Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act that serves as the government’s follow-up to Bill C-10, was the subject of debate in the House of Commons yesterday as the legislation slowly makes it way through the legislative process. There are still committee hearings to come, but it is readily apparent that many of the concerns that hamstrung Bill C-10 have returned: virtually limitless jurisdictional, overbroad scope, and harmful discoverability provisions. Further, this bill has attracted mounting criticism from Canadian digital-first creators, who note that one of Canada’s biggest cultural exports could be hurt by the bill leading to millions in lost revenues.
While none of these concerns should come as a surprise, what is surprising is how ill-prepared the government appears to be address the criticisms. Indeed, the communications strategy seems based primarily on presuming that Canadians won’t bother to read the legislation and will therefore take misleading assurances at face value. Consider the latest attempt to assuage concerns: a cartoon of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez providing an assurance that the bill’s changes won’t affect individual Canadians since “the changes only apply to companies.” That cartoon sparked an instant mashup that pointed to the direct effects on digital first creators. Further, the changes don’t apply only to companies. Bill C-11 treats all audio-visual content as programs subject to potential regulation. With exceptions that could easily capture TikTok or YouTube videos, the bill is about far more than just large companies.