At around 1:30 am EDT, the Liberal Government passed Bill C-10, a controversial (to say the least!) piece of legislation that seeks to amend the Broadcast Act, bringing it into the 21st century. Once passed by the Senate, it will give the CRTC more power to regulate certain things. How those regulations will tease out is where the controversies come in.
First, as a radio broadcaster, I’m glad to see that streaming music companies will have to start making investments in Canadian culture. Most people don’t know it, but traditional radio stations are required to spend plenty of pre-tax dollars funding various marks of the Canadian music ecosystem. For example, we have to put a ton of money into organizations like FACTOR and Starmaker, two funds that help develop the next generation of musical talent in this country. We also have something called Canadian Content Development which is designed to do the same thing.
Up until now, companies like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube have had to do no such thing. Subscription revenues from Canadians are sucked out of the country. In most territories, they don’t even pay sales tax. They provide a popular service but don’t put much back into the culture. C-10 will add more money to our musical ecosystem and put streaming companies on a more equal regulatory footing with traditional broadcasters.
There’s also a provision where streaming companies may be obligated to make it easier to find Canadian content. That would mean tweaking algorithms to favour Canadian music when making recommendations, effecting creating a type of CanCon regime for streamers. This is…awkward.
I can see the theoretical merit in this, but in practice, there will be all sorts of unintended consequences. For example, this suggests that Canadians will be recommended material that the government thinks is Canadian enough.
There’s also Bill C-10’s control of social media. Will YouTubers now be classified as broadcasters and thus be subject to the new rules? Will US-made cat videos on YouTube be throttled in favour of Canadian kitties? What about TikTok and Instagram and Facebook? The mind boggles. YouTube is already protesting.
The bill now goes to the Senate, but the chances of it making it through before the summer break is almost nil. And then there’s the prospect of an election in the fall, in which case Bill C-10 will die.
Read more here.