Ottawa Moves To Regulate Streaming And Social Media Platforms

Federal lawmakers in Ottawa have passed a controversial bill that aims to regulate programming distributed by streaming services and social media platforms such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and YouTube.

The legislation, known as "Bill C-10," is meant to subject technology giants to the same requirements as traditional broadcasters -- effectively compelling companies such as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and TikTok to finance and promote Canadian content.

The legislation is among the most far-reaching plans by governments anywhere to regulate the algorithms tech companies use to amplify or recommend content. It’s unclear whether the "Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act" will become law. The legislation needs to win passage through the Senate, a process that could be pre-empted by an election later this year that would effectively kill the bill.

Governments around the world are grappling with how to modernize their legal frameworks to account for the global reach of the digital economy, reshaping how policy makers think about issues as varied as monopoly power, taxation and worker rights.

In Canada, an additional worry is how to protect domestic cultural industries as more Canadians turn to internet companies for music and video programming, which is the focus of the new law.

Stunting the influence of U.S. culture is a core principle of modern Canadian media law. For decades the government has required radio and television broadcasters to produce and distribute local content.

That stance has irked trading partners, because it means that the media sector is often exempted from agreements meant to give foreigners access to Canadian markets. It also means that global media companies such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. can’t own newspapers or television stations in Canada.

Under the existing law, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission certifies what is and what is not "Canadian content." It can also issue fines for violations starting at $250,000 or even suspend a broadcaster’s license to operate in Canada.

The new law would give the CRTC that same kind of power over internet companies.