YouTube says it is “disappointed” that its concerns regarding the possible regulation of user-generated content were not addressed in recent changes to the Liberal government’s controversial online-streaming bill.
A committee report detailing dozens of amendments to the Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11, was made public Wednesday after the House of Commons heritage committee made the changes. The legislation aims to bring streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Spotify under some of the rules that apply to traditional broadcasters, including a requirement to contribute to the creation of Canadian content.
Many of the amendments appear to be aimed at ensuring the legislation supports racialized communities and Canadians from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds. There are also references to ensuring support for official languages and persons with disabilities.
YouTube’s concerns, however, relate to what was left out of the bill. The company has said it agrees that some content, such as official music videos, should be regulated, but that user-generated content – uploaded by individual creators or influencers – should be excluded from the legislation. It had called on the government to include specific language to that effect.
“We are disappointed that the concerns of thousands of Canadian creators were not recognized through amendments that would have reflected the minister’s intention for Bill C-11′s scope,” Jeanette Patell, YouTube Canada’s head of government affairs and public policy, said in a statement Thursday.
“It is possible to support Canadian artists without compromising the creator ecosystem. We will continue to propose solutions and hope to work closely with the Senate towards this shared goal.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has repeatedly said the bill will not regulate user-generated content, but the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently told the committee that the bill would, in fact, give the body the power to regulate such material. However, CRTC chair Ian Scott said the commission would never use the power as it has no interest in regulating content produced by individuals.
Spotify said it, too, has concerns about the amendments. One amendment the company had suggested focused on how Canadian content would be identified and recommended to users, but the proposed change was not passed by the committee.
“We are hopeful the bill will be looked at carefully with our concerns in mind and we look forward to discussing this at the Senate,” said Regan Smith, Spotify’s head of public policy.
Streaming services have also called for changes to existing Canadian content rules. For instance, Netflix has said titles produced or solely financed by the company wouldn’t qualify under the rules, even if Canadians hold most or all of the creative roles. Netflix did not have any comment on the committee’s amendments Thursday.
Industry groups and Canadian artists believe the bill is needed urgently. Warren P. Sonoda, president of the Directors Guild of Canada, said the committee faced a “tall order” trying to balance the views of a wide range of stakeholders, but noted members stayed focused on the “core consensus” that all players in the broadcast system, including foreign streamers, need to invest in Canadian programming.
“Now, it’s up to the Senate and the CRTC to protect the public interest and ensure Canadians continue to have access to Canadian stories, made by Canadians,” said Mr. Sonoda in a statement Thursday.
Reynolds Mastin, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Media Producers Association, said that while his organization is still reviewing the amendments, it is encouraged to see among the changes the recognition that independent producers have the right to control and benefit in a fair way from the programs they develop and produce.
The House of Commons heritage committee sat into the early hours of Wednesday morning, voting on dozens of amendments to C-11. The marathon meeting took place days after a majority of members of Parliament approved a motion to end committee debate on the bill.
The Conservatives said the government’s “undemocratic and irresponsible” fast-tracking of the bill meant “vital” amendments were not given proper consideration at committee. Mr. Rodriguez has said the government needed to intervene because Conservative MPs who oppose the bill spent days filibustering the hearings to prevent the legislation from moving forward.
Mr. Rodriguez has said he’d like to see the bill passed into law as soon as possible but won’t press the Senate to rush it into law before the summer recess, which is scheduled to start June 23. The Senate is conducting a prestudy as it awaits the House to formally send the bill to the Red Chamber.
For subscribers only: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.