In what may be considered a premature exclamation, the CRTC chair issued a statement on the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) having received Royal Assent. (The Globe and Mail has an excellent summary of the bill.
So, in some ways, it was smart for the CRTC to try to introduce some calm reassurance by issuing a statement about next steps.
The CRTC will establish a modernized regulatory framework where all players contribute equitably. The broadcasting system will ensure that online streaming services make meaningful contributions to Canadian and Indigenous content. Creators will have opportunities to tell their stories and Canadians will have access to a greater variety and diversity of content. The CRTC has no intention to regulate creators of user-generated content and their content.
That last sentence may be premature.
As Media Policy notes, “It’s been well established that social media users — ranging from major movie studios to individual YouTubers— won’t be directly regulated as businesses, only YouTube will be. But their programs might be if they are sufficiently ‘commercial,’ a line drawing exercise delegated to the CRTC.”
There are going to be consultations and the CRTC should be making determinations based on evidence. So, was it premature for the CRTC Chair to say the Commission “has no intention to regulate creators of user-generated content and their content“?
For that matter, how will we define a “creator of user-generated content”? How do we define content that is user-generated? At some point, does user-generated content become successful enough to be considered a commercial venture? At what point did the 4 brothers (Harry, Albert, Samuel, and Jack) transition to become Warner Brothers Entertainment? (As an aside, Jack Warner was born in London Ontario). What about that Saint John, NB scrap dealer, Lou Mayer, who turned his mind toward entertainment and co-founded MGM?
There is much ambiguity to be resolved by the CRTC in order to give effect to the Online Streaming Act. We need confidence that there won’t be political interference impacting the independence of Canada’s telecommunications regulator.
Let’s ensure that premature exclamations don’t prejudice the ultimate evidence-based determinations by the CRTC.