengthened in order to take into account the unique situation of French in the country.
Fourth, the FCCF seeks to ensure that online distribution companies are established in such a way that the CRTC may issue orders to them requiring mandatory distribution and an equitable proportion of Canadian content. This must include a significant amount of original broadcasting in French, and a guarantee that it can be viewed in an optimal way.
The FCCF sees the significance of our requests to you in terms of support, in the broadest sense, for the development of our fragile artistic and cultural ecosystem. The broadcasting choices that are about to be made will be critical for our ability to see and hear ourselves, and to create and produce in French. The result will be nothing less than the protection of our country's cultural sovereignty.
The FCCF is adamant about the need for Parliament to clearly state its intentions for official language minority communities in Bill . Our experience has shown that, only when OLMCs are specifically mentioned, will we be able to work towards the full and complete participation of our communities in the Canadian broadcasting system.
Before our appearance, the FCCF provided the clerk of the committee with a statement of our position. We have proposed specific wording for the amendments we are putting forward and have provided detailed explanations in support. We are convinced that including the points we are raising as amendments to the current version of Bill will allow official language minority communities to participate better in the Canadian broadcasting system and will foster their cultural development in the long term.
Thank you for your attention, we will be pleased to answer your questions.
In Quebec, we are an increasingly vulnerable minority. There are fewer and fewer bilingual municipalities. Our school boards are under attack and our schools are closing. Our population is aging. Our jobs are leaving Quebec, and our children are following.
Over a generation, English language film and TV production in Quebec has fallen from 25% of total English language production in Canada to just 7%. On our current trajectory, we can foresee the end of OLMC production in Quebec, and the jobs that such production represents.
Worse, the loss of OLMC production in Quebec will drastically reduce our community’s ability to share our distinct and diverse stories with one another, with other Canadians and the world.
Our communications system, indeed our cultural sovereignty, has never been under greater assault from foreign streaming services than it is now. It has never been easier to be a cultural consumer, streaming more and more content, paying for more and more platforms to deliver it: someone else’s content, someone else’s platforms.
Bill legislation you are now considering is more desperately needed than anything Parliament has enacted for broadcasting since the establishment of the CBC in 1936.
Yet Canada’s official language minorities are totally absent from this draft of Bill . Despite the parliamentary mandate to support the vitality of official language minorities in the Broadcasting Act and the Official Languages Act, the draft legislation before you fails to even mention us. We ask you to reconsider and to rectify this regrettable oversight. Canadian broadcasting policies must consider the needs of the official language minorities and help us secure our future.
To that end, the English and French minorities agree on their approach to Bill .
The Fédération culturelle canadienne-française,
as you heard, said in its letter to the :
In addition to those francophone alliances, we are proud to confirm the support of English-language organizations in Quebec... for the FCCF's position papers and for all the amendments we are proposing.
QEPC, ELAN—the English Language Arts Network—and QCGN said in our letter to the minister:
...we wish to stress that we support the amendments to Bill C-10 put forward by the [FCCF] on December 2.... These proposed amendments to Bill C-10 are aimed at ensuring that Canadian broadcasting policies consider the specific situation of [official language minority communities]... an objective also pursued by QEPC, QCGN, and ELAN.
When tabling Bill C-10, the said, “With the modernization of the legislation, Francophone, Anglophone, Indigenous, people with disabilities, racialized and LGBTQ2+ creators will have the means to tell their own stories.”
As the bill is now written, that is simply not true. Anglophone and francophone minority-language creators have been excluded.
To include us, we respectfully request, one, that the Broadcasting Act's interpretation clause be expanded to expressly include and support French and English minority-language communities; two, that the CRTC's and the CBC's obligation to ensure that positive measures are taken to enhance the vitality and support of the development of the OLMCs be expressly stated in the Broadcasting Act; and, three, that an obligation for the government to consult both official-language minority communities be included in the Broadcasting Act.
My thanks to all the witnesses for joining us today and for giving us their time to help us determine how we can improve Bill .
I have had the opportunity to meet representatives from a number of organizations across the country, some of whom are here today. They have told me about their concerns with Bill .
First of all, I have to say that everyone agrees that it is time to get down to the task of modernizing the Broadcasting Act. The chose to divide his bill into three parts. Naturally, this does not address everything, thereby creating some dissatisfaction.
In the course of the various consultations that I have personally conducted, I have been told about concerns about the production of francophone content. People want to make sure that the bill will accommodate that in order to protect minority French-language communities all across the country, not just in Quebec.
My first question goes to the representatives of the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and to the representative of the Association québécoise de la production médiatique.
In your opinion, what are the key points, the amendments that should be made to the bill, in order to really take French into account. Should it be with quotas or should it not? I do not want to get into a debate about quotas but I would like to know whether you have any recommendations.
The people from the FCCF can answer first, followed by the AQPM.
Too often in the past, the CRTC has interpreted the recognition of linguistic duality as the provision of content in French, with no concern for whether the content consisted of programs translated from English, with subtitles or dubbing. That is why we are arguing for the creation of original content in French.
As Mrs. Morin emphasized, we want this requirement first and foremost to be established in subsection 3(1). Section 3 is the foundation of the Broadcasting Act. It contains the objectives of the act, with which the CRTC must ensure compliance. In our view, it is important that the requirement be established in that section. Of course, original content in French includes production both from Quebec and from official language minority communities.
We want it in section 5 because it is the CRTC's mission. We also want it in subsection 9(1), because it is one of the factors that the CRTC must consider when it makes orders establishing service conditions for all the industry's players, traditional and digital broadcasters alike.
We want to ensure that the CRTC remembers this and enforces it. In the past, it did not do so and we have had to appeal CRTC decisions in order to remind them of the importance of French-language content being original, not simply in French. With online service providers like Netflix providing content in 30 languages, it is an even more important reminder that French-language content be original.
Thank you for the question, Mr. Rayes.
In general, the amendments to Bill that QEPC, ELAN and the Quebec Community Groups Network, the QCGN, are proposing are intended to ensure that the use of the discretionary power that the Broadcasting Act provides is well established.
Too often, we see that, although the CRTC and CBC/Radio-Canada must comply with the requirements set out in the Official Languages Act—
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the witnesses for joining us.
Mrs. Morin, Mr. Théberge, it's always a pleasure to see you.
Let me start with you, Ms. Messier. Earlier, we talked about the tech giants, who will also have to contribute to the production of content one of these days.
Could we talk about how you would proceed and about the model you would advocate for distributing the additional money to be collected from the tech giants for production?
Do you have a model in mind? Do you have an idea of the way in which that money could be fairly redistributed?
It is difficult to answer that question because it's the CRTC that will decide how that money will be distributed. Of course, I hope that French-language production will receive its fair share.
The francophone music industry has about 40% of the funding in Canada. Generally, institutions like Telefilm Canada or the Canada Media Fund have to make do with one third of the funding. I don't see why that should remain as it is.
It will certainly depend on the type of platform. If we are talking about platforms that are aimed more to a francophone market, I imagine that the requirements will be greater. For traditional broadcasters, we are asking that 75% of their production be in French.
For the tech giants, I would really like their requirements to be a minimum of 40% or even 50% of the amounts, the expenditures, we require of them, for example. It is true that French-language production in a minority setting is in a unique situation, but all French-language production in the same ecosystems as the tech giants is in a difficult situation.
Production in Quebec is too. For example, current production budgets for a drama series are less than $500,000 per hour whereas English-language production can count on a budget that easily averages around $2 million.
So it is already uneven. With our current budgets, it is difficult for us to take our place and to attract public attention. So it is important for original French-language production to be funded adequately.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us today. This is very interesting.
Similar to all of my colleagues I'm sure, I have had many meetings about Bill , and I'm excited that we're starting the process of looking at it.
I represent the riding of Edmonton Strathcona. Many of you may not know, but in Alberta, it is one of our strongest francophone communities, one of the strongest OLMCs we have in Alberta, and a very important part of my riding.
I want to ask some questions of the FCCF, Mr. Théberge and Madame Morin. I know we've talked about this already, but I want to give you a bit of an opportunity to expand. You spoke about the importance, from your perspective, of the bill, ensuring that broadcasters, online or not, promote the French original content, especially in our linguistic minority communities.
Can you talk a bit more about how that could happen?
I think that there are some major exclusions in the bill. We talked about social media, such as YouTube and Facebook, which broadcast a great deal of professional music and audiovisual content. We talked about digital distribution, which would make it possible to protect, for example, the broadcasting of TV5 and Unis TV on digital platforms. This would help OLMCs in particular.
There are also the services of Internet and mobile phone providers. We know that people now consume a great deal of audiovisual content on their phones and computers. They use a significant amount of bandwidth. The cable companies are already helping to fund programs. We know that there's an increasing amount of
People are currently consuming this content through Internet services or through their phones. We think that these providers should make a contribution. The Yale report said that they should be excluded. We don't agree with this. We think that they should be included, even if the CRTC were to decide, for example, for a few years only, to take information, to impose accountability obligations or to impose minimum obligations a little later.
I think that the act must cast the net wide. It must also look ahead and guide all the players in the field so that we can obtain the proper information and, ultimately, regulate their activities.
I want to thank the people who are appearing before us today on behalf of the three invited groups.
You represent a vital part of Canada: linguistic duality and the importance of producing original content in French in Canada, in Quebec and, more specifically, outside Quebec.
Also, there's the importance of producing original English-language content in Quebec, because we have two official language minorities in this country, which people are forgetting too often these days.
I just want to assure the groups that I do support many of the amendments you have proposed and I will put them forward when it comes time for amendments.
I'd like to ask a couple of questions.
In the brief from the Quebec English-language Production Council, you mentioned that CRTC decisions have historically had very negative impacts on Quebec's English-speaking communities, and the trend is getting worse over the years.
Could you just give me a few sentences about that?
We have to move very quickly as we are extremely pressed for time. We will go into overtime, past one o'clock Eastern. I'll try to keep that to a minimum.
Once again, there have been some issues with simultaneous interpretation, and should anyone encounter a problem, please wave your hand or say something. If you say something, please don't raise your voice as this is a very sensitive interpretation issue.
We have three guests with us. I'm going to introduce each of you guests and then get right into your five minutes. I'm going to be very strict on time. I apologize in advance if I interrupt you.
First off we have, from Alberta Newspaper Group, Ryan McAdams, group publisher.
Mr. McAdams, go ahead. You have five minutes.
I want to thank everyone on this committee for inviting us to speak today. I think it's an important factor that we all face and are challenged with. I look back on my 35 years of working in and consulting with media. I am quite concerned with where we sit today but, more importantly, with the public perception of media. What was once a respected and fact-based pillar of our past generations is now not much more than a punchline in pop culture. To illustrate that point, I'll speak to a comment that I heard yesterday, which was, “I'm now old enough to remember when the only fake news around was the National Enquirer.”
I'm here today, with respect, in an effort to try to appeal to the common sense of this committee's members with respect to my desire to stop this slide into a more out-of-control media sphere. My talk today is really about the lack and loss of local journalism. We have seen the decline and erosion of this over the years, and that has been escalated obviously in the last 12 months because of COVID. We've seen many newspapers, broadcasters and radio stations alike disappear in recent years. That's concerning and it's creating areas of news deserts. There are vast and growing areas in which local news is no longer represented, and we are losing the ability to communicate to our communities. It is essential, I believe, that we have a functioning broadcast act and CRTC, with controls over what is replacing what we once knew as the news.
We sit in a shifting media landscape in which the function of local news production has been narrowed, as I mentioned, by the erosion of advertising dollars. We look at the impacts of the tech giants and how they siphon off local and national advertising. You don't need to look any further than at what the federal governments used to spend on newspapers, TV and radio stations. Those dollars are now spent largely on digital and media campaigns that are Internet-based.
The problem with that is that the Internet giants, the tech giants, are all U.S.-based. That money leaves the country. It doesn't get reinvested. It doesn't employ local people or Canadians, and the tax dollars themselves go away.
This loss of fact-based communication and reporting began with the disappearance of all of our local stations and written newspapers. I think one of the things we need to understand is that the majority of local journalism is produced by community sources, not the national media. We owe our nation and citizens better. The communities across Canada and your constituents want assurances that Canadian content will be available and that the digital players will be as responsible for their contribution to the creation of homegrown content.
We've seen recent decisions in France and Australia that began the process of holding tech giants accountable by regulating them and putting in place penalties and costs for them to do business. It's important that we as a newspaper industry feel that the Broadcasting Act is holding social media and the Internet giants accountable for what they produce, what they distribute and what they disseminate. I know that the act is looking to make more inroads with respect to the Internet but I also realize and agree that it is not taking on any proactive statement with respect to social media. Social media is becoming a greater player in terms of information, particularly. That is, in my opinion, a very big, severe concern with respect to where people get what they want to call news from. The fact that social media is really unpoliced is my biggest and strongest concern.
I have provided attachments for the members to read, and that ends my time.
Good morning. I'm John Petrie and I worked in local radio for over 40 years. My theme will be focused on radio and regulations affecting it as it evolves into new platforms.
I know the importance of local radio and connecting to the community from reporting local news, covering local sports teams, doing play-by-play, and especially during critical times such as winter blizzards, knowing which roads are open and closed and what schools are open. It's the same in the summertime when there are tornado warnings or thunderstorm warnings.
While you can get a lot of that information on your cellphone, people still turn to traditional media, which gives them assurances of credibility. I know the importance of local radio or media for local business and non-profits to get their message out and to advertise. I want to cite you a few examples of the importance of local radio. Back in December, the radio station in Brooks here raised $36,000 in one day for the food bank, and over the last 30 years, the local station has held a Rotary Radio Day helping the Brooks Rotary Club raise $300,000.
Local radio gives us a sense of community. When I say community, that doesn't necessarily mean just people, but it's more of a feeling of common interests, goals and supports. You can translate that provincially and nationally, too.
The CRTC has controlled the licences of radio stations, which has limited the supply. Unfortunately, the supply has been taken over by larger companies. That might produce a better product, but in most cases now the cutbacks have reduced the amount of local programming and jobs.
Radio delivery is moving to the Internet and other formats. I still listen to a lot of traditional radio but I listen to it in a new way, either through my cellphone or Bluetooth. Norway, by the way, is a nation of five million people and has become the first in the world to phase out analog signals in favour of digital audio broadcasting, which means the FM and the AM signals are gone. Switzerland and Britain are both considering a switch to digital networks. Norway claims the move will free up some cash for broadcasters to invest in programming, while providing a clear and more reliable network.
Canada will eventually get there. We don't know when that will happen, but it will eventually go that way. What happens with our traditional radio stations that are broadcasting through transmitters, especially when cars no longer carry an FM or AM radio? Will anybody be able to start up an Internet radio station and not worry about a transmitter or call letters or frequency? Will they need a licence or can they just start it up on their own?
Traditional radio, as you know, has to follow certain rules, such as playing 35% Canadian content, paying SOCAN fees, following the Canadian broadcast standards and playing the music that they're licensed to play. Of course, they have to have a logger and they have to keep everything for 30 days for music audit or in case somebody is slandered.
As radio moves to the Internet, and most stations now stream through an app such as the Radioplayer Canada app, what will the rules for the Internet be? Will they still have to play 35% CanCon? Does Spotify or Apple Play or Google Music play 35% CanCon?
What about standards for announcers or talk show hosts? On traditional radio, they have rules, but a broadcast on the Internet has no rules and few regulations. On the Internet, if you listen to podcasts, crude language sometimes has no restraints. Who's going to monitor this and who's going to control this? Is it even necessary to do so?
Governments like to think they're the arbiters of regulations and rules, but we saw in the U.S. election big companies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were making up the rules, deciding what content could be shared. Also when a rival to Twitter came along, the major tech companies would not allow them to operate on their platform. Then who decides what can be talked about or played on Internet radio? Do we need controls or do we let people decide for themselves what they want to hear and listen to?
If you have an online radio station, you need to run it through a provider such as Rogers or Bell. Could they shut you down if you were becoming too competitive to them, reduce your bandwidth or up your price? What will the rules be if I run an online radio station through a platform such as Facebook or YouTube? Who would own the data coming from that, and what would the rules be on foreign ownership? What about paying into the Canada Media Fund? Would there be any requirement for Canadian employment, or could these companies operate outside of Canada?
In the end, though, the question is this: What do Canadians want from the media? They want to be informed. They want to be entertained. They want the freedom to choose where they get their information and entertainment from. Now, if you pay for it via a subscription, should there be rules imposed? If you—
Thank you very much to the committee for inviting us. I fully agree with both Ryan and John.
My name is Ahmed Kassem. I have been producing and hosting cultural community television shows for many years in the past decade. In addition, I am the host of a local community radio show that focuses on intercultural relationships in rural communities. All programs are intended to increase awareness and understanding of many cultures and languages in the Brooks area, to indicate to newcomers their rights and responsibilities in Canada, and to increase newcomer knowledge about the community they live in through interviews with key community leaders and service providers.
BIll is helpful to that if it goes hand-in-hand with the Canadian Broadcasting Act, [Technical difficulty—Editor] broadcasting. At the same time, we should impress the [Inaudible—Editor] digital world. It's more difficult than it used to be for families to come together to watch one TV screen; you can all watch the same thing on different devices. The online world should pass the same scrutiny as the Broadcasting Act, in that the contents should not be produced by someone from their home, which enables individuals and groups to spread misinformation, which can be harmful and sometimes dangerous.
The bill also helps visible minorities be a part of the broadcasting world because the voices of all Canadians matter, not where they come from. It could be said that the bill seeks to even the playing field, so to speak, for content disparities all over Canada. The bill would have them all operate under the same regulatory guidelines.
I believe it is critical to ensure that any legislation does not result in earlier streaming services pulling out of Canada. The proposed heightened guidelines as to what they are required to follow could drive the services out of Canada, therefore narrowing the scope of media and content available in the country.
I am personally in favour of the bill, with the caution that I mentioned before: Having all media providers in Canada under the same guidelines makes it fairer for smaller broadcast hosts to operate. It also safely [Inaudible—Editor] and ensures Canadian content availability in Canada, keeping us close to our roots—while also avoiding promoting harmful content—to ensure the protection and support of local broadcasting and newspapers, especially in our rural communities throughout Canada.
The discussions on this topic raise four main questions for me. One, how exactly will this be protecting Canadian content? Two, how will the content be vetted? Three, where will it come from? Finally, will this create any new employment opportunities for Canada?
Yes. Thank you, Mr. Shields.
I just wanted to finish off. When we're making rules, we have to have a level playing field. What I mean by a level playing field is we have to make sure whatever happens online happens with traditional media as long as it's around here.
If we start to license Internet radio stations, I think it would be nice if they were licensed to Canadians, and there's no limit on that. Take our community, for example. We're a community of 100 different voices. With larger cities, you could have an ethnic radio station. You could have several ethnic radio stations in Toronto or Vancouver.
The other thing I wanted to bring up is content rules. Who decides on content? If you bring in content rules, does that stifle any creativity?
The bottom line is taxing streaming services like all other businesses. I think we're all in agreement with that, because there are big giants from the United States and they're using our infrastructure. We're paying for it and they're getting off scot-free, so I think most of us are in agreement that there should be a way they are taxed.
Brooks is the “City of 100 Hellos”, and we do have a large number of different ethnic groups from all over the world.
It is a very big challenge when it comes to a lot of messaging. That has been proven during the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health nightmare. As well there's the difficulty of racial conflict, anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia.
The messaging, as John just mentioned, the way that we broadcast through the podcast, we reach out to every community through their own language, through their own culture. That reaching out helps the communities to stay in the rural area with their families, and to work and be part of the community they are in.
It is very critical to have that voice from newcomers, and the value added to the economic development of Canada in general, and all rural areas of Canada. It's very critical to have the voice of small services. It's very important to have the voice of every Canadian added to the value.
I would encourage the committee to look into community radio, or any other means so that every voice from the Canadian perspective can be heard in a very effective manner.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank all of the witnesses for being here. This is an amazing opportunity. I hope I get a chance to talk to each of you, so I'll dive right in.
Mr. Kassem, I'm very interested to hear more. The smaller the communities in Canada, I find, the more challenges you have promoting diversity and inclusivity. You seem to be doing an amazing job. I looked up your organization—the insights, the advice, the promoting of community events, the diversity awareness, the empowering of newcomers—you're doing a wonderful job and I appreciate that.
I know that one of the clauses of the bill outlines in section 3 of the Broadcasting Act to emphasize that the Canadian broadcasting system should “serve the needs and interests of all Canadians—including Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and ages”.
I wonder if you could comment further. It's always wonderful to hear a success story—one of the local stories that you hear on your show promoting people feeling comfortable in a small community.
Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate it.
We've been working very hard to have the newcomers integrate to the rural area as part of the rural immigration policies of both the federal and provincial governments for many years.
When someone comes from overseas, they will be coming to a country where they have no connections, they will be running away from problems or they'll be coming of their own choice. There is always difficulty in leaving your social net or your family social net and coming to a new culture, a new language and a new and different environment. That alone will put stress on many of the newcomers or immigrants.
On our show we highlight the success stories of immigrants who have contributed well and have businesses in the country. When they come to Canada—we all call this country “a paradise”, we really like to be in Canada—they are very excited to be here. Some of them are successful due to their hard work. Most of them are very business-minded.
We invite those business entrepreneurs to the show so the rest of the people will see that hard work and dedication will pay off in the long run. We always try not to entertain the notion of victimhood or of blaming others for your shortcomings. That is the way that you can empower individuals.
Educate them and give them the tools to succeed rather than having them depend on you. We help them by giving them the tools to succeed in Canada and to open up a new life, but they have to be hard-working, honest, dedicated and willing to contribute to the society they are in.
The show is dedicated mostly to newcomers and immigrants who have businesses and who are professionals. Most of them are from South Africa. Most of them are medical doctors from South Africa. We invite them to talk about their successes, their difficulties when the came to Canada and the challenges they faced. The listeners will see how difficult it was for them, but how they achieved success despite those difficulties. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Those stories are all on our website. Anyone can link to it and watch these nice stories.
I have other questions for Mr. Petrie.
Mr. Petrie, I'm a former radio host. I must say that, when you talk about old technology that young people don't know about today, it's music to my ears. I'm thinking of call letters and digital indexing.
I was recently talking about power with a young host who started his career just a few years ago. I was talking about 50,000 watts of FM antenna power compared to 150,000 watts or 200,000 watts. I seemed to be speaking a language that he had never heard before.
You said that you have 40 years of experience in radio. I have nearly 30 years of experience. If we add Kevin Waugh's experience, we must have 150 or 160 years of experience around the table today. I'm saying this with all due respect, Mr. Waugh.
I mainly wanted to talk about how quickly this industry is changing. This has been particularly noticeable in recent years. During your career, did you feel that concerns such as the ones discussed today were being raised? I'm no longer talking about technology. I'm talking about protecting content and protecting cultural identity. We talk a great deal about Quebec and francophone culture, but this also involves Canadian culture in general.
You don't have to admit it.
It's lovely to see so many members of the community from Alberta. I am not an old radio host, so I don't come with that expertise, but I have an awful lot of interest in the vital importance of local media and how we are watching local media disintegrate.
I might ask the same questions to many of you, but I'll start with Mr. McAdams.
You spoke a lot about local media and what we stand to lose. One thing that's been brought up to me time and again as I've met with stakeholders is that our local media is often a place where our journalists begin their careers. It's often a training ground for local media.
Could you talk about the impact on journalists' development and what that looks like in Canada, considering the attacks on local media?
Well, France did get an agreement. Australia didn't get an agreement from them.
Mr. Ryan McAdams: Not yet.
Mr. Kevin Waugh: That's the sticking point in my mind, because I think if Australia would get an agreement, then Canada would soon follow. Right now, from what we heard on Friday anyway, I think that Facebook is digging in their heels.
Mr. Petrie, it's good to see you again.
It's interesting. You talked about Rosetown radio, CJYM. Like your stations in Brooks, they are owned by Stingray—Rosetown, Kindersley. I can say that Humboldt, Moose Jaw, Estevan, Weyburn are no longer owned locally. Golden West broadcasting out of Manitoba owns all these rural radio stations, and that's a disconnect at times, there is no question. You can't go to “coffee row” and talk to the owner of the radio station anymore, because he or she doesn't live in that community. That's the way it is.
Unfortunately, radio is hanging on.... They have done it to themselves at times. I agree with you, Mr. Petrie, that they do need the help. However, the big conglomerates like Jim Pattison are buying up everything in the province here. You see it with Stingray in your community, and that's not good, is it?
You can get around that by loosening up the licences on that, because if the big giants aren't going to do any local programming, maybe somebody else will come along and start up a small....
The licences were brought in at one point basically because the capital cost to start up a radio station was so high and you wanted a certain amount of longevity in that.
For you or me or Ahmed to start up a community radio station, the capital cost nowadays is minuscule. In most cases, like I say, you just need a $1,200 laptop and you can start up a radio station in your basement. If you loosen up the licences on that, then maybe we can get back our local programming.
I'm not asking for any government help; I never really believed in that. However, I believe if you have a good product and you have advertisers who are listening, or you have an audience and you can direct that advertising to them, they will pay for that content.
For now, we use broadcast more often. The pandemic not only had an effect on many Canadians. There has been a huge impact, due to many factors that play into the economic situation, especially for newcomers, people of colour and minorities.
Isolation is a huge factor. In our broadcast, we have a psychologist in our office who talks about the importance of having time to yourself. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the main challenges we're facing is the problem of the vaccine. Most people, if the vaccine were to be available, would not be taking it regardless if they are newcomers or local people. That's the challenge we are facing now. We hope to come up with something some time this week or next week.
JBS Canada is one of the largest beef-processing plants in Canada. It employs about 3,000 employees, and 90% of them are immigrants or newcomers. It is having a problem convincing people to take the vaccine. We're hoping, by communicating via radio or broadcast with a video clip, to encourage people to take the vaccine.
More importantly, the mental health issue for newcomers is huge. They have flashbacks from where they came from or from where they were running away from, and the problems they faced. There is an increase in isolation, anxiety and depression. On top of that, this increase also has an effect on domestic violence. Domestic violence is increasing now in our area and throughout Canada. If people are staying in their houses all the time, that will also affect their mental health and wellness.