To support or reject a so-called “Netflix Tax” and taxes on other digital giants?
After reading the article written by Kevin Carmichael, “Why are governments so reluctant to tax the digital giants?” and carefully reflecting on the question above, I feel as though the best course of action would be to support a Netflix Tax. However, I feel as though the doom and gloom outlook others have on the subject surrounding the threat of a loss of Canadian culture through the domination of global tech giants such as Netflix, Google, Amazon, etc., to be a little overly apprehensive. I was drawing comparisons and parallels in my head to my experience in Colombia in 2018, where I spent six months and had a little bit of time to ask some questions about the media industry to my partner’s family who live there. I wondered if there was an equivalent to CanCon in Colombia, where a certain percentage of media content would have to be made by Colombian producers for TV and radio.
I did not find an answer to this question, but I did quickly realize that the majority of TV programming I was witnessing was from a variety of countries in Latin America, seemingly dominated by Spain, Mexico, Argentina in particular. On the radio, it was far more common to find radio stations that seemed to play strictly salsa, reggaetón or cumbia, but there were just as many British and American rock stations, it seemed. I didn’t find any statistics on the exact amount of content in Colombia is produced by Colombian artists or content makers, but for a country with a similar population, it seemed like despite a very strong cultural/national identity, there wasn’t a frequent amount of content on either TV or radio from Colombia. It made me look at this issue differently following this experience, and I take the perspective that the media in a country is not solely responsible for the preservation of a national heritage or culture.
The issue in Canada seems to be that we are in the situation of sharing the world’s longest land border with the U.S., the most powerful nation in the world with the largest media industry, and share a common language with them as well, with the exception of Quebec. Much like Colombia shares a commonality with the media powerhouses of Mexico, Argentina and Spain, not necessarily by direct borders but due to language and history. I think it’s a situation that countries often find themselves in. Some counterparts I see which are similar to the U.S. influencing Canada, can be seen between China and Hong Kong/Taiwan, the U.K. and Ireland, as well as Australia and New Zealand and perhaps even Russia and Ukraine. It’s very difficult for some countries to find their own national identity in media, arts and entertainment, if they are in close proximity to or share common languages with superpowers.
I do strongly agree with the writer and feel as though a small tax at the very least is needed to stop the tech giants from monopolizing the markets. The problem it seems, as was the case between France and the U.S. referenced in the article, the U.S. treats their tech companies content exports as a commodity where taxing it could cause a backlash such as imposed tariffs like when Trump threatened to impose on French wine. This is simply unfair in this situation as essentially this is a way to try to monopolize a market or industry and not play by the rules like everyone else does. As the world becomes more and more digital and globalized, which is in my opinion a huge positive for the world at large and the effect it can have to form positive diplomatic relationships and lessen the ill effects of nationalism, there needs to be a new look at how the digital economy works and perhaps some new laws and rules need to be written to better reflect the current state of the world.
If the U.S. and their tech giants can’t find a way to come to an agreement with this, or decide to take their ball and play elsewhere in countries that try to impose these basic rules, I think that it opens up the doors for some competition for more foreign tech companies to try to fill the gaps and that could be the situation that finally convinces Netflix, Google, Amazon and Facebook to accept the responsibility of having to pay taxes to profit in countries. If this doesn’t happen, it seems as though there will be no other reason for these tech giants to ever stop dominating the markets in countries like Canada, and this could be a new age form of a type of digital colonialism or the abuse of a power’s sphere of influence.