Canadian Senate passes bill to compel local content on streaming giants

A view shows the interim Senate Chamber in Ottawa

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Senate on Thursday passed the government's online streaming legislation after a 10-month debate over a law that will force firms like Netflix and Alphabet Inc-owned YouTube to offer more Canadian content.

Bill C-11, or the Online Streaming Act, cleared the unelected upper chamber of the Canadian parliament with 52 votes to 16 and one abstention. With the Senate's approval, the bill just needs royal assent from the governor general to become law.

The legislation aims to bring the likes of Spotify, Disney+ and other online streaming platforms under the stewardship of broadcasting regulator CRTC, and hold them to the Canadian content requirements that apply to TV and Radio channels.

It was proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government last year, and passed in the lower house of the parliament in June, with support from the opposition New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois.

The government says the legislation will ensure that online streaming services promote Canadian music and stories, and support Canadian jobs.

Opponents, including Canada's main opposition Conservative party, have criticized the bill as an overreaching measure that would impact freedom of expression and choice on the internet.

YouTube has said it does not oppose the bill in its entirety, but has raised concerns over its impact to user-generated content. The video platform says the law would force it to recommend Canadian content on its homepage, rather than videos tailored to a user's specific interests.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who introduced the bill in February 2022, says the changes are meant for commercial programs streamed online and would not apply to individual content creators.

Once it becomes a law, the CRTC will develop and implement regulations for both traditional and online broadcasting services.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Stephen Coates)