OTTAWA, ON, Nov. 1, 2022 /CNW/ – At a Senate hearing today, Unifor Media Director Randy Kitt testified that Bill C-11 – otherwise known as the Online Streaming Act – is missing one caveat: to save local news.
“This is a top of mind issue,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. “While tech platforms continue to profit – whether it’s displaying news stories without paying their fair share for them or limiting Canadian content – it impacts our media workers, who tirelessly report fact-based, accurate stories to the public.”
Bill C-11 is a modernization of the Broadcasting Act to bring foreign internet streamers (e.g. Netflix) into Canada’s regulatory system. Canadian broadcasters have long had to support Canadian content and to support local news. If foreign streamers are now allowed to compete directly with Canadian broadcasters, they should have the same responsibilities to support the telling of Canadian stories that should include local news.
The Broadcasting Act was last updated in 1991, well before the Internet was a big part of people’s lives. As the business model moved from broadcasting to streaming, it cut down Canadian content production, reduced the diversity of voices in this country and severely diminished local news production. This is creating a news vacuum in many communities.
Kitt told the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (TRCM) members that Unifor wants C-11 amended to ensure the Broadcasting Act mandates the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) to support local news, including by “developing, financing, producing or promoting local news and information programming”, with the creation of a news fund.
“In 2014, the CRTC said we didn’t need to fund local news anymore because advertising is coming back. They got it wrong,” said Kitt in his witness statement via Zoom.
“Since 2012, private conventional TV has been a big money loser nine years straight for both independent and big media companies. Those losses are made real to our members, between 2017 and 2021, employment in broadcasting decreased by 16%.”
Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor are big player companies in Canadian broadcasting, but they are not so rich that the public should just assume they will continue to fund local news as they continue to lose money, added Kitt.
As part of the amendment to the bill, Kitt proposed the Broadcasting Act give broadcasters $120 million in relief funds, which must be spent on local news.
Watch Kitt’s full testimony here.
Unifor represents more than 10,000 media workers, including 5,000 members in the broadcast and film industries.
“Local news and its role in holding power to account, strengthening democracy and building community has never been more important,” said Kitt in his testimony.
“Social media has proven to divide us, pitting neighbour against neighbour. We are more polarized than ever, but a strong Canadian media can build community.”
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.