On April 27th, 2023, the Canada Online Streaming Act (C-11) was passed. This legislation updates the 1991 Broadcasting Act to include regulating online streaming content, which is vital as more people turn away from traditional cable services and switch to streaming platforms.
“One of the reasons we are updating the Broadcasting Act is to support greater diversity and inclusion in the broadcasting sector. This ensures greater representation of Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, cultural and linguistic minorities, LGBTQ2+ communities, and persons with disabilities. This means our culture and content will better reflect a 21st century Canada.”
In addition to video content providers like Netflix and YouTube, this bill also includes audio streaming services, like Spotify and podcast apps. Social media platforms that feature any audio-video content, like TikTok, will also be regulated under the umbrella of C-11.
What does this mean for the future of Canadian streaming?
For starters, C-11 will promote Canadian content over that from other countries to “support Canada’s creators, artists, and creative industries, and ensures that Canadian music and stories are available and accessible.”
C-11 will only apply to services that broadcast through social media or online streaming services that stream into Canada, so individual Canadian citizens aren’t at risk of facing any penalties, although user-generated content may not be excluded depending on interpretation as the law gains real-world usage. An amendment to protect independent creators was rejected on March 7th, 2023 before the finalized C-11 legislation was approved. This could significantly decrease the amount of revenue content creators earn.
Critics are concerned about the possible overreach this bill could create as there are no clearly stated protocols to enforce C-11. Members of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission aren’t elected and those who opposed this legislation are worried the Commission could be enticed by financial motives to promote some content over others or inspire unnecessary censorships.
Promoting Canadian content is likely to change what is most readily available to people as platforms will probably have to alter their algorithm codes to comply with the new legislation. Algorithms learn people’s individual interests to direct related content their way and preferences will now have the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission regulating each platform’s algorithms to ensure they comply with the new laws.