Frequently asked questions — Modernizing the Broadcasting Act for the Digital Age

The FAQs below provide more information about the proposed legislation to modernize the Broadcasting Act for the digital age.

Note: As the proposed legislation is currently under consideration in the House of Commons, this webpage may not reflect its current status. For the latest updates please visit LEGISinfo House Government Bill.

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Q1 - Why was the Bill developed?

The last major reform of the Broadcasting Act was in 1991 – before dial-up internet was widely available in Canada. Services like Crave, Netflix, Tou.TV and Spotify have dramatically changed how we watch television and movies and listen to music.

This Bill accounts for this new reality. It delivers on the Government’s commitment to ensure that web giants contribute to the creation, production, and distribution of Canadian stories and music– in both official languages, as well as Indigenous languages.

Simply put, our stories and music must have a place in the world of streaming.

Q2 - What does the proposed legislation do?

The Bill will:

Q3 - What type of online broadcasting services will be subject to the Act?

The Bill clarifies that an online service that primarily offers curated audio or audiovisual content that intends to inform, enlighten or entertain is subject to the Act, regardless of whether the content is streamed or accessed on demand. Therefore, services such as Crave, Tou.TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify would be subject to the Act and could be required to contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system as determined by the CRTC.

Services where content is uploaded by users (e.g., TikTok) would not be captured. As well, platforms that predominantly display text, such as news websites, would not fall within the scope of the Act.

Services that offer a mix of user-generated and curated content could be partially regulated. For example, user-generated content on YouTube and Facebook would not be captured, whereas YouTube Originals and Facebook Watch may be subject to regulation.

The CRTC will make the final determination of what services are captured by the Act and how they should contribute.

Q4 - What services or types of content will be excluded from regulation?

User generated content is explicitly excluded from regulation under the Bill. As well, platforms that predominantly display text, such as news websites, will not fall within the scope of the Act.

The Bill also indicates that the CRTC must avoid imposing obligations on any services where those obligations will not contribute in a material manner to the implementation of the broadcasting policy set out in the Act.

If the Bill is adopted, the Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to ask the Governor-in-Council to issue a policy direction to the CRTC on how it should implement the new powers afforded by the Bill. It would direct the CRTC not to impose regulatory requirements on video games.

Q5 - Why won’t user-generated content be regulated?

User-generated content services offer Canadians a powerful tool for expressing themselves. The focus of the Bill is on services in the business of curating and commissioning music and video content. As a result, the Bill explicitly excludes user-generated content from regulation. This means that social media services would not be regulated except insofar as they are producing or commissioning original content.

Q6 - Online broadcasting services will be required to contribute to Canadian stories. How will this work?

The first question is whether regulating certain online broadcasting services would materially contribute to the fulfillment of the Act’s policy objectives. If so, the Bill provides the CRTC with clear powers to direct financial contributions to the following purposes:

As the independent regulator, the CRTC will determine whether and how broadcasting services with differing characteristics are required to contribute, and the form of these contributions. If the CRTC requires online broadcasters to contribute to Canadian content at a similar rate to traditional broadcasters, online broadcasters’ contributions to Canadian music and stories could amount to as much as $830 million per year by 2023.

Q7 - How will diversity and inclusion be promoted in the Canadian Broadcasting system?

The Bill will make changes to ensure that the broadcasting sector is more inclusive of all Canadians. It recognizes that the Canadian broadcasting system should, through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests of all Canadians – including Francophones and Anglophones, Indigenous Peoples, Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions and ages.

The Bill will provide the CRTC with new flexible regulatory tools to encourage the development of diverse Canadian expression, for instance by incentivizing diversity in key creative positions. By presenting content that is representative of different cultures, communities, and languages, broadcasting can contribute to a more inclusive society.

Q8 - How would this Bill be implemented?

If the Bill is adopted, the Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to ask the Governor-in-Council to issue a policy direction to the CRTC that guides its use of the new tools afforded by the Bill. For example, the proposed direction could direct the CRTC to:

The CRTC, as the independent expert regulator, will be required to put the new broadcasting regulatory regime in place. As is its normal practice, the CRTC will make its regulatory decisions based on evidence and informed by consultations with interested stakeholders, including Canadians, creators, producers, and foreign and domestic broadcasting services.

The Government understands the urgency and need to act quickly, which is why it intends to ask the CRTC to put in place rules that will ensure that online broadcasters contribute to the Canadian creative ecosystem within 9 months following the passage of the Bill.

Q9 - How does the Bill align with the recommendations of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel (the BTLR Panel)?

The Bill responds to the BTLR Panel’s calls for quick action and addresses a number of key recommendations. It clarifies that online broadcasters are subject to the Broadcasting Act, ensuring that the CRTC can require them to contribute to the production and exhibition of Canadian content. It also establishes flexible and modern regulatory powers for the CRTC that will allow it to ensure that comparable services are subject to similar requirements, regardless of whether the services are offered over cables, airwaves, or the internet and regardless of whether they are foreign or domestic.

However, the proposed approach does contain notable departures from the BTLR Panel recommendations: it does not extend the scope of the Act to services that offer predominantly alphanumeric text (e.g. Twitter, Le Devoir) or to user-generated content (e.g. much of YouTube’s content).

The BTLR report is very comprehensive and this Bill does not respond to all of its recommendations. A later phase of legislative reform will consider other Panel recommendations.

Q10 - Does this Bill include a plan to require online broadcasting services to collect and remit the GST or to pay corporate income tax?

Income tax and the GST are the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. Therefore, the Bill does not require online broadcasting services to collect and remit the GST, nor does it make any changes to Canada’s corporate income tax regime.

This Bill provides the CRTC with the tools it needs to ensure that online broadcasting services that operate in Canada contribute as appropriate to supporting the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, the creation of Canadian stories, and the Canadian audio and audiovisual creative ecosystem.

Q11 - Does the Bill include proposals to regulate news?

A free and independent press is a cornerstone of our democracy. The Bill does not include any provisions for the licensing of news organizations.

The Government knows that it is important that Canadians continue to have access to a variety of news sources and that the broadcasting system is an important source of news for many Canadians. This is why the Bill includes a new policy objective promoting the provision of news from a variety of sources, including news produced by Canadians and reflecting Canadian perspectives.

The Bill does not include measures that would require digital platforms like Google and Facebook to remunerate news publishers. The Government continues to monitor developments in other countries and is examining options here in Canada, but this issue will be addressed separately.

Q12 - Does the Bill address online harms, such as hate speech or disinformation?

No. A separate legislative proposal is being developed that will propose an approach for addressing harmful content, including: hate speech, radicalization, incitement to violence, exploitation of children, and terrorist propaganda.

Q13 - What impact will the Bill have on French language productions and music?

The Bill recognizes the importance of investing in French language content, regardless of technological developments. In particular, it gives the CRTC the tools it needs to ensure that regulation and funding supports Canadian content in both official languages.

The Bill amends the objectives of the Broadcasting Act to underscore that a range of broadcasting services in English and in French should be made available to all Canadians, regardless of resource availability.

If the Bill is adopted, the Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to propose that the Governor-in-Council direct the CRTC to ensure that an appropriate portion of funding be directed towards the creation of French language programming. Canadian programming in French should be available, prominent, and easy to discover.

Q14 – What impact will the Bill have on Indigenous language productions?

Broadcasting plays a key role in the preservation of Indigenous perspectives, cultures, languages and traditions. It is also an important education tool that can break down stereotypes and advance reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The changes to the Broadcasting Act recognize the importance of ensuring that Indigenous peoples can tell their stories from their perspectives and find content in the broadcasting system that reflects their lives and experiences. The Bill amends the objectives of the Broadcasting Act to underscore that programming that reflects Indigenous cultures in Canada should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system, regardless of resource availability. It also says there must be a space for Indigenous media undertakings in the Canadian broadcasting system.

Q15 – What impact will the Bill have on racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethno-cultural minorities?

The Bill creates a more inclusive broadcasting system that reflects Canada’s diversity. By presenting content that is representative of different cultures, communities, and languages, broadcasting can help to build a welcoming and inclusive society.

The Bill updates key elements of the broadcasting policy for Canada to better reflect Canadians from racialized and ethno-cultural communities in the broadcasting system. It recognizes that the Canadian broadcasting system should, through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests of all Canadians – including Canadians from racialized and ethno-cultural communities.

If the Bill is adopted, the Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to ask the Governor-in-Council to issue a policy direction, which would direct the CRTC to use its new regulatory tools to encourage the development of diverse Canadian expression, such as supporting programs led by creators from racialized communities. In putting new support mechanisms in place, it will be important that the CRTC engage with racialized and ethno-cultural groups to better understand their needs and how best to support them.

Q16 - In the Bill you mention discoverability and promotion, what does this mean in practice?

In the past, the CRTC has imposed Canadian exhibition requirements on broadcasters, requiring them to show a defined percentage of Canadian content during certain hours, such as prime time evening broadcasts. These requirements do not make sense for services offering on demand programming. The Bill amends the Broadcasting Act to give the CRTC the power to impose discoverability requirements on broadcasting services. Online broadcasters could be asked to ensure that Canadian stories and music are available and prominent in their catalogs or actively promoted on their services. As the expert regulator, it will be up to the CRTC to impose discoverability requirements where appropriate.

Q17 - In the Bill you mention “conditions of service”, what does this mean?

“Conditions of service” refers to mandatory rules and requirements that the CRTC will be able to impose on broadcasting services operating in Canada. For example, the CRTC could impose conditions of service relating to discoverability or regarding how broadcasting services will support the creation of Canadian stories and music. The CRTC will have the flexibility to tailor conditions of service to specific services or to apply them generally to a class of services. The CRTC will also have the power to impose penalties on broadcasters that contravene their conditions of service.

Q18 - How does a condition of service differ from a condition of licence?

Conditions of service are very similar to conditions of licence, except that a condition of service is not tied to a broadcaster’s licence or its licence term. This means that the CRTC will have the flexibility to apply conditions of service to a particular broadcasting service, or more broadly to a class of broadcasting services. As well, the CRTC will be able to modify conditions of service as market conditions change rather than having to wait until the end of a licence term to impose new rules and requirements.

Q19 - I subscribe to streaming services, listen to podcasts, and post pictures and videos to social media services. Will the Bill have an impact on me?

The Bill does not have an impact on the ability of Canadians to connect with others online, such as by sharing blog posts, creating podcasts, and posting videos. The Bill is clear that user generated content shared on social media services will not be regulated under the Broadcasting Act.

Moreover, Canadians will still be able to watch all of their favourite programs and access their preferred services. This Bill in no way prevents online streaming services from operating in Canada, or requires them to be licensed.

Some online services would be regulated under the new Broadcasting Act. Please consult the following page to see examples of what online services would be regulated under the new Broadcasting Act.

Q20 - What stakeholders were consulted in the preparation of this Bill?

A. The modernization of the Broadcasting Act is the culmination of significant work over the last several years. Hundreds of stakeholders participated in the “Canadian content in a digital world” consultations and the subsequent process led by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.

In the weeks following the publication of the Panel’s report in January 2020, the Minister and the Department engaged with many stakeholders on the Panel’s recommendations through various mechanisms, such as individual stakeholder meetings and roundtables. Among others, stakeholder engagement included:

In preparing the Bill, the Government considered the recommendations of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel and the valuable input provided by stakeholders throughout. The Bill is a first step responding to certain key recommendations of the Panel, with subsequent action to follow at a later date.

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