The case for decentralized media

It’s a trying time to be a Canadian content creator. On April 27th, the Liberal Government’s controversial Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11 (formerly Bill C-10), passed through the senate into law after years of political opposition.

The bill will subject digital platforms like Netflix, Crave, Spotify, TikTok and YouTube to Canadian content requirements and regulations comparable to traditional broadcasters like Rogers and Bell. The policy also forces platforms to spend millions investing in Canadian content and could limit what Canadian creators post online and creator’s ability to make money. 


The problem(s) with Bill C-11 

Of course, we support Canadian artists and creators – we are one and the same. However, Bill C-11 is a heavy-handed approach to supporting Canadian creators that could actually work against many small-time players. 

The bill mandates that digital platforms must make Canadian Content (CanCon) “discoverable” by enforcing a mandatory quota of CanCon in feeds and search results, or they will face significant financial penalties from the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC). 

So what’s defined as CanCon, anyway? It’s TV shows, music, movies, and more that meet a set of rigid criteria defined by the CRTC and Canada’s Broadcasting Act. First introduced in the 1970s, it was conceived to boost the success of Canadian cultural content at a time when radio airspace was tight. Contrast to today, where current requirements mandate that English-language and French-language radio stations must play 35% of Canadian content. So if you’re sick of that Drake song, you have your government to thank. 

But beyond radio, digital creators themselves say that the legislation could be a huge blow to their ability to reach audiences around the world. If platforms like YouTube and TikTok are now forced to push Canadian content when viewers aren’t interested, it could lead to lower click rates. Low clicks signals to the algorithms that the content isn’t popular and could deprioritize Canadian content abroad, which is detrimental to creators looking to reach international audiences. 

Now, we’re not saying we don’t need any kind of legislation to support cultural content. But what’s defined as CanCon needs a major overhaul to suit the internet age. 


Is Bill C-11 simply censorship in disguise? 

Sorry to get political here. But you saw how mainstream legacy media handled the covid-19 pandemic. There was a lot of fear at that time, and much of it was warranted, but some of it was extremely manufactured. So if you were concerned about the media landscape during the pandemic, Bill C-11 could make government overreach much, much worse. 

Let’s take a look at some content that should qualify as CanCon, like a radio show produced by the CBC, for example. The issue is that the CBC is partially funded by the Canadian federal government through a parliamentary appropriation, and that’s where this all gets a little bit dicey. The ongoing dilemma was recently highlighted on Twitter, as the social media company started to label government and state-affiliated media. The CBC disputed the label and opted to pause its use of the platform for the time being. 

If legacy media and now digital platforms must push Canadian content, whose agenda is being pushed forward? What content will be selected and deemed as Canadian enough by the CRTC? How will this affect social media’s algorithm? If creators don’t share the same views as the CRTC, will that content be flagged? While the bill’s aim seems innocent enough, it raises some serious ethical issues about what we’ll be served and can access. 


What constitutes as CanCon? 

Under this government, it almost feels radical to say that we’d prefer to watch and consume things that are served to us because they have merit and are popular, not because they were selected by the CRTC to be spoon-fed to us by broadcasters. 

Canada is home to more than 36 million people with distinct cultures and individual preferences, yet determining what qualifies as CanCon is entirely up to the CRTC. A recent example of this that stirred up controversy was Pixar’s 2022 film, Turning Red. The film featured a Chinese-Canadian protagonist living in Toronto, and employed Canadian actors. Some of its production was also completed in Toronto, yet it was deemed ineligible for CanCon because Disney is based in the US. 


Is blockchain and citizen journalism the solution?

Carte Blanche Studio was founded by Canadian creatives, and we feel there’s got to be a better way. While Bill C-11 may be attempting to maintain the status quo in the media landscape, its efforts may be exacerbating distrust of traditional media, creating a need for democratic and decentralized media landscape. 

We’re also fans of blockchain technology and see it as a solution that can benefit independent journalists. It gives creators the potential to monetize content through cryptocurrency or a token – enabling Canadians to access news and media without restrictions. 

Journalists could also use blockchain technology to contribute to a decentralized publishing platform, similar to Facebook or Google, but without centralized ownership and control. This network could work to benefit creators and users, by levelling the playing field between media and internet companies that currently control user identities and data. 


A final word 

At the end of the day, people should be allowed to think critically for themselves and choose what they want to consume. In the last few years, freedom has become a bit of a dirty word, and it really shouldn’t be. 

It looks like CanCon is here to stay, and the CRTC has confirmed it will provide greater clarity about how it plans to exert its influence over social media content. And if not, there’s always the blockchain. 


Learn more about Carte Blanche Studio

Carte Blanche Studio is Toronto’s leading creative agency. We’re passionate about the world around us and helping brands authentically express themselves to build a more connected future. Visit us online to learn more. 

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