June 16, 2022
Heritage Committee MPs pulled a near all-nighter on June 14th voting on more than one hundred amendments to Bill C-11 after the Liberals, Bloc and NDP passed a House motion ending the Conservative filibuster.
The Committee’s report back to the House for Third Reading includes 42 approved amendments.
Here are some significant amendments:
- The Canadian ownership clause was redrafted to affirm overall Canadian control of the private broadcasting system: the government’s proposed language was porous and appeared to allow foreign-controlled media to outgrow the Canadian-owned system.
- Canadian broadcasters were relieved of their collective burden of $120 million in annual “Part II fees” paid to the consolidated revenue fund, a major demand of the broadcasting companies and a plank in the Conservative election platform. A big win for the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.
- Amendments were made to the broad objectives of the Act (the “Broadcasting Policy for Canada”) strengthening the role of independently-owned Canadian film production companies who supply 75% of the CanCon aired by broadcasters, no doubt in anticipation of large American streamers making CanCon here in the future.
- Specific amendments were approved directed at the CRTC’s regulatory power to define Canadian content by specifying the importance of Canadian producers retaining copyright and long term exploitation of program rights. The Heritage Minister has promised to give the CRTC directions to review the rules for Canadian content which means the Commission will be looking at whether foreign programmers (e.g. Netflix) are going to control the copyright over their own contributions to CanCon programming.
- A series of amendments were passed emphasizing the general importance of community programming; programming for official minority language groups; and also programming, viewing access, and production opportunities for Black, racialized, disabled and other marginalized communities.
Few of the other major amendments touted by the different industry groups and commentators were accepted. Not all were put forward by Heritage MPs of course, but of those that were, here are some notable misses:
- No amendment to eliminate or curb the CRTC’s regulatory oversight of user-generated programming on hosting platforms was accepted. The only relevant amendment that went through was NDP MP Peter Julian’s proposal to subject the CRTC’s discretion to regulate or exempt such programming to a freedom of expression standard (which is currently in the general objectives of the Broadcasting Act).
- No amendment was accepted to set a revenue-threshold on the size of online broadcasters that will be regulated (although it is likely the CRTC will develop one, relying on its past history of imposing revenue-based regulatory exemptions).
- No amendment was adopted on “discoverability” —which raises the issue of recommendation algorithms— of Canadian programming.
- The NDP amendment to strengthen funding of local news was defeated by the Liberals and Conservatives.
- The Independent Broadcasters Group —-the industry association representing Specialty channels seeking carriage on cable TV— did not get the amendment it sought extending the Commission’s dispute resolution powers from cable to online undertakings. The IBG did obtain an amendment appearing to confirm the CRTC’s regulatory powers to “order” online undertakings to carry specialty channels on their service in a manner “similar” to the existing Commission rules for Canadian cable companies.
There is a helpful article in the Globe and Mail, here.
The revised C-11 is here: