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Throne speech gives ‘most explicit’ statement yet of plan to make tech giants pay their share

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The Liberal government’s Throne Speech Wednesday contained the strongest remarks yet about Ottawa’s plan to assist Canada’s cultural industries and traditional media players by extracting obligations, including taxes, from large global social media and entertainment companies.

The remarks, which appeared to be aimed at U.S.-based platforms including Facebook, Google and Netflix, were in a section of the speech that addressed tax inequality and “corporate tax avoidance by digital giants.”

In a portion of the speech that was delivered in French, Governor-General Julie Payette, who delivered the speech, said the foreign-based web giants are taking Canadians’ money while imposing their own priorities.

“Things must change, and will change,” she said, according to a translation of her prepared remarks.

“The government will act to ensure their revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production, and distribution of our stories, on screen, in lyrics, in music, and in writing.”

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Kaan Yigit, president of technology consultancy Solutions Research Group, said it is “the most explicit statement” to come from the government on the subject imposing requirements on popular social media and streaming services in Canada including Netflix, which has more than seven million subscribers in this country.

It could mean there will be some kind of requirement for local content from services including music platforms Spotify and Google Music, perhaps even quotas, he said, noting that the European Union is looking into imposing this type of obligation on streaming services Netflix and Disney+.

But there has also been pushback against such efforts to level the playing field with traditional media players in places including Europe, France, and Australia.

“It’ll be an interesting dance to see where it nets out,” Yigit said, noting that Netflix was a key contributor to the success of the CBC show Schitt’s Creek, which swept the comedy slate at the Emmy Awards on the weekend with a record number of statuettes in the category.

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