June 6, 2022
Minister Pablo Rodriguez returned to the Heritage Parliamentary Committee this afternoon to answer questions about the Online Streaming Act Bill C-11 after a Conservative filibuster last week left him cooling his heels.
While there was the expected Parliamentary jousting over C-11’s provisions governing hosting platforms like YouTube and TikTok, Heritage MPs and Canadians following the Bill got some other information they had been waiting for.
First, the Minister is not going to unveil a “draft” cabinet policy directive which would give guidelines to the CRTC on the implementation of C-11. He told MPs he would issue the Directive after all amendments are made to the Bill and Royal Assent is granted.
Second, the Minister cited a revised dollar figure for the Canadian content contributions expected under C-11 from foreign online platforms, putting the figure at $1 Billion annually. This is an increase from the $830 million figure cited by the previous Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in 2021. Rodriguez explained the increase as a result of additional foreign streamers entering the Canadian market, in particular Disney Plus and Apple TV.
Sitting next to the Minister, Assistant Deputy Minister Thomas Owen Ripley clarified that $900M of the $1 Billion is the expenditure value of the Canadian content the foreign platforms would be obliged to produce. The remaining $100 million would be cash contributions to be distributed through production funds to Canadian-owned media companies.
Bloc MP Martin Champoux raised the profile of one of C-11’s sleeper issues —-so far, user generated programming has sucked most of the oxygen out of Committee debate— which is the ability of Canadian programming services like OutTV or APTN to access carriage on foreign online distribution platforms like Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Prime.
The problem appears to be that C-11 does not completely map over programming access rules binding Canadian cable operators to American online distribution platforms entering the Canadian market. My post from earlier today gives more background: the problem is that C-11 lacks the teeth to deal with foreign platforms that might deny access to Canadian channels.
The Minister’s answer to Champoux was intriguing as he cryptically replied there were problems “with our American counterparts.” A similar question was put to Ripley but his response was cut off in mid-sentence because of time allocation.
The Hill Times published a story this morning in which APTN CEO Monika Ille raised the same access issues and expressed her disappointment that APTN was not given an opportunity to appear before the Committee.
Expect to hear more on that.
Finally and inevitably, not long after the Minister finished answering MPs’ questions, the Liberals renewed their motion from last week to set a deadline for starting the “clause by clause” consideration of C-11 amendments.
The Conservatives reignited their filibuster by moving and speaking to a motion in which C-11 would be put on hold until the Committee conducts hearings and writes a Report in response to the recent House motion requesting an investigation of allegations that Hockey Canada covered up a sexual assault committed by junior hockey players in 2018.
When NDP MP Peter Julien proposed dealing with the Hockey Canada file after C-11 was completed, CPC MP Rachael Thomas told Julien he was “re-victimizing the victim.”
A series of speeches from Conservative MPs used up the final 45 minutes of the two hour committee meeting until adjournment.