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Canadian content, the digital age, and Bill C-11

Updated: May 18


What is Bill C-11 and how will it affect the average Canadian? Long version, the act is “An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts”. If you want the short title, it's an Online Streaming Act. The first reading for this took place February 2, 2022. On April 27, 2023 the bill was granted royal assent, and received the final step into law. (An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act and to Make Related and Consequential Amendments to Other Acts, 2023)


This bill was put out in order to update the Broadcasting Act that has been sitting untouched since 1991. (Branch, 2023) This is to update the act specifically to get it up to date with the digital age. This means online streaming services will now be under the control of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC) regulations. If you haven't heard of the CRTC before, they are in charge of regulations of the content being pushed towards Canadians. While the exact percentages change from radio to television and the nuances of each, essentially the Broadcasting Act was aimed at making sure a certain percentage of each service would be providing Canadian made content.


The goals put out to be made by the original creation of the Broadcasting Act was simple, the development of Canadian culture. The regulations were in place to strengthen that culture, and to make sure the content being portrayed aligned to Canadian values, and showcased its talent.


In the digital era however, these goals can become more complicated then the straight forward and seemingly wholesome past with the CRTC. The conversation to be had around Bill C-11 contains two key questions. When regulating Canadian content, what is classified as Canadian content. The second question is, how will this regulation affect user generated content.


In the bill itself, it has attempted to clarify on the second question with Exclusions (2.1), and (2.2).


“Exclusion — carrying on broadcasting undertaking
(2.‍1) A person who uses a social media service to upload programs for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service — and who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them — does not, by the fact of that use, carry on a broadcasting undertaking for the purposes of this Act.
Exclusion — social media service and programming control
(2.‍2) An online undertaking that provides a social media service does not, for the purposes of this Act, exercise programming control over programs uploaded by a user of the service who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them.”


While the exclusions added are a clarifier, it is important to note that this bill can be adjusted further in the future. The possibility of the bills adjustments can be taken in a neutral stance, this can only truly be done however after we find more answers on the first question we raised earlier.

What is Canadian Content? How can one describe Canadian content, or how does a piece of content qualify? This also brings into play if the CRTC has the ability to claim one piece of content “Canadian” and another as not, can this lead to censorship? These are all questions we are waiting on answer for.

In the meantime comment your thoughts below! What do you consider “Canadian Content” and how much overreach do you believe the CRTC should have when it comes to user generated content on streaming services?


If you want to read more about this Bill, The Broadcasting Act, or the CRTC you can find the links to each below.

Bill C-11 The Broadcasting Act

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

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Bibliography

Branch, L. S. (2023, April 27). Consolidated federal laws of Canada, Broadcasting Act. Laws.justice.gc.ca. https://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/B-9.01/page-1.html#docCont


Government of Canada, C. R. and T. C. (CRTC). (2008, December 12). About Us. Crtc.gc.ca. https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/acrtc/org.htm


An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, no. C-11 (2023). https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/bill/C-11/royal-assent