New bill regulating online streaming places Canadian content requirements on platforms, not users

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OTTAWA — Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced legislation Wednesday afternoon to bring streaming services like Netflix under the oversight of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Successor to last year’s controversial Bill C-10, the Streaming Act would require distributors of online-only content to meet Canadian content requirements and contribute to the production of original content in Canada . Here’s what you need to know:

What is the point of this: Revenues have fallen for traditional broadcasters already subject to these rules, the government said. “The support system for Canadian stories and music is under threat,” says a backgrounder explaining the bill. “Online streaming platforms that stream in this country should have an obligation to support Canadian music and stories in a fair and equitable way.”

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After a previous attempt to impose Canadian content requirements on streaming services like Netflix died in the Senate, the Liberals are back with a new version that emphasizes the distinction between platforms and users.

In addition, the act revises sections of the Broadcasting Act to focus Canadian content contributions on Indigenous programming and “increased investment for the benefit of linguistic and cultural minorities.”

“Canada’s strong culture is no accident,” Rodriguez told a news conference. “We have chosen to be different from our neighbors to the south. We have chosen our cultural sovereignty.

The broadcasting system and its requirements for Canadian content have supported cultural products from Drake to Anne of Green Gables” to “Schitt’s Creek,” he said, but that system is weakening. “Our bill reclaims this space and ensures that online services contribute to Canadian culture.

How we got here: With the support of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, the Liberals pushed such a bill through the House of Commons before the last election, but it died when the election was called last August; the senators had order to be studied by a committee that never met.

Conservatives objected to the previous bill (it was numbered C-10; the new one is C-11, and yes, it will be confusing) as a tool for “massive abuse of power.” David Adams Richards, writer and Liberal-appointed senator, noted this “[subjected] free speech in the doldrums of government surveillance.

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Bill didn’t need fixing, he said – he needed a stake in the heart.

Streaming services also generally disliked: Google, which operates YouTube, warned that if Canada required that Canadian content obtain an amplified signal in Canada, other countries could follow suit, and this would disadvantage Canadian content producers. And individual streamers worry whether they would personally be required to meet the new CRTC standards.

With Bill C-10 vaporized by the election call, the Liberals promised if re-elected, present a new version within 100 days of the appointment of a new cabinet. They met that deadline with hours to go.

What is the same: The main elements of the new Online Streaming Act are the same as those of the old Bill C-10. It would “still add online businesses — businesses that transmit or retransmit programs over the Internet — as a separate category of broadcasting undertakings,” subjecting them to CRTC oversight, with all that that entails.

It would still underscore the importance of supporting minority communities of all kinds in Canadian content, with a particular focus on Indigenous peoples and cultures.

And it would make other housekeeping updates to the Broadcasting Act, as Bill C-10 would have done.

What is different: The new version makes a clear distinction between streaming services and people who create content, incorporating amendments to Bill C-10 made after the Liberals first introduced it. Services are covered by the new rules, but individual streamers are not.

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“We took stock of the work done in the last legislature, we listened to the concerns, especially around social media, and we fixed it,” Rodriguez said.

“No cat videos,” he added. “Only the companies themselves will have responsibilities.”

New language clarifies that the CRTC should not pay attention to content that does not make money – in which “neither the user of a social media service who downloads the program, nor the owner or rights holder of ‘author on the program does not receive income’.

It includes a new section excluding entities that are not primarily in the broadcasting business – companies that post videos about themselves or their services, for example, as well as educational and cultural institutions like museums and theaters. .

What happens next: Given that the previous bill passed the Commons with the support of two other parties, this one probably won’t have much difficulty. Whether he can go through the Senate—where senators knew what they were doing when they sent his predecessor to die in committee—is another matter. Fundamental questions about Canadian culture and how to protect it are the kinds of questions the Senate likes to debate, and David Adams Richards is still a senator.

And the detractors of the previous iteration are mobilizing. “The federal government’s new censorship legislation, Bill C-11, still allows bureaucrats to regulate user-generated content online, including on social media,” the Canadian Taxpayers Federation warned in a press release as soon as the legislation was made public on Wednesday.

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YouTube Canada was more restricted. “Our goal will always be to act in the interests of the thousands of Canadian digital creators and the millions of Canadians who use YouTube every day,” its chief government affairs officer, Jeanette Patell, wrote in an email. “We believe the government shares this interest. We are always reviewing the impacts of legislation on our platform and look forward to working with them on this important issue. »

The Canadian Media Producers Association, which represents production companies, said in a statement it would consult with its members on the details, but insisted the bill be passed quickly.

Rodriguez also said he would write to the chairman of the CRTC to ask the board to review and update its definition of “Canadian content” to ensure it is still current.

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