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A bill that would overhaul Canada’s broadcasting laws for the first time in the Internet age is a long way from becoming law and has implications for popular broadcasters.
Bill C-11, also known as the Internet Broadcasting Act, creates a framework to regulate digital streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify, and will require them to participate in the creation and promotion of Canadian content. The bill passed its third reading in the Senate last month with 26 amendments. It will be up to the House of Commons to decide which of these changes should be retained before passing the bill into law.
Canadian arts unions, including the Writers Guild of Canada and the Canadian Media Producers Association, generally support the bill, but have some concerns that its language would create a two-tier system that would mean Canadian broadcasters are held to higher standards than other countries. they don’t broadcast. Meanwhile, Canadian content creators on sites like YouTube and TikTok are worried about how the bill will affect them.
As Bill C-11 approaches the finish line, here’s how it will work.
What is the point of Bill C-11?
Since 1968, the Broadcasting Law he has set out a series of goals for Canada’s broadcasting system, including that it should strengthen Canada’s cultural fabric, and that it should use Canadian talent.
To do this, the country has rules that define what counts as Canadian programming and how much Canadian TV and radio broadcasters must play it. They must also contribute financially to the development and promotion of Canadian content.
Currently, those rules do not apply to online broadcasters such as Netflix, Disney + and Spotify, which earn money in Canada without the need to reinvest in Canadian content.
Bill C-11 seeks to give new powers to the country’s broadcasting regulator and expand current broadcasting policy into the digital realm.
According to Vass Bednar, executive director of McMaster University’s Public Policy program on Digital Society, Canada is doing everything it can to expand its cultural values and expectations on digital platforms.
“And instead of building a new vehicle to do that, we’re trying to use the one we already have, which is the CRTC,” he said.
Who defines Canadian content?
Bill C-11 does not define what counts as Canadian content on the Internet, nor does it say how much Canadian content a foreign broadcast service is required to have.
That task will fall to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the independent body that regulates and oversees Canada’s broadcasting system.
It is the duty of the CRTC to make and enforce rules that achieve the purposes of the Broadcasting Act. Bill C-11 revises what those goals are, and gives the CRTC new powers to achieve them.
For example the CRTC defines Canadian content for different types of media. There are different rules for television productions than this is songs.
What changes is C-11 trying to make?
The Broadcasting Act was last updated in 1991, before the internet and live streaming changed the way we consume much of our entertainment.
Bill C-11 brings the CRTC into the Internet era, giving the regulator the authority to set criteria for how Internet broadcasters support Canadian content and contribute to production funds, as well as ensuring that Canadian programs and films appear in search results.
It also includes a clause that would require foreign internet broadcasters to use Canadian creative talent. It would be up to the CRTC to define exactly what that looks like.
Alex Levine, president of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), says that when foreign broadcasting platforms became available in Canada, it meant less money for traditional broadcasters here, which meant less investment in creating Canadian programming.
“We have 25 percent of the actual work by Canadian screenwriters that we had in 2014 in terms of the number of episodes produced,” he said.
According to Levine, the concerns are more pronounced for writers than for other Canadians working in film and television production.
“We only work on Canadian content. We don’t work if, for example, Netflix or HBO decides to shoot a show here.”
Without the bill, Levine says market forces mean Canadians “will see the world handed back to them by studio executives in Los Angeles and not by Canadian artists.”
C-11 and foreign broadcasters
While supporting the bill as a whole, the WGC is concerned about a clause that would subject foreign broadcasters to different laws than their Canadian equivalents.
The current Broadcasting Act contains language requiring Canadian broadcasters to make “substantial use” of Canadians in the production and presentation of content.
Bill C-11, would retain that language, but also require foreign broadcasters to make the “greatest possible use” of Canadians and participate in the production of Canadian programming.
This section of the law concerns Reynolds Mastin, CEO of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), who noted in a statement that as the bill stands now, Canadian companies are held to a higher standard than foreign broadcasters.
“This is in direct conflict with the government’s stated goal of leveling the playing field and supporting Canadian creators and companies,” he said.
“Allowing foreign companies to use a few Canadian creators will have a negative impact on Canada’s cultural industry.”
Senator Paula Simons says Canada’s trade obligations may prevent the government from being able to make foreign broadcasters follow the same rules as Canadian broadcasters.
“What C-11 has tried to do, and what we have tried to do with the various amendments, is to have balance,” he said. “I think for each broadcaster there will be a different deal and there will be a different way they can contribute.”
How does it affect online creators?
There has been a lot of discussion about how Bill C-11 could affect user-generated content from creators on sites like TikTok or YouTube.
The bill would allow the CRTC to create accessibility rules to ensure Canadians can see Canadian content online.
Some creators are concerned that if those rules extend to social media sites, it could mean that their videos are being shown to people who may not be interested in them, which they say could hinder their success, as many user-generated sites reward creators based on that. good interaction.
“I’m looking at it and saying, ‘Well, am I going to be able to fulfill my dream or my vision with my content?'” said Hamilton-based TikToker Nathan Kennedy, who has more than half a million followers on the platform. and visited Ottawa last year to voice concerns about the bill.
The other Senate amendments were tweaks to language about user-generated content.
“Some of our concerns were realized and passed by the Senate,” Kennedy said. “And that was reassuring in a sense, to say that we’re not the same as doing this.”
In November then-CRTC Chairman Ian Scott told a senate committee studying the bill that it would not allow the regulator to use algorithms to achieve its goals, and that he had no interest in doing so anyway.
“The purpose of the CRTC is to ensure that Canadians are informed about Canadian content and that they can access it,” he said.
“I want to assure you and Canadians at large that the CRTC has no intention of regulating TikTokers, YouTubers or other digital content creators.”