Bill C-11: Senate Passes Liberals’ Online Streaming Act

Bill C-11: Senate Passes Liberals’ Online Streaming Act
The Senate Chamber in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Peter Wilson
The Liberal government’s Bill C-11, which will bring large streaming platforms under the regulating authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), has passed in the Senate.

Also known as the Online Streaming Act, Bill C-11 will amend the Broadcasting Act to give the CRTC authority to require online platforms like Netflix and Spotify to contribute to Canadian content rules or else face steep penalties.

The legislation received 12 amendments from the Senate and will now go back to the House of Commons for a review of the changes, which Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he hopes will last less than a week before the bill can be passed.

Rodriguez also said on Feb. 2 that the federal government would reject some of the Senate’s amendments. He did not specify which ones.

“We'll see when the bill comes back,” Rodriguez said during the Canadian Media Producers Association’s 2023 Prime Time conference in Ottawa.

“There are amendments that have zero impact on the bill and others that may have some and those we will not accept.”

The Senate’s amendments to Bill C-11 include one meant to protect user-generated content on platforms like YouTube from the regulating power of the CRTC, and another that prohibits the CBC from broadcasting or publishing sponsored content.

Another amendment will require companies to verify users’ ages before they are allowed to access sexually-explicit content.

Some senators previously attempted to pass an amendment that would exempt online content creators and programmers making less than $150 million annually from the CRTC’s regulation, but it was voted down 10-4 in November 2022.
New Brunswick Sen. David Adams Richards said earlier this week that he is concerned C-11 will bring about a culture of censorship in Canada.
This law will be one of scapegoating all those who do not fit into what our bureaucrats think Canada should be,” Richards said in the Senate on Jan. 31 during the third reading of the bill.
“I do not know who will be able to tell me what Canadian content is and what it is not, but I know it won’t be in the Minister of Heritage’s power to ever tell me,” he added.

Canadian Content

The United States government has voiced concerns that Bill C-11 could discriminate against American companies as it will prioritize the online discoverability of content monetized by Canadian producers for viewers within Canada.
“We have … concerns it could impact digital streaming services and discriminate against U.S. businesses,” the U.S. Embassy told The Canadian Press on Jan. 11.
Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng heard similar concerns about the bill from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai during a meeting in November 2022.

Ng said on Dec. 15, 2022, that the federal government was looking to resolve the United States’ concerns.

Representatives from American streaming giants previously told the Senate communications committee that Bill C-11 needed to provide a more “flexible” definition of Canadian content in order to showcase all of the country’s artistic voices and not just the ones whose content is monetized by Canadian producers.

Rodriguez has maintained that the legislation will help Canadian artists and content creators reach audiences within the country by giving them a “level playing field” with American producers and creators.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.