Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, members of the committee.
I’m joining you from Montréal, on the traditional lands of the Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee peoples.
I am pleased to appear before you to discuss Bill C-10, the explanatory document the Department of Justice drafted in response to your request, and the impact of your committee’s amendments to Bill C-10.
I have with me officials from my department, as you said, Mr. Chair, as well as senior officials from the Department of Justice. I am delighted to contribute to your review of the bill.
I would like to begin by thanking this committee for its important work to date.
Since Bill C-10 was introduced, the cultural sector, broadcasters and experts have given us—and you too, I’m sure—much food for thought. They have provided input and support on updating the Broadcasting Act across the country.
Our broadcasters, our production sector and the cultural sector as a whole are counting on this new legislative tool to continue to flourish on digital platforms.
They are counting on this tool to level the playing field between conventional broadcasters and digital platforms. In other words, the bill is about restoring a balance that the arrival of the Web giants has skewed very seriously in their own favour at the expense of local people and businesses.
If we do not modernize the act, within a few years, our creators, artists and musicians risk losing up to a billion dollars annually.
However, if we move forward with Bill C-10, the Department of Canadian Heritage predicts that by 2023, online broadcasters could be contributing up to $830 million per year to Canadian content and creators.
Let's remember that the audiovisual and interactive media industry employs nearly 160,000 Canadians every year. According to the 2016 census, the median annual income for core artist groups, such as musicians, singers, authors, writers, producers and directors, was only $24,300, which is well below the $43,500 median for all workers.
To make matters worse, this industry is still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the years to come, the positive impacts of Bill C-10 will stimulate industry growth and increase the visibility of our stories and our artists.
Canadians also support this initiative. More than seven out of ten Canadians feel that more needs to be done to promote Canadian and Quebec audiovisual content in the country, and almost half say that this content is not easy to find.
Although some have the view that any type of regulation for web giants is too much, most Canadians believe that we must act: 78% of Canadians agree that streamers need the same rules as those of Canadian broadcasters; 81% support the principle that Facebook and Google should pay more for news; and 83% support some form of accountability for these companies for the content shared on their platforms.
The first objective of the bill is to ensure equity between conventional and digital broadcasters and to ensure that social media platforms that act as broadcasters are also contributing to our cultural industry.
Another objective is to promote Canadian cultural expression in all its diversity, including that of indigenous and racialized communities.
The goal is not to regulate content generated by users, such as videos of our children, friends and colleagues. It never was. And it never will be.
However, one thing is clear: more and more Canadians are listening to their favourite music and artists on social media. Right now, YouTube is the most popular online music listening service in the country.
Witnesses who appeared before this committee showed that section 4.1, as drafted in the original version of Bill C-10, could allow social media platforms to get away with just about anything. They also demonstrated that section 4.1 did not take into account how these types of services are used to deliver professional content, such as content put online by record companies.
While other online businesses would be required to contribute to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, social media platforms would not. How could we justify imposing obligations on Spotify, Apple Music or QUB Musique, but not on YouTube, a Google subsidiary?
Following the constructive debate at second reading of the bill, all opposition parties, including the Conservative Party, deplored the fact that social networks were not covered by the bill.
Let me give you a few examples.
On November 19, the Conservative MP from Saskatoon—Grasswood, Mr. Waugh, told the House of Commons the following:
It is deeply disappointing that the government's proposals are so incredibly lacking. I am going to focus in on four points today. First, the legislation does nothing to address social media companies, such as Facebook and Google, and their various properties, such as YouTube, to pay its fair share.
On March 26, he also added—again, this is the beginning of the quote:
To the Professional Music Publishers' Association, you're right on about YouTube. It is not regulated in Bill C-10, and everybody is using YouTube. We are going to have an issue. As you pointed out, correctly, this should be regulated and it's not.
That’s why it was not surprising that on April 23, a majority of the members of this committee, including those of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party, agreed that first, section 4.1 should be withdrawn, and that the CRTC’s powers should subsequently be restricted with respect to social media platforms.
We know that these platforms are very different from conventional broadcasters. The amendments proposed by my parliamentary secretary last week limit the CRTC's power to three main requirements: Number one, platforms must provide information about their revenues; number two, they must contribute financially to the Canadian cultural ecosystem and, finally, they must increase the visibility of Canadian creators.
All of this would be done without ever preventing anyone from putting their own content online and sharing it, or forcing anyone to watch anything against their will. In other words, you and I, like all Canadians, would continue to enjoy the same freedom online that we enjoy now.
I've said it before and I will say it again: We're not targeting individuals; we are targeting the web giants, which are almost all American companies. Our goal is simple, to get these multi-billion dollar companies that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada every year to do their part to make sure our creators and artists are better paid and more visible online.
We must remember that Canadian radio, television and cable companies have been subject to similar obligations for more than 50 years. In the spirit of fairness, Bill C-10 would extend these obligations to streaming services and social media platforms when they act as broadcasters.
In the spirit of fairness, Bill C-10 would extend these obligations to streaming services and social media platforms when they act as broadcasters.
Bill C-10 recognizes that there is a large diversity of digital business models. It provides ample flexibility to craft common sense rules that will evolve over time as technology changes and Canadians’ habits for accessing culture change.
Once again, let me be very clear: there is no question of censoring what individuals post on social media.
I would also like to point out that the Department of Justice, in its updated analysis of the bill as amended by the committee, confirms that the bill is still consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Internet is dominated by a few massive American companies whose algorithms dictate what we see, what we hear and what we consume. We are inundated with their information. Many of our artists and creators, especially francophones, indigenous and racialized people, have a hard time being heard.
Far from limiting anyone's freedom of expression, Bill C-10 wants to give more visibility to these artists and creators to ensure a greater diversity of voices and perspectives, to counter homogenization and to assert our cultural sovereignty over foreign companies that are only accountable to their shareholders.
I hope the committee will resume its work and quickly move Bill C-10 back to the House of Commons. As always, I would be delighted to support you in your work. I look forward to answering your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.