On Monday, a week before the federal election, the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the department of communications of the Université de Montréal co-presented Debate on Culture 2021. The hot topic: Bill C-10.
Moderated by Catherine Perrin, the debate was broadcast by Cable Public Affairs Channel both online and on television.
Given the pandemic’s push towards online content, the outcome of the ongoing debate surrounding Bill C-10 may have a significant impact on dance artists in Canada as more of their work ends up on streaming services.
The bill, effectively a modernization of the Broadcasting Act, aims to bring web giants into Canada’s existing legislative fold, making them subject to the same regulations surrounding Canadian and francophone content as other broadcasters. When Parliament was dissolved on Aug. 15, the original bill died on the Order Paper.
First introduced in the House of Commons in November 2020 by Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, the bill has been controversial over its lifetime due to the concerns (mainly voiced by the Conservative party) that it represents an infringement on freedom of expression.
But in Monday’s debate, party representatives were most concerned with the discoverability of Canadian and French-language content, which some believed would be amplified by a resurrected Bill C-10 passed by a post-election government.
Guilbeault stated that the idea of legislated discoverability was introduced with Bill C-10, noting the extremely large extent to which our music and culture is found through YouTube algorithms these days. It’s important, he argued, that Canadian and Québécois artists benefit from related revenue.
Steven Shanahan, the Conservative candidate for the Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Soeurs riding, countered with their platform’s intention to introduce a requirement for web giants to reinvest a portion of their Canadian gross revenue into producing original Canadian programming, some of which must be French-language content. Their strategy exempts content that is uploaded onto social media. To increase discoverability, Shanahan says their platform encourages investment in publicity, in paid advertising.
Martin Champoux (Bloc Québécois MP), Alexandre Boulerice (NDP MP) and Mathieu Goyette (the Green candidate for the Montcalm riding), unsurprisingly, placed a greater emphasis than the Conservatives on the need to provide governmental support where discoverability is concerned.
While Shanahan spoke of simplifying the “regulatory burden” on broadcasters, Guilbeault stated that the regulations are there to ensure French-speaking content across Canada and that they may hold the key to amplifying the voices of Indigenous artists and producers as well.