The Canadian government has proposed the Online Streaming Act, which will force streaming platforms like YouTube to promote Canadian content. YouTube has warned that the legislation might result in Canadian content creators losing revenue from abroad.
According to YouTube, actively promoting Canadian content might result in that content losing its popularity outside of Canada. YouTube, and other platforms, use algorithms to match content with users’ personal preferences.
If the bill passes, platforms will be forced to promote Canadian content. But users might not like the video recommendations, since it does not match their preferences, resulting in the videos being harder to find abroad, because YouTube promotes videos based on user engagement (views, likes, comments, and shares). Less engagement from showing content that viewers aren’t ultimately interested in will cause them to gain fewer viewers, YouTube alleges.
The government argues that the proposed legislation would only affect “commercial” content, not user-generated content. A spokesperson for the Heritage Ministry added that platforms would have the freedom to “choose how they contribute and how they make Canadian commercial content easier to find.”
However, YouTube claims that it conducted a legal assessment that found out that the text of the bill as it is would still give the media watchdog the authority to regulate user-generated content.
“Clearer definitions and more precise language are needed to ensure the bill doesn’t unintentionally scope in digital creators and negatively impact the thousands of Canadian creators on YouTube and the millions of Canadians who use YouTube every day,” said YouTube Canada’s head of government affairs and public policy Jeanette Patel.
According to YouTube, in 2020 over 90% of content produced in Canada was watched abroad, and the number of content creators earning more than $100,000 is rapidly increasing every year. In the same year, 2020, Oxford Economics claimed that YouTube contributed $923 million to Canada’s GDP.
The bill, which will also affect TikTok and Netflix, is in its second reading in the House of Commons.