Canadian Heritage Min. Pascale St-Onge has released the final policy direction around the Online Streaming Act to the CRTC, clarifying that social media, digital creators, podcasts and video games will be exempt from regulation.
In the government’s final direction, the commission is asked, among other measures, to consider providing flexibility for all broadcasting undertakings in meeting expenditure requirements; consider demographic data concerning the participation in the Canadian broadcasting system of members of equity-seeking and ethnocultural groups, including Black or other racialized communities; and ensure that expenditure requirements support the creation and availability of programming in French and Indigenous languages and by Indigenous creators and broadcasters.
The commission is directed to prioritize consulting Canadians, the creative and production sectors on what constitutes Canadian programming, engaging the Indigenous community, equity-seeking and ethnocultural groups, and official language minority communities. The direction also encourages support of Canadian ownership of intellectual property and recognition of the distinction between broadcast undertakings that distribute audio programs and those that distribute audio-visual programming.
Canadian Heritage has set out a two-year timeline for the commission to make any changes to its regulatory framework necessary to implement the order.
“The Online Streaming Act is the result of years of work and collaboration between our government and the cultural sector,” said St-Onge, in a release. “It’s transformative. It’s about levelling the playing field and making sure we can share our stories and see ourselves on screens.”
The Act received Royal Assent in April, updating the Broadcasting Act, which hadn’t seen any modernization since 1991, years prior to dial-up internet becoming widely available in Canada. The commission is already moving forward with a regulatory plan to implement Bill C-11, setting a Nov. 28 deadline for streaming services operating in Canada to register with the commission. The Act will only apply to those streamers that earn $10 million or more in annual revenue.
The next phase of consultations – a three-week hearing that will hear from at least 130 intervenors – is slated to get underway in Gatineau on Nov. 20.
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), which represents Canada’s private broadcasters, said it’s encouraged that the policy direction reflects the need for equitable treatment for Canadian broadcasters as they compete directly with foreign platforms for audiences, subscribers, advertisers and program rights.
“We are pleased to see the Government taking steps to address the inequities created by the unfettered access foreign online giants have to the Canadian market,” said CAB President Kevin Desjardins, in a statement. “It is long past time that these foreign players contribute their fair share to help support the Canadian media ecosystem.”
“A stable foundation of a sound industrial policy for broadcasting in Canada must be a priority to support the public policy goals of the Online Streaming Act,” he continued. “To continue their contributions to the creation of Canadian content, especially essential news and information programming, Canadian broadcasters must be provided with an equitable framework.”
The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) also welcomed the new policy directive.
“ACTRA is optimistic that the directive to maximize the use of Canadian creative and human resources, if enforced correctly, will improve the working lives of ACTRA performers and help strengthen the Canadian screen industry in the years to come,” said Eleanor Noble, ACTRA National President.
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