Creator of popular children’s YouTube channel denounces federal online broadcasting bill

OTTAWA – The Canadian creator of a children’s YouTube channel with 34.2 million subscribers has condemned the government’s online streaming bill as “bad legislation” written by people who don’t understand how digital platforms.

Morghan Fortier warned MPs on the House of Commons heritage committee on Tuesday that the bill was “far too far-fetched”, giving internet powers to the broadcasting regulator.

“Bill C-11 is not ill-intentioned legislation, but it is bad legislation,” she said. “It was written by those who don’t understand the industry.”

The YouTube entrepreneur said Bill C-11 confuses online platforms like Facebook, YouTube and TikTok with broadcasters like CBC and Netflix.

Fortier said a light regulatory touch had been key to his success and that of other digital creators, saying Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s assurances that Bill C-11 would not affect user-generated content, are “fake”.

Fortier told MPs that one of his digital studio’s premier channels, Super Simple Songs, which features children’s songs on animated videos, is Canada’s most-watched YouTube channel with more than 1.3 billion views.

She said a clause in the bill giving the CRTC the ability to regulate user videos posted to YouTube should be removed.

The bill is designed to update Canada’s streaming laws to include streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify. It would support Canada’s creative industries by ensuring that Canadian television, music and films are presented and financially supported by streaming platforms.

Dr Irene Berkowitz of Metropolitan University of Toronto told MPs she was deeply concerned that C-11 “will chill Canadian media innovation”.

She said Canadians are YouTube’s No. 1 exporters, strengthening Canada’s “soft power” and our values ​​around the world, with people of all genders and races benefiting.

“Why waste the income of auto-entrepreneurs who have never asked for a penny from the public treasury?” Berkowitz asked.

But other experts told MPs the bill should be introduced quickly to protect Canadian music producers and create a level playing field between foreign streaming giants, such as Netflix, and Canadian broadcasters.

Brad Danks, CEO of OutTV, has warned that some digital streaming platforms outside of Canada have refused to air LGBTQ content.

Danks explained that while some like Amazon Prime have embraced such content, others use an algorithm that predicts no one would subscribe to movies and TV with an LGBTQ theme, an assessment he said was incorrect. .

He warned that major streaming platforms that may not want to show LGBTQ content will soon be coming to Canada.

Danks said regulations in the bill are needed to ensure Canadian content — including LGBTQ programming — is featured on premium streaming platforms.

He said it’s “vital that Canadians have access” to the streaming giants.

Jérôme Payette, executive director of the Association of Professional Music Publishers, said the streaming giants had “no consideration for the cultural aspects of French-speaking music” and that some musicians earned money from their work with the media. web giants.

“It is our culture and our cultural sovereignty that are at stake,” he insisted.

Troy Reeb, executive vice president of Corus Entertainment, said Canadian broadcasters face levels of regulation that foreign competitors don’t and the bill would create a level playing field.

Alain Saulnier, author and retired professor of communication from the University of Montreal, said that “putting foreign and Canadian companies on the same footing is essential”.

He warned that measures were needed to “protect our cultural sovereignty” from foreign streaming platforms, which outpaced traditional television companies.

But Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet Law at the University of Ottawa, said the bill would create “regulatory uncertainty” and called for a more targeted approach.

“If the goal is to target large streaming services or exempt niche video games and streamers, say so in the legislation,” Geist said.

He suggested that Canada could mirror European Union legislation that distinguishes between organized and unorganized content.

Matthew Hatfield of OpenMedia, a community organization dedicated to an open internet, said user podcasts, YouTube videos and TikTok posts should be excluded from the bill.

He asked MPs to introduce “minimum safeguards … to ensure that user-generated content is fully, clearly and permanently excluded from CRTC regulation”.

Hatfield said the federal government had just given “a flimsy promise that the CRTC will not abuse this amazing expanded power.”

A spokeswoman for Rodriguez said the goal of Bill C-11 was to ask online broadcasters to contribute to Canadian culture, while updating broadcasting policy “to reflect a diverse Canada. and dynamics of the 21st century”.

“From the outset, the minister said he was open to ideas that strengthen the bill and help achieve these policy goals. Regulating user-generated content is not one of those goals,” said Ashley Michnowski. “There is a good debate going on in the parliamentary committee on the bill, and we are looking at options to strengthen it.”

She said YouTube “as the largest music streaming platform in Canada” falls within the scope of the bill, but “users will have no obligation.”

“Only platforms like YouTube will have to contribute to Canadian culture and pay their fair share,” she said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 24, 2022.

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