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OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 6:45 p.m. to examine the challenges faced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the changing environment of broadcasting and communications.

Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to order. Today, we continue our study of the challenges faced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the changing environment of broadcasting and communications.


We have two organizations before us today. From Telefilm Canada, we have Ms. Carolle Brabant, Executive Director; Mr. Dave Forget, Director, Business Affairs and Certification; and Mr. Jean-Claude Mahé, Director, Public and Governmental Affairs. From the National Film Board of Canada, we have Mr. Claude Joli-Coeur, Acting Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson; and Ms. Deborah Drisdell, Director General, Accessibility and Digital Enterprises.

I will invite each organization that wants to make a presentation to do so, but I think we'll be starting with the National Film Board.


Claude Joli-Coeur, Acting Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada, Commissioner’s Office: Good evening. To begin, I would like to thank the committee for inviting us to participate in the study of the challenges faced by the Société Radio-Canada in relation to the changing environment of broadcasting and communications.

We have been asked to talk about the NFB’s mandate and its specificity in comparison with other government cultural agencies. We will also present in some detail the terms of our collaboration with la Société Radio-Canada/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and identify potential areas of further collaboration.

The National Film Board of Canada was created by an Act of Parliament in 1939 and is a federal agency within the Canadian Heritage portfolio. Our mandate is to produce and distribute original and innovative audiovisual works that add to our understanding of the issues facing Canadians and raise awareness of Canadian values and viewpoints across the country and around the world.

As a producer and distributor of Canadian audiovisual works, the NFB produces documentaries, auteur animation, interactive content and mobile applications. Since it was founded, the institution has garnered more than 5,000 awards for its works, including 12 Oscars.

Since its creation, the NFB has been committed to reaching Canadians where they live, by every means possible. Today, the advent of new technologies has enabled the NFB to begin writing a new page in its history by regaining this proximity with its audience.


Deborah Drisdell, Director General, Accessibility and Digital Enterprises, National Film Board of Canada: In 2008, we recognized the potential of digital technologies to reconnect with Canadians, to further engage with our audiences, at home and around the world. We also foresaw the marketplace disruption that would ensue, not by the technology per se but from the evolving consumer behaviour that technology enables. We then undertook an ambitious digital distribution strategy to increase accessibility, in addition to our continued efforts in traditional markets.

In 2009, we launched our online screening room, streaming 750 titles in English and French, and we also deployed an aggressive expansion to mobile platforms. The development of our digital infrastructure enabled us to create mobile applications that further enhance our audience's experience and encourage the rediscovery of our collection by new audiences.

Audiences can now download or stream over 2,500 films from the NFB collection and view them online, on mobile devices or on connected televisions. Since our launch, we have registered over 57 million views of our programming on and our partner sites. There have been over 2.4 million downloads of our various applications.

This strategy helped us to follow the evolution of the commercial marketplace, which was felt more particularly by the niche content that we produce. Though historically, broadcast revenue was a significant portion of our revenues, it now comprises less than 25 per cent of the revenue earned by the Film Board, and Canadian broadcast audiences represented only 32 per cent of our total audiences last year.

Though CBC and Société Radio-Canada are important partners for the NFB, we also broadcast our content on a number of other Canadian broadcasters, such as Silver Screen, TVOntario and Télé-Québec, to name a few. In 2013-14, CBC broadcasts generated 10 per cent of our Canadian television audience, Société Radio-Canada generated 6 per cent and the Doc Channel generated 15 per cent.


Mr. Joli-Coeur: The National Film Board stands apart from other Canadian arts and media institutions for its unique mandate of producing and distributing audiovisual works that focus on Canadian society and culture.

The CBC/SRC, as a public broadcaster mandated to “provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains”, has traditionally included a broad array of documentary productions in their programming offer — including some NFB productions and co-productions. Its journalistic approach to documentary, however, differs from the NFB’s emphasis on point-of-view documentary storytelling.

Thus, with the growing fragmentation of the industry, the space for auteur animation and creative documentary on television (public and private) has drastically diminished. However, the NFB remains firmly committed to producing and distributing auteur animation, interactive programming and point-of-view documentary work — a form that some have argued should be officially recognized as Canada’s national art form.

The collaboration between the CBC/SRC has existed for many decades and has many dimensions. This collaboration has changed over the years and today primarily revolves around the following elements: sales and pre-sales of NFB productions and co-productions, the Documentary Channel, the Concours Tremplin for emerging filmmakers, and the distribution of archival footage through the Web site NFB/ONF Images.


Over the last five years, CBC, SRC and the CBC-operated Documentary Channel have acquired a total of 396 titles from the NFB. The vast majority of our business links with CBC/SRC are indirect as they consist of presales agreements with our co-producers for broadcast on one of the corporation's conventional networks or on one of its specialty services, such as RDI, or on Nouveaux médias, Radio-Canada's web platform.

In the last three years, presales agreements have been signed with the CBC/SRC for six English-language co-productions and 10 French-language co-productions.

One good example of a successful collaboration is the recent launch of the centennial tribute, The Van Doos, 100 Years with the Royal 22e Regiment, in which the SRC participated financially. In the week this documentary launched, over 500,000 people saw this work on the airwaves of RDI.

The NFB is involved with the specialty television station the Documentary Channel, which has belonged to the CBC since June 2007. The Documentary Channel has acquired numerous documentaries from the NFB, both collection content at a set price and new productions at a price based on market value.

The Concours Tremplin is one element of the NFB's initiative to discover and promote the talent of emerging filmmakers from the country's minority French-speaking communities. The SRC is a major partner, providing not only financial support for the competition, but also broadcasting the works on its airwaves. In March 2014, we launched the eighth edition of the Tremplin in collaboration with the SRC, which enabled the four winners to create short documentaries.

Finally, the NFB has two agreements with the SRC to distribute and sell archival footage through the NFB Images website. At present, 135 hours of SRC archives are offered for sale on the NFB Images site.


Mr. Joli-Coeur: For many years, there have been multiple avenues of collaboration between the NFB and the CBC/SRC. These joint efforts have made it possible to take advantage of the synergy between the two institutions and the complementarity of their respective mandate. As the market, technologies and audiences evolve, there is great potential for new collaborations in the future between the institutions. The NFB wishes to salute the Senate’s efforts to examine the challenges facing the CBC and SRC, and we hope that your reflections help preserve the vitality of our public cultural and radio-broadcasting institutions. Thank you for your invitation, and we would be pleased to answer any questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Joli-Coeur. From Telefilm, we welcome Ms. Brabant. Go ahead, Ms. Brabant, the floor is yours.

Carolle Brabant, Executive Director, Canadian Heritage, Telefilm Canada: Good evening, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I would first like to thank you for the invitation to take part in the committee’s examination of the challenges faced by the CBC/Radio-Canada in relation to the changing environment of broadcasting and communications.

My comments will focus on the following three areas: an overview on Telefilm Canada and our strategic priorities vis-à-vis the evolving broadcasting landscape; the role of the CBC/Radio Canada in support of Canadian content and in particular, Canadian feature films; and our perspective on the future of the audiovisual industry in the context of convergence.

Telefilm Canada is a federal cultural agency with a mandate to foster and promote the development of the audiovisual industry in Canada. In this regard, we play a leadership role through financial support and initiatives that contribute to the industry’s cultural, industrial and commercial success. Our funding programs provide financial support to dynamic Canadian production and distribution companies across the country. Last year, we supported some 90 feature films in both production and marketing. We also promote Canadian audiovisual success and talent at festivals, markets and events, regionally, nationally and around the world.

Telefilm values regional and diverse perspectives, including those of emerging talent and of linguistic minorities, as well as culturally diverse viewpoints from Aboriginal communities. Telefilm also administers programs for the Canada Media Fund (CMF), which totalled $354.5 million in fiscal 2013-2014.

We also make recommendations regarding the certification of audiovisual treaty co-productions to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

In 2011, Telefilm embarked on a “dare to change” campaign by fostering cultural success with a focus on stimulating audience demand for Canadian films.


Four strategic pillars drive Telefilm's strategy moving forward. They are to maintain and expand Telefilm's core role of funder; develop our role as promoter; provide thought leadership by developing and sharing industry intelligence; and reinforce Telefilm's organizational excellence.

In the last three years, we have redesigned our programs, introduced a new Success Index that provides a broader measurement of success beyond the box office; increased marketing efforts to showcase talent and our successes in Canada and around the world; sustained and improved external communications to strengthen relationships with stakeholders; partnered with the private sector on the promotion of Canadian talent through B2C events; and established a new talent fund that has raised more than $14 million in private contributions, including long-term, tangible benefits from the Bell, Astral, Corus deals. These results have helped us to set the stage for the industry to better connect with Canadian viewers.


In an intervention Telefilm submitted to the CRTC in 2013 in the context of the CBC/Radio-Canada’s licence renewal, we pointed out the critical role played by the CBC/SRC in support of Canada’s audiovisual industry. We noted at the time that the CBC/Radio-Canada, together with other public agenc1es including Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board of Canada, form a strong foundation for the audiovisual industry in Canada. Together, we have a large imprint on defining, developing and defending Canadian culture.

Strong national public institutions such as the CBC/Radio-Canada that supply, distribute and broadcast high-quality information and entertainment are essential for all regions of Canada. The CBC/SRC also has a long history as the largest supplier of original Canadian television content. We recognize their valuable role in this regard: their investment in original Canadian content provides a platform to nurture Canadian talent, provide opportunities for emerging artists and acts as an outlet for established stars to showcase their skills.

As the CBC/Radio-Canada points out in a 2013 environment scan, the economics of original content creation in Canada are challenging in comparison to acquiring content from a larger market. Perhaps more than any other type of content, Canadian feature films are the most challenging to finance, taking on average a minimum of four years between the time a script begins development to when a product makes its way to the screen. The CBC/SRC, as Canada’s premier broadcaster of Canadian programming, has an important role to play in supporting the production and promotion of Canadian feature films.

Between 2009-2010 and 2013-2014, the CBC and Radio-Canada supported the production of 69 Canadian feature films. This support represented a total investment of almost $10 million.


In 2009, CBC and Telefilm Canada launched an initiative to support the development and financing of films that had an initial theatrical release, followed shortly thereafter by broadcast on CBC Television and distribution via other platforms. Under the approach, CBC, in collaboration with Telefilm, worked with independent producers, their creative teams and distributors on the production and promotion of films. This unique initiative led to the production of the following films: Barney's Version, Breakaway, Midnight's Children, and the development of Book of Negroes.

We are hopeful similar joint initiatives could be established in the future, ones which would see the CBC/Radio-Canada take on a more significant role in the development, production and promotion of Canadian feature films.


The broadcasting environment is changing profoundly with the digital age yet television is still the way we reach most Canadians, as our consumer research demonstrates.

At Telefilm, we believe that promotion and marketing on all platforms hold the key to increasing the reach of our product, at home and abroad, and to giving maximum exposure to our stories.

The technological developments we are witnessing in our television system impacts all of us involved in the development, production and promotion of Canadian content. The television screen can now connect to a universe of apps, networks and devices.

The four-screen phenomenon is now the standard with a variety of platforms — television, tablets, smartphones or computers all used simultaneously. The one question that concerns us all as an industry is: how do we work together to create compelling and engaging content that will reach Canadians and audiences around the world on multiple platforms?

We are passionate as funders, broadcasters, distributors, exhibitors, producers and policy-makers to ensure that the most creative, innovative, diverse and high-quality content makes its way to screens so that audiences can share in it.


Just consider the overwhelming success of Xavier Dolan's Mommy: $2.5 million and growing at the domestic box office; profiled on magazine covers in France, foreign sales to more than 50 countries; an Oscar buzz in Hollywood; close to 800,000 entries in France alone.

Our industry is experiencing great successes as our stories resonate with domestic and international audiences. The talent, creativity and skills of our industry are world class. The time is now for us to partner together to successfully give our talent the greatest opportunities to keep realizing their potential.

I thank you once again for inviting us to appear today. I welcome your questions.


The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Brabant and Mr. Joli-Coeur. I am going to start by asking you each a question comparing your relations with CBC/Radio-Canada and your relations with the public and public sectors in terms of your partnerships, currently and especially in the future. Do you have partnerships with people from the world of private production?

Ms. Brabant: As we mentioned in our presentation, Telefilm has really wanted to create new partnerships for about five years because we believe that we should be working together. We have talent, we have stories to tell and we have a record of success. We believe that Telefilm Canada, the NFB, Radio-Canada, or even private partners must work together, not alone, to promote that talent and tell those stories.

We have worked with partners and with the NFB, as well as with Radio-Canada and the CBC. We have also tried to develop new partnerships.

We have also worked with private partners. We have partnered with Rogers and with Chorus, all with the idea of promoting the talent we have in Canada and making it known.

Mr. Joli-Coeur: Along the same lines as Ms. Brabant has just explained, we are producers and distributers. We deal with the two entities of Radio-Canada/CBC, the French and English networks, with the specialty channel Documentary as with any other broadcaster. We are truly dependent on the internal organization of those Radio-Canada networks.

The networks are certainly different. The people involved are different by definition but, generally speaking, our business practices evolve in the same economic context. We have co-production partners. Our range is really broad.

The Chair: As you develop co-productions, are your partnerships based on a working model that is different for the public entity than for the private one?

Mr. Joli-Coeur: When we work on co-productions as producers, our partners are private producers. They are the ones in a business relationship with Radio-Canada, CBC or Documentary. If we are producing the program ourselves, we then have a direct relationship with them. It all depends on the way the project is designed.


Senator Eggleton: First of all, give us some indication as to how much of the programming on CBC would come from your respective organizations. Do you have any measurement of that? Is it a big amount of time that they're putting on your productions? Do you have any statistics to that effect?

Ms. Drisdell: We wouldn't have statistics on what the percentage of overall CBC programming is. We know what percentage of our content that CBC represents in the broadcast. We have a small number of productions that go on the CBC network or on Radio-Canada. They do attract large audiences, but there are a small number of documentaries that would go there. We would be able to furnish the percentage of our content that goes there, but not how much it is in their overall programming.

Senator Eggleton: What is the percentage of their content?

Ms. Drisdell: On our audiences and revenues, I can give it to you.

Senator Eggleton: While you're looking, maybe Telefilm Canada can answer the question.

Dave Forget, Director, Business Affairs and Certification, Canadian Heritage, Telefilm Canada: Keeping in mind that the arrangement that we have is with independent producers, Telefilm is not an in-house producer, in and of itself. So our producer clients who are investing in the project then make arrangements with CBC to have the film licensed for broadcast. So neither CBC nor Telefilm in this mix is the owner or creator of the production itself. What we understand in terms of what part of their programming is that, for example, in the English market, two Canadian feature films per month are airing on CBC. So how many of those are feature films that would have had Telefilm investments? Generally speaking, the vast majority of Canadian films have us as participants, so I imagine that number would be fairly high.

Ms. Drisdell: I have them here. CBC broadcast generated about 10 per cent of our Canadian audiences on a small number of projects; Radio-Canada, 6 per cent; and Doc Channel about 15 per cent of our overall Canadian audience for broadcast.

Senator Eggleton: What is the last one?

Ms. Drisdell: The Doc Channel is about 15.

Senator Eggleton: Good-quality production isn't necessarily popular. One of the discussions we've been having here is the question of ratings. This is in relation to the CBC, of course. How important are ratings, and what other factors do you think are important?

Ms. Brabant: I would have to disagree with your first statement. Just taking as an example the film Mommy that I was referring to, I think everyone would agree that it has been selected at the Cannes Film Festival in competition. It won an award there, and it's getting significant publicity.

When we're measuring success for feature films, as I was mentioning, we develop the success index and take into account box office, international sales, prices and festivals. This film world is scoring on every element of that. We're considering that $1 million box office in Canada is a success for a feature film. This year, I think we've had nine films that reached the criteria of $1 million in box office.

Senator Eggleton: I'm talking about the CBC, though.

Ms. Brabant: I was commenting on the fact that good-quality content is not necessary popular. For me, it's not necessarily the case.

Senator Eggleton: But the ratings of CBC have been the subject of discussion here. They're not always impressive, to some people, anyway.

Ms. Drisdell: We operate, really, in the niche market of documentaries, which tend to be slightly less popular.

For instance, last year three documentaries were shown on CBC, and they reached roughly 300,000 to 400,000. They're small audiences in the ratings of CBC, but still important for documentaries. For documentaries, those are important audiences. That's one of the reasons that, for the Film Board, it's really important to diversify how we reach audiences. Broadcast is one component that's important, but it's really only one and the documentary market is one niche, and one where people seek out that content.

Senator Housakos: If you're getting $1 million in box office revenues, it's because people went to see it.

Ms. Brabant: Absolutely, yes.

Senator Housakos: When people are seeing something, it gives you revenue and it's a success. I know some people have a hard time with it, but to me ratings, in whatever form, equate to success in the communications business.

Is CBC/Radio-Canada providing enough support to people in your industry? Are they doing enough and providing enough time for the Canadian art, culture and film industry to expose the gem that we have in this country culturally? Are they doing enough to get that exposure for you? I'm talking about in addition to what they are forced to do by the CRTC.

Ms. Brabant: From what I've been reading, but I'm a third party on commenting on that, their programming is a significant amount of Canadian content at prime time. They are programming feature films. As we mentioned, we have looked into getting into partnership with them for different initiatives.

As Dave mentioned, we're not owners of the content so we're trying to do most of our partnership with CBC/Radio-Canada with the intent of promoting the talent that we have. We have an initiative in Halifax about short films. We are also involved with CBC and NFB as well for The Shortest Day to promote the talent.

Are we doing enough? My answer is no. We want to do more. We would like Canadians to know about this talent and that's why we've been involved in promotion and working together.

I've often given the example of cheese. In Quebec not so long ago we were only eating French cheese when having guests, and in 10 years it has changed significantly. We're now looking at very nice cheese being produced all across the province, and I think it's the same for wine in Ontario and B.C.

I would like Canadians to be as proud of our talent and do the promotion the same way for the talented people we have. The answer is, no, we're not doing enough, but we need to be doing more collectively, I think.

Mr. Joli-Coeur: To come back on the example of what we did with Radio-Canada and our recent project with the Van Doos, and I'm following what Ms. Brabant said. When there is a will and partnerships, we can do very well.

Having 500,000 people over a weekend watching our film, it's significant. It's a major rating. But there was a willingness to partner, and the way we released that film and the way Radio-Canada promoted it was perfect. When there is that willingness we have an organization with the power to reach an audience. It's a matter of doing it together.

Senator Housakos: So far in our study I've come up with some conclusions, and I don't know if they will withstand the test of time as we go forward in this study. But the federal government, in my mind, has an obligation, given the challenges we have from our southern neighbour who is the world's leader in culture and promoting their culture, to get involved and support our arts and cultural industry, especially filmmakers, producers, writers and actors. To me, the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada historically, as a Canadian, has been to promote Canadian content.

In the course of our study I've come across, and members of this committee have seen it, that right now CBC/Radio-Canada spends anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of resources — based on information we have gotten from them — on news. They spend another 30 per cent of their production on radio. These are rough figures. And the rest they spend on Canadian content of shows, documentaries, film, whatever the case may be.

As a parliamentarian, I think that's not good enough. There are a lot of companies already in the news business and a lot of competition in the radio business. Is my statement and assessment that you don't have enough platforms promoting Canadian producers, writers and filmmakers, where we promote and highlight your work, correct?

Again, for argument's sake, I like to think outside of the box. Tomorrow morning the federal government says we found $1.2 million because we're taking it away from some Crown corporation and we're putting it all into the Canadian film industry. But we want 95 per cent of that $1.2 million, because there are administrative costs, to go to producers, writers and actors to produce Canadian films and documentaries, things that will speak to Canadians about being Canadian coast to coast to coast.

And the CRTC steps up and one day gets into the regulation business, and God knows they do that well enough, and they go to all the private broadcasters of the country and say, “If you want licensing you have to carry this Canadian content and film on your platform or else we won't licence you.” Now I'm really thinking outside of the box and being radical. What kind of an impact would that have on our Canadian production and film industry?

Ms. Brabant: That's certainly something we've been talking about to promote our Canadian content better.

One of our filmmakers once said that he went to Cannes, and Cannes is a huge competition. If you compare Cannes to any sporting event, it's the Stanley Cup of the film industry. Being selected in competition at Cannes is a huge achievement for a filmmaker. The Quebec filmmaker was wondering why he was not waited upon at the airport, on returning from Cannes, as a sports person would be. That's something we would like to see happen. We would like Canadians to be as proud of our filmmakers, actors and writers as they are of their sports stars.

We've been supporting the fact that we need to promote the success stories that we have better. I think it's working together to stop talking about the things that are not working.

The film industry is a research and development industry. If you take the example of Denis Villeneuve, he didn't make an American film as successful as the first film he made. We were there to support his first, second and third film, and now he is accomplished. He was from the beginning, but now has reached the level of a star in his field.

I think we need to be there and support their first initiative, of course, and we need to promote them better for sure.

Mr. Forget: Maybe I could add two comments. The first merits mentioning. When we talk about Cannes there is a glamour component and profile creation component to have the films be better known. It's also worth reminding ourselves that Cannes is also the biggest marketplace in the world for the exchange of rights and selling of feature films on the international market. Part of the initiative to have our auteur filmmakers celebrated in that context — it raises profiles and is obviously gratifying — is because it is also an industry and an export business. Our films are seen around the world, and there's an element to that that needs mentioning.

With regard to where the money is spent vis-à-vis production and promotion, we're living in a world where our competitors are, for example with American films, the equivalent of, on average, spending 25 per cent of the production budget on promotion. When we look at those numbers we don't have those kinds of ratios. We're in a small market and there are economies of scale. I'm not suggesting we need a critical mass of production activity — that's a given — but the emphasis on promotion is important.

Without making my answer too long, I think the other thing going on in the marketplace is we're all aware there is a change in the milieu happening, and for many years there was an order to the timing of availability. We are limiting our comments here to feature films. You had a life in a movie theatre, followed by a life on DVD, followed by pay TV and specialty programming, and eventually down the chain was your over-the-air broadcaster like CBC that came into the mix. So the proposition was, historically, this is a terrific feature film, we want you to get on board, in three years you'll have it on the air and we want you to be excited about that.

In fairness, when we were looking to collaborate, there was this notion of the cannibalization of the audience; I need to preserve the exclusivity. Over the years, we noticed — I'll provide an example of a film we helped finance a few years ago called Passchendaele. Paul Gross wrote and directed it. It was a major success at the box office, followed by the best performance on the DVD market and the best audience on the CBC. At every stop along the way, it outperformed every other Canadian film in terms of audience. What that speaks to is if you build audience, it's actually not true that you cannibalize it. When you build profile and audience, you get it across the board on all platforms.

To make a long story short, if you will forgive me, part of the idea of promotion and bringing people together is to start thinking outside of the box with the timing. Part of the discussion with the CBC is whether we can move up the food chain and have our films be present for our audiences earlier. Can we share platforms with others? There is a lot of interesting thinking currently going on in the industry about how those things can be redefined. Our take on it is if it results in greater audiences on all platforms for Canadian content, it's a plus. I'm not sure if that answers your question.

Senator Housakos: In short, my view is simply that I find the CBC — and I'll be blunt — has too much news, too much sports, too much Olympics. They do all kinds of things that everyone else out there is doing; everyone is doing sports, everyone is doing news. And they are out there competing with all the other people in the marketplace, the three other major competitors, and as a result, they can't compete with them at all. They can't get ratings. So if they can't get ratings, they can't get revenue. They eat up the budget they're getting from taxpayers, and that budget, in my view, is there to promote Canadian content.

From my point of view, if I get a reporter giving me a summary on what happened in the House of Commons on one channel, I can get the same summary on another channel and a similar one on yet another channel. At that point, why am I as a taxpayer putting money into one out of the four newscasts? Yet, I remember as a kid growing up, I used to see from time to time on a Friday night or a Saturday night a major feature film. I remember seeing the film Malarek, for example. I don't know if any of you would even remember that film. It just so happened that one of the stars in that film was a neighbour of mine growing up, and he went on and became a pretty big star in the U.S. He got his chance through your industry; otherwise, this young actor would never have been in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the other films he went on to do and become a popular Canadian actor. Michael J. Fox would not have become as big of a star as he did if he did not get a shot here. He got his shot through the CBC, for example.

I don't know if I'm in the majority or the minority here, but I feel really strongly about that, that the CBC has to re-engineer itself and get back to doing promotion of Canadian content. We as a government and a Parliament and the CBC itself have to consult with Canadians as to what that Canadian content is.

I went on for a long time. Again, I understand you already have an important relationship with them, but I want to have your comments. Do you agree with me that they could be doing more to give you more space to promote Canadian films to Canadians so we know they are out there?

There are a lot of films that receive international acclaim, and I found out about them watching CTV News. You guys were successful at the Cannes Film Festival. I never had an opportunity to hear about it elsewhere or to get promoted elsewhere. I would like to have your comments on that and figure out whether I'm on the right track. If I'm not, please feel free to disagree with me.

Ms. Brabant: As I was saying, we agree on more promotion. Part of the collaboration we are having with CBC/Radio-Canada is to make sure there will be coverage of the events that we have.

Senator Housakos: You mentioned earlier two of your films a month —

The Chair: I'll put you on second round pretty soon.

Senator Housakos: This is my last question. You mentioned earlier two films a month are shown on CBC, for example. What was the case 15 or 30 years ago?

Ms. Brabant: I would not be able to answer that.

Senator Housakos: Would it still have been two films per month or would it have been four or five? If that information can be dug up, I think it would be important for the committee.

Ms. Brabant: Okay.

Senator Demers: Thank you for your presentations. Canadians now access and consume television and films on multi-platform devices, such as traditional televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets. In your opinion, is CBC/Radio-Canada disadvantaged in the emerging multi-platform devices offered now? There is so much technology. How do you see that?

Ms. Drisdell: It's certainly a more complex environment than it used to be and much more fragmented. The broadcast licences are fragmented, and that is a more competitive environment for CBC.

Absolutely, there is a consumer migration into on-demand, and this is a challenge for all broadcasters and all distributors. It is definitely a more competitive marketplace than it used to be as consumers migrate to more on-demand, I guess we can say, whichever platform it is, but more on-demand viewing than appointment viewing, which is more what a traditional broadcaster provides. Many broadcasters are using a bit of a hybrid or catch-up model to maintain their audiences and migrate into this new technology.


Ms. Brabant: I agree with Deborah when she says that the environment is much more fragmented; a lot more issues are involved, but it also brings opportunities. At Telefilm Canada, we assessed the consumption habits of Canadians in terms of feature-length films. For us, understanding consumption habits is important.

It is interesting to see that, yes, probably 6 per cent of viewing is done on tablets. But the vast majority of film viewing is still done on the big screen. Canadians are still largely viewing their audio-visual content, particularly their films, on big screens. That is why it is our priority to work in collaboration with broadcasters, including Radio-Canada, to make sure that the content is more visible and more available on all platforms, but also on television screens.

Senator Demers: Thank you for your answer, madam. How do costs compare in producing a film for television and producing a film for digital distribution only?


Mr. Forget: I think I understood the first part of your question. For most films, the categories would be films intended for theatrical life and films intended to go directly to TV in the first instance. If you'll permit me, that might be a fair comparison.

In the world of films and of what we call “movies of the week” — that's the jargon for it — films made directly for TV are within a certain budget range that is not very elastic. It ranges in the $3 million to $4 million area.

One of challenges on the feature film side is that we see projects of the 60 or so productions that we help to finance a year. They range from a low of $150,000 to a high of $25 million, depending on which partners come into the mix internationally. So in the feature film world, there is such a variety of scope of project, and that's actually one of the challenges. I'm not sure if that answers your question.

Senator Demers: Yes, but the cost to make it for TV and the cost to make it for digital — you've answered part of it. There is obviously a different cost. You make films for TV and you make films for distribution under digital, hopefully. Does that make sense what I'm asking?


Ms. Drisdell: With today’s technology, shooting can often be done quite similarly for each type of screen. Let me talk about that a little more. With a documentary, it is more about post-production and then distribution because now, thanks to technology, the shooting is done digitally and then it can be distributed. So the decision has to be made whether it has to be completed in 35 mm and if the final sound will be in 5.2 and so forth. So the distribution shop sort of determines the costs.


Mr. Forget: Almost no films are shot on 35-millimetre. Almost everything we fund, the quality of digital is so high now that films are made digitally from the first instance. So we don't see the world of cameras with film in them anymore. Movie theatres are now equipped to run films digitally. We have passed from a digital environment in production to a digital environment in exhibition and on broadcast. There's almost no time when you have a physical film.

Senator Plett: I apologize for my tardiness this evening. If some of my line of questioning was answered in your presentations, again I apologize.

One of my questions is who all do you partner with? Do you partner only with CBC? Who do you partner with?

Ms. Brabant: We have a very large range of partners. We have a program for documentaries that we're partnering with Rogers. We have a partnership with Corus for kids' entertainment. On promotion, we're partnering with the distributor, with private sector, with Birks. It's important for us to find, as much as we can, partners in the private and public sector. A good example is the screenings we do in Ottawa for our Canadian films. On each event we have five, ten; depending on the films, we could have as many as ten partners.

Senator Plett: Senator Housakos named a couple of stars who have made it in the United States after starting here. I guess my question would be how many of our films have made it in the United States. Passchendaele, clearly, I think was an example of a great film, by all standards. Is it possible for you to compete in the United States?

Ms. Brabant: That's something that we've thought a lot about at Telefilm, and that's why we came up with the idea of the Success Index, to measure our films and the success of our films, to take into consideration that we're in the independent film business; we're not in the big action film field.

As Dave was saying, on average, our films are made with a budget of $3 million. This is not saying that, on a quality basis, they're not as good as any other films that are being made, but it's a very different product. Yes, some of our films are competing and are being sold internationally. A lot of our films are being sold internationally and are competing with the best of the best in festivals around the world. But at the same time, and again the comparison that I often use, we're a tenth of the population of the United States. We're producing about a tenth of the films they're producing. They have probably 20 films that you remember; I don't know. Of the 800 films they produced last year, I don't know if you're able to name 20 of them. I'm not. Of the 80 that were produced in Canada, we were mentioning that 9 surpassed the $1 million box office in Canada. For us, that’s an indicator of success.

Senator Plett: Listen, I don't dispute that. A film that makes $1 million at the box office, what kind of a deal would you be able to strike with CBC on a film like that?

Ms. Brabant: It would not be us to make the deal. It would be for the distributor, for the owner of the rights to make the deal with the CBC. We're not the owner of the films. We're not producing the films. We're financing. We're helping with the financing. I can tell you that some films and some talented filmmakers, they're able to sell those films on the advance at a better price than others.

Senator Plett: The National Film Board received some $67.5 million of federal funding last year, and they generated revenues of just over $6 million. Is that a good mixture of revenue for the amount of subsidy, if you will, that the National Film Board got? Are you happy with that?

Mr. Joli-Coeur: We would be happy with higher figures, of course, but the measure of our success cannot be seen in terms of revenue generation alone. It's much more the reach, the audience that we're getting for our product. We're a public service. How many Canadians, how many people around the world are seeing the Canadian point of view, the Canadian values that we reach with that? We are in an economy where —

Senator Plett: Sorry for interjecting, but how do you measure success then? You're saying by the number of Canadians that are watching. This is something that Senator Housakos has raised and I've raised, is that we believe — and even our friend opposite is starting to agree with us, I think, that ratings — he mentions it almost every meeting now, so he must be agreeing — that ratings, in fact, are an indicator of success, in my opinion.

Mr. Joli-Coeur: Absolutely.

Senator Plett: So how do you measure success if you say you don't measure it by revenue?

Ms. Drisdell: Revenue is one element we look at, but we do look very much at what the audience has generated. For instance, we have 2,500 films online that we provided for free for Canadians to screen. In a year, we have roughly about 28 million Canadians who have viewed films of the NFB, either on television, online, in theatres or in community screenings, and also, and very importantly for us, in the education market. We make our films available at a fairly reduced price for schools to be able to make sure that Canadian students are seeing Canadian films.

Senator Plett: That's part of your mandate.

Ms. Drisdell: That, for us, is part of the mandate. The accessibility of the content that Canadian taxpayers have paid to be made over the 75 years of the film board, for us, that accessibility is very important. Sometimes screenings, particularly in a remote community, will never be cost-efficient. That's part of our mandate, to make sure those films are available in those communities.

Senator Plett: It sounds to me like you're trying to play the role that my friend Senator Housakos is promoting for CBC.

Ms. Brabant: If I can add to that, it's an ecosystem. The NFB plays a role, the CBC plays a role, we play a role, as well as the private partners play a role. It's an ecosystem that contributes at a level of $5 billion to the economy of Canada. We're working together to make the system work.

I think that, yes, part of our mandate is to develop talent, and I think we're succeeding in developing talent that is shining in the films they're presenting. Radio-Canada, CBC, part of its mandate is to showcase those talents, and the same thing with NFB, production and showcasing the talent. I think it's an ecosystem that needs to be working together to make it efficient, and that's important to me.

Senator Unger: Thank you all for being here. Although I find it very interesting, it is also confusing. I'm from Edmonton and I cannot relate to any of the movies, films or anything else that you're talking about. My first question is: What, if anything, do you do in the West? I know you have an office in Edmonton.

My second question is: would you explain a comment from your corporate plan? You make a comment that's repeated throughout this document, which is that you:

. . . must become a broader catalyst for success by refocusing our efforts and resources on stimulating audience demand. This new goal re-energizes our mandate, and aligns our activities more closely with industry needs.

Would explain that for me?

Ms. Brabant: Five years ago, we did the strategic plan. We felt that we had worked a lot on what we could offer, by developing the industry and the talent. But, there was work that needed to be done on the demand side, such as making sure that the content was available to Canadians, wherever and whenever they wanted, on small or big screens. We felt that we had a role to play in enhancing that demand.

That's when we started to put the foundation in place to answer that demand. One of the things that we quickly realized was that the awareness was not there. Your introduction made that point. We realized that Canadians didn't know about Canadian films or about Canadian talent. We felt that we needed to be a leader in terms of knowing Canadian consumer habits and what we could do to raise that demand.

So we started doing studies, which was interesting. We did a survey three years ago. We realized that only one out of three Canadians were able to name a Canadian film. We started doing some small promotional initiatives and partnering with the private sector. We did screenings in Ottawa, partnering with the Calgary Film Festival, and with the Newfoundland Women’s Film Festival, in St. John's. We were able to change the number of Canadians that could name a Canadian film, to one out of two. By the end of my mandate, one of my goals will be to make it two out of three.

We've changed our director of communications' mandate to include marketing and to start new initiatives. We realized quickly that one of the new elements was that new filmmakers needed to be able to make not just one film, but a second and a third one. The expectations were very high for new filmmakers to be successful in Canada.

In the regions, we started an initiative that we call “the micro-budget”. We partnered with schools and co-ops from across Canada to finance the filmmakers' first film. We are very proud that this year at TIFF, there were unprecedented Canadians films coming from all regions. The first eight films that were made from our micro-budget, including a film from Calgary filmmaker Clive Thomas, who was preselected in many festivals around the world, had very good comments. We're hoping it will help raise their profiles and start their careers.

Senator Unger: Do you think that Canadians care about Canadian-produced films or do they care more about content?

Ms. Brabant: They do care more about content. That was clear in the study we did. We did a study in collaboration with UBC and HEC to better understand the viewing profile of Canadians. It's clear that the most important factors are the content, the stories and the genre. People will first pick a film because they want to see a comedy or a drama. That is the most important criteria.

Mr. Joli-Coeur: At the NFB we have production offices across the country: in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Our mandate is to tell stories from across the country. We have producers anchored in those communities, working with local creators, and telling local stories. For me, that's key. Content is everything. It's also our mandate to make and create those Canadian stories and distribute them across the country and around the world. We cover the country equally. I'd just like to mention one film We Were Children, which is an outstanding documentary on residential schools.

Senator Unger: I've heard of it.

Mr. Joli-Coeur: That is a lot of impact.

Senator Unger: My last question goes to Telefilm. Experience has taught us that box office figures simply don't you tell us the entire story. If they don't tell the entire story then you're looking at other factors. Are these other factors measurable?

Ms. Brabant: Absolutely. We felt that it was very important to measure success differently. We're in the independent film making business. The most important opportunity that we now have for independent films is that the market is worldwide. We're in a global environment. It's not just about the local box office. It's also about international sales.

Our mandate is to build a career for filmmakers and talent, which includes selections, festivals, and prizes. Our index is measuring three elements, as you would for a financial index. My background is as a chartered accountant, so you'll have to deal with that. I wanted to have something that would be measurable and that would help us to measure the success of the films, of the production companies, and of the individual attached to the film. It's an index that's composed of commercial factors. We're measuring international sales, other national sales, like TV sales, and sales from the box office. We're also measuring the prizes and awards that the films received from festivals and its selection by important festivals. We have a list of 40 worldwide festivals that are covering genre. As it's important to us, we're also measuring the capacity of the production company to attract private financing. It's a combination of elements that measures, not only the box office success, but also the success of the film and the production company. I will give you an example.

There was a film five years ago, Blindness, a Canadian co-production, that did okay in Canada in terms of box office, $700,000. It did not reach the $1 million bar. It went under the radar for success stories. At that time, I was the Director of Finance at Telefilm Canada. Because of the immense success of that film internationally, we were fully reimbursed on our investment in less than one year. It made a huge amount of money internationally. I said, “If this is not a success that we should be proud of, we need to be,” and because we were only measuring the box office, we were not telling that story. I thought it was important to include in our measurement of success not only the Canadian box office but also the international successes of the films we're financing.

Senator Greene: In terms of competition for the U.S. market, it seems to me that Australia has an advantage over us. They're a smaller country and yet they seem to produce bigger, more popular movies in the United States with big international stars, et cetera. In terms of a measure of success such as a box office, Australia seems to beat us. I wonder if you have any knowledge as to what Australia does to support their system that we don't do and that we could do.

Ms. Brabant: I don't have the numbers. We're often comparing our cinema with other countries. I might be mistaken, but I think that one of the things that Australia is doing better than we do is promoting the success of their stars that are making a living in the States. They're proud of their stars who go to the States and make films there, while we often don’t even know that our Canadian stars in Hollywood are Canadian. I think that's one thing we would like to be doing better.

As an example, we started to hold an event in Los Angeles last year in partnership with the CMF and Bell Media to promote Canadian stars. I think they are doing it. But it's not our indication that Australian films are doing on average better than our Canadian films. Are you in agreement with that?

Mr. Forget: No. We could look at that.

The Chair: If you did have the numbers and could send them through the clerk, it would be appreciated.

Ms. Brabant: We would be willing to, but it's not the impression that we have.

Mr. Forget: I wanted to add this because the topic has come up a number of times, so I think it merits mentioning. Canadian films do quite well in terms of selling into the U.S. market. We've seen over the last couple of years, with the coming on-stream of subscription VOD services and other platforms, there is more of an appetite for Canadian independent feature films than there has ever been.

It's more of an anecdote, and I could get the numbers, but as an example, five to ten years ago, if a handful of films showcased at the Toronto festival found homes in the U.S. either from broadcasters or distributors, we would consider it a good year. Now if they don't all sell we wonder what went wrong. Almost everything finds a place in the American market in some form or another. Canadian films, in particular, the English-language films, for obvious reasons, do well in terms of selling into the U.S. and internationally. I wanted to mention that.

Senator Greene: That leads me to my next question. In terms of sales in the international market, excluding the United States, do films from Quebec do better than films from English Canada?

Mr. Forget: English-language Canadian films tend to do better internationally writ large. French-language films from Quebec, not surprisingly, do very well in francophone countries. The example of Mommy that you heard about earlier is a terrific hit in France now, doing really well at the box office. The general rule of thumb has been that English-language films travel very well internationally and not only in English-language markets but writ large they do very well.

Senator Housakos: I want to take the study back to the CBC. I think all of us are very supportive of what both of your organizations do. At least, I speak for myself.

In short, my question is: What is it that you'd like to say to this committee regarding CBC/Radio-Canada and your experiences in terms of what you would like them to do more of to help what you guys do? What could the public broadcaster be doing to facilitate the work of both of your organizations, in addition to what they've already been doing?

Mr. Joli-Coeur: More partnerships and more opportunities to team up from the very beginning of the project, with the strategy to do it, uniting our forces. That's key. The example I was giving you about the Van Doos documentary is perfect. If it had been done in other projects we have with them, the impact would be terrific. It's the willingness of the leaders of the organizations to make it work.

The Chair: Anything to add?

Ms. Brabant: Going back to what we were saying, I think promotion for us is key. CBC/Radio-Canada is an important partner in that. Showcasing the Canadian content and including films for us is key as well. Going back to the study that we've made where Canadians want to see their films on the big screen, I think it's important that CBC/Radio-Canada is showcasing those films.

Senator Housakos: When you say “promotions,” what exactly do you mean? Do you mean running the films on air? What specifically?

Ms. Brabant: Partnering with us in screening Canadian content, partnering with us in events like we did for the short films in Halifax and any initiatives that will help to get to my objective that two Canadians out of three are able to name Canadian films in a year and a half.

Senator Housakos: Do you find you get more exposure for your films in terms of promotions through CBC radio than television? I'm talking about in terms of advertising or bringing in stars of films for interviews. Would they have more programming where they promote culture by radio than TV?

Mr. Forget: Whether they do more, I think you touched on an important component of the whole promotion, just to flesh it out a little bit. Those are the opportunities. Any time we're promoting talent we're promoting the works as well. Those talk shows where there are interviews, whether on TV or radio, are all opportunities to showcase and publicize the talent. We've never actually held an exercise to see whether that is more present on the air versus on the radio.

We looked into what the decision-making process of a movie-goer is when they're choosing their film. One of the things that came to light was that there isn't a single moment that triggers the choice to see one film or another; there's a sequence of events. You park things you hear on the day you're choosing your film. Whether that's the interview that you heard on CBC Radio this morning or the advertisement or the bus shelter poster, it's a combination of all these things that leads to the critical mass where you feel the film is credible, present, something you're interested in. To me, it's all those things taken together, but we haven't done the exercise of seeing if it's more present on one than the other.

Ms. Brabant: That might be something we do in the future.

Senator Greene: I'd like to try one idea on you.

Ms. Brabant: We're open to ideas.

Senator Greene: It's just a thought I had, that an audience or person in an audience or any number of people in an audience can only absorb so much in the course of a day, a week, or what have you. Part of the problem with the English-Canadian audience is that a lot of its time is devoted to watching American shows. They do that because our cultures are similar, not the same, but similar.

Canadians can see themselves in American dramas, comedies, et cetera, and so there isn't the need in English Canada to see ourselves in Canadian-made productions because people can see themselves, to a large extent but not completely, in American productions.

In Quebec it's not like this at all. Quebecers need a much stronger native television culture than English Canadians do because they have that alternative outlet; is that a realistic view?

Ms. Brabant: Certainly there have been shows and there are shows that are successful such as “Republic of Doyle” and “Heartland.” I was in Europe recently and people were bragging about “Murdoch Mysteries” and they felt that this was really Canadian and they want it.

In every country where there is a different language from English I would not say it's easier, but people see the difference and the connection and they want to see shows in their own language.

Yes, it's an additional difficulty for Canadian content to be more visible and more accessible, but I'm not sure Canadians don't want to see stories that relate to them.

Senator Greene: I think they do want to see those stories. That's not what I'm saying. However, if they're not offered those stories they willingly look at American shows because they can see themselves there.

Ms. Brabant: Because I'm old enough to say this, I remember times when in French everything that was offered on prime time television was dubbed English from American shows. We didn't realize at that time that we needed to have Canadian content, but when we were offered Canadian content we really enjoyed those shows. I think it's the same when you look at shows that are actually successful, Canadians want to see them.

Senator Greene: Thanks.

The Chair: Mr. Mahé, Mr. Forget, Ms. Brabant, Ms. Drisdell and Mr. Joli-Coeur, thank you very much for your presentations.

Honourable colleagues, next Tuesday morning we have Éric Albert, Executive Vice-President of Stingray Digital Group. And, as you know, on November 5 and 6, we will be going to Senator Demers' hometown and we will be hosting our meetings in Montreal at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Thank you very much and this meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)