Streaming giants required to contribute to Canadian content as Bill C-11 becomes law

A new federal law will require digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute to and promote Canadian content.

The Liberals’ Online Streaming Act passed its final vote in the Senate Thursday and received royal assent.

The bill updates the Broadcasting Act to bring online streaming platforms under the regulatory authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

It also sets steep penalties for digital platforms that don’t make Canadian content available to their users in Canada.

The government said the law will not apply to individuals who post on social media, which had been a chief concern of those opposed to the changes.

It will apply to platforms such as Facebook and TikTok that distribute commercial programs like sporting events or live singing competitions.

Once the bill receives royal assent, a policy directive will be issued to the CRTC, which is required to develop regulations following consultations with the public.

Quebec Sen. Marc Gold, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, has said platforms that make money from their commercial activities must reinvest in Canadian creators and local content.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who sponsored the bill, said it simply requires streamers to contribute to Canadian culture.

“Today, we are standing up for our stories, our artists, our producers and our creators. We’re standing up so that Canadians have even more opportunities to see themselves in what they watch and listen to,” Rodriguez said Thursday in a written statement.

“With this legislation, we are ensuring that Canada’s incredible talent has a bigger and brighter stage online.”

YouTube said in a written statement of its own that it is disappointed by the bill’s passing, saying it believes the government didn’t take the concerns of digital creators into account.

Meanwhile, advocates for broadcasters and producers said the law creates more fairness between digital platforms and traditional media.

The Liberal bill has been widely supported by the NDP and Bloc Québécois, but the Conservatives have called it “censorship” and ran fundraising campaigns to “kill Bill C-11.”

Conservative senators attempted to stall the bill’s progress when it arrived back in the Senate last week, which prompted Gold to introduce a time-allocation motion that limited further debate to six hours.

Ultimately the third-reading debate didn’t even last that long, and a final vote was held Thursday evening.

This was the Liberals’ second attempt to get an online streaming bill passed. The first version, introduced in 2020, did not pass before the 2021 election.

It was reworked and then reintroduced in February 2022.

The Senate spent 67 hours studying the bill at the committee stage alone, hearing from 138 different witnesses and receiving 67 written submissions.

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