Bill C11, the so-called online streaming bill, passed its third reading in the House of Commons today, and is now headed to the Senate for approval.
John Nater, Conservative Shadow Minister for Canadian Heritage, called the bill “deeply flawed,” and “backwards-looking.”
If passed, the bill would compel streaming platforms, such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and others, to add more Canadian content, or in the wording of the bill: “contribute in an equitable manner to strongly support the creation, production and presentation of Canadian programming.”
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would be responsible for enforcing the bill.
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.
John Nater, Conservative Shadow Minister for Canadian Heritage, called the bill “deeply flawed,” and “backwards-looking.” Nater said that if the bill became legislation it would throw up barriers to innovation and global competitiveness that would hold back the Canadian broadcasting industry.
Following the vote, Michael Geist – the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa – wrote that the bill was rushed through without input from Indigenous perspectives such as APTN, community radio, and platforms such as TikTok and Spotify.
In a presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications, Geist told them: “I believe there is a clear need for thresholds and limitations in the legislation itself. Without it, services may regard the regulatory uncertainty – which the House committee heard will take years to sort out – to block Canada, leading to less choice and higher consumer costs. If the goal is to target the large streaming services or to exempt video games or niche streamers, say so in the legislation.”
Geist noted to the committee that he was representing himself, and not in his capacity as a Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa.
TikTok Canada and a new advocacy group quietly held a presentation for digital creators and online influencers in February, telling them that the bill could harm their international success and earnings potential.
And Digital First Canada executive director Scott Benzie told attendees at the February presentation that creators risked having their content de-prioritized abroad if TikTok was required to manipulate its algorithm to promote Canadian content to domestic users to comply with the bill.
The previous attempt at the bill, C-10, died on the order paper last year after sustained blowback to the removal of a clause protecting user-generated content. That clause, which exempts content such as videos made by digital creators, social media influencers, or everyday Canadians, was re-inserted into C-11.
Geist has previously criticized that clause for being overly broad and that could give the CRTC the ability to regulate virtually the entire internet, including platforms and apps that traffic in user-generated content.
The bill in its form as C-10 was also the subject of criticism from the Internet Society, a nonprofit group advocating for an open Internet, which dismissed several of the federal government’s recent policies and proposals related to regulating the Internet.
The bill first found its genesis back in 2018 when the CRTC made a recommendation that the federal government impose levies on internet service providers and foreign streaming services to ensure the health of Canada’s media production industry.
At that time, the CRTC also called for supporting the promotion or discoverability of content by Canadian creators, and providing content of various types, such as news, drama, programming for official language minority communities or in Indigenous languages, or accessible programming (e.g. through closed captioning and described video), among other things.