CRTC Announces Three-Phased Public Consultation Plan to Implement the Online Streaming Act in Canada

On May 8, 2023, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) unveiled its three-phased regulatory plan (the “Regulatory Plan”) to consult with the public to implement the recently passed Online Streaming Act (the “Act”) and modernize the Canadian broadcasting system. The Regulatory Plan, introduced by CRTC’s CEO and Chair Vicky Eatrides, contemplates the CRTC launching public consultations in three separate phases, with phase one commencing in the very near future.

CRTC to Implement the Act

The Act, formerly known as Bill C-11, was passed by the Canadian Senate and received Royal Assent, officially becoming law in Canada on April 27, 2023. It is designed to modernize and amend the Broadcasting Act by bringing online streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Spotify, under domestic broadcasting regulation administered by the CRTC, registering them, and requiring them to, among other things, make expenditures to support and promote Canadian audio or audio-visual programs. This could potentially include funding for programs created and produced by Canadian minority groups and serving minority populations such as Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, cultural and linguistic minorities, LGBTQ2+ communities, and persons with disabilities.

The Act gives the CRTC the power to: (i) decide which streaming services to regulate, (ii) require and determine any financial contributions to be made by these streaming services, and (iii) regulate the discoverability of Canadian programs on streaming platforms. Failure to comply with the CRTC’s orders could lead to monetary penalties. Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez is expected to issue a Policy Direction to the CRTC setting out the government’s priorities within the next month. The Policy Direction will be designed to guide the CRTC in interpreting and implementing the Act, including an expected instruction to modernize and update the official definition of a “Canadian program” as well as an indication of what types of social media content should be included in, or excluded from, the Act. As part of the plan, the CRTC has indicated that it will “..adapt its approach in light of any future policy direction”. For further information regarding the Act, see our May 1, 2023 Update, The Online Streaming Act: Canada Passes New Legislation to Regulate Online Streaming Services.

The Regulatory Plan For Public Consultation

The Regulatory Plan sets out the following three distinct phases for public consultation by the CRTC:

Phase 1

  • Spring 2023 (in progress)
    • April 27: Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) receives Royal Assent.
    • May 8: CRTC publishes its Regulatory Plan.
    • CRTC will publish an Information Bulletin clarifying technical details for broadcasters.
  • Public consultations (upcoming)
    • Consultation on contributions to the Canadian broadcasting system which will consider who should contribute, how much and how.
    • Consultation on registration of online streaming services which will consider which online streaming services will need to be registered with the CRTC.
    • Consultation on exemption orders and basic conditions of service which will consider changes to orders under which online services have operated in Canada.
    • There may be additional consultations, including on establishing a new fund to provide financial support for participation in CRTC proceedings by persons and groups representing the public interest.

Phase 2

  • Fall 2023
    • Public consultations
    • Consultation on fee regulations which will review fees paid by broadcasters and how they should be extended to online undertakings.
    • Other activities
    • CRTC publishes updated version of its Regulatory Plan.
    • Engagement on definitions of Canadian and Indigenous content which will involve preliminary engagement sessions with industry and creators to help design the approach for a full public consultation.
  • Winter 2023-2024
    • Public consultations may include:
      • Consultation on definitions of Canadian and Indigenous content which would review the definition of Canadian content and examine possible changes.
      • Consultation on tools to support Canadian music and other audio content which would assess tools to support Canadian audio content.
      • Consultation on programming and supports for video content which would assess tools to develop, support, and promote Canadian and Indigenous content on all platforms.
      • Consultation on local markets access and competition which would evaluate market access, news and local programming, and competitive behaviours.
      • Consultation on protecting Canadian consumers which would review ways to protect consumers and include broadcaster codes of conduct and mechanisms for complaints.

Phase 3

  • Targeting launch: Late 2024
    • This phase will focus on implementing policy decisions made from the public consultations in Phases 1 and 2. More on Phase 3 will be included in future updates of this plan.

Further information regarding the Regulatory Plan, including a section re: “Myths and Facts about Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act”, can be found in the CRTC’s News Release.

For further information concerning the Act and its implications, please contact any member of our Entertainment and Communications and Media Groups.