NAFTA renegotiations wrapped Sunday night with a new trilateral trade deal. While protections for Canada’s cultural sectors remain as-is in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), there are some ramifications for the Canadian broadcast and digital media.
The deal includes a clause overturning the CRTC decision to allow U.S. advertising in Canada during the Super Bowl.
Canada has agreed to scrap the policy, which went into effect in 2017, banning Canadian networks from the practice of “simultaneous substitution” or replacing U.S. ads with Canadian ones.
Both BCE Inc., which holds Super Bowl broadcast rights in Canada, and the NFL had launched a legal challenge of the commission’s order. While so far it’s been upheld, an appeal is set to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada in December.
NAFTA 2.0 also brings Canadian copyright protections in line with those of the U.S. and the European Union, extending copyright terms from the end of the artist’s life plus 50 years to 70 years beyond the year the creator of the work dies. The extension will mean significant costs to those who use such works.
And while language around Canada’s cultural exemption is preserved, protecting television, music and books, the language around digital content does not allow favouring domestic digital media over that of the U.S. or Mexico.
Canada cannot block access to foreign digital content or force a foreign content creator to pay into a program it cannot benefit from. Ultimately, the language could limit the federal government’s ability to set Canadian content standards in the digital media realm.
Telefilm Canada was among the organizations that issued a statement expressing approval of the status quo.
“The newly-negotiated US-Mexico-Canada Agreement will retain the cultural exemption clause, ensuring that our cultural products reflect our national identity in all of its diversity – including our two official languages and Indigenous communities,” said executive director Christa Dickenson. “The cultural exemption clause, a global standard in trade agreements for many decades now, ensures that our talented creators from all corners of the country continue to bring their excellent stories to the screen.”
The agreement now requires approval from all three governments, including the U.S. Congress, which won’t consider the deal until 2019.
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