The federal government’s recent assurance that they will not be regulating podcasts under the Online Streaming Act is misleading since the legislation empowers regulators to oversee platforms that viewers use to access the podcasts they enjoy on services like Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Press reported that the “Liberals’ online streaming law won’t regulate social-media creators, podcasts.”
The report was in response to Heritage Minister Pascal St-Onge releasing her final ministerial directive to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
St-Onge specifically told the CRTC not to regulate individual podcasts in the directive, telling them that they were not to “impose regulatory requirements” on “online undertakings in respect of the programs of social media creators, including podcasts.”
However, the directive did tell the CRTC to treat “online undertakings,” in other words streaming services, in the same way as any other Canadian broadcasting company.
This directive effectively makes the likes of Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts akin to Bell, Rogers, or Corus Entertainment; the three largest broadcasting entities in Canada.
The aforementioned streaming services are where the bulk of Canadians get their podcast content from.
While the Online Streaming Act, also known as Bill C-11, may not be regulating individual podcasts, they will be regulating the companies that distribute a vast majority of them.
If anything, this directive makes the CRTC’s job far easier and the scope of their regulation and censorship far broader than how it’s being presented.
By regulating content on Apple, Spotify and YouTube, the government is regulating all podcasts, and other content as well.
Additionally, this will likely mean that a quota for “Canadian content” will be placed on the internet the same way there is on Canadian radio, which will alter algorithms that control what Canadians can see online.
Until the CRTC lays out its regulations for Bill C-11, Canadians won’t know to what extent the content of our internet landscape will be changed.
What we know so far, however, is that Minister St-Onge has instructed the CRTC to ensure more Canadians are hired by these online streaming services and that the right “ethnocultural groups” are represented and supported.
St-Onge has also directed the CRTC to make Canadian programming more discoverable, instructing them to prioritize sections 13-16, which determine what is considered “Canadian programming, Indigenous peoples, equity-seeking and ethnocultural groups and official languages minority communities.”
Ultimately, C-11 appears to be less about creating opportunities for Canadian content creators but rather to create a new internet landscape that will be subject to change based on the opinions of the government and other bureaucrats.
Should they decide that the content of a particular streaming service isn’t offering content that meets their criteria or if it doesn’t align with their views, the authority will be there to have it removed.
It may only be online streaming services at first, but the door will certainly be open for new areas of the internet to be subjected to regulations under the broad scope of this bill.