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Netflix, Other OTTs Win Reprieve in Canada as Bill C-10 Stalls

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Bill C-10, Canada's law to compel non-Canadians OTTs viewed here to financially support Canadian content production, is now stalled and could well be dead.

The reprieve for Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and other non-Canadian OTTs comes courtesy of the non-elected Canadian Senate. Although appointed as individuals by governments in the elected Canadian House of Commons, the senators have the right to demand amendments to bills passed by the Commons before agreeing to also vote them into law. (Only after both chambers approve a bill can it receive 'Royal Assent' from Canada's Governor-General—the representative of Queen Elizabeth—and become Canadian law.)

Without this support, such bills are dead in the water—and sometimes for good.

This is what has happened to Bill C-10, a.k.a "The Broadcast Modernization Act." Its goal was to extend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's regulatory authority (CRTC; Canada's FCC) to OTT services coming into Canada. C-10 would also require them to financially support domestic content production—as TV broadcasters already do—to as much as C$800 million (about US$641million at current exchange rates) by 2023.             

Fortunately for non-Canadian OTTs, the Senate took a dim view of the Liberal government rushing C-10 into their chamber in late June, 2021, shortly before their summer break. The senators' reluctance is being driven by concerns that C-10 in its current form would give the government the power to regulate free speech on the web.

"With just two days left on the calendar the Senate is being asked to pass it," said Senator (and former Canadian TV journalist) Pamela Wallin. "The government has had six years to pass legislation it wants. It is not our job in the Senate to rubber stamp and give up our constitutional responsibilities just because they want fodder for an election—especially if it means killing free speech."

What happens next? If the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does call a fall election - they are riding high in the polls after providing generous relief payments to Canadians during COVID-19 -- then Bill C-10 will die. (The Liberals could reintroduce C-10 should they win.) If they call an election, then Bill C-10 would likely be amended by the Senate before being sent back to the Commons for more voting later this fall.

Either way, non-Canadian OTTs have won a reprieve from the immediate implementation of Bill C-10—and having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Canadian content producers. YouTube (the only OTT who responded to Streaming Media's interview request) showed Canadian-like restraint in their diplomatic response to the good news.

"We remain concerned about Bill C-10 and the unintended consequences it could have on the thousands of Canadian digital creators and the millions of people in Canada who use YouTube everyday," said a YouTube spokesperson. "In 2020, YouTube's creative ecosystem contributed over $900M to Canada's GDP and generated the equivalent of over 34,000 jobs. We are hopeful that the Senate will give the bill a full review to understand its impact, including hearing from digital-first creators who have so far been left out of this process."

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