Bill C-11 receives Royal Assent ahead of long policy journey

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), and Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) are among the industry groups lauding the passage of Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, in the Senate, ahead of a long policy journey yet to come.

Bill C-11 received Royal Assent late Thursday afternoon – more than two years after the tabling of the original Bill C-10 (which died before clearing the Senate when an election was called) – aimed at compelling digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Google to adhere to Canadian content guidelines and invest in Canadian culture, similar to traditional broadcasters.

“Bill C-11 has passed. (Finally.) After more than 30 years, the Broadcasting Act has been updated to more properly reflect the reality of how content reaches consumers,” wrote CAB President Kevin Desjardins, in a post to Twitter. “But…in truth, the work has just begun. We look ahead in earnest towards the regulatory processes that will shape the future of broadcasting and media in Canada.”

Much of that work will be left up to the CRTC, which will be tasked with new regulatory powers, following policy direction consultations with stakeholders and Canadians. The bill is short on specifics with publication of a draft version anticipated in the coming month. While the Liberal government has indicated its intent is not to capture social media creators and individual users under the Act, there is still little clarity. A Senate amendment offering a clear exclusion for user generated content was rejected by the Liberals.

DGC President Warren P. Sonoda hailed the bill’s passage as “the greatest step forward to modernize and strengthen Canada’s broadcasting system in over 30 years.” 

“This new Act puts us on the path to requiring that global streaming services invest in original Canadian programming. It will help secure the fiscal future of Canadian film & television, protect our cultural sovereignty and preserve our ability to share stories from a diverse range of Canadian voices for decades to come,” said Sonoda, in a statement. “As we head towards the Cabinet’s policy direction to the CRTC, we hope the Minister will commit to filling pending vacancies at the Commission with those who represent the views of creatives and creators. Creators must have a seat at the table as the new Act makes meaningful to how their work is financed.”

Important to ‘get it right’: Mastin

CMPA President and CEO Reynolds Mastin was more temperate in his enthusiasm, cautioning that it will be important to “get it right.”

“While the bill marks a milestone in Canada’s broadcasting system, it contains a provision that risks creating a two-tier system where foreign streamers are held to a lower standard than Canadian broadcasters. The unintended result could be foreign streamers being allowed to use fewer Canadian creators in the production of Canadian programming,” asserted Mastin. “This flaw must be addressed in the pending policy direction to the CRTC, or Bill C-11 risks reinforcing, rather than reducing, the ongoing pressures faced by the domestic production sector.” 

“We are on the precipice of a pivotal moment in Canadian broadcasting history. It took 30 years before the Broadcasting Act was updated. Since we don’t know when this opportunity will present itself again, it’s important that we get it right,” he added. “We’re encouraged by the passage of Bill C-11, and are optimistic that the Minister’s policy direction to the CRTC will go further in helping the bill to achieve its fundamental objective of levelling the playing field.” 


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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessenhttps://broadcastdialogue.com
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email - corrections@broadcastdialogue.com

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