By Celina GallardoStaff ReporterWed., May 12, 2021timer5 min. read
As the Liberal government’s controversial Bill C-10 is put on hold to examine whether it could breach social media users’ freedom of speech, professional content creators feel they are being sidelined in the conversation.
Bill C-10 proposes changes to the Broadcasting Act that allow streaming services like Netflix and Spotify to be regulated under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) just like any other Canadian broadcaster. The bill aims to provide a general framework to help the CRTC make specific requirements for different types of online platforms.
At a virtual press conference on May 3, Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin said that Bill C-10 “should have no impact on a person uploading their cat videos. This bill is not about people’s user-generated posts … this is about professional content.”
But for Manitoba-based gaming Twitch streamer, CanadianGamerMom, she does far more than post cat videos. Her content is professional.
“The way (politicians) say it almost makes it seem like this is just for fun, but for us, this is our dream job,” said CanadianGamerMom, who the Star is only naming by her Twitch username for privacy and security reasons.
In a statement to the Toronto Star, minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault said that “an individual — a person — who uses social media will never be considered as broadcasters and will not be subject to the obligations or regulations within the Broadcasting Act. This protection is made clear in Section 2.1 of the bill.” This was a correction of a previous statement he said on CTV’s Sunday “Question Period” that the bill would apply to individuals who act like broadcasters and have “millions of viewers.”
CanadianGamerMom is mindful when talking about making money from her full-time streaming to not dismiss the effort it takes to get paid as a streamer — on the surface, it seems like all people need to do is set up a camera and start playing video games, but in reality, she had to put in hard work since starting her channel in late 2020 to become a Twitch affiliate, which allows her to offer all paid subscription levels to viewers.
To get into the affiliate program, Twitch users need to have 50 followers and at least 500 total minutes broadcast, seven unique broadcast days and an average of three or more people watching at once. CanadianGamerMom now has 1,200 followers and her most recent streams garner over 300 views.
“Becoming an affiliate was taking time to essentially build a business,” CanadianGamerMom said. “You have to network and you have to promote yourself on other social media.”
CanadianGamerMom finds it odd that the discourse surrounding Bill C-10 has yet to mention Twitch alongside other streaming tech giants like Netflix, Spotify and YouTube. She thinks her work and other streamers’ work can be seen as professional broadcasts, a term that Dabrusin said only applies to platforms in general.
In her press conference, Dabrusin defined “professional content” as something that is created when “a social media company is acting like a broadcaster,” but there is still ambiguity on whether a tech giant being regulated under the CRTC could impact its content creators.
Christian Cantelon has been making YouTube videos for over a decade. What started off as a hobby turned into a profession three years ago when he started making videos about sneaker news. Cantelon, also known as SneakerTalk, now has almost 360,000 subscribers on YouTube and makes videos full-time in his Toronto home.
He only recently found out from a friend about Bill C-10 — there wasn’t even a mention of it in the monthly newsletter he gets from YouTube.
“I haven’t seen anything related to Bill C-10 at all, which is very worrisome,” Cantelon said. “It’s something that could really impact my job, so it does give me this extra stress in the back of my head that I don’t really want.”
The internet has been a revolutionary platform for independent content creators, especially for Black Canadians, said Sherley Joseph, co-founder of The Chonilla Network podcast collective. Joseph said the CRTC’s narrow definition of “Canadian content” has been a barrier for Black creatives trying to find footing in traditional broadcast media.
“We create online thanks to the internet that has finally allowed our voices, our stories and our vast perspectives as Black creators to be seen, read or heard — freely and unapologetically,” Joseph said in an email to the Star. “Another concern about this Bill C-10: Will it hurt independent Black creators to leverage our work globally?”
On February, the Canadian Heritage committee invited leaders in Canadian media to discuss how Bill C-10 can work to uplift voices from Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities. Amar Wala, co-founder and producer of the Racial Equity Media Collective, told the committee that although the bill including racialized communities in its proposal is a step in the right direction, the Broadcasting Act has used similar language for decades.
“This language, while powerful, has been insufficient and has led to little measurable change,” Wala said in the meeting. “If the bill’s stated equity goals are to be successful, they must be measurable, monitored and enforceable. Otherwise, history will repeat itself.”
Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, finds that Bill C-10 is built more for legacy broadcast media rather than the ever-evolving online media landscape and could hinder Canadian media from reaching a global market.
“It feels like this particular set of rules is not very nuanced and is not very strongly embedded in understanding how this industry is working right now,” Lachman said. “It feels like it’s a legacy set of regulations put on a new and emerging set of media practices.”
Lachman sees the evolution of media leaning toward content creation firsthand when looking at applications to Ryerson’s new media program. More students are linking their YouTube channels and Twitch streams to show off their production skills, with some high schoolers already having a significant following.
“The fact that we blur the lines when we get into semi-professional and professional streamers — and yes, it’s going after the major platforms — but it kind of misses that this is a huge and emerging area of content production,” Lachman said.
For CanadianGamerMom, Bill C-10’s lack of clarity leaves her thinking of the worst-case scenario: If her content is not considered Canadian enough, will the online platforms she uses have to put her content at a lower priority?
“I don’t want to be rich; I just want to be doing the thing that I like, which is playing video games, or creating content, having fun with everybody around the world,” CanadianGamerMom said. “Bill C-10 is going to start taking that happiness a little bit if they start regulating and censoring things.”Celina Gallardo is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: [email protected]