Senate Hearings on Bill C-11 – A Look at the Second Hearing

We are continuing with our examination of the Senate hearings on Bill C-11. This one took place later on the first day.

In a follow-up to our story on the meetings taking place before the first official sitting day, we took you inside the first hearing.

It consisted of two segments. The first being a rather interesting hearing with the privacy commissioner who suggested that if private information is gathered, then he recommended the European approach of allowing users to toggle recommendations on or off. This because Bill C-11 would inherently collect personal information both on the platform side and the CRTC side for tracking and enforcement. His major concern is to make sure it wasn’t possible to identify an individual user.

The second segment a stunningly unproductive hearing with Global Affairs and the Justice Department of Canada. Global Affairs repeatedly said that the legislation is consistent with all international obligations, yet offered no substance, justifications, or specifics to back this up. He even dismissed the loud concerns from the US as mere “interest” in the process. So, in short, he told the Senate that everything is under control while the American’s were in the window sharpening their pitchforks with angle grinders.

While the Global Affairs appearance was bad, the Justice Department’s appearance was even more disastrous. Representatives repeatedly told the committee that the legislation was compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Before they were even pressed, the Justice Department was already rolling out the comments that they can’t provide legal advice. While pressed, this assertion was repeatedly made to the irritation of Senators. The Justice Department said that the Charter Statement wasn’t comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice.

Senators resorted to asking if anyone at the Justice Department was available to provide actual answers. The Justice Department responded that there was not. It got to the point where even the Chair openly remarked ‘God forbid the Justice Department provide legal advice to parliamentarians’. Beyond that, the Justice Department just vaguely mirrored comments made by Senators in an obvious “fake it ’till you make it” effort. That also contributed to the very visible frustration by Senators who were there to obtain clarity, yet got nothing.

If anything, it became clear that the Canadian Senate was there to do a job. They weren’t there to tick a box and rubberstamp the legislation. They were clearly seeking information and responded warmly when they got insight and got frustrated when clarifications were simply unavailable. It represents a rare positive sign in this Bill C-11 debate – something that is distressingly in short supply.

Of course, this was only one hearing out of two on the same day. There is a second hearing for the day. This one with different witnesses there to testify on Bill C-11 as well with their perspectives. So, we are taking you inside the hearing and summarizing the two hour meeting. Obviously, listening to this directly or reading the transcript is ideal, however, we are happy to provide you our observations of this hearing as well.

Opening Remarks

The hearing kicks off with opening remarks. The first opening remarks is from Tim Denton of ISOC Canada which has been vocally opposed to the legislation in the lead-up to the hearings. Denton kicks off with openly saying that they are opposed to the legislation for threatening the engine of innovation and growth which is the Internet. He notes that the bill captures virtually all content. He highlights a recommendation that says that anyone who earns less than $150 million or less. Also recommended removing all user generated content.

Denton notes that Bill C-11 is fundamentally flawed. It creates fears of undue harm and government intervention. Internet streaming is not broadcasting. He goes over the huge technological differences of distribution between broadcasters of the past and distribution of today on the Internet.

Denton then calls Bill C-11 a reverse takeover of the Internet by redefining “broadcasting”. Bill C-11 protects legacy broadcasters and that the legislation controls who can speak and who can listen. He notes that C-11 fails to acknowledge the audience and the audiences right to choose what content to consume.

Next up is Matthew Hatfield of OpenMedia. He comments that he is speaking on behalf of ordinary Canadians. Hatfield says that freedom of expression should have been the first principle that Bill C-11 talks about, yet it is not. He comments on how Bill C-11 gives the CRTC a huge overreach on the Internet and a huge amount of power over what can and cannot be posted. He notes that Bill C-11 starts with the fundamentally flawed idea that the Internet is similar to traditional broadcasting and should be regulated in the same way.

Hatfield notes that the Internet has allowed people to access a huge variety of multicultural content and how it is a huge step forward for Canada’s multicultural society. He then notes that Bill C-11 was written out of fear for user choice and dictates how people communicate.

From there, Hatfield calls for the exclusion of user generated content from the bill. He notes that although some people refuse to call Bill C-11 a censorship bill, with the wrong government and CRTC, it can easily become one. He then recommends striking Section 4.1 (2) and 4.2 altogether or narrowly scoping what is captured in the bill. In conclusion to that point, he comments that user generated content must be clearly excluded from the bill.

In a second point, Hatfield says that Bill C-11 should not be able to manipulate the outcomes of platform algorithms.

Third, Hatfield calls for a monetary threshold for which platforms must contribute to the funding for the production of Canadian content. He warns that it’s nonsensical to call for this for every platform and that the platform will likely opt out and block services in Canada.

Hatfield commented that Open Media sent 82,000 letters through their online system to Parliamentarians and that he wished that lawmakers had listened. Unfortunately, at the House of Commons level, lawmakers chose not to listen to Canadians and let Canadians down. He concludes that the baton has been passed to the Senate now.

John Lawford of PIAC then opened his remarks. Lawford notes that consumers have now become equal stakeholders and are now on the same level as producers and others in this. He notes that Bill C-11, as written, is overbroad and will capture even small users and creators. He supports the idea of exempting users who make less than $150 million and a separate threshold of programs that make $50 million for video content and $25 million for audio content.

PIAC then calls for the redefining of the concept of discoverability to address concerns of users and content creators. He calls for the splitting of content discovery into two categories: static and dynamic discoverability. He recommends asking for a banner on sites like YouTube that allows users to discover Cancon content so as to be unobtrusive to the user experience. This would be the static discoverability. He notes the dynamic discoverability where the legislation calls for the insertion of Cancon content in various feeds and calls this overkill and disruptive.

Lawford comments that digital first creators are rightfully concerned about how discoverability requirements would backfire and cause their audiences to shrink and ultimately confirms their fears. As a solution, he calls for static discoverability on these platforms instead. As a result, creators can choose to work in a regime not touched by the bill or in the regime mandated by the regime through the unobtrusive banner.

Questions to the Witnesses

Senator Leo Housakos kicks off questions by asking ISOC to expand on their submission on why they feel that the idea of the Internet as a broadcaster is “illusory”. ISOC responded by saying that the internet is a global market that exists today. He comments that the CRTC needs to adapt to the internet rather than the internet needing to adapt to the CRTC.

He then passes it to his colleague, Len St-Aubin. The colleague picked things up and noted that traditional broadcasting and the internet are fundamentally different markets. He notes that Bill C-11 does not extend the benefits to all creators that are currently enjoyed by existing traditional broadcasters. Also noted is that Bill C-11 takes regulation that were designed for 1950’s radio and television and applies it to the dynamic modern engine of the internet. Further, the legislation leaves it to the CRTC what regulations to apply to platforms and individual streamers. He concludes that they are proposing mitigating the negative impacts of the bill.

Senator Leo Housakos commented that the CRTC chair admitted that Bill C-11 does regulate user generated content. So, he asked for specific examples of what impact that this would have.

Tim Denton responded by saying that regulation is getting more exhaustive and thorough. He said that they can be certain that the CRTC will exerts including censorship on users and still regulates content. As such, you can expect to see more regulation that is more exhaustive then what it is now.

Len St-Aubin picked up on this and says that users would be looking at uploading content outside of Canada and to avoid the kind of regulation envisioned in the bill. He calls this as having a significant impact on the future of creativity in the country. Len St-Aubin notes that the legislation heavily favours traditional broadcasters who use heavily subsidized content that is provided to them. He notes that Bill C-11 does not envision user generated content that is produced with a worldwide audience in mind.

John Lawford commented that it is gaslighting users by saying that you are not regulated, but your programs are. He likened it to a guitarist being told that the player isn’t regulated, but the guitar is. He also notes that the CRTC could eventually get into what speech is appropriate and what bent is appropriate and what is not. The eventual recommendation would be that users self censor, though he suspects that users will self censor without that recommendation.

Senator Pamela Wallin then asks if the legislation moves ahead if the CRTC is even capable of regulating the internet.

Time Denton is then heard bursting out laughing. He notes that the CRTC will certainly try a lot to regulate the internet. Denton says that it is not humanly possible. He comments that it’s not because the CRTC is dumb or bad, but because they are human beings. There is no body enlightened enough to carry out the delicate tasks required. He comments that the CRTC has made mistakes in the past and you don’t want the CRTC to be making mistakes when it comes to freedom of speech and the range of speech.

Senator Pamela Wallin then asked Matt Hatfield to answer the next question. She commented that even though the legislation has not passed, a person who runs a financial website has made the decision to upload outside of Canada. She asks if that is the fear with others that Hatfield is in contact with.

Hatfield agreed that this is something that Canadian creators are looking into right now. He notes that there is this vision that Canadian creators are struggling to survive creating content that only Canadian’s are interested in and that this is a little bubble that has to be protected. Instead, Canadian creators are creating content for a global market. He notes that if France proposed similar legislation, then Francophone creators in Canada would lose far more than they would gain. He said he wished they were there discussing the successes of those creators instead of the fear based batten down the hatches approach.

Senator Wallin asked if the static vs dynamic approach would mitigate these problems.

Hatfield responded by saying that this is certainly an angle worth exploring.

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene said that it’s rich that the witnesses are talking about algorithms because anything can be inserted into them. She says that she is aware that there are successful French creators, but culture is not being transmitted in French. As a result, their culture is on the line. She said that this didn’t come up in their arguments and that it ‘struck her’.

Tim Denton noted that this wasn’t a question, but a statement. He notes that these are problems that are not going to be solved with this act. Denton notes that the internet is a worldwide market to which there is plenty of French content which he reads and uses for the improvement of his own French. While he can agree with the issues of the French which will always be a concern, he is not sure if there is a connection between that and the increased level of control that the bill envisages and as a solution to the problem that the Senator is looking for.

As a result, he sees a gap between the problem as described and the solution.

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene responded that she agrees that it is not a solution, but it is a step towards it. She said that 30% quotas worked for radio, but what is the solution? Should we just wait to become Americanized?

Tim Denton apologized, but comments that he is not buying it. He notes that turning Canada into a controlled media state to deal with a worldwide problem of French language music on the internet hardly strikes him as a reasonable solution to the stated problem. It’s really a question about the gap between what they want to achieve and the degree of control that would be necessary to achieve that against people’s wishes.

Denton did not see the solution of an authoritarian agency directing people’s choices is going to solve that problem.

Len St-Aubin chimed in and said that radio and TV quota’s are completely different compared to the internet. Just because quotas worked on radio and TV does not mean that it would work online. It’s crazy and it doesn’t work the same way.

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene interrupted and asked why they have a blind faith in online undertakings to give content that they want. These are private companies giving users content that they want. She said that there must be some sort of manipulation.

Denton replied saying that he objects to her blind faith with the authority of the state to manipulate choices. He says that there is a whole world of music and information sources that can’t be controlled through national legislation.

Matt Hatfield chimed in, saying that he wished they were talking about legislation that would allow users to have more choice over algorithms and more ability to see how those algorithms work. That is not what Bill C-11 is. The solution is not to manipulate users choice and that doesn’t belong in a democracy. Hatfield notes that Bill C-11 also goes much deeper in that it not only manipulates the algorithms, but also what people are searching for. It interferes in what people are actively searching for. As a result, it’s a much deeper form of intervention then seen on mediums like radio.

Senator Paula Simons notes that force feeding Cancon under the guise that it is “good for us” like kale or tofu will invariably turn people off of excellent Cancon content that is already produced. Unfortunately, Senators don’t have the luxury of writing the bill, they have to work with the bill they have in front of them. She then directed the question to John Lawford about the thresholds. She was under the understanding that this bill would be on the books for decades, so how were these financial thresholds proposed came about.

Lawford responded that it was some kind of middle ground that they are trying to preserve. So, the idea of putting in those thresholds would be to only go after companies that would have a material impact. So, it would only capture Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and other big platforms. Those thresholds could be adjusted up or down by having the provision rewritten. An idea floated was a formula so that it isn’t a hard number and that the formula could move mechanically with the times. The numbers were borrowed from the CRTC as a basis for his argument.

Senator Simons then commented that she really liked the static vs dynamic discoverability concept. Lawford responded that it was brought about basically as a compromise to try and satisfy numerous stakeholders in the debate.

Senator Donna Dasko asked what Hatfield and Denton thought about existing discoverability rules.

Denton responded that he thinks that the success of Canadian content has been muted, though applying these rules on a global market is a misapplied idea. If there is a push to subsidize Canadian content, he has no problem with it. He’d be happy to consume it. However, on the internet, it faces a real market of real choices.

When asked about whether the current system should be supported, Denton said that subsidies are going to happen. The regulatory bodies might experience a diminishing level of importance, but subsidies will continue to happen.

Senator Dasko then directed the same question to Hatfield.

Hatfield responded that the system that was envisioned back in the day of traditional TV and radio made sense at the time, but it doesn’t make sense with the internet today. He notes that, fundamentally, even though we are at such a late stage in the process, what is considered Cancon hasn’t really been defined.

Senator Dasko then turned to Lawford and asked about the proposal of static vs dynamic. Someone laughed (unclear who) in the background when she described dynamic as dynamic and exciting. She then asked whether a creator could theoretically be in both or not.

Lawford responded by saying that it can’t because the whole point of the model is to avoid algorithmic manipulation by the CRTC. Having content in both defeats the purpose of having separate streams and we would be back to the same problem as before.

Senator Bernadette Clement said that she likes the word “disrupted” and that this disruption could disrupt the “cozy echo chamber” that is being created. She then asked if there is data that suggests that people will swipe away from Canadian content.

Lawford said that he only has hearsay on that, but he has been told by platforms that yes, people will swipe away from Canadian content as envisioned in the bill.

Senator Clement then asked what are the alternatives out there if Bill C-11 and the CRTC is a bad approach.

Lawford responded by saying that this is an area that Heritage Canada has not actively explored adequately and that the Ministers could do more to explain these things.

Denton chimed in saying that algorithms is meant to be tailored to what you want. He said that a case can be made for better awareness for how algorithms work.

Hatfield also added his voice on that and said that disruption is a good thing, however, the current approach being proposed is not healthy disruption.

Senator Leo Housakos then asked the witnesses about how other democracies around the world are dealing with platforms and how Bill C-11 fits in with all of this.

Lawford responded by saying that Canada is way out in front on this one. He notes that the French had difficulties with online harms and had to pull back because of the constitutional court. He said that places like France and Australia would likely be places that would start doing this, but Canada is way ahead of them.

St-Aubin noted that Australia had a targeted program where large players had to spend a certain amount of money on domestic Australian content. The choice was either to spend that money themselves or contribute that money to other productions.

Denton noted that no one has attempted to regulate the internet as if it were broadcasting.

St-Aubin noted that the threshold idea is a good one and proposed a three year review because this legislation is so far ahead of the curve.

The chair then suspended the hearing so that other witnesses could come in.

Concluding Thoughts on First Segment

One thing is for sure, there was a lot of ground that was covered here. Still, there was a lot of thoughtful discussion on this and a lot of interesting ideas put forward. The idea of putting a simple banner along the top of the platform for Cancon content was actually something I had actively contemplated, but never really elaborated on.

I had actually thought that maybe a second stream of content could be inserted out of self defence by the platforms. If the mandate was that a certain percentage of content be promoted, then that content could be separately shown to fulfill the requirements while still maintaining the value of the algorithm feeds.

As suggested, that would be an interesting alternative where you could get a “Government Mandated YouTube” vs “Normal YouTube”. What’s more, when the government manipulated version gets little traffic, YouTube can point to this and say, “this is what happens when government intervenes. Aren’t you glad we didn’t apply it to your experience in the end?” YouTube would ultimately have evidence to show that government intervention was destined for failure (as pretty much anyone with any knowledge in the field would accurately predict).

The overall theme of seeing a problem where Canadians aren’t being seen (though this is obviously very questionable) and that the proposed solution doesn’t really solve anything was certainly prevalent. One Senator definitely tried to say that Bill C-11 was the solution from the French language and culture angle, but she was unable to really make the case and, instead, relied on assumptions that ultimately don’t exist in the online environment.

Hatfield really capped that theme off nicely by saying how he wished we were discussing legislation that bolsters online creators instead of cracking down on platforms and interfering in user choice.

One of the things I had personally wanted to delve into is flagging what the concerns are by supporters and providing what I believe would be starting points to real solutions to solve these problems (having the debates of Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 simultaneously covered in the process). Obviously, there are more pressing articles to write about such as these debates, but it is certainly something I wanted to write about for some time now. You can get some hints of this in this article in the mean time as such an article will cover similar themes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to provide proposals that almost everyone will ignore anyway at a later time.

Overall, I suspect that some Senators might have thought that these witnesses could easily be slapped down because they oppose what they envision to be this perfect and magnificent bill. They were probably not expecting the proposals, the citations of the bill, the real world examples, and even the well thought out counter-arguments that at least one Senator got.

Opponents to the bill – at least in the technological sphere that I comfortably reside in – are not just mindless drones saying “legislation bad”. They independently look at this bill, come to similar conclusions that this bill is fundamentally flawed, and draw on their huge and diverse backgrounds to offer productive thoughts on how to fix the bill. That is ultimately what we got with this segment. I can admit that Hatfield kind of got run over a bit in the process when he tried to comment on some issues (partly because it looked like the hand raise feature was overlooked by the committee), but the discussion was ultimately fruitful thanks to the presence of a lot of sharp minds there.

Opening Statements in Second Segment

Eleanor Noble of ACTRA started with opening statements. She says that ACTRA has been one of the most vocal supporters of the legislation. She proposed two changes to the legislation. She says that an exception that was introduced for online platforms must be removed because platforms are broadcasters (they’re not). The other proposal is to maximize the use of Canadian talent for the creation, production, and presentation of Canadian content.

Annick Charette had her opening statements. She says that the internet has upturned how people get their information and that this has been seen all over the world. She says that this change in the way we consume media has come at the detriment to culture. She then goes into 5 goals which are defining Canadian program, regulating social media, employing Canadian artists, maintaining an open and transparent process with public hearings, and preserving the governments power.

She then highlights the CRTC rules for what defines Canadian content. She argues that the guidelines should be respected for all new Canadian production (which would kill Freezenet’s YouTube and podcast productions).

After that, she elaborates on regulating social media which see considers essential for disseminating culture. She says that amateur videos should not be subjected to the broadcasting act. She then says that social media users can become profitable business owners. As a result, she says that broadcast undertakings should be on a level playing field with users who make money.

She then repeats the calls for Bill C-11 to demand maximum use of Canadian workers. After, she offered some elaboration on the last few points.

After that, Warren P. Sonoda began his opening remarks. He echoed the comments about how online platforms would be exempt from SAA and Dave Forget called for maximum use of Canadian talent.

Questions to the Witnesses

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene covered the SAA exemption. Marie Kelly responded to this question.

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene asked about the ability to appeal a CRTC decision. Forget responded that such appeals should happen very rarely and only to government in council and that there should be a very high bar to determine if an appeal is in the public interest.

Senator Pamela Wallin notes that a criticism of the bill is that the internet is not a broadcaster and that the bill is trying to impose rules and conditions that have been imposed on broadcasters that won’t work in the online environment.

Charette responded, saying that television can be viewed over the internet. While “not professional” content like personal videos can be posted, there is also the existence of Netflix and Crave. If there is “professional” content being discussed, then the rules should be maintained. The problem is that they don’t want to be limited to foreign content.

Senator Wallin was confused (rightfully) and said that she doesn’t understand why you would be limited to viewing only foreign content on the internet. She says that she’s not sure how CRTC rules should apply to user generated content and how the traditional broadcaster world would meet with the internet world.

Forget responded that traditional broadcasters see themselves as broadcasters and don’t need anyone else telling them that they are broadcasters. He notes that they are migrating to the internet. Forget then says that the intent of the bill is to exclude user generated content. He comments that it is important that the distinction is made to separate services like Netflix and Crave and user generated content.

Senator Wallin notes that, currently, in the bill, it’s not clear what separates user generated content and “professional” content. She asks how one separates the types of content. Is it about how much money is made or how it is generated?

Sonoda responded by saying that the argument about user generated content is a false narrative. He (falsely) says that user generate content is exempt.

Senator Wallin responded that you can’t apply the same rules and standards on both oldschool production houses and smaller user generated content. She notes that this is the source of so many questions about the bill.

Noble responded that nobody is stopping people from posting cat videos (insert eye roll emoticon here).

Kelly then chimed in saying that production spending has gone up, not down.

Senator Karen Sorensen talked about the SAA amendment with answers from witnesses.

Senator Simons then got a turn to ask her questions. She noted the comments by Kelly about the success of unionized productions and the earlier comments about how there is a decline in production made an “interest contrast”. She notes that, barring the disruptions of COVID-19, this has been a golden age for Canadian film worker. The presence of Disney productions in Canada has been a bonanza of film work in Canada. As a result, she is asking if the concern is to support the Canadian film industry which is healthy vs the need to protect Canadian storytelling and intellectual property.

After a long pause, the Senator Simons was asked what the question was. Simons sighs and says that the question is what the better goal should be. Is there not a contradiction what is being attempted here. With huge amounts of the industry working, what is the problem that we are trying to solve?

After another pause, Sonoda responded by saying that the decline in Canadian stories tells him that there is an imperative to protect the Canadian sovereignty of the nation. He then says that these issues are not separate things. (Yes, I was very confused by that answer too.)

Senator Simons pressed the question by saying that there are more Canadian stories being told on platforms and more people are working than ever before.

Noble responded that it’s nice to be a service industry, but they want to do their own productions. She says that big foreign productions come in and not pay their fair share so that the money can’t go back into their system. Noble says that she wants to change that and hire Canadian production crews instead. (This is going off the rails, isn’t it?)

Kelly picked up on this train of thought and said that this isn’t about needing to pick one item off the shelf. She says that you can’t take money over culture. Kelly then said that the statistics show a decline in Canadian content (after saying that things are improving?) Kelly then started raising her voice, saying that it’s important for diplomatic missions that culture is represented and that it’s important for Canadians to not lose their culture. (Yeah, that got pretty weird. Maybe they realized the point they were raising wasn’t working and thought that yelling ‘stories’ and ‘culture’ would work?)

Charette chimed in saying that even if a product is telling a Canadian story, it’s not necessarily the same thing. It’s about making a choice on what is produced and how it is produced. She notes that Netflix producers have different parameters for their audiences because they are worldwide. She says that this doesn’t mean that this doesn’t mean that their values are going to be reflected back to them. She says that smaller productions are important and important to the ecosystem.

Senator Housakos followed up with a question from Senator Simons. He said that, at the end of the day, it’s about money. The government is billeted for money to fund the music industry and film industry (etc.). He said that he looked at the Cancon rules and noticed that the current rules works in a way that is diametrically opposed to the objective of telling Canadian stories.

He notes that Handmades Tale is not considered Canadian culture. Housakos comments that if a production company invests a billion dollars on a production, hires Canadian talent and tells a Canadian story, that this is somehow not Canadian content. He says that he is having a hard time wrapping his head around how this isn’t Canadian. He used an example of an athlete. If a Canadian athelete travels around the world and does his thing, but is sponsored by Nike, does that make that athlete any less Canadian?

Noble responded that it’s the same thing and that the government doesn’t have to pay into everything.

Senator Housakos responded that when those corporations come in, they are paying Canadian taxes. The script writers are being employed and paying taxes. The revenue that is coming in is revenue that wouldn’t otherwise come to Canada.

Sonoda responded saying that he agrees, but without the intervention of the 1991 Broadcast Act, what they are talking about with Canadian television simply wouldn’t exist. Without the intervention, the Canadian stories simply wouldn’t occur. He then said that corporations just don’t want to be regulated. (Wait, is this a hearing on Bill C-11 anymore?)

Forget added to this that it comes down to who makes it and who owns it. He says that it is Canadian when someone who is Canadian makes it. Forget then says that they are reconciling a world with online broadcasters. He says that they are dealing with foreign producers and that Bill C-11 levels the playing field and that it brings online players both foreign and domestic into the fold. He says that greater flexibility could be an option. Still, Bill C-11 is about levelling the playing field and bringing everyone into the fold. He said he hoped that helps put them on the same page.

Senator Housakos responded by saying that he can’t say that it does.

Senator Dennis Dawson said that French productions are hugely successful. He says that market intervention was to thank for the increase. So, he wasn’t sure where the 10% reduction number came from.

Sonoda responded that they did note the production decline. He says that the decline is the result of people streaming into the online market. Without intervention to stop people from going onto the internet, they will continue to see a decline in people telling Canadian stories and that is what they are trying to protect.

Kelly said that modernizing the Broadcasting Act is long overdue and that Bill C-11 must be passed and passed “as quickly as we can”.

Noble said that it’s important to pass this bill and not let Canada lose it’s standing in the world.

It was after that that the committee adjourned.

Concluding Thoughts

So, with respect to the second segment, there is a lot fear mongering and Chicken Little anecdotes about how the industry is dying and Bill C-11 is the only thing that will save it. The witnesses kept lamenting how bad and hard done the are, but wound up providing contradictory statements. This includes how the industry is rising and, yet, they say in the same breath that the industry is in decline. It was evident that Senators were picking up on this contradiction and delved deeper into it. When the Senators pressed on this point, the witnesses clearly didn’t have an answer and changed the subject altogether.

What was particularly noteworthy was how the issue of user generated content was reflected. Some of the witnesses said that they agree with the viewpoint that user generated content should be exempt. Yet, other witnesses basically played the “fake news” card and was dismissive that this was even an issue. It was pretty clear to me that the witnesses wanted user generated content captured in the bill, but don’t want to say that they want it in the bill to avoid controversy.

We hear loads of stories about how the traditional culture sector constantly rejects talent all over the place. For whatever reason, some creators are simply rejected because they don’t fit within a very tightly bound box of boundaries. So, when creators go it alone and become successful online, they more or less view that as a threat. That was made clear by Sonoda when he lamented that creators are going to online sources (the same person that said that the debate about user generated content is a false one).

Simply put, they recognize the competition of both large platforms and user generated content and they want to force the large players to lay by the same rules and squeeze out the smaller players from the market even online.

At the end of the day, the second segment was packed full of contradictions and distractions. As a result, there wasn’t much in the way of formulating a good defence of the legislation. The urgency calls were backed up by nothing as the need for this urgency wasn’t really addressed. It was more of a “shut up and pass it already” call more than a “here is a problem and here is why it needs fixing now”. Senators were clearly confused by a lot of what was said and that was obviously understandable given the way witnesses presented things from their perspective.

Overall, the whole hearing was really a showcase of the overall state of the debate. You have critics providing a unifying front, clearly articulating where the problems and shortfalls of the legislation is. Meanwhile, supporters relied heavily on buzzwords like “level the playing field” which really wound up having no meaning here. Why is user generated content part of the bill? Supporters say it’s not even though it clearly is – oh and don’t touch those provision, that is critical.

It was really quite an interesting hearing to say the least, though.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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