Netflix investing $500 million in Canadian content, as part of federal cultural policy

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Heritage Minister Melanie Joly’s much-awaited reboot of federal cultural policy includes some new tax dollars, but the government is also highlighting a $500-million deal with Internet streaming giant Netflix as part of the hoped-for cultural renaissance.

In her speech outlining the new “Creative Canada” policy, Joly says she wants to make sure all foreign platforms are also part of the promotion and protection of Canadian stories.

She says she wants them to participate in our goals to support the creation and discovery of Canadian content that showcases our talent, our cultures and our stories.

The deal with Netflix sets up a Canadian branch of operations for the company and commits Netflix to investing $500 million over five years in original productions in Canada.

The deal, agreed to under the Investment Act, means, among other things, that if Netflix doesn’t live up to its side of the bargain, the government could impose fines.

Joly also highlighted initiatives underway by Google and Facebook; the latter will help fund digital journalism development in a new program with Ryerson University.

Joly acknowledged the state of Canada’s news media — declining revenues and readership for traditional outlets being among the major challenges — but she’s not allocating any new federal cash to the sector.

She says the government’s approach will not aim to bail out industry models that are no longer viable. Instead, Joly says they will focus on supporting innovation, experimentation and a transition to digital.

The policy comes after months of consultation with a wide range of players in Canada’s cultural sector, many of whom had hoped to see new broadcasting players like Netflix or YouTube become part of the formal regulatory landscape for Canadian companies, which requires them to air certain levels of Canadian content and contribute financially to a fund to help develop it.

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