Heritage Minister: Online Streaming Act About Canadian Content, Not User Generated Content

Canadian Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, is making even more nonsensical comments about the Online Streaming Act.

While the Online News Act is on the way to being a complete disaster, the Online Streaming Act is already in the works to unleash an immense amount of harm on Canadian content producers.

To quickly recap, Canadian regulator, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – or as some have jokingly said, “Can’t Recognize True Canadian”), launched a “consultation” about enforcing the Online Streaming Act. The consultation was largely designed to keep out public input by throwing up huge amounts of documentation and shortening the deadline to be, well, that Monday. Respondents, obviously, responded by requesting extensions to the deadlines, but those requests were denied seemingly because it might allow people outside of lobbyists to respond.

The seemingly desired effect largely happened where people and organizations kept their responses to a minimum and requested physical appearances because there wasn’t enough time to draft up a reasonable response. While the CRTC was trying to rush through consultations, they ironically gave themselves a whopping two years to enforce the legislation. Apparently, the only ones entitled to time to work things out is the CRTC.

Of course, the negative implications for those creating user generated content is quite severe. If you are looking to attract a Canadian audience, you would be forced to go through a heavy regulatory process where most user generated content producers wouldn’t have a hope in qualifying for. Conversely, the CRTC would order platforms like YouTube to force the government certified “Canadian content” (or “Cancon”) to display prominently, overriding user choice and what would actually be recommended by the platform in the first place. For users, it leads to less choice because the pool of what is certified “Cancon” is significantly smaller than the current pool of content platforms have to work with.

Even worse is the fact that specialty platforms like Crunchyroll or Britbox wouldn’t have a hope in being able to comply with the legislation. In response, it is likely they will just geoblock Canadian users altogether in an effort to not run afoul of the legislation. So, consumers would be forced to use a VPN or similar service to work around such a fence or simply do without altogether.

For Canadian creators, the situation is really bad because they are forced to choose between a smaller Canadian audience or the much larger international audience at best. I say “at best” because there is a push to have that “Cancon” content pushed globally instead of domestically as well – and that would certainly motivate the largest platforms to simply block Canada altogether if that were ever actually a thing. For most Canadian creators who have long positioned themselves to target a global audience, the choice to simply opt out as recognizing themselves as Canadian content is a likely choice. Still, it will hurt them because they lose whatever Canadian audience they had been getting in the process.

The situation for those who essentially cheat the system, get themselves recognized as “Cancon” and capitalize on the terrible nationalist government policies, and expose themselves more effectively to the Canadian audiences. Most of the time, their content would not really be relevant to those audiences and the downvotes for being irrelevant would affect those creators globally. Basically, they get themselves inadvertently review-bombed.

Ultimately, there are no winners here. The legislation is going to either cause a good amount of damage or inflict a lethal amount of damage to numerous creators across this country. It really depends on how the CRTC chooses to proceed. Still, no matter the outcome, it is bad news for everyone.

Canadian Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, has lately been taking credibility hit after credibility hit. In fact, it was just yesterday that she made herself look like an idiot by insisting that the Online News Act is “necessary” even as the new law is on the tipping point of being a complete failure.

Recently, she made additional comments about the Online Streaming Act that continues that trend of saying really stupid things. On X/Twitter, the Minister argued that the Online Streaming Act has nothing to do with user generated content. No, I’m not exaggerating:

Canada’s diverse talent will have their voices heard and consumers will benefit. This is not about user-generated content, social media users or digital content creators. /5

This is about on par with the nonsense argument that says that the Online Streaming Act won’t affect user generated content, but rather, the platforms they are on (ala “platforms in, users out”). It makes absolutely no sense because without user generated content, platforms like YouTube is a logo and some text – not exactly a thrilling website to visit. It’s akin to saying that regulation around the consumer supply chain has nothing to do with products that are bought and sold by consumers. It’s a comment that makes zero sense.

The comments posted by the Minister really tell the story of a Minister who has absolutely no clue about the files that are before her. Instead, she opts for talking points that suits the Prime Ministers messaging narrative. It would be nice if the Minister took some time to ask an under 40 individual who understands the internet how the internet works in real life, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

The situation of a government official saying stuff that clearly demonstrates that they don’t have a clue how the internet works would ordinarily be amusing. The problem is that the consequences are very bad for everyone involved. I mean, the mentality of platforms like YouTube being little more than another cable TV channel – to which served as the foundation for this law in the first place – is already a brutally inaccurate way of thinking how the internet works. Things like assuming that the platforms are the ones who make the content is already quite facepalm worthy.

If there was anyone wondering why people get so frustrated with this situation, this should serve as a reminder as to why. I hope the worst case scenario doesn’t come to fruition, but given that the worst case scenario is already happening with the Online News Act, it’s hard to put that into the category of “unlikely scenarios”.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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