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Nouvelles / News

Bill C-10 to extend the Broadcasting Act to webcasters

Good news in sight for Canadian content creators: after several years of discussion, a bill was finally tabled in the House of Commons on November 3, aimed at subjecting the online content distribution giants to the Broadcasting Act.

     According to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, this bill will thus allow better supervision of streaming media such as Netflix or Apple TV +, but also online music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. While such initiatives are certainly a step in the right direction for an increased contribution of platforms to the financing of Canadian content, this obviously cannot suffice to respond to the crisis in which artists and music creators have found themselves for many years.

 

Restoring equity between traditional Canadian broadcasters and web giants

     This bill aims in particular to force online platforms to contribute to Canadian content in the same way as broadcasting companies, which devote a significant portion of their revenues to the financing of Canadian programs. To do this, the bill aims to give more power to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in order to better regulate these platforms. It is still unclear to what extent they will be encouraged to invest in French-language content in particular, the bill does not specify the level of dissemination that will be required by these platforms and there are no plans to impose quotas on them to finance the dissemination of such content. For the music sector, Minister Guilbeault may ask the CRTC to examine the regulatory means to guarantee “fair and transparent” remuneration for artists, a subject on which Artisti will be particularly attentive.

   This bill aims in particular to force online platforms to contribute to Canadian content in the same way as broadcasting companies, which devote a significant portion of their revenues to the financing of Canadian programs. To do this, the bill aims to give more power to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in order to better regulate these platforms. If they will be encouraged to invest in French-language content in particular, the bill does not specify the level of broadcast that will be required by these platforms and there are no plans to impose quotas on them to finance the broadcast of such content.

   The bill also aims to strengthen the requirements in terms of “discoverability” to force platforms to promote Canadian and Quebecois content more and promote its accessibility. As we know, this discoverability is all the more important as it promotes the consumption of local content, and therefore the remuneration of their rightsholders.

     This bill has limited scope, however, as it appears to provide several exemptions for these online platforms and that social media and their users will not be subject to any such regulation.

 

Filling the value gap between creators and webcasters

This reform of the broadcasting law is welcomed news as it aims to end a form of disparity between traditional Canadian broadcasters and the web giants (often based abroad). It thus promotes cultural diversity on these platforms and enables the promotion of Quebecois and Canadian content, which is all the more important to filling the value gap between webcasters and creators by economically supporting local creators.

     Of course, we will have to wait for the adoption of this bill to know how it will be practically applied to platforms. Artisti hopes that this bill will not prevent the legislator from continuing its progress, in parallel, on other fundamental legislative reforms such as that involving tax law, to impose fair taxation on web giants, or that of the copyright law, in order to fill the value gap between creators and webcasters and to address more fully the issue of copyright in the digital world. There is indeed an urgent need to find a more viable distribution system, whether through the participation of tech companies in copyright royalties via an extension of the private copying levy, by an improvement in streaming revenues or by the extension of the protection of sound recordings for their audiovisual usage on this type of platforms.

     This bill remains good news for rights holders, as it now appears fundamental to make the digital giants contribute to the funding of Canadian and Quebecois culture, especially when the 2020 pandemic has exacerbated the precarious situation for the music industry and its creators alike. Artisti will however remain vigilant regarding its application and to ensure that the legislator continues to strengthen regulations for the benefit of Canadian artists.