Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-11, the online streaming act, and to update you on its key legislative priority: the modernization of the Broadcasting Act.
I moved second reading in June and this is officially my speech, but the committee has started its study and is moving forward during the next few weeks.
Modernizing the legislation means updating it and preparing for the future. This must be done in a way that appropriately considers the technological realities, business models and dynamics at play in the current Canadian broadcasting system. The law needs to establish an updated regulatory framework with clear guidance, the necessary tools and the flexibility needed to maintain its relevance.
Bill C-11 is part of a broader set of initiatives put forward by the government to create a forward-thinking digital policy agenda, including the online news act and the government’s commitment to address online safety.
Bill C-11 aligns with other acts, legislative instruments and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also helps Canada fulfill its international commitments, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The 1991 Broadcasting Act needs to be modernized, and that needs to be done now.
That’s what our artists, creators and the broadcasting industry have been asking for.
Bill C-11 is important to Canadians. We have heard from our cultural sectors that the passage of Bill C-11 is important. We have heard from our broadcasting sectors that passage of this bill is urgent.
While we studied Bill C-11 at committee, I’m sure we have all received a significant amount of correspondence on this bill, as many of you have told me. However, I want to take a moment to urge caution and critical consideration. There has been a great deal of misinformation circulated by the opponents of this bill with little basis in reality or appreciation of the goals of the legislation.
A large number of messages are driven by a sophisticated, well-organized campaign that makes use of computer-generated emails. The vast majority of messages I have received are linked to automatically filled online forms, some of which contain totally inaccurate information about the bill. I would also like to note that many of those forms do not have any verification protections to ensure that real individuals are sending these messages. I bring this up now only to urge caution. Our committee and our colleagues are carefully studying the modernization of the broadcasting framework, and this work is too important to be distracted by misinformation.
The project of modernization has been considered for many years. A little known fact is that four years ago, in 2018, the Transport and Communications Committee began a study on the modernization of the Broadcasting Act. At that time, we decided to defer our study to the ongoing broadcasting telecommunications legislative review done by the government. That panel studied this issue for two years before publishing its report entitled Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act. That report was published in January 2020, and here we are in 2022. The task at hand is important work because we are already late.
I stand before you again, almost a year and a half since Bill C-10 was introduced to modernize the 1991 Broadcasting Act. When I rose at that time to introduce Bill C-10 to you, I noted that the bill had already received considerable parliamentary input with 112 days at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. With over 40 meetings and close to 50 witnesses — not counting departmental briefings — the bill reflected the work done by parliamentarians and substantial input from industry and community stakeholders.
With Bill C-11, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage held an additional 28 meetings with 46 briefs, representing input from 142 witnesses. Collectively, the interested parties have repeatedly recognized the need to modernize the act even though their opinions might differ on the details. In fact, all parties in the other place have signalled that the modernization of the Broadcasting Act is a necessity.
Whenever we talk about modernizing our broadcasting system, it is an opportunity to ask ourselves big questions about how we are as Canadians and how we want to define our culture and our stories. It was the same in 1981, and even in 1982. I was in the other place at that time — as you know, I have been here for a long time — pushing to update the act then as American programs were threatening to overpower our arts and culture.
Our culture is all of us. It is our past, present and future. It is how we talk to one another.
Honourable senators, for more than 50 years the Broadcasting Act helped us share our stories. That’s how we built our strong Canadian culture, forged our Canadian identity and brought Canadian voices to the world. We want to build on this for the future, so we must recognize that times have changed.
The last time our system was updated, our world was completely different. In 1991, we rented movies at Super Club Vidéotron or at Blockbuster, and we had Walkmans. A lot has changed in 30 years. Online streaming has changed the way we create, discover and consume content. Our system needs to reflect that reality.
For decades, Canadian broadcasters have been investing in the system to create the content we love so much. It is a simple matter of fairness to ask online broadcasters to do their part.
Companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney are already investing in the Canadian economy and we are happy about that. We are happy that they are choosing to produce their shows in Canada. Let’s be honest, they are doing that because of the incredible talent here in Canada.
What this bill does is update our rules so that every streaming platform contributes to our culture, period.
As this bill reaches us today, Bill C-11 has received more and more input. It was drafted to build upon the work done on Bill C-10 in the last session, with minimal, targeted changes and a recalibrated approach to social media. This bill has been updated to reflect the hard work of parliamentarians of all parties and caucuses.
The government listened to the concerns and feedback from the last session and has updated the bill to address concerns surrounding user-generated content. It was further amended at committee in the other place to strengthen protections on free speech.
The online streaming act is not about picking winners and losers in the landscape of Canada’s programming offerings. It does offer as much as Canadians want. It does not compromise the personal freedoms of Canadians by censoring the internet. In fact, it specifies in multiple places throughout the text of the bill that freedom of expression must be protected. I cannot express this enough: Freedom of expression in Canada will not be impacted by this act.
What it does is simple: It updates our legislation so that the broadcasting framework in Canada accounts for the realities of modern broadcasting and ensures a level playing field for those commercial players that can materially contribute to its objectives. This legislation will update Canada’s broadcasting rules to include online streaming services. It will require them to contribute in an equitable way to our culture. If you benefit from the system, you need to contribute to it; it’s that simple.
Our chamber has an important role to play within our democratic process. We have been asked to examine the bill, to study its merits and aims and understand how it will work. As you know, our chamber authorized the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to do a pre-study of this bill, and we have been doing it since June. We actually came in last week, before the session started, to have committee meetings. I am pleased to advise that we have begun that work. So far, we have repeatedly heard from our creative sector that we need to pass this bill without delay.
We owe it to our hardworking artists and creators to pass this bill. We owe it to them to make sure that the online streamers who benefit from our system contribute to the strength and vitality of Canada’s cultural sector.
Let’s remember that Canada’s strong culture is not an accident. We made that decision. We made that call. We chose to be different from our neighbour to the south; we chose cultural sovereignty.
At a high level, the online streaming act addresses many important issues. The online streaming act advances the interests of Canada and Canadians in several ways. Canadian broadcasters are suffering financial losses because they are being forced to compete on an uneven regulatory playing field. Passing this bill is crucial for sustaining the economic ecosystem for Canadian culture, music and stories.
It is needed to maintain our audio-visual production activities and keep our cultural industries working. It is recognized by music stakeholders as critical to supporting and making discoverable our music and stories. It creates a dedicated and intentional space within our broadcasting system for communities that have faced systemic marginalization for too long.
Taking this work seriously includes getting it done, doing it right and doing it urgently.
The problem is that our broadcasting regulatory framework is out of date. This hurts our creative industries, doesn’t serve the interests of Canadians or Canada, and limits our ability to realize the cultural broadcasting objectives that the Broadcasting Act is ultimately meant to support. These policy objectives are instrumental in shaping our Canadian culture.
Digital disruption has happened, and our legislation must adapt. The reality is that broadcasting has dramatically changed since 1991. Digital disruption in this sector has brought about change at an unprecedented pace, heightened by the pandemic. The traditional services of radio, television and cable are still important players in the broadcasting system, yet these days, most Canadians regularly use online streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, CBC Gem, Club Illico and discovery+ to listen to their favourite songs, watch films and television shows.
The reasoning was that these services had relatively little impact on the sector at the time, and it was beneficial to allow these innovative services to develop as part of what was then an emerging sector. This reasoning is simply no longer valid.
It is time the services were required to contribute to Canadian stories in the same way traditional Canadian broadcasters do.
More are coming, and their libraries are growing. They see what we all know is true: The Canadian market is lucrative. It’s good to do business here in Canada. Online streamers compete directly with the regulated broadcasters. In some cases, due to licensing, the only way Canadian consumers can view the latest popular series, such as “Bridgerton” and “Moon Knight,” is through streaming services. Even “Kim’s Convenience,” content commissioned by the CBC, is being watched by Canadians on platforms like Netflix instead of on a Canadian service like Gem.
Yet, streaming services are not presently required to support the broadcasting system as their Canadian broadcasting counterparts are. They are benefiting from the Canadian market but have no obligations to contribute back into it. This is a problem that requires urgent action and one that the online streaming act directly addresses.
This is not a quick cash grab or a punishment to those who have enjoyed success in an unregulated environment. Canadians stream 2 billion songs in a single week using services like Spotify and Apple Music. We know that there is a market for legitimately sourced music in Canada, ensuring that Canadians are paid and their music is played.
This is about updating our laws and regulations to provide rules for our broadcasting system that make sense today and for tomorrow. It’s about providing the certainty and structure for sustainable future success.
We have heard from critics of this bill that we are trying to fit new technologies into an outdated regulatory model. That could not be further from the truth. The online streaming act would modernize Canada’s broadcasting system, realigning our country’s cultural priorities and future-proofing the framework as new technologies will inevitably arise. We know that technology advancements can be happening at lightspeed. Just think that when we were debating Bill C-10 last year, TikTok was a very different platform than what it is today. We need to build a system that will have the flexibility to adapt to new technology, and that is precisely what Bill C-11 will accomplish.
We have heard from Canadian broadcasters and producers, who continue to dutifully contribute to Canada’s cultural sector, about how they compete at a disadvantage with entities that exist outside our regulatory framework.
As I wrote in 1982 on the subject of broadcasting modernization:
Unless new policy initiatives are introduced, the industry is at risk in the face of new technological and global competition which could destroy the infrastructure of Canadian program production.
Technological innovation does not stop. We again face a challenge by new technology and global competition, and again I am calling for the modernization of our regulatory regime.
Honourable senators, we are faced with an important task. Righting the regulatory asymmetry between traditional and online broadcast undertakings has been delayed for too long. The process around modernizing the Broadcasting Act has seen remarkable debate, filibustering and unreasonable claims of imagined breaches of our Charter. These have obscured the real issue. I think it’s enough.
It is time to provide solutions. We must address the regulatory challenge right now by requiring online audio and video broadcasting services to contribute to the achievement of important cultural policy objectives in the same way that traditional broadcasters always have.
Let us recall that under the 1991 Broadcasting Act, radio stations and TV channels, as well as cable and satellite distribution companies, had to be Canadian owned and licensed. They could show foreign programs or carry American channels.
In return for participating in Canada’s broadcasting system and accessing our domestic market, they were required to fund, acquire or broadcast Canadian programs. They were also required to make programs accessible to Canadians and contribute to the creation of Canadian content, including, of course, original programming in French.
This was intentional, and it worked. Our broadcasting system saw an increase in demand for Canadian programs, our creative talent flourished and our cultural industries saw predictable investments on which they could plan, build and grow.
The online streaming act brings online broadcasters under similar rules and requirements as our traditional broadcasters, because unlike traditional Canadian broadcasters, platforms profit from our culture but have no obligations to contribute to it. With money leaving the traditional broadcasters to go to these platforms, this is putting our creators, industries and jobs at risk. We have to act.
Colleagues, our system must also pave the way for new and upcoming Canadian artists.
For decades, our current system introduced us to incredible artists that we all love. Many of them now share their art around the world.
Anne of Green Gables, The Tragically Hip, C.R.A.Z.Y., Drake, Charlotte Cardin, Lara Fabian, Shawn Mendes, “District 31,” “Schitt’s Creek” — we all know the list of Canadian successes. We want to make sure our children and future generations grow up as we did: having the chance to watch our stories and listen to our songs.
Culture is a powerful and foundational form of expression. It enables us to share moments, feelings and dreams. It enables us to forge a shared identity. Its scope and influence are greater than ever.
People need their culture to reflect who they are. Francophones throughout the country depend on it. Our system, our language, our culture depend on it. If we want our children to speak our language, we need a strong culture. To do that, we need a system that is both just and fair.
Colleagues, a primary goal of the renewed approach to regulation is to provide sustainable support to Canadian music and stories in the years ahead. The bill aims for fair treatment of programs consumed on different platforms, regardless of how they are transmitted.
New legislation will shift away from issuing broadcasting licences to a new conditions-of-service model. This will allow the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, to seek contributions related to the discoverability and showcasing of programs.
Canada’s music stakeholders have expressed that the bill addresses their need for creative support and their desire to be fairly promoted online. In this framework, broadcasting undertakings, including online undertakings, will be required to make financial contributions to support Canadian music, stories, creators and producers.
There are two notable themes in the bill that merit some clear and specific mention. They are the treatment of digital-first creators and the recalibrated approach to social media.
Digital-first creators will never face any obligations under the online streaming act. In other words, a producer of audio or audiovisual content that is primarily produced and intended for online distribution as user-uploaded content on social media services will be excluded. There has been fearmongering that the bill will create a world where 30% of a digital-first creator’s revenue will have to be contributed to an art fund. This is simply not true. There is no question about individual creators being asked to forfeit a portion of their revenues.
We have been clear from the beginning. It is disappointing that the opposition continues to speculate wildly on alarming, far-reaching hypotheticals that simply will never happen. Some social media platforms may have to contribute, yes, but the revenues of digital-first creators will not be included in the calculation of social media platforms’ revenues for the purposes of financial contributions. Content from digital-first creators will not face any obligations related to showcasing and discoverability. Despite some vocal critics on this issue, the concerns of Canada’s digital-first creators have been listened to. They have told us that they do not want to be part of this framework. They will be exempt, and I am confident that the policy direction to the CRTC will make this extra clear.
Content uploaded by Canadians on social media platforms, such as Facebook or YouTube, would not face obligations, except in clearly defined circumstances as provided in section 4.2 of the act.
The online streaming act would only allow the CRTC to impose obligations on social media services with regard to a subset of commercial content, such as commercial music. The legislation includes three factors the CRTC would have to consider in identifying commercial programs. It would consider the amount of revenue generated by the program, whether the program was available on other traditional or online broadcasters, such as Netflix or Spotify, and whether the content had been assigned an international standards code number.
Social media content that does not generate revenue for the person who posted it or the copyright holder will never be regulated.
The reason for including these provisions is simple. A Céline Dion song must be treated the same way on YouTube and on Spotify. It is really simple.
Our new approach to social media responds to concerns about freedom of expression. At the same time, it takes into account that music is largely distributed and broadcast online.
More and more, we are seeing social media companies broadcast commercial content. YouTube Music is a prime example. That’s why this bill includes important updates that will only focus on relevant types of commercial content. In fact, a study conducted by Media Technology Monitor in 2020 found:
About two-thirds of Canadian adults used YouTube to listen to music . . . which outpaces dedicated music services such as Apple Music and Spotify.
The proposed amendments in the online streaming act regarding social media will not apply to content uploaded by users or to users themselves. They will only apply to commercial content based on these specific criteria. This responds to the needs of music stakeholders, who stated that platforms that broadcast commercial music must contribute to the system.
The minister met with social media content creators, including YouTubers and other digital creators, and heard their concerns. Here at the Senate, we are continuing to listen to them. These creators share incredible content with audiences here in Canada and around the world. But this bill is not about them and will not require them to do anything new.
And if I haven’t been crystal clear on this yet, let me add once and for all that after this bill has gone through the parliamentary process and received Royal Assent, it will be made even more clear to the regulator, through a policy directive, that this legislation does not touch users — only online streaming platforms.
Platforms are in; users are out. I want to be absolutely clear. This law will never control what Canadians can or cannot see online. We will always be able to choose what we listen to and what we watch. Users are not broadcasters. Their content will not be regulated. An individual online creator’s content will not be regulated.
Again, the principle is simple: Platforms are in; users are not.
In sum, the new approach to social media online streaming will ensure that social media services contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system when appropriate and fair while respecting the rights, freedoms and choices of Canadians.
To help understand why action is urgently needed, let us review the current economic reality in the sector.
Broadcasting is an important economic driver, which supports Canada’s creative industries and the evolving cultural identity. Together, Canada’s broadcasting, film and video, and music and sound recording sectors contributed $14 billion to Canada’s GDP and over 160,000 jobs. That was in 2019.
Over the past decade, the percentage of Canadians who subscribe to online broadcasters has grown from 6% to 78%. Even if we only focus on the last few years, the revenues of online streaming services have seen fast and substantial growth, while traditional broadcasters have seen steadily shrinking revenues.
This is no surprise. After all, we know that the world of broadcasting has changed. In addition to this new reality, Canada’s broadcasting sector is facing long-term structural challenges. Without intervention, current trends in the market are expected to result in a decline in the production of Canadian television content by approximately half a billion dollars within the next five years. This means there will be 13% less Canadian television production in 2025 than there was in 2020. And in 2020, we had already seen a $320 million drop in production from 2018 levels.
We have learned from our witnesses at committee, for example, that for the first time, there are more households in Quebec with online subscriptions than traditional television services and that the online streaming market is overwhelmingly dominated by foreign players outside Canada’s regulatory framework.
According to a Léger poll conducted for the ADISQ, which we have heard about, 60% of Quebeckers identify the radio as a tool for discovering new artists. The survey also showed that 61% of people now listen to music using online services, which are completely unregulated. Just 8% of the tracks people stream online in Quebec are in French.
Sustainable, long-term support for the system is required to enable ongoing success for Canadian creators, producers and broadcasters. This is what this modernization is about. This is what the online streaming act will achieve.
The status quo is unacceptable.
Cultural policy is a main element of this legislation. Ensuring the continued viability of Canadian broadcasting is also about our cultural sovereignty. Culture can play a role in the process of truth-telling and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and healing. Diversity and inclusion are Canadian values, and they must be elements of our cultural policy. This is a key pillar of the new online streaming act.
These are a few of the cultural policy issues that the online streaming act will address. Improving fairness in our broadcasting system means being more inclusive, supporting the livelihoods of Canadian artists and creators, as well as enriching the lives of Canadians who want to see more Canadian content.
Racialized Canadians, women, LGBTQ2+ persons and persons with disabilities deserve to have the space to tell their stories to other Canadians and to the world. The amendments adopted at committee in the other place further enshrine the importance of having everyone reflected in our broadcasting system. This bill claims that space and ensures that online streaming platforms contribute to Canadian culture.
Currently, Canadian broadcasters have to follow a set of rules, but streaming platforms follow a completely different set.
This legislation provides real gains for Canadians, including community media and local news, French language productions, racialized communities, third language programming and so much more. Importantly, this legislation also takes steps to ensure space within our broadcasting system for Indigenous storytelling and Indigenous languages.
The rules should be fair for everyone, and that is exactly what the online streaming act would do. Quite simply, if you benefit from the system you have to contribute to it.
Honourable senators, let’s walk through the process of what will happen after the bill receives Royal Assent. The government will issue a policy directive to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, to indicate our priorities when it comes to putting in place the new regulatory framework. The policy direction has two primary goals. First, it will focus on the importance of consultation and special consideration for the needs of equity-seeking groups. Second, the direction will make clear the areas where regulation is needed, as well as the areas where it should be exercised. After the policy direction is published, all stakeholders, including members of the public, will have ample opportunity to participate in the regulatory process and provide their feedback.
Let me emphasize that we are putting in place a regulatory process like in other sectors. That means there will be the publication of the proposed policy direction, followed by public consultation and then the final policy direction. This would be a fully collaborative process with online platforms, traditional media and creators, as well as the general public. The CRTC, in turn, will have its own public process as it further develops steps to implement the legislation. This will be done within the clear limits established by the legislation and in keeping with the policy direction provided by the government.
Canada can be a leader on the global stage for innovative measures that benefit Canada’s creative industries and grow its economy in a fast-moving digital and data-driven world. The online streaming act seizes the opportunity to support our dynamic cultural sector in an ever-changing digital context. This bill and its outcomes will serve as examples of how well-thought-out policy mechanisms can result in positive changes for years to come. We need good outcomes, especially for Canadian artists, creators and broadcasters, who have waited too long for this to occur.
The time to act on these measures is overdue. While some critics say we are trying to focus on a moving target, that is a misconception. The government is looking to the future and how we can support our culture; not just maintain the status quo, but challenge it in the interests of Canadian creatives.
I want to spend a couple of minutes clarifying what the bill will not do. The online streaming act is not about regulating the internet, and it will not affect Canadians’ ability to use the internet. The bill does not apply to the content generated by Canadians on their favourite social media platforms. The CRTC does not and will not have the power or ability to have content removed from an individual’s social media feed or personal website. This is not the purpose of Bill C-11.
The bill clearly outlines that the regulator will have no power to regulate the everyday use of social media by Canadians. Let me be clear: the government will not regulate users or online creators through the bill or policy direction. This act is not about censoring personal videos, social media posts or political discourse, nor is it about taxing them. It is about Canadian culture and our cultural industries, not digital-first creators, not influencers and not users. Only the online streaming companies themselves will have new responsibilities under the online streaming act. That’s the goal, and the bill’s objective is to attain this goal.
Let’s consider a service based in the Philippines as an example, since there have been concerns raised at committee. The Filipino Channel, TFC, streams content in Tagalog and has been presented as a popular service for the hundreds of thousands of Tagalog-speaking Canadians across the country. I want to assure everyone that services like TFC will not be hindered by the act, and there is certainly nothing in this legislation that would cause TFC to block Canadians from accessing its service.
What is the goal? This bill is designed to ensure fair treatment for all broadcasters, whether they are online streaming platforms or traditional broadcasters. That is our main objective. Any service used by distributors of commercial shows, in our homes, our cars or our pockets, will be required to contribute to Canadian music and storytelling.
The online streaming act brings with it many opportunities. It presents the chance to achieve greater diversity of perspectives, make and cement gains for many communities and ensure inclusive support within our broadcasting sector. To provide greater diversity of perspectives and inclusive support that represents and aligns with our communities, Canadians of diverse backgrounds must see a broadcasting system that reflects the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Bill C-11 strengthens our broadcasting system by including explicit broadcasting policy objectives requiring that it should include all Canadians. Another strengthened objective requires that accessibility and barrier-free programming be provided. Accessible and inclusive broadcasting is not an afterthought. They are the foundational pillars to build upon.
In terms of diversity and inclusion, one of the goals of Bill C-11 is to put diverse and marginalized voices in the spotlight, given that they have historically been under-represented in the broadcasting system.
We want to improve content options for viewers and listeners who have a hard time finding content that reflects their reality. To that end, the broadcasting system must support and promote programs and creators from diverse communities and backgrounds.
The broadcasting system cannot be made current without ensuring that all Canadians from diverse communities and backgrounds can see themselves reflected and supported. While some lament that niche markets will be lost, this is not true. The proposed legislation makes space for all. It cements the concept that we are a country that not only invites diversity but encourages it and supports its creation. It is modernizing our approach to Canadian culture in an increasingly digital world.
The act must be amended to ensure that broadcasting in Canada evolves with the necessary framework and space for Canadians from francophone, Indigenous and racialized communities or who represent diversity through their ethno-cultural background, socio-economic status, abilities and disabilities. Sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and age must all be represented. This is what the online streaming act proposes to do.
Bill C-11 removes the previous limitation as resources become available for the purpose with respect to providing programs that reflect the Indigenous cultures of Canada within our broadcasting system. I am pleased that amendments adopted in the other place last spring go further in enshrining the importance of Indigenous stories in our broadcasting system. This is as it should be, and long overdue.
New technologies and platforms can aid in the revitalization of Indigenous languages. It saddens me to see so many Indigenous languages on the brink of extinction.
Ensuring space for Indigenous peoples to have narrative sovereignty is important, and will support their efforts to revitalize indigenous languages. Modernizing the act includes changes to help Indigenous peoples tell their stories from their viewpoint and to see themselves represented in our broadcasting system. This bill emphasizes the importance of Indigenous-controlled broadcasting services and productions. APTN was in front of the committee this week, and strongly supports the passage of this legislation.
French language programming is a cornerstone of our broadcasting future.
Bill C-11 strengthens original French-language content and production, which should not rely solely on dubbing and subtitling. Broadcasters, both traditional and online, must make original French-language content a priority on their platforms.
More and more people are speaking out about how foreign programming is mostly in English and there’s so much more of it than there is of original content and production in French — even though this is something francophone communities across the country really need.
The government listened to the concerns raised in the previous Parliament and updated the act to better enshrine these measures in legislation.
The online streaming act gives a boost to original French-language content and production by stating that Canadian broadcasting must support the production and broadcasting of original French-language programs; that the CRTC must support the availability of Canadian programs created and produced in French; and that the CRTC will have the power to issue terms of service, including terms governing the proportion of original French-language programs.
As a senator from Quebec, it’s particularly important to me to ensure ongoing support for Quebec’s audiovisual media market. Specifically, I want to focus on the needs of francophones and anglophones in minority communities. Linguistic duality in Canada depends heavily on our Canadian broadcasting system.
This legislation meets the unique emerging needs and interests of francophone and anglophone minority communities that want to be identified and named in the act as a way of ensuring their growth and vitality in the long term.
I can see my friend, Senator René Cormier, smiling. I believe his community has called for this as well, and I know that that came up in the other place. It is bound to come up again in the Senate too.
The online streaming act includes objectives for francophone and anglophone minority communities. The legislation specifies that any interpretation and implementation of the act must respect the federal government’s desire to enhance the vitality of these communities, support their development and ensure the recognition and use of official languages in Canadian society.
At the same time, the CRTC must promote the presentation of programs created and produced by these communities and take their specific needs and interests into account.
The broadcasting system and new online players are necessary vehicles for the transmission of language and culture in Canada.
Honourable senators, we must act now. Through the pandemic, our artists have been a source of inspiration, breathing life and support into our diverse communities daily. They revitalize the spirit of our culture. They elevate with resolve that which constitutes our heritage as Canadians.
We have said it, we have seen it, and we have lived it: COVID-19 accelerated our transition to the online world, even for us in the Senate.
Physical distancing pushed Canadians toward online platforms and streaming services.
Canadians are communicating with their friends and families online. Millions of people are teleworking. Students are taking their courses online. In these difficult times, many of us have found an escape in streaming online music, television shows and movies.
Canadian artists and creators are facing many pandemic-related challenges that have severely limited their revenue streams for almost two years. An imbalanced system with unequal obligations is only making this situation worse for our artists, creators and culture.
With fewer resources, opportunities and productions, Canadian music and stories will become harder and harder to find. Without intervention, current trends in the market are expected to result in a decline in the production of Canadian television content of almost $1 billion by 2023 compared to 2018. This is only a measure of the economic loss. The truth is our cultural identity is at stake.
A distinct cultural space allows us to speak, understand and build the Canadian identity. It allows us to come together to find solutions to national issues.
As this space erodes, our ties dissolve and our stories, values and perspectives fade. Our diversity starts to disappear as our francophone, anglophone and Indigenous voices diminish. Productions made by women, racialized communities, LGBTQ2+ communities and persons with disabilities are increasingly at risk because they lack the space to thrive.
Doing nothing is not an option.
We have taken action and we will continue to act to protect our culture, our jobs, our creators and the interests of Canadians.
The online streaming bill will directly contribute to the vitality of Canadian culture. Online broadcasters must do their fair share to fund, create, produce and distribute Canadian content. We just want online streamers to promote English, French and Indigenous language programming made in Canada.
We want them to support diversity at every stage of production through a greater representation of women, racialized communities, LGBTQ2+ communities and persons with disabilities.
The legislation will help ensure the future of Canadian broadcasting as well as promote and protect our cultural sovereignty.
The Canadian broadcasting, film and television production sectors are important economic drivers in our country. In 2020, the audiovisual and interactive media sectors contributed over $19 billion to Canada’s GDP and represented more than 160,000 jobs.
This legislation will help keep this vital sector of our economy competitive. It is essential that creative industries reopen safely and be given the help they need to adapt and thrive.
It is clear that we need to modernize the Broadcasting Act. The bill has broad support across Canada’s cultural industries. Moreover, this bill is in the public interest. It is about making sure that we continue to uphold Canadian values in our society as technology and consumer habits evolve. After all, we are not just citizens, we are also consumers.
I look forward to continuing our study on the online streaming act at committee, including tonight, where it can receive the careful consideration that I know it deserves.
As the Minister of Canadian Heritage often says, “A day without culture would be boring.” I would add that a country without culture would be very sad to see.
This legislation is the result of several years of hard work and consultations on the part of Canadians, industry stakeholders and parliamentarians. I want to thank them all for their thoughtful insight and hard work.
And while we start the debate on this very important legislation, let’s remember that, at the end of the day, this is about updating our system to reflect today’s digital reality. Things have changed. Streaming platforms are the new big players. This bill makes sure that everyone contributes in a similar and equitable way to our culture.
The objectives of our cultural policy and broadcasting system have not changed. It’s about fairness. It’s about good middle-class jobs in the cultural sector. It’s about having the power to shape our own culture. It’s about making sure that everyone can see ourselves in our culture. It’s about being proud of who we are, of being Canadians.
Together, we are offering a bright future to Canadian culture and to our artists and creators.
We are giving Canadians the space they need to talk to each other, understand each other and share their art, here and around the world. We are building a strong foundation for Canada in the digital age.
The internet brings with it many challenges, and it will not be possible to overcome them if we continue to follow outdated rules that exclude some people and leave others behind. We must act decisively to protect our economy and our culture.
Today, I invite all senators to stand up for Canadian culture and support this legislation.
Thank you, meegwetch.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Dawson’s time has expired. If you are in agreement — I have Senator Tannas and Senator Batters on my list — in two minutes, Senator Dawson, will you take a question?
Senator Dawson: Certainly.
Hon. Scott Tannas: Senator Dawson, I hope you will take a question. You mentioned that 61% of Quebecers use a streaming service for music in addition to the radio. But only 8% of the music that they choose is Canadian content.
Senator Dawson: French.
Senator Tannas: Is French.
So under the rules, would we be empowering some government body to force people to listen to more than 8%? This could be used for Spotify in other parts of the country. For radio, there is a mandatory 30% that must be Canadian content. Is that what is going to happen? Are folks going to be told what to listen to on Spotify because they haven’t listened to enough Canadian content? Can you provide some assurance on that?
Senator Dawson: Contrary to the old system, we don’t have those 30% quotas. Again, the situation has changed so much that, even though those quotas exist, they are not obviously being respected.
No, there will be no obligation. There will be encouragement. There will be negotiations between the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, and the big players so that they can find ways to put Canadian content, French Canadian content and multicultural content on their platforms.
But there will be no forcing of anybody to do anything and certainly nothing that will attack freedom; freedom is guaranteed in this act, and it will be respected.