Ottawa tables updated bill on Broadcasting Act

The government’s highly-anticipated update to the Broadcasting Act won’t impact social media users’ freedom of expression, says Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

The government tabled Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, on Wednesday, after previous legislation to update the Broadcasting Act failed to pass in the previous Parliament, with critics saying it it hindered users’ Charter rights and lacked clarity.

The latest bill “levels the playing field” by making companies like Netflix contribute to the production of Canadian content, Rodriguez said.

C-11 updates traditional broadcasting, incorporates online broadcasting for the first time, and outlines a new approach to social media.

The bill includes powers for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to impose “conditions of service” and to ensure Canadian music, creators and producers are compensated.

Under the proposal, the CRTC would regulate online service providers like Netflix, Crave, Spotify and Disney Plus.

Regulations would apply to commercial programs on social media, but not to individual content creators, streamers, or influencers.

A commercial program is one that generates revenues and is found on other regulated platforms, like Spotify, Rodriguez said.

The proposed bill directs the CRTC to respect social media users’ freedom of expression.

Conservative Heritage critic John Nater last week asked Rodriguez to halt plans to re-introduce the same bill as the one in the previous Parliament. The Conservatives support foreign corporations paying their fair share, but oppose what they considered an infringement on Canadians’ Charter-protected rights and freedoms.

READ MORE: Lametti grilled over protection of free expression in Bill C-10

The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), which represents independent production companies, praised C-11 in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Online Streaming Act must ensure that Canada’s indie producers have a fair opportunity to negotiate with content buyers to own, control and monetize the intellectual property that they develop and produce,” CMPA said.

FRIENDS, a Toronto-based non-profit that opposes cuts to the public broadcaster, also supported the initial efforts. FRIENDS executive director Marla Boltman said she’s pleased the government has incorporated some of their recommendations from the last Parliament.

“We will now take the time needed to assess the legislation to ensure that it creates a truly level playing field,” Boltman said in a statement.

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