Backgrounder: The Government of Canada introduces legislation to support the next generation of Canadian artists and creators

Backgrounder: The Government of Canada introduces legislation to support the next generation of Canadian artists and creators

Today, the Government of Canada introduced the Online Streaming Act. The proposed bill would update broadcasting policy for Canada and require online streaming services to contribute to the creation and availability of Canadian stories and music in an equitable way.
Key features of the proposed bill include:
Confirming that online broadcasting—commonly referred to as streaming—is covered under the 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.

Updating the broadcasting and regulatory policies for Canada

  • Key elements of the broadcasting policy for Canada are updated to be more inclusive of all Canadians.
  • The proposed bill recognizes that the Canadian broadcasting system should, through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests of all Canadians—including Francophones and Anglophones, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, Canadians from official language minority communities, Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and ages.
  • Programming that reflects Indigenous cultures in Canada should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system. The proposed bill secures a space for both Indigenous programming and media services in the Canadian broadcasting system.
  • The proposed bill reinforces the commitment to official language minority communities and the production and broadcasting of original programs in French on all types of services and platforms.
  • The proposed bill promotes greater accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Creating a more flexible approach to regulation and sustainable funding for Canadian stories

  • The proposed bill facilitates a flexible approach to regulation, which will allow the regulator to tailor the conditions of service and other regulatory requirements imposed on broadcasters by considering the Act’s policy and regulatory objectives, the variety of broadcasters in the system (and the differences between them), and what is fair and equitable depending on the circumstances.
  • The proposed bill provides the regulator with express powers to require broadcasting undertakings, including online undertakings, to make financial contributions to Canadian programs and creators.
  • The regulator would not control what you can or cannot see on social media. To that end, the regulator would only prescribe certain outcomes, not how they are achieved. For example, the regulator would not be able to impose specific algorithms or source code. They will work with the streaming companies to contribute to our cultural policy objectives.

Modernizing the regulator’s oversight and enforcement powers

  • The proposed bill ensures that the regulator has the tools it needs as a modern regulator to collect information from stakeholders. It also ensures that commercially sensitive information that is collected by the regulator in the course of its proceedings is properly protected.
  • The proposed bill provides the regulator with new enforcement powers through an administrative monetary penalty scheme (AMPs), which aligns the regulator enforcement powers with how it regulates telecommunications and spam.

In the last Parliament, there was debate about the role of social media services in supporting Canadian artists and culture. The re-introduced bill balances two objectives. On the one hand, it captures commercial programs regardless of how they are distributed, including on social media services. On the other hand, the proposed bill is also clear that the regulator does not have the power to regulate Canadians’ everyday use of social media, including when they post amateur content to these services. The proposed bill does not apply to Canadian users or individual creators.
The re-introduced bill also corrects drafting errors, including but not limited to placement and numbering of provisions.
The updates respect the previous work of Parliamentarians, and the new bill reflects largely what was approved by the House of Commons in June 2021.

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