As Bill C-11 passes, YouTube influencers, content creators express concern while Big Tech quiet

Bill C-11, the so-called online streaming bill, passed on April 27.

Bill C-11, the so-called online streaming bill, passed into legislation in the Canadian Senate on April 27.

The bill compels streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, TikTok, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and others to add more Canadian content as well as contribute financially to productions. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) now is responsible for enforcing the bill.

Leading up to the passage of the bill, some of the large streaming companies such as YouTube, were vocal in opposition to the new legislation. But with the passage of the bill through the Canadian Senate, the streaming companies have been oddly quiet. BetaKit reach out to YouTube, TikTok, and Netflix for comment, but did not receive responses by press time.

The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), however, heralded the updated legislation. “The bill enshrines critical provisions that ensure that producers can significantly and equitably benefit from their own stories,” the CMPA said. “This will support the growth of more Canadian companies and contribute to a vibrant future for the country’s media production industry.”

That’s not a view all share. J.J. McCullough, Canada’s 350th most popular YouTuber, lashed out and called the bill “an ignorant, pointless piece of legislation that has thrown the futures of Canadian YouTubers — and many other professional Canadian online content creators — into doubt. We tried to speak out but were ignored.”

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Another YouTube influencer identified as DistantCoder said that the passage of the bill means a “potentially large hit” to the discoverability of Canadian content creators. He opined that the social media algorithms will push content creators to random Canadians rather than to people who actually want to see their content.

“This will result in making growth for Canadian content creators slow down and make it harder for them to be seen,” he said in a Twitter thread. “Being a content creator in Canada is about to become a whole lot different.”

Vicky Eatrides, the chair and CEO of the CRTC, said that with the bill having passed into law, the CRTC can now begin building the broadcasting system of the future.

“The CRTC will establish a modernized regulatory framework where all players contribute equitably,” Eatride said. “The broadcasting system will ensure that online streaming services make meaningful contributions to Canadian and Indigenous content. Creators will have opportunities to tell their stories and Canadians will have access to a greater variety and diversity of content.”

Eatride added that the CRTC has no intention to regulate creators of user-generated content. She noted the broadcast regulator will share its plan and launch its first public consultations shortly.

With over 100 amendments, an attempt was made in 2022 to rush the bill though Parliament, according to news reports. But Senators said at the time they would not be pushed to scramble through some 150 amendments to the bill despite pressure from the government.

This is the second go-around for the bill, which has drawn criticism from both government opposition parties as well as from private sector stakeholders.

Ahead of the bill receiving Senate approval, YouTube protested that in its current form Bill C-11 would require YouTube to manipulate its algorithms, and surface content according to the CRTC’s priorities, rather than the interests of Canadian users.

“Put into practice, this means that when viewers come to the YouTube homepage, they’re served content that a Canadian Government regulator has prioritized, rather than content they are interested in,” the streaming service wrote.

And just days ahead of the final Senate vote, Jeanette Patell, head of Canada government affairs and public policy at YouTube, noted that on March 7 the government gave notice of a motion that rejects the Senate amendment on user-generated content.

“After hundreds of thousands of letters to MPs, Senators, witness testimony and creator videos, it is deeply troubling that a reasonable compromise was rejected that not only responded to the concerns of Canada’s digital creators and users, but also reflected the government’s own stated intent with regards to user-generated content,” Patell wrote.

Digital artist and Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida recalls being part of CanCon back in the early oughts, and noted that the band had reached a point of fame where he didn’t necessarily believe they needed the extra helping hand from CanCon regulations. In fact, his concern was the band’s songs were played so often that they would become overexposed.

But things have since changed, Maida noted: “You fast forward 20 years and consolidation is happening in social media and that really is the last bastion for artists to market themselves. The difficulty is, these are obviously global platforms for the most part, so now you’re competing on a global stage. There’s nothing really regional or national any more. You can’t really regulate an Instagram or a TikTok in terms of pushing Canadian content.”

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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