On 2 February 2022, Bill C-11 "An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (Online Streaming Act)" completed First Reading in the House of Commons. This proposed legislation aims to bring online broadcasters under similar rules and regulations as traditional broadcasters in Canada.
The predecessor proposed broadcasting modernization legislation (Bill C-10) did not complete the legislative process and died on the Order Paper in August 2021, when the federal election was announced. Several concerns were raised with regards to Bill C-10 including, the regulation of user-generated content, implications on freedom of expression, broad oversight powers of regulators, and rushed last-minute amendments.
The Department of Canadian Heritage released background information on Bill C-11, indicating that the reintroduced bill is meant to balance two objectives: (1) capture commercial programs regardless of how they are distributed, including on social media services; and (2) clearly provide that the regulator does not have the power to regulate Canadian's daily use of social media (e.g. posting amateur content).
Key highlights of Bill C-11 include:
- Addition of "online undertaking", which are undertakings for the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet, as a distinct class of broadcasting undertakings under the Broadcasting Act.
- New requirements for online streaming services to contribute to the creation and availability of Canadian content (in both official languages). This includes showcasing Canadian artists who currently face systemic barriers such as, Indigenous and racialized artists and artists with disabilities.
- Similar to traditional broadcasters, online streaming companies will be required to pay their fair share in supporting Canadian artists.
- This proposed legislation does not apply to Canadian social media users or individual creators, but to streaming platforms that broadcast commercial programs.
- The Canadian Radio‑television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in issuing any future regulations with regards to the applicability of the Broadcasting Act will consider (among other factors) the extent to which a program uploaded to an "online undertaking" that provides social media service, directly or indirectly generates revenues.
- The CRTC will make orders and regulations in a manner that is consistent with the freedom of expression enjoyed by users of social media services that are provided by online undertakings.
Today, the Government of Canada introduced the Online Streaming Act … Currently, online services that deliver audio and audiovisual content over the Internet are exempt from most regulation. The proposed bill clarifies that major online streaming services are subject to the Act and are required to contribute to supporting Canadian culture. Many social media services are engaged in online broadcasting. The proposed bill requires them to contribute when commercial programs, such as music albums, are uploaded and distributed on their platforms. However, the proposed bill clearly specifies that it does not apply to individual users of social media services or amateur programs uploaded by those users. No users or online creators will be regulated; only the platforms themselves will have an obligation to our culture.