22 JUN 2022

Canada passes bill to compel local content on streaming platforms

The country's lower house of the parliament passed legislation that would bring online streaming platforms under the stewardship of the country's broadcast regulator and compel firms like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify to offer more local content.

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Canada’s lower house of the parliament passed legislation on Tuesday that would bring online streaming platforms under the stewardship of the country’s broadcast regulator and compel firms like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify to offer more local content. The bill, brought by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, cleared the House of Commons by 208 votes to 117, with support from the opposition New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois. Bill C-11 will become law once the Senate, or upper chamber, adopts it and receives royal assent. The bill would update the Broadcasting Act and bring streaming platforms within regulatory oversight.

The government says the legislation would ensure that online streaming services promote Canadian music and stories and support local jobs. While the bill's primary focus has been significant video streaming services such as Disney+, Prime Video, and Netflix, it will also include other streaming platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, which will be compelled to promote Canadian artists by law.

Critics say it was rushed to a vote, and concerns raised about the bill, such as the potential impact on independent content creators, were not addressed. They have argued that the current phrasing of the bill would also see it apply to amateur videos and user-generated content on YouTube. Liberal MP Tim Louis, however, said that these allegations were misinformation and that the bill explicitly excludes all user-generated content on social media platforms and streaming services. “In plain language, that means that users, even digital-first creators with millions of subscribers, are not broadcasters, and therefore they will not face any obligations under the act. Any suggestions otherwise are simply untrue,” Louis said.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who introduced the bill in February, says the changes are meant for online commercial programs and would not apply to individual Canadians. The introduction of this new bill in Canada comes at a time when similar measures are being introduced in Europe. Denmark recently introduced a 6% streaming levy to support local media, while Swiss citizens voted in favor of a similar law dubbed ‘Lex Netflix’.

Similar laws have been implemented in Portugal, where streamers must pay 1% of their income to the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisuals, and in France and Italy, where streamers must invest in European content. Spain is also considering similar laws.