Online Streaming Act could worsen streaming for Canadians, leaves out small content creators
Federal government’s broadcasting update remains seriously flawed
February 2, 2022 — Today the federal government tabled Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, an update to Canada’s Broadcasting Act. The new Act is an updated version of 2021’s controversial Bill C-10. While the proposed amendment takes one step forward in specifically excluding user generated online content, it doubles down on an outdated broadcasting era vision of content that’s a poor fit for regulating Internet streaming.
“Treating the Internet like cable television was a bad idea last year, and it’s a bad idea now.” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “The Online Streaming Act continues to give the CRTC the power to use sorely outdated 1980s ideas about what “Canadian” content is, to control what shows up on our online feeds and what doesn’t.”
“Trying to exclude user generated content from CRTC regulation is a good step, and an acknowledgment by the government that last year’s Bill C-10 was a mistake,” continued Hatfield. “The problem is that it isn’t clear if they’ve actually excluded user generated content. They’re working from a foundation of a clean separation of professional and amateur content on the Internet that simply doesn’t exist. Major Canadian Internet productions like podcasts could find themselves in the worst of all worlds — subject to CRTC regulation, while not able to seek CanCon funding. We believe any measures that are funded by Internet streaming revenue should be fully available to all Canadian Internet creators. And that won’t happen without a comprehensive update of CanCon definitions to include them.”
Today’s proposal draws on ideas developed in January’s Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act Legislative Review, and is substantively similar to last year’s Bill C-10, both of which were widely criticized for viewing the Internet as an extension of broadcasting. Bill C-10 (2021) became extremely controversial after section 4(1) was removed during committee consideration, making user uploaded audiovisual content subject to CRTC regulation.
In a major miss, Bill C-11 fails to prioritize the drafting of new Canadian content (”CanCon”) criteria for the online era, instead falling back for now on 20th-century criteria that are not built to apply to Internet content. Until major reforms are made to CanCon’s points system, many Canadian digital first creators will not be considered “Canadian” enough to qualify for support under Bill C-11. Meanwhile, under C-11’s discoverability requirements, user feeds on streaming services are likely to be cluttered by the limited content that does qualify as official “CanCon” — much of it less popular content from legacy media creators.
Over 36,000 actions have been taken by members of the OpenMedia community calling for reform of 2021’s Bill C-10.
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