Senate Hearings on Bill C-11 – A Look at Hearing 16 (Second Segment)

The special coverage of Bill C-11 continues here on Freezenet. This covers the second segment of hearing 16.

Our special coverage of the Bill C-11 Senate hearings is continuing. Today, we are covering the second segment of hearing 16. It is somewhat unusual that we are relying on a text version of events, but in the absence of anything else, we are sticking with it.

For those who are curious, here is the coverage of the previous hearings:

Hearing 1 – Privacy Commissioner and Global Affairs/Justice Department
Hearing 2 – Digital rights organizations and lobby groups (1)
Hearing 3 – Lobby groups (2) and platforms (1)
Hearing 4 – Lobby groups (3) and lobby groups (4)
Hearing 5 – Lobby groups (5) and lobby groups (6)
Hearing 6 – Music Canada / platforms (2) and lobby groups (7)
Hearing 7 – Scholars/researchers (1) and digital first creators (1)
Hearing 8 – Digital first creators (2) / lobby groups (8)
Hearing 9 – Digital first creator (3) / lobby group (9) / platform (3) / Lobby group (10)
Hearing 10 – Record Label / Lobby Groups (11) and Scholars/Researchers (2)
Hearing 11 – Scholars/Researchers (3) and Lobby Groups (12)
Hearing 12 – Scholars/Researchers (3) / Digital First Creators (4)
Hearing 13 – Statistician / Lobbyist (13) / Canada Media Fund / Lobby Groups (14)
Hearing 14 – CNIB / H264 / Lobbyist (15) and Lobby Groups (16)
Hearing 15 – Lobby Groups (17) / Lobby Groups (18)

During the first segment of hearing 16, we heard from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as well as more lobbyists. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation warned of the international consequences of implementing such a critically flawed piece of legislation as well as a host of other issues revolving around free speech and user generated content. The lobbyists, meanwhile, took a spin through numerous talking points, trying to make something stick, but was unable to really back up that talking points with any evidence. Instead, the lobbyists focused on random accusations and assumptions that have no semblance on how things work in the real world.

With that, we now turn to the second segment. As a reminder, the video for this hearing is not available. However, we were fortunate enough to find a transcript of the proceedings. So, we are going to be quoting from the transcript and offering analysis of that instead. It’s definitely different from other hearings, but you work with what you get. Now, let’s take you inside the hearings.

Opening Statements

Alan Willaert of the Canada, American Federation of Musicians Canadian Federation of Musicians opened with his remarks. Part of his opening statements reads as follows:

The companies we are talking about have wealth now measured in the trillions. I can’t even imagine how much that is. And yet, they are the most difficult to deal with because their motivation is entirely insatiable corporate greed. What I’m about to say makes no sense, but even the biggest, most expensive, theatrically released movies have music budgets that generally sit somewhere south of 0.5% of the total budget — less than half a percent. That includes all licensing, and yet musicians have the most difficult time of anyone negotiating a fair wage.

These companies would rather pay the star’s dog walker more than a musician — even including them in the credits — than they would pay a fair wage to musicians. Imagine a world where a musician on their own is trying to negotiate with these companies. They are exploited for their craft, and their normal royalties, such as publishing rights for the composer, are expropriated by using U.S.-style work-made-for-hire contracts. If they refuse to be so badly manipulated, they are swept aside in favour of someone who is more willing to demean themselves. The SAA is the only tool available to level the playing field on behalf of all artists. If rendered ineffective through the amendment, there is no future for musicians in the scoring industry. They may as well become dog walkers.

He then called for the elimination of amendment 31.1.

From there, Luc Fortin of the Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Québec opened with his statement. Part of his opening statement reads as follows:

I want to point out that we have supported Bill C-11 since it was introduced, and we endorsed the findings in the Yale report, which preceded the bill. Bill C-11 is tremendously important for Canadian culture, as well as artists and creators. It is paramount that multinational corporations broadcasting media and cultural content play by the same rules as Canadian companies. For that reason, Bill C-11 is a major step forward.

He also opposed paragraph 3(1)(f).

Alexandre Alonso of the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec opened with his statement. Here’s most of it:

Global digital platforms are enjoying record increases in revenue, while artists are experiencing a widespread decline in their revenue. Why? Because consumers are moving from traditional media to digital media, but compensation for artists is not following that same trend.

In Europe, they refer to it as the “value gap.” Passing Bill C-11 would help to reduce that value gap: in order for our cultural content to generate more revenue, more people have to consume it. While global digital platforms benefit from the value we, as artists, governments and citizens create, the platforms refuse to share that value with us.

Behind a so-called desire to encourage personalization, global digital platforms are actually trying to achieve — in conjunction with the multinational entertainment companies — a single global market that consumes a single standardized product. Those companies are not loyal to any country, government or population, on the contrary. They see our national differences as a barrier to their development, so their goal is to erase them to more effectively ensure a single content offering all over the world.

It comes down to demographic weight and time: eventually, what the largest number of people consume will become what everyone consumes unless we do the right thing and protect our cultural health for future generations.

Here’s a situation you know well. In order to have legitimacy and be able to give people what they need, politicians have to reflect the people they represent. The same is entirely true for culture. We need the public to see themselves in our cultural content. When we identify with something, it unites us, shaping our national identity. Bill C-11 paves the way for just that: ensuring Canada’s culture is alive, vibrant and unique.

Let’s not let our identity be erased. Let’s not let the finance departments of international digital platforms and the marketing departments of multinational entertainment companies decide for us and erase our national identity to serve their goal of establishing a single global market for culture and entertainment.

Today I appeal to your cultural patriotism. Let us preserve our culture and our identity. Bill C-11 is the first step towards affirming Canada as a great cultural and digital nation on the world stage.

Let’s not be blinded by the myth of export barriers either. I know from experience that in order to export our music, we need external relays, organizations and people on the ground abroad who believe in our music; but for that to happen, we must first demonstrate strong local consumption, otherwise these foreign partners will not take the risk of importing a fragile product into their own territory.

Bill C-11 is also a fundamental tool to strengthen our freedom of expression and to make our voice as Canadians heard in the larger global conversation.

Let’s trust each other by allowing the CRTC to examine facts and regulate in a rational and balanced way, without giving in to intimidation from foreign companies and without letting our self-confidence falter. Let us trust and stand up to protect our children from cultural interference.

By maintaining section 4 as it stands, removing the new amendment to section 31.1, which allows online businesses to opt out of the Status of the Artist Act, and passing Bill C-11 as quickly as possible, together we take on the challenge of continuing to exist as a culture in the vast global marketplace.

(So, quite the barrage of conspiracy theories and misinformation. It’s actually kind of funny that he would say that large tech platforms are experiencing massive growth as Facebook was forced to lay off 13% of its global work force in an effort to try and reduce costs as the company hemorrhaged money. This as Twitter is in a massive state of free fall thanks to the new owner, Elon Musk, basically burning the whole platform to the ground at an astonishing rate.)

(The conspiracy theory that global platforms are snuffing out Canadian culture never held true. It’s basically a complete fabrication given that platforms are actually assisting in the process of exporting Canadian culture to the world. Another fabrication is that large platforms are funnelling consumers to consume the same product. The opposite is true as the platforms are actually diversifying their offerings – even to the point of some products being really weird.)

(If the goal was to further prove that Bill C-11 supporters are conspiracy theorists, making stories up in an effort to pretend that there is a problem that Bill C-11 fixes, well, the witness certainly succeeded in that. I’m not sure why this need to try and one up each other on this front, but you do you.)

Questioning the Witnesses

Part way through the question period, we saw this:

Mr. Alonso: I’d like to add, if I may, that as a Canadian, I’d rather have the decisions that affect us made by an institution that represents and belongs to us than by the marketing or finance departments of foreign-based multinational entertainment companies. That’s a first point.

As a second point, the CRTC clearly needs resources. It needs resources to implement complex processes and it needs to build trust. Trust is attracted by using sufficient resources. The government should evaluate the resources it allocates to the CRTC to carry out this complex mission.

On the other hand, democratic processes can take place before the CRTC; public hearings — we’ve talked about that — which never happen when we hand this responsibility over to foreign companies whose headquarters are completely out of our control.

(Kind of funny because for the first point, yeah, the CRTC is effectively owned by lobbyists. For the second point, there will never be enough resources for the CRTC to regulate the internet as laid out by Bill C-11. It’s not physically possible to even come close to doing so adequately. Trust at the CRTC is low for a reason: there has been a string of terrible decisions ranging from the CBC N-word to shutting down ISP competition to raising rates to approving of the Rogers Shaw merger. You could throw a pile of new cash at the CRTC, but that would not solve most of the trust issues that the public has with the CRTC.)

Towards the end of the hearing, we saw this:

The Chair: Mr. Alonso, I listened carefully several times to what you said, that international companies are the ones who decide what we’re going to listen to, what we’re going to see, and that you’re much more comfortable when Canadian institutions make those decisions, such as the CRTC, a group of public servants, or the like.

When I look at the modern platform that’s out there, these people don’t decide anything at all, it’s just a platform. Wouldn’t you agree that it is open to all artists around the world, including Canadians? It gives them a chance to promote their products to a larger market than just Canada.

And in addition, the platforms’ model is based on potential. If their products, what they sell or what they put on their platform is listened to by a lot of people, it generates a bigger audience. Is it better to let the market and the audience decide if a product is good or not or if a product is prioritized, if there are high ratings?

Isn’t it better to have this platform, rather than a few bureaucrats, decide what is good for Canadians and the Canadian market?

Mr. Alonso: I will answer you using my daughter as an example. If a company that makes pizza wants to sell pizza to my daughter every day and she is used to eating pizza every day, she will ask me if she can eat pizza at every meal. As a parent, I will say no. As a parent, I know it’s bad for her health, I care for her and protect her; even if she wants to eat it and the company wants to sell it to her, I’m going to have to refuse. Our interests are not aligned with these companies that want to sell pizza and I want my daughter to experience something other than pizza.

The other phenomenon is convergence. As I was saying, these companies have an international reach; what they do is observe the international market. For example, a few days ago, I was talking to a marketing director of a multinational entertainment company. He told me that the two most popular music styles worldwide are Latin pop and Afrobeat. So we, in Canada, choose artists who do Afrobeat and Latin pop and then invest heavily in those artists.

I have no doubt that Latin pop and Afrobeat contribute to the richness of our Canadian culture, but the will of these multinationals is not to account for this Canadian richness and diversity; their will is to be able to sell to the greatest number what the greatest number listen to. It is therefore to create a single market that makes consumption homogeneous by erasing our particularities. We don’t have the same interests, and behind customization is standardization and therefore the obliteration of our national and cultural identity.

(As mentioned by several others, the pizza comparison is one that definitely comes across as Orwellian. In short, he wants the government to dictate what you can and can’t see or listen to. It’s incredible to see someone call for so much government intervention, as if to say that Canadian’s do not know what they want and that the government has to intervene and force-feed content to consumers under the premise that it’s ‘good for them’. It’s a very anti-free market call. The problem, however,is if consumers go onto YouTube and have content they don’t want forced onto them, eventually, they will leave for another platform. If those other platforms are more decentralized in nature, the government will have zero hope in controlling anything at all about them.)

Concluding Thoughts

If you want more confirmation that lobbyists are demanding that consumers are forced to watch their content against the consumers will, well, you basically got it with this hearing. In order to sell this idea of government dictating what Canadians watch, Bill C-11 supporters are relying on conspiracy theories that Canada’s culture is dying thanks to the platforms. Obviously, none of it is true, but it seems that Bill C-11 supporters have long since abandoned using evidence to support their arguments. Instead, they basically make up many things in order to pretend that there is somehow a problem that Canadian’s are watching all the wrong content.

Ironically, in doing so, Bill C-11 supporters are inadvertently confirming what critics have long warned about. That is that Bill C-11 is a massive threat to free speech and freedom of expression. The establishment corporations in Canada are upset that everyone isn’t watching their content and are calling for laws that ensure that everyone watches content they make. For them, the wrong people are winning out in the online world and laws are needed to “correct” the problem that the “wrong” people are being heard. On the plus side, at least some Bill C-11 supporters are no longer bothering to hide their intent.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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