Quebec songwriters and music composers association urges adoption of new “Online Streaming Act”
The Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) is among the latest organizations to appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications to advocate for the adoption of Bill C-11. Also referred to as the Online Streaming Act, the Bill extends legislation in Canada’s current Broadcasting Act to online streaming and social media services. If passed, the new bill would require businesses such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify to make Canadian content in French, English and Indigenous languages more discoverable and accessible on their platforms as well as allocate a portion of profits to support Canadian artists.
The SPACQ represents approximately 600 artists and describes its aim as promoting and protecting working conditions for songwriters and music composers in Quebec and French speaking artists across Canada. In its presentation before the committee on November 2, the organization stressed the urgency of adopting the new bill, arguing that the regulations introduced would protect local cultural content and artists from being overrun by the rapid growth of large-scale entertainment multinationals. It also highlighted how the Bill would protect freedom of cultural expression and the economic wellbeing of local artists.
“… [The] vision that international digital platforms, in concert with multinational entertainment companies, want to achieve is a single global market that consumes only one homogenous product….” said SPACQ’s Director General Alexandre Alonso in his presentation on behalf of the organization. “By protecting our culture and identity, Bill C-11 is the first step towards affirming Canada as a major digital nation…. Bill C-11 is an important tool to reinforce our freedom of expression and allow our voice as Canadians to be heard in the larger global conversation.”
Canada’s Broadcasting Act currently requires broadcasting companies operating in Canada to invest in Canadian content and empowers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to regulate Canada’s broadcasting system. However, the current Act does not apply to online businesses such as social media platforms and streaming services. Bill C-11 would extend the scope of legislation outlined in the Broadcasting Act to include broadcasting through “online undertakings”. Under the new Bill, popular online services that stream in Canada would be required to make Canadian programming more discoverable, make the greatest possible use of Canadian human resources in media productions, and allocate financial resources toward Canadian programming.
The Bill also adds Indigenous languages alongside French and English and specifies the “… minority context of French in North America and the specific needs and interests of English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and of Indigenous peoples” as factors that the CRTC should consider when applying the new legislation.
While Bill C-11 empowers the CRTC to regulate for-profit online streaming and social media businesses, it does not apply to individuals who stream or upload their own content through these platforms or who view or listen to content provided by these services.
An earlier version of the bill was introduced to parliament in 2020 under the name Bill C-10, but was rejected by the Senate in spring 2021. It was then reintroduced in February 2022 as Bill C-11 and passed by the House of Commons in June 2022. It is currently under consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications and presentations by representatives from French language, Indigenous and other Canadian media organizations and individual digital content creators have been part of the committee’s most recent deliberations.