Bill C-11 on broadcasting: frequently asked questions

Illustration © Sébastien Thibault

In response to the high level of misinformation related to Bill C-11 in the media and on social networks, the CDCE decided to answer the most frequently asked questions about the Online Broadcasting Act (Bill C-11).


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Will C-11 benefit Canadian creators?

Yes! C-11 aims to ensure that all businesses engaged in the online broadcasting of cultural content have obligations comparable to those of traditional broadcasters. One objective of the Bill is to make more funds available for content creation and production.

C-11 may also provide more visibility for many creators who are not currently pushed by platforms. This is consistent with the requirements for the presentation of Canadian and Francophone content on radio.

Currently, the platforms choose the criteria that determine which content is highlighted. Some creators have criticized the opacity and direction of the algorithms. Users, including children, can currently spend hours on a service without being offered local content.

The new regulations could allow the CRTC, after consultation, to determine that part of the recommendations offered to users must also take into account their language and location, in addition to their more general preferences.

Why should social networks be included in the legislation?

Only cultural content broadcasting activities of social media companies would be covered by the Bill.

Some social media are important platforms for accessing culture. YouTube is the largest online music broadcaster in the country. To legislate Spotify or QUB Music, but not YouTube, for example, would be inconsistent and unfair.

In addition, broadcasting on social media is evolving rapidly. For example, with “Watch,” Facebook has built in a feature that allows users to view a feed of videos uploaded by users. Users can watch the first episode of Noovo’s Virage, for example.

With the launch of its new music distribution and promotion platform, SoundOn, Tik Tok wants independent artists to use its platform to launch their music and eventually distribute it on other platforms. In addition, TikTok recently struck a deal with CBC to broadcast the Street Cents series, which could bring it even more clearly into the realm of online streaming legislation.

Is C-11 a threat to the Canadians’ liberty of expression?

No! Most experts agree that C-11 respects entirely Canadian Internet users’ liberty of expression for there are several articles in the bill that protect this fundamental right – which is also protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For example, the federal Minister of Justice, David Lametti, an expert on intellectual property, examined Bill C-10 (the immediate predecessor of C-11) and found no conflict with the Charter. What is more, fourteen prominent communications lawyers supported C-10 dismissing any negative effects on Internet users’ liberty of expression resulting from the bill.

What will happen in practice when the law is in force?

Only businesses may have new obligations. Creators and users will continue to use social media as they do now. The only rules they will have to follow are those that are dictated by a social media company, as is currently the case.

C-11 will establish new requirements for online companies only when they are broadcasting content that falls under the scope of the law, such as television shows, movies, and music.

After analyzing the data, the CRTC will determine which companies will be required to contribute to Canadian culture, and how, for example by financially supporting the creation of cultural content, by promoting Canadian programs, by providing relevant data to the CRTC, etc.

Will I be able to post freely online if C-11 is passed?

Yes! Bill C-11 does not impact the ability of any Canadian to post online. The bill may require online broadcasting companies to contribute into the Canadian ecosystem, but no artist will be limited in their ability to post online as a result of this bill.

Will social media content creators be required to donate 30% of their revenue to a fund to support Canadian content creation?

No. The bill will not change anything for users who earn revenue by sharing content on social media. Only social media companies could have financial obligations to support Canadian cultural creation and production.

What is discoverability and why is it important?

Discoverability is a concept that goes well beyond the scope of Bill C-11. The CDCE recently produced a report on the issue. But it goes far beyond simply making content findable.

In the context of a Broadcasting Act that applies to online services, it could be requirements to highlight specific content (Canadian, francophone, aboriginal, etc.) via the recommendation tools of those services.

On sites with catalogs of thousands or even millions of items of content, recommendation mechanisms make it possible to discover content that the user would not otherwise have found.

Is regulating the recommendation tools of online platforms going too far?

No. The recommendation tools of online platforms are not neutral, far from it: they are already biased in a way that responds to the commercial interests of online services. For example, on YouTube, 64% of recommendations go to content that has more than 1 million views, and only 5% of these recommendations highlight content viewed less than 50,000 times. On Spotify, the majors’ catalogs provide 85% of the songs, but 90% of the pieces included in the playlists.

The showcasing of content on platforms is not random, nor is it based solely on consumers’ personal preferences. Moreover, it does not take into account the cultural specificities of the market in which the platforms operate. The regulation aims to ensure that public policy objectives, such as Canadian broadcasting policy, are also taken into account.

If local creations are promoted, will this reduce their international exposure?

No, because that would not be in anyone’s interest, and especially not in the interest of the online platforms.

Some people make this threat by arguing that Canadian content would be artificially recommended rather than offered by popularity and, being unpopular, people wouldn’t watch it, so they would lose points.

The recommendation system could very well suggest popular Canadian content, because it exists in abundance! But more importantly, just because content is not popular doesn’t mean it can’t become popular through recommendations. Recommendation mechanisms allow emerging creators to gain popularity.  If the creators of this content are discovered and appreciated in Canada, this will increase their score in the recommendation system and expand their notoriety internationally.

Finally, it’s not all about scores and algorithms. Playlists, banner ads, challenges, hashtags, etc. are also determined by editorial, and therefore human, decisions.

Will any content be blocked under the new Broadcasting Act?

No. No legal online content will be blocked under the new law.

Does Bill C-11 violate net neutrality?

No, Bill C-11 does not violate net neutrality.

Net neutrality means that Internet service providers (such as Bell or Videotron) do not have the right to limit access to web content or to slow down its access to the benefit of others. The showcasing of certain content within applications therefore does not violate net neutrality.


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