Bill C-11 passed. Now what?

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

What did the passing of Bill C-11, Online Streaming Act, accomplish?

For the past 30 years, Canada has used the Broadcasting Act to direct how traditional broadcasters support Canadian music through various initiatives. Before Bill C-11, no significant amendments had been made to the Act since 1991, an era when Canadians listened to music on CDs or cassette tapes. It was necessary for the Broadcasting Act to be updated to address how Canadians listen to music now, which is primarily on digital services.

The intention of Bill C-11 is to modernize the Broadcasting Act to include online broadcasters, and ensure that Canadians will always be able to listen to music made by Canadians, reflecting Canadian artistic creativity, values, and culture.

Bill C-11 passed and became law on April 27, 2023.

This means that the government agrees that contributions to, and the promotion of, Canadian music on digital platforms is appropriate and that regulations should be put in place.

However, Bill C-11 itself doesn’t actually establish what these regulations should look like. Instead, Bill C-11 empowers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to set up these regulations.

As a result, the CRTC has launched consultations to seek input from the public and stakeholders on what proposed regulations on online broadcasters should look like.

This is intended to be a multi-phase consultation process.

The CRTC launched the first phase of consultations in May 2023, with a hearing beginning on November 20, 2023, to which SOCAN has been invited to appear. Subsequent phases will be announced in the future.

The first phase of consultations deals with basic contribution requirements.

The CRTC has asked what the basic contribution requirements should look like:

  • if there should be a revenue threshold before online broadcasters are required to contribute,
  • if they are required to contribute, how much should they contribute, and
  • where should those contributions go.

In response to these questions, SOCAN led important advocacy efforts including: drafting a joint CRTC submission by several like-minded music industry organizations (group submission name: ACCORD), drafting our own CRTC submission, and leading weekly music industry touchpoints to support the future opportunities of Canadian songwriters, composers, and publisher members.

In our submissions, SOCAN advocates for:

  • a lower revenue threshold than that proposed by the CRTC, and also suggests that non-revenue thresholds should be considered for online broadcasters.
  • the CRTC to impose contribution obligations that are at a minimum at the same level as traditional broadcasters.
  • contributions to go to existing cultural funds that are established and successful, such as FACTOR and Musicaction.

SOCAN’s and ACCORD’s submissions can be found in the SOCAN member centre.

What is the next step?

There will be a public hearing beginning on November 20, 2023, where SOCAN, along with other stakeholders, has been asked to provide additional comments to the CRTC in an oral hearing in Ottawa for the first phase of consultations.

What about the subsequent phases?

The subsequent phases that the CRTC intends to launch include a focus on discretionary contributions that could be required from online broadcasters, as well as intangible contributions such as discoverability requirements for the promotion, discoverability and prominence of Canadian or Indigenous content.

The CRTC will announce these phases in the future.

What happens after consultations are complete?

Once the consultations are completed, the CRTC will consider all information provided and establish and implement the modernized regulatory structure that will govern traditional and online broadcasters going forward. Some regulations may be imposed prior to the completion of the consultations. For example, the basic contribution requirements from the first phase of consultations may be imposed on online broadcasters while subsequent consultations are ongoing. Further, the CRTC announced at the end of September that online broadcasters that earn more than $10 million in annual revenues are required to register with the CRTC by November 28, 2023.