Canadian Government Really Wants People To Ignore The Text Of Its Streaming Regulation Bill

from the fix-the-language dept

Canada’s Bill C-11, which will hand the country’s broadcast regulator new powers to set rules for all kinds of online video and audio content, was rushed through an undemocratic sham of a “review” and then passed in the House of Commons by the reigning Liberal government. Now, it’s sitting in the Senate where the last hope of preventing it rests on Senators sticking to their assertion that they won’t be pressured by a government that is clearly intent on making it law without addressing any of the myriad serious concerns about what it would do. In the mean time, the office of the Heritage Minister (the driving force behind C-11) seems intent on continuing with the pattern it has established ever since the bill was first introduced as C-10 in 2020: ignoring or dismissing all critics, and insisting that the actual text of the bill doesn’t matter.

Instead, the government wants everyone to focus on their “policy intentions” — the things they say they hope the bill will achieve, and their repeated promises that it won’t do anything else. Nobody is supposed to care that these “intentions” don’t line up with what the bill actually contains, or that there are countless signals that these promises are false. Following a bit of a Twitter fight with an official from the Heritage Office, the University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist laid out a damning list of these contradictions:

My tweet thread response notes that the disconnect between the government’s professed intent and the actual text in Bill C-11 has been a persistent issue:

  • government claims intent isn’t to regulate user content (contradicted by the CRTC chair),
  • government claims intent isn’t to include algorithmic manipulation (contradicted by the CRTC chair)
  • government claims intent is to help digital creators (contradicted by the creators themselves),
  • government claims intent is to avoid content regulation (undermined by the CRTC engaging in content regulation in the Radio Canada case)
  • government claims intent is no Cancon quotas (undermined by the possibility of display quotas)
  • government claims intent is to exclude video games and other similar content (currently included in the bill and will require policy direction the government won’t release to exclude)
  • government claims intent is to leave regulations to an independent CRTC (yet it regularly seems to have pre-determined what the outcome will be)
  • government claims intent is to ensure Bill C-11 is consistent with its trade obligations (the U.S. has now raised concerns with the bill and potential CUSMA violations)
  • government claims intent is to help independent production sector (experts now concerned the bill will undermine decades-old policy that support the sector)

As Geist notes, all of these government promises could have been solidified in the actual bill with some clarifying amendments, many of which were among the more than 100 that were proposed — but instead the House of Commons rushed the clause-by-clause review of the bill and the voting on amendments at an absurd speed, imposing a completely unnecessary deadline that resulted in a near-total lack of debate and MPs voting on some amendments before the text had even been publicly released.

And so we find ourselves facing a bill that could usher in sweeping changes to the internet in Canada, impacting not just the big streaming platforms like Netflix that the government constantly insists are the real target, but just about every online media platform and the creators who use them. Who wants this bill? Certainly not Canadian content creators, and seemingly nobody except the government that is so intent on ramming it down the country’s throat.

But since the ruling Liberal party reached a deal that ensures them the near-unquestioning support of the left-wing NDP party in parliament, they seem intent on doing whatever they want when it comes to C-11, no matter how brazenly undemocratic. So all hope rests on the Senate, which refused to rush the bill through as C-10 last year and is famously labelled in Canada as the place of “sober second thought”, to block the bill or at least fix its most egregious problems. The advocacy group OpenMedia, which maintains an excellent FAQ about the problems with the bill, is calling on Canadians to let Senators know how important it is.

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Comments on “Canadian Government Really Wants People To Ignore The Text Of Its Streaming Regulation Bill”

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Drew Wilson (user link) says:

The Canadian government has been backed into a corner on this one. It still kills me that the NDP is even going along with it knowing their track record back in the 2000’s and 2010’s. I didn’t want to think the current leader can cause such a 180 on the parties stances like that, but here we are today.

As for the Liberals, they tried to rely on the text of the bill, but were immediately called out and proven wrong. They then tried to sell Canadian stories about how they “intend” on enforcing this, but was completely undermined by the CRTC Chair… three times. They then tried to play the “misinformation” card in response, but that didn’t work. After that, they straight up lied about what the bill actually does and tried to play the “misinformation” card again. That failed. Now, supporters of the legislation have resorted to the extreme of completely misrepresenting what Bill C-11 supporters have said.

It’s a lot of tactics to employ when the easy fix was to simply clarify that user generated content is out of the bill. In fact, an opportunity to do just that presented itself when an amendment was tabled to explicitly exclude user generated content courtesy of the Green party. That amendment was voted down, repeating the mistakes of Bill C-10 past and making it abundantly clear that the whole point of Bill C-11 is to regulate user generated content.

It is, indeed, possible, that the senate could block this bill. I’m not entirely sure that will happen. It’s also entirely possible that the senate could fix the legislation, though I’m not entirely sure that will happen. If it emerges from the Senate unchanged, all is not lost. This bill is also very prone to litigation (and it is unconstitutional IMO). Damage will be done, but I’m more confident that a lawsuit will strike this law down. I mean, it would be great if the Senate either blocked or fixed the bill, but I’m not entirely confident this will happen. Hopefully, I’m wrong on that.

The big broadcasters and big publishers support this legislation, but they are pretty much the only ones on that side (along with their respective unions). The only real reason why they support the legislation is because, for one, it would completely cripple their competition. For another, they have it in their heads that if they appear on the top of all the recommendations, then they get all the traffic. Forced promotion doesn’t necessarily work and can easily lead to getting voted down, like, a lot. That’s why buying ads doesn’t necessarily automatically mean success. They don’t really care. They only care about going back to the old days when they had a captive audience (i.e. TV and newspapers). We are WAAAAY too far down the Internet road to even think about putting the genie back in the bottle. That opportunity was long gone by the time BBS was a thing. They actually have to compete against online creators for the attention. They know their content is not worth watching by comparison. So, unsurprisingly, to them, it is unacceptable that they don’t have whole platforms tilted in their favour.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

The old media companies hate competition

Bill C-11 is being pushed by large legacy media companies (TV and radio especially) who don’t like competing against digital-first creators (on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, etc.) for eyeballs.

The act would allow the CRTC to impose conditions with regards to “the proportion of programs to be broadcast that shall be devoted to specific genres, in order to ensure the diversity of programming;” (paragraph 9.1(1)(d)) as well as “the proportion of programs to be broadcast that shall be Canadian programs and the proportion of time that shall be devoted to the broadcasting of Canadian programs;” (paragraph 9.1(1)(a)). The CRTC would be able to say to YouTube and Netflix “X% of videos played must be in Y genre. Canadian content must be played Z% of the time each day.” Netflix can’t comply with the latter requirement. YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and other platforms with user-generated content can’t comply with either requirement! It’s fines, fines, fines for them.

This bill is incompatible with online service models. Traditional TV and radio companies are true broadcasters in the sense that they play their content without regard for who might be listening at the time. On the internet, the users, not the companies, decide which content gets played and how long to play certain content. Imposing content-based and time-based requirements on online media services would force individual creators to produce only the content approved by the CRTC or to stop being online creators. Large legacy media companies realize that they are losing the popularity contest to internet media services. Instead of accepting the competition and adapting their business model to modern audiences, the legacy media companies want to burden online creators and online media services with regulation to prevent YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, etc. from being able to operate in Canada.

TL;DR: Bill C-11 is a paradigm of corruption and rule by large corporations who hate markets which offer meaningful consumer choice (i.e. de facto free markets).

Anonymous Coward says:


I came here to say exactly this. The goal here is to tilt the advantage back towards traditional broadcast and print media and by default entangle consumer-driven online media platforms.

The main targets are Netflix, Facebook and Amazon (not just PrimeVideo either).

The main beneficiaries are BCE Media, Pelmorex, Corus Entertainment, Postmedia Network Inc, Rogers Communications and Woodbridge Co. Ltd (the Thompsons, who own Thompson Media and Reuters).

See which worked really hard to figure out who actually owns the majority of Canadian media (not as easy a task as it should be).

That One Guy (profile) says:

If the bill had merit they'd defend it on those grounds, but...

‘Stop paying attention to what the bill explicitly says we can do and only pay attention to what we tell you we’ll do with it.’

If I was feeling generous I’d call that a novel argument, but I’m not so I’ll just go with noting how incredibly pathetic that argument is and how much it shows that even the bill’s defenders know they can’t defend it honestly.

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