How Changes to Canada’s Broadcasting Act Would Affect Digital First Creators
Last year, the House of Commons passed legislation known as Bill C-10, which would have regulated content on user-generated platforms, like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram, using outdated broadcasting rules developed decades ago for radio and TV. While C-10 was not signed into law prior to the election, the Government has made re-introducing and passing the legislation a top priority in 2022.
The Government and the Bill’s supporters claim it will help Canadian artists, and make “foreign web giants contribute” to Canadian culture, however, the proposed rules would only benefit and enrich the legacy cultural and media industry, and in fact would likely hurt digital first creators by relegating their interests behind those of the established, legacy cultural industry.
Digital first creators were never consulted by the government when C-10 was written and passed. In fact, C-10 originally exempted digital first creators and user-generated platforms, but late in the legislative process that exemption was removed without any consultation with the creators who were impacted by that decision.
With the government committing to reintroducing and passing the same legislation again this year, what could the impact be on Canada’s digital first creators?
Prioritizing “approved” creators over others:
Platforms will be required to promote and recommend to users certain videos and creators that have been determined by the CRTC to be “approved Canadian content.” This would give an unfair and unnatural advantage to certain creators who are able to obtain this certification, prioritizing their videos in feeds and recommendations. New and emerging creators would have a harder time breaking through.
Deciding what content is sufficiently “Canadian”:
The CRTC would be left to determine what is acceptable Canadian Content, and there are many questions about what would even qualify:
- Would being “Canadian” depend on your IP address? What happens if a Canadian creator temporarily works from LA or NY, would they no longer be deemed Canadian? Or would creators have to provide proof of citizenship to the CRTC?
- What types of content would qualify? Would it need to be traditional artistic content (like music or drama), or would creators making vlogs, instructional videos, or eGaming content count?
- How would content be certified? Currently, in order for traditional creators to have their content certified as Canadian, they must go through a complicated and bureaucratic application process for every production, which is wholly inapplicable and inaccessible to digital first creators.
Putting access to international audiences at risk:
If Canada were to require platforms to prioritize local content, it’s likely that other countries would follow suit and adopt similar rules, putting Canadian creators at a disadvantage when it comes to reaching viewers in much larger global markets that are essential to growing an audience.
Enriching legacy creators, and not digital first creators:
The government has repeatedly stated that the goal of this Bill is to make digital platforms “contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian stories and music.” However, the legacy cultural industry lobbyists that are pushing for this legislation want that money to go into their pockets, and the Bill does nothing to ensure that the funds from digital platforms will actually go towards supporting the digital first creators who make content for these platforms. Any money paid by user-generated platforms under the Broadcasting Act should be reinvested directly back into digital first creators.
Digital first creators have thrived on their own, through their own hard work and talent, elevating Canadian content to a level of quality, variety, and diversity that far exceeds what was created in past decades by legacy cultural and media organizations. Digital first creators have done all of this without needing government intervention to prop them up or tell them what content to make. The proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act would create artificial and unhelpful rules for the digital spaces where creators connect with their audiences, all while enriching and giving an unfair advantage to legacy, established organizations who know how to game the system and lobby the CRTC.
Digital First Canada calls on the Government to reinstate Section 4.1 of Bill C-10, which exempted user-generated content and platforms from the Broadcasting Act. Digital first creators should be able to freely reach their audiences in Canada and around the world without unnecessary bureaucracy dictating to platforms what content must be shown to users.