Canadian Heritage has published the proposed policy direction that will guide the CRTC as it works toward developing a new regulatory framework under Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act.
Outlining the scope of regulation and where flexibility measures should be exercised governing the production, promotion and discoverability of Canadian music and audio-visual programs, the proposed policy direction instructs the commission to ensure any requirements imposed on broadcast undertakings, financial or otherwise, are equitable relative to their size and nature, and that comparable foreign and Canadian undertakings are treated equally. Where it can, the commission is being encouraged to coordinate with other regulatory bodies “to minimize burden and maximize effectiveness in the regulation of digital platforms and services.”
The commission is directed to prioritize its examination of how it defines Canadian programs, consulting with Canadians, members of the creative and production sectors and others, ensuring “that the definition of ‘Canadian programs’ is multifaceted, and that it interacts with evolving Canadian content policies.” In concert with that, it’s being directed to recognize “the crucial roles played by Canadian independent producers and production companies, and the crucial relevance of Canadian creative personnel that have a high degree of creative control or visibility — such as actors, writers, directors, and showrunners — being used by both Canadian and foreign broadcasting undertakings.”
In terms of the issue of discoverability of Canadian programs, the CRTC is being directed to implement discoverability in a way “that respects and, where possible, increases choice for users while also minimizing the need to alter algorithms of broadcasting undertakings,” avoiding disruption to programs and undertakings to which the Act does not apply.
Supporting inclusion, excluding social media creators
The commission has been explicitly directed to exclude content made by social media creators under the Act, including podcasters and any content on social media not also made available on a non-social media broadcast undertaking, as well as video games.
The CRTC is also being directed to meaningfully engage with Black and other racialized communities, and equity-seeking groups regarding support for the creation, availability and discoverability of programming with the commission to ensure its expenditure requirements support the creation of programming by creators from these communities. The commission is to support “the meaningful participation” of First Nations, Inuit and Métis creators in the broadcast system, in addition to increasing programming access to persons with disabilities.
Implementing the proposed policy direction is expected to cost the CRTC less than $1 million annually, which Canadian Heritage says could be absorbed within existing resources.
Matt Hatfield, Campaigns Director at internet policy watchdog OpenMedia, said the policy direction accomplishes two important things: clearly excluding social media users and their content from regulation, while instructing the CRTC to respect and increase user choices through promotion of Canadian content.
“User choice and protecting user content were key asks of our community that are finally being acknowledged as important in implementing Bill C-11. We’d far prefer to have seen them in legislation that could not be changed by a future minister, or not adequately considered by the CRTC; but some user protections at this stage is better than none at all,” said Hatfield, in an OpenMedia statement.
In response to concerns about the tight timelines outlined in its previously-announced public consultation process, the commission has extended the deadline for the submission of interventions to July 11 and the deadline for the submission of replies to July 26. A hearing will take place in Gatineau on Nov. 20.
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