How a Twitter spat gets us closer to the facts on C-11’s impact on YouTube.

July 17, 2022

Thank goodness we are now getting at the truth of how Bill C-11 will regulate YouTube, and how it will not.

The most industrious critic of C-11 Michael Geist has acknowledged that C-11 excludes the authority of the CRTC to devise quota regulations for online undertakings for Canadian programming in general or even for specific genres like drama, news or children’s programming. That’s the outcome of the “quota” sections 9(1)(a-d) being excluded by section 9(6) because YouTube doesn’t have programming control over its videos.

Also Mr.Geist no longer contests that uncurated hosting platforms (YouTube, TikTok, Facebook) will be exempt from CRTC Codes governing misinformation or abusive content because the enabling provision of the Act [section 3(1)g] for those Codes is inoperative for those platforms. For better or worse, the CRTC cannot apply those standards to YouTube because once again the platform doesn’t exercise “programming control” over YouTubers [sections 3(1)h and 2.2].

Now perhaps Mr Geist’s fellow C-11 critics —Open Media, Digital First Canada, Washington Post columnist J.J.McCullough, and Conservative MP Rachael Thomas—  will make the same acknowledgements and be more precise in their public statements.

It’s the “discoverability” provisions of C-11 that still trouble its critics. 

Mr Geist claims that under section 9(1)(e) of C-11 the CRTC will have the authority to order YouTube to make Canadian content thirty per cent of its algorithmic recommendations, a number he has picked out of the air. Keep in mind this requirement in C-11 to “showcase and discover” Canadian content applies equally to domestic broadcasters, Netflix and other online streamers, as well as YouTube and the other hosting platforms.

Putting the “30%” aside —maybe it should be a different number— is expecting media companies to “showcase and discover” Canadian content bad? 

Is it bad to connect Canadians to the availability of Canadian news, drama, sports, children’s programming et al, given there is no obligation to watch it? 

Also, it might be helpful to our debate over C-11 to describe exactly what we mean or fear about asking YouTube to connect Canadians to CanCon either through search responses or personalized recommendations based on past viewing history. 

One of Mr. Geist’s wise companions from the Internet Society, former CRTC Commissioner Konrad Von Finckenstein, was helpful when he appeared before a Senate Committee on June 21st. He suggested the CRTC should only use these 9(1)e powers to ask YouTube to supplement (not replace) algorithmic recommendations with Canadian videos that are responsive to viewers’ search queries or consumption habits. 

If C-11 passes and the CRTC convenes its public hearings to consider “showcasing and discoverability” expect a common sense solution like that advanced by Mr Von Finckenstein to find a lot of support.

Published by

Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

2 thoughts on “How a Twitter spat gets us closer to the facts on C-11’s impact on YouTube.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s