Feds urged to loosen reins at digital forum

J. Serge Sasseville OF Quebecor Media speaks at the Information and Communication Technology...

J. Serge Sasseville OF Quebecor Media speaks at the Information and Communication Technology Council conference in Ottawa, November 15, 2012. Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET

OTTAWA - Canadian companies need the regulatory reins loosened so they can compete toe-to-toe with global brands in the new digital realm.

Serge Sasseville, Quebecor Media's senior vice-president of corporate and institutional affairs, said Thursday that Canadian players need "enlightened intervention" to compete against global heavyweights such as Netflix, Apple and Google.

"These same corporations are not burdened with the same regulatory requirements and limitations as their Canadian counterparts," he told delegates at a France-Canada summit on the future of digital content.

Sasseville pointed to regulations domestic content producers face and international companies don't, such as Canadian content rules and taxes on subscriptions and movie rentals.

"We need to ensure that Canadian corporations can count on a regulatory environment that helps them compete on an equal footing with foreign rivals," he said.

"This means a lighter regulatory framework, but not the complete and utter rejection of all regulations."

He also noted that financing models for TV and film need a second look. Under current rules, for example, networks that help bankroll productions that receive public funds can't recoup their investment if it becomes a global hit.

Sasseville contends Canadian cultural industries need to focus on creating products that appeal to audiences worldwide, and these changes could help spur that change.

Some 60 industry leaders, academics and policy makers are gathered in Ottawa for the two-day forum, where they will flesh out ideas for business models aimed at leveraging opportunities in the new media realm.

Philippe Zeller, France's ambassador to Canada, said Thursday in an opening address to the summit the digital revolution was "profound" and offered both a chance and a challenge to business and government.

"We are the first generation who will have known the revolution at its very beginning," he said. "We already know future generations will use entirely new channels of transmitting knowledge, culture and science."

As consumers move online and use mobile devices, they demand TV, music, films and news across all platforms. With this shift, creative industries become "key drivers for economic and social innovation in both countries," he said.

Zeller maintained governments need to accept their crucial role in driving the change while fostering domestic cultural industries.

"They need to set up the legal, economic and academic framework able to protect the access to knowledge, to foster cultural diversity and stimulate creation," he said.

A final policy paper will be produced at the end of the summit and presented to both Canadian and French governments.

The Information and Communications Technology Council - a research, market intelligence and policy centre for the digital economy - is co-hosting the event along with the Embassy of France. Quebecor Media, which owns QMI Agency and Sun Media, is one of its sponsors.


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