Canada's existing legislation, the Broadcasting Act, could be on the receiving end of a makeover. Bill C-10, first introduced by Heritage Minister Guilbeault to the House of Commons in November 2020, will attempt to regulate the competition and content displayed by Canadian broadcasters such as Global, CTV, and CBC. However, it doesn't end there. Internet streaming services, Netflix and Disney Plus, to name a few, will also be affected by this if the Trudeau Government upholds their promise in re-introducing this Bill.
Bill C-10 is aimed at promoting and developing content made by Canadian artists, producers, and creators within Canada and is meant to subject streaming services to the same requirements as Canadian broadcasters. This task was initially assigned to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, otherwise known as the CRTC. The CRTC files what is and is not Canadian content and would issue fines for violations to broadcaster's who did not comply.
On implementation, the future of streaming services could drastically change, from algorithm to content. Digital platforms and social media websites could change user experience due to the Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act, placing content into further censorship mode. While social media usage and online streaming platforms promote individual expression and content, we could soon see a change in how user content expression is safeguarded. If Bill C-10 is passed, regular content could potentially limit or undermine the Canadian creative sector. There could be a risk of overly broad regulations controlling the content that Canadians stream and view.
Bill-C10 would also influence digital media companies. As Canadians know, the media streaming network availability is limited to two, maybe three, major players. While in comparison, partners to the south have the unlimited possibility of choosing from when it comes to the internet, cellular, and television services. The Canadian sector has managed to monopolize media streaming all for the effort of "promoting" Canadian content. Bill-C10, in effect, could mean pigeonholing Canadians further into "choosing" which content is available.
Reaction to Bill C-10
The infringement on individual speech is what critics have warned about for this Bill. It is among one of the most far-reaching plans by the Liberal government to regulate the algorithms tech companies use to display content. Modernizing the internet's legal framework has needed reshaping and reforming, especially when considering monopoly power, taxation, and worker rights. This Bill seems to focus more on curtailing the influence of foreign culture as opposed to promoting Canadian culture through media law.
The Next Step
Bill C-10 has not passed, however, the Senate has provided Members of Parliament with the opportunity to revise this, as they continue to study the best way to regulate Canadian content through growing technology tools. The final steps in pushing this Bill through will include issuing policy directives by government officials to the CRTC and how they will lead the usage of instruments that have been allowed by the Bill. This will also include proceedings with stakeholders. The CRTC will have to develop ways to determine how the new regulations will continue for online undertakings. The critical questions being, who will be included in the new system and who will be exempt from it. This new Bill will inherently define the landscape of Canadian Broadcasting and its online platform partners. The support of Canadian artists and creators is crucial to Canadian culture, but how will this affect the availability of foreign content and the public's fundamental right to freedom of expression and their right to choose the content?
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