LILLEY: Liberals still want to regulate the internet in a worrying way

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The Trudeau government’s latest promise not to censor your grandma’s cat videos doesn’t mean it’s not trying to regulate the internet in a really bad way yet again. The new Bill C-11 is all about bringing the same kind of regulation we have on Canadian television and radio to the online world.

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This means giving the CRTC the power to regulate what podcasts you can access and listen to, what online streaming platforms are available, and what you can watch or listen to. Even the audiobooks available to you are all up for grabs.

It’s all there in the text of the new law, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the old law known as Bill C-10. Although the numbers have changed, the purpose of the bill has not changed.

The bill states that the objective is “to add online undertakings – undertakings for the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet – as a separate category of broadcasting undertakings”. This is because the CRTC can determine “the proportion of programs to be broadcast that must be Canadian programs”.

Let’s unpack this bureaucratic language and apply it to our daily lives online.

If this bill passes, your Netflix, Prime, Apple Music or Stitcher accounts will be required to ensure the “discoverability” of Canadian content. This idea doesn’t look bad at first glance, but the devil will be in the details.

Radio stations are required to broadcast 30% Canadian content. Will the music streaming service you’re paying $9.99 a month for right now start inserting one Canadian song for every two non-Canadian songs you listen to? The bill grants this power to the CRTC without the need to seek parliamentary approval.

The same goes for your TV subscriptions which may include the purchase of the Major League Baseball online package. With only one Canadian team in the major leagues, how will MLB.TV meet discoverability or Canadian content requirements? What about Britbox, the specialist service for overseas entertainment enthusiasts?

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With legislation also requiring all of these streaming services operating in Canada to also contribute to our domestic production system, some might just be raising the stakes. Some, like Netflix, are already investing heavily in productions in Canada, but what possible benefit could Britbox, MLB.TV or Hayu derive from following these rules.

It will be easier for them to block access to anyone located in Canada.

The requirement for broadcasters to pay for the creation of Canadian content could see some services leave Canada, but it is also causing strain in the film and television industry. While unions representing actors and directors have welcomed the bill, IATSE, the union representing film production crews, warns that chasing streaming services could cost jobs.

In a statement reacting to the new bill, John Lewis, the union’s vice president and director of Canadian affairs, said studios and streaming companies already pay $5.3 billion a year to productions in Canada. , more than double national productions, he said.

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“Should global studios and streamers contribute to the domestic film industry? Absoutely. The jobs they bring to Canada should be factored into that equation – but even leaving that aside – they already contribute more to domestic production funding than Telefilm or the Canada Media Fund,” Lewis said.

The Trudeau government is taking a big risk with this bill. If passed, Canadians could see fewer services offered, more government regulation of what we can watch or listen to online, and a loss of jobs. This bill is being pushed by parts of the cultural sector to their advantage — more subsidies, more jobs for their members — but the losers will be all of us who profit from the online world as we know it.

Bill C-10 was problematic. His replacement, C-11, is no better and should be dropped no matter how often the government assures us that these cat videos are safe.