CRTC to Be Asked to Update What Counts As “Canadian” Only After Bill C-11 Passes

A promise was made to update the rules of what counts as Canadian. The only after Bill C-11 passes.

Another day, another misstep by the Canadian government. Bill C-11, Canada’s social media censorship legislation, was tabled back in February. It was a dumpster fire with Canadian digital first creators freaking out over whether or not they even have a future after getting downgraded in rankings. The government’s response really only served to inflame the situation. First, the Liberals responded to concerned creators by directly harassing and attacking them during committee meetings.

It went downhill from there.

The Liberals then further escalated the situation by openly attacking these creators on Twitter, massively expanding awareness that Liberals seem to openly hate creators not part of the media establishment. When experts stepped in to offer clarity on why there is concern about the legislation, the Liberals went into full meltdown and attacked those experts while also rage tweeting on their own accounts.

After that, the Canadian government released misleading cartoons as well. This really only served to inflame the situation further. The Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, issued his own misleading statements, further compounding the idea that the only way to sell Bill C-11 is to mislead Canadian’s. Then, Canadian regulator, the CRTC, dispensed with all neutrality and openly cheered for the legislation, touting their record despite the record suggesting that they are notoriously anti-consumer.

Indeed, there are a number of legitimate concerns surrounding the legislation. This includes the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a mechanism in place to allow digital first creators to get paid. Even the Liberals gave up and responded with an “I don’t know” answer. This in spite of one of the key selling points is to get money to Canadian creators in the first place. Really, someone on the Liberal bench should’ve been slapped for being this unprepared in the first place.

Another major concern is, of course, how Canadian content won’t qualify as Canadian. About half way through March, we ran our own analysis on whether our podcast or our vidcast qualifies. As it turns out, according to the obviously outdated rules, we don’t. this despite both being Canadian productions.

Now, nearly a month later, it seems that the government has gotten around to making an attempt to address this issue. From Global:

Policy-makers and experts in Canada’s creative industries are now grappling with the thorny issue of what, precisely, makes a film or television program Canadian.

The definition is at the heart of new legislation before Parliament that would require streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ to feature a certain amount of Canadian content, similar to the obligations long placed on traditional broadcasters.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he plans to ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to spell out what counts as Canadian content after Bill C-11 passes through Parliament. The legislation would increase investment in Canada’s creative industries, he says, allowing Canadians to more widely tell their own stories.

(Via @mgeist)

It almost sounds like the Minister is channelling his inner François-Philippe Champagne with such a response. After years of experts calling for privacy reform, the Innovation Minister responded back in December that privacy reform is his top priority. What a shock, not a peep about privacy reform since. The statement about privacy being a top priority is about as believable as the promise to modernize cancon requirements – it’s not. First, the CRTC has already gotten a track record of being pro-monopoly and anti-consumer. You could point to many examples, but the rubberstamping of approval for Rogers to buy Shaw should tell you everything you need to know. Second, given the track record of misleading statements from the Heritage Ministry, it’s difficult to believe a word that comes from that part of the government at this point.

If anything, it looks like the Heritage Ministry just isn’t even trying anymore. If anything, the CRTC should have, long ago, said that the rules are getting updated to handle Canadian content. The regulator had years of cheer-leading and inside knowledge of Bill C-11 (and Bill C-10 in the last government for that matter), to get their act together on that front. They chose not to. Now, we have a vague promise of reform only after the regulator basically gets the keys to the kingdom on who has a chance to be successful and who doesn’t. A vow to reform those laws now would have been marginally more believable than this ridiculous attempt to save face. If anything, the Heritage Ministry is just showing that the whole department has given up trying at this point.

What’s more is that this isn’t even the worst of it. For all the talk about how Bill C-11 is about talking about and supporting Canadian stories, it seems that the backers of the legislation doesn’t see it that way:

Peter Grant, a former member of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, said ensuring that Canadian production companies remain central to the definition is crucial.

He says the current definition supports Canadian creatives while giving them the flexibility to veer into themes that are not obviously Canadian.

Prioritizing Canadian talent won’t stop them from making it big in Hollywood, he added.


“In defining Canadian content the proprietary rights must be held by a Canadian. But it doesn’t have to look Canadian or be about a Canadian story.”

You almost have to do a double-take on that one. On the one hand, cancon rules and Bill C-11 are about supporting and telling Canadian stories, yet, “it doesn’t have to look Canadian or be about a Canadian story.” Hold on a second here. Is cancon rules and Bill C-11 aren’t actually about telling Canadian stories, then what the heck is the point of these proposed rules in the first place?

It’s a pretty safe bet that every single talking point has been destroyed at this point. Canadian content is dying out on the Internet… even though the reality is that Canadians have never produced more Canadian content and exported it to the world. OK, so it’s not dying, but they really need support… even though the legislation clearly says that it doesn’t support the digital first creators making a name for themselves on the Internet. Alright, so the real reason that the legislation is needed is to make sure that Canadian creators get paid… even though there is no mechanism to allow digital first Canadians to receive the money. OK, OK, so what this legislation is about is making sure Canadian stories get told… even though the content that is going to get supported won’t necessarily cover Canadian stories. So, what is Bill C-11 supposed to do? Uh, smoke bomb!

You can’t help but marvel at just how screwed up the Liberals messaging on Bill C-11 is at this point. Every talking point is completely debunked at this point, they can’t even define the purpose of Bill C-11 that would benefit Canadian’s, and all the criticisms that we’ve seen made is still left standing. If that doesn’t say that this bill needs to be swept into the dustbin of history, I’m not sure what will at this point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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