The Online Streaming Act has been introduced in Canada. Welcome to Bill C-11.

The Online Streaming Bill, otherwise known as Bill C-11 (the successor to Bill C-10, which died because of last year’s federal election), is now before Parliament. Canada hasn’t updated the Broadcasting Act since 1991. A few things have happened since then–like this thing called the “internet”–so it’s kinda time. We’ve probably changed the way we consume audio and video since then, you know?

If C-11 goes through, streaming services including Netflix, Crave, and Spotify, will be regulated by the CRTC. They will also be required by law to invest in Canadian culture at some level. Plus they’d have to reflect the diversity found in Canada, including Indigenous culture.

Google, Amazon, Apple Music, Tidal, and all other streaming services would be affected.

This is something that many people within radio, music, TV, and movies, have wanted for years. I quote Kevin Desjardins, the president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters: “[This] a critical step towards recognizing and addressing the massive impact of unregulated foreign players in our broadcasting system. “A decade of exemptions from regulatory oversight has given an unfair advantage to foreign streaming services, allowing them to capitalize on the Canadian market while avoiding any of the obligations imposed on our domestic broadcasting sector.”

Jennifer Brown, the CEO of SOCAN, Canadian’s performing rights agency, says “The government has clearly heard from Canada’s music creators that they need support to create and to be fairly promoted on streaming services, and this bill sets the stage for that to happen.”

SOCAN notes that “for every dollar in music licenses from Canadian TV and radio broadcasters, around 34 cents are distributed to Canadian songwriters and composers, but for every license dollar from online streaming, only 10 cents remain in Canada. The Online Streaming Act is the first step to correcting that inequity for music creators.”

The vast majority of these streamers are based in other countries and drain insane amounts of money away to foreign sources without investing anything back into Canada. Meanwhile, legacy domestic broadcasters–that is, radio, TV, and movie production–are required to pump money back into the system using pre-tax revenues. That’s a condition of their licenses. They’ve been pushing for a level playing field for years.

It’s also a matter of cultural protection and cultural sovereignty. As a country that sits right next to the biggest exporter of popular culture on the planet, we need a few bulwarks against becoming a Kardashian Nation.

Unlike Bill C-10, individual creators such as YouTubers and TikTokers, will not be impacted by C-11 should it pass. Your cat videos will be safe from regulation.

I’m most interested in how streaming music platforms would have to adapt to this. Canadian content? Canadian talent investment? We faced many of the same challenges when satellite radio was licensed in Canada a couple of decades ago and we solved that.

Let’s see what happens. Doing nothing is not an option.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “The Online Streaming Act has been introduced in Canada. Welcome to Bill C-11.

  • February 3, 2022 at 12:08 pm
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    I’m willing to bet some of the companies block access to their services from Canadian ip addresses and even refuse to host Canadian content.

    Reply
  • February 3, 2022 at 8:29 pm
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    I see many Canadian acts featured in Spotify playlist. Not really sure this is anything more than a form of taxation that I’ll end up paying for in increased fees.

    Reply
  • February 4, 2022 at 1:48 pm
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    Is it bad I would like to see some of these providers, say ” Ya, no thanks” There are plenty of other countries that will take up the slack.

    Is Canada becoming like another country starting with C? (known for their strict outlook of content)….

    If Canada an not produce enough useable content for these providers to get, will they go back to re-runs of the beachcombers?

    Reply

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