CRTC chair backtracks on comments that platforms are manipulating their algorithms

CRTC Chairman Ian Scott is waiting to appear before the Heritage Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 21.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Platforms such as Netflix and YouTube will have the flexibility to promote Canadian movies, TV shows and songs after the Online Streaming Bill comes into force, broadcast regulator Ian Scott says .

He told a Senate committee on Wednesday evening that platforms could use “a whole bunch of things in the toolbox,” including ad campaigns or curated music lists, to achieve Bill C-11’s goal. to promote Canadian content.

The head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) says the regulator isn’t considering ordering streaming platforms to manipulate their algorithms to make Canadian content more viewable, despite it being a “tool” that they could use.

“We can encourage them to advertise, we can encourage them to use many tools,” he said. “We must use a variety of fair, dynamic and flexible approaches to achieve the goals of the law. And gamers’ use of algorithms is a tool they use, but we focus on results.

His remarks suggest the broadcasting regulator could use a lighter touch than previously thought with the online streaming bill. Platforms could be asked to report to prove the steps they have taken to actively promote Canadian content after the bill takes effect, he said.

Pablo Rodriguez, the heritage minister, has already shared with CRTC officials elements of an unpublished draft policy direction that would set out the minister’s view on how the regulator should implement the Bill C-11, revealed Mr. Scott.

The bill aims to modernize Canada’s broadcasting laws, applying regulation to streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Disney+, and requiring them to promote Canadian content, as traditional broadcasters currently do. .

Mr Scott said the platforms, rather than posts by individual users, would be of interest to the regulator.

But he said Facebook – which was not previously considered to fall within the scope of the bill – could also be subject to regulation.

“Sometimes Facebook is a broadcaster. They have had live coverage of Blue Jays baseball on their platform in the past. When they engage in broadcasting, they will be of interest to the CRTC,” he said.

Scott backtracked on his remarks at a previous committee hearing in June when he told senators the CRTC could ask platforms to manipulate their algorithms to promote more Canadian movies, videos and songs.

He said in June that the regulator could tell platforms: “I want you to manipulate [the algorithm] to produce specific results.

His remarks raised fears about the scope of the regulator and questions about whether a federal agency should dictate what people should watch or listen to.

However, Scott said Wednesday evening that he wanted to clarify that the CRTC would not tell platforms to manipulate their algorithms to ensure more Canadian content is served to their customers.

He said the regulator would encourage streaming platforms to use their algorithms “if it suits them”.

“The algorithm is a tool that they would have at their disposal,” he said. “There are several other ways to do this and yes, we would encourage them extensively, using every tool at their disposal. My point is just that they can use their algorithm to help achieve this goal.

Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman for Mr. Rodriguez, urged the Senate to expedite consideration of the bill so that it can become law.

“The Senate has done an exhaustive study of Bill C-11. Senators have been studying this bill for six months now and have heard from 120 witnesses so far. This is in addition to the extensive work the House has undertaken on the bill,” she said.

Indigenous TikTok star Vanessa Brousseau told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that she felt disrespected by Heritage Department officials during a tense meeting last month over the implications of the bill.

Ms Brousseau, whose videos about indigenous crafts as well as her missing sister, Pamela Holopainen, have received 2.6 million likes, said officials working for Mr Rodriguez were ‘very intimidating and disrespectful’ after she and other TikTok creators met with them to discuss the bill.

She was one of several TikTokers meetings with officials at the end of October and said she was made to feel that as an Indigenous woman her “point of view didn’t matter.” importance”.

Sharon D. Cole