Catching Up on – the perils of polling – playing tee-ball with Big Tech – the CanCon surge

May 7, 2023

A quick and sentimental word on the passing of Gordon Lightfoot. If you are under sixty years of age you may not appreciate how important the great Canadian folksinger was during his prime songwriting years in the 60s and 70s. The world of Canadian music –or just the world in general– was so much smaller then and he was so big. And his lyrics so iconic and his music so powerful. Rest in peace.


This week MediaPolicy published two posts.

The first was a watchdog piece. During the Senate hearings on the Online Streaming Act late last year, it came out that YouTube had commissioned a public opinion poll on C-11 but elected not to publish it. I discovered belatedly that the Abacus poll was nonetheless posted on the Senate website because the chair of the Transportation and Communications Committee had asked for it. The post is about the frailties of public opinion polling, especially when the questions are torqued.

The second post is another instalment in the ongoing story of Google and Facebook playing hardball with Canadian Parliamentarians over the Online News Act, Bill C-18, now in the Senate. MediaPolicy makes yet another suggestion of how we might stop playing tee-ball with Big Tech when they are playing hardball with us.


On the subject of Big Tech tactics, NBC reported on Facebook’s significant funding of a US lobby group aligned with Mark Zuckerberg’s opposition to anti-trust legislation before US Congress.

Companies fighting regulation through bearded lobby groups is nothing new, anywhere. But given Big Tech’s extraordinary efforts in Canada, it’s worth tracking what they do.


Back on C-11. Hugh Stephens has a helpful set-up piece in anticipation of Bill C-11’s journey through the Canada Gazette consultation and CRTC hearings.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) released its annual industry report (year ending August 31, 2022). It was a bumper year for TV production and film making in Canada with some eye-popping results on the ‘foreign location service’ side (i.e. Canadians making shows for American media companies). Results on the CanCon production side were great as well.

The outcomes moved C-11 opponent Michael Geist to conclude that the political narrative in support of the Bill was a hoax. Or as he put it:

There is no Cancon emergency and no risk to film and TV production in Canada. The Bill C-11 panic over the viability of the sector was little more than a fraudulent lobbyist-inspired talking point with little basis in reality.

On the other hand, CMPA’s report pointed out what industry insiders knew was coming:

But that kind of growth also reflects a number of unique variables, each of them contributing to the significant increases in production activity in 2021/22. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry reversed recent trends and experienced a robust rebound in production activity. That increase was further fueled by general inflationary pressures on productions costs, as it was across much of the Canadian economy. Results for Canadian television production were impacted by Canadian broadcasters restoring their levels of licence fee funding in 2021/22 (even catching up for underspends in prior pandemic years), as well as the continued injection of additional government funding resources made available during the pandemic.

The challenge will be to sustain that level of production activity. The general economy is facing significant economic headwinds, with real concerns about lingering inflation and a possible recession. The prospect of such an economic downturn may impact the general level of economic activity in Canada, including film and television production. Canadian content levels from Canadian broadcasters may be readjusted going forward, as shortfalls from prior years may have been fulfilled.

The following chart reveals the 10-year trend (finally exceeding stagnation levels for CanCon), the temporary suppression of production during the pandemic and the spectacular rebound in 2021-22. Long may it continue:


Two weekend reads on the recommendation list are:

If you aren’t saturated already with commentary on ChatGPT and AI, the Globe’s Tony Geller wrote an excellent reflection on whether and how governments ought to respond to what’s happening.

Back on C-11, Josh O’Kane interviewed a series of Canadian artists and crew members from the film production and YouTuber industries on their views of C-11. Really well done.


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Published by

Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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