One of the more alarming bills the Liberal/NDP partnership is trying to push through Parliament is Bill C-11, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and make related and consequential amendments to other acts, also known as the “Online Streaming Act”.
The intent of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act so it will also have jurisdiction to regulate online streaming service content.
In practice this sounds simple enough, however in reality defining what is and what is not subject to this bill has raised significant concern.
Industry stakeholders, those who generate online internet content that is both audio and visual in nature, legal and academic experts and many Canadians have all pointed out, quite correctly, almost anything online that has audio and video content could be subject to these new regulations if the bill is passed.
So, what are the proposed rules?
One of the concerns is “legacy” broadcasters have long been required to provide a certain amount of content that is deemed “Canadian” by the CRTC. This is often referred to as "CanCon" and does not currently apply to online service providers. Proposed regulations in Bill C-11 would change that.
This, of course, raises a secondary question: what is “Canadian content”?
A complicated points system is used to determine the answer to that question. For example, in a CanCon production, the producer must be Canadian and is responsible for monitoring and making decisions pertaining to the program. At least one of either the director or screenwriter, and at least one of the two lead performers, must be Canadian. A minimum of 75% of program expenses and 75% of post-production expenses for services must be provided by Canadians or Canadian companies.
The points system is related to all this and it is important to note many of the Hollywood movies and Netflix productions you see filmed in various parts of Canada do not qualify.
Forcing online streaming services to comply with the CanCon requirements could obviously have a severe impact on the B.C. and Canadian film industry.
But Bill C-11 does not end there.
It also proposes to include online streaming services such as YouTube and TikTok and the content posted on those sites.
As many have pointed out, that is content often posted by Canadians and many feel strongly it should not be part of this act.
The heritage minister, responsible for tabling Bill C-11, has denied that is the case. However, the CRTC has confirmed section 4.4 of the bill is clear and it allows it to “prescribe by regulation user uploaded content subject to very explicit criteria.” In other words, this bill gives the CRTC the power to regulate, and potentially censor, online programs or streaming services, as well as social media posts by Canadian users
For example, a Facebook post or a YouTube video may not be featured prominently, or be discoverable at all, under the potential government policy that will be enforced by the CRTC.
These CanCon requirements will be forced onto platforms and online streaming apps.
In response, the platforms will reorganize their algorithms to prioritize how content appears on your streaming app. What shows up on your feed will not necessarily be based on what you like or what your service thinks you will be interested in, but rather what the CanCon requirements decide is best for you.
This concept of the government, through the CRTC, telling your streaming app what is best for you and how content is displayed has many Canadians concerned. That is why this bill has been strongly opposed by many online content creators and others, as it's unknown how these new rules will impact their audiences’ ability to view their content and how it will affect their bottom line.
And it’s not just platforms and Canadian creators who will be affected. The chair of the CRTC has publicly acknowledged individual Canadians' social media posts would be included under the new rules.
A resulting algorithm may change how Canadians share their political views or advance social causes.
Worse, not only are the Liberals using time allocation, which severely limits debate of this legislation in the House of Commons, the NDP have voted for them to do it.
I am reminded of a B.C.-based NDP MP, who two years ago said it was profoundly undemocratic and not really showing respect for Parliament when the Liberals used the same tactics now being supported by the NDP.
For the record, I, and the Conservative Opposition, strongly oppose Bill C-11.
My question this week:
Do you support or oppose Bill C-11 and why?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.