Buffer CEO Scott Benzie on Bill C-10

The democratization of media caused by platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Spotify and others has given rise to the quietest renaissance of Canadian Culture in history. Canadians are among the most watched Creators in the world and have the most exported content inside of Canada. The Canadian musicians that have dominated the charts have almost exclusively been Digital First Creators and they are world class.

With them, tens of thousands Canadians of diverse backgrounds, economic status, gender identification and educational levels have all succeeded through finding an audience, a niche and a business outside of the “Canadian Cultural System.”

So what’s the problem bill C-10 is trying to solve? It’s just that…that these Creators have found success outside of the existing traditional system….. this comes down to  money and status. Those inside the system do not consider online Creators “real” artists, have created a false narrative around what is “Canadian Culture” and feel they need to be compensated for someone else’s success.

I will  touch on three major issues with C-10 and how it affects the community at large:

1. Digital Creators have not been widely consulted. The Minister has repeatedly claimed that “artists” are in support of the bill yet never once accepted an invitation from Digital Creators to engage. It is clear he means “Traditional Artists.” Legislation is being written without any consultation of those being impacted, and being written by people who do not understand the first thing about how money is made, audiences are found, maintained and how discovery online happens (at least not without being propped up by regulation and subsidies). Just because Heritage has heard from YouTube, TikTok, and other social platforms, does not mean they have heard from creators themselves.

2. Technically, the bill is flawed. While promoting Canadian Culture is an admirable goal and one we support, non-organically promoting videos and content on platforms could negatively impact the discoverability of content. Elevating one video/song over another means demoting someone else’s video. Who makes that decision? Likely it will benefit media organizations over new and emerging voices trying to break through. That along with definitions of CANCON as a binary from Netflix to TikTok is not only impactrical it might be impossible to define and regulate. Additionally, CAVCO requires all Creators to be incorporated that will again discriminate against new and emerging Creators. Finally, Canada can not take this step and expect fair and equal treatment abroad. If this same step is taken in the US, we will see an end to Canadian online success stories, millions of dollars in revenue for entrepreneurs and a diverse representative Canada, as 90% of all YouTube views (specifically) come from outside of Canada for Canadian creators.

3. “The Canadian Culture System.” We are being told C-10 is needed to save “Canadian Culture,” but who defines it? For years, digital first Creators have been written out of grant applications, told that they do not have a distribution plan because they don’t have a deal with Bell or CBC. They  have not had access to money through funding organizations even with the honest attempts from those organizations to include them. If there is to be a tax or inputs from the platforms, it is imperative that those funds be set aside for the Creators that use those platforms. This is nothing more than an attempt from an industry that is not as important as it once was to get a piece of the pie. Digital First Creators do not have Unions or lobbyists or in-house grant writers. Additionally unlike conventional producers they do not spend time worrying about the government because their success has not been predicated on it.

Do not allow those unions to grab money from the platforms and then fund the same programs they always have, in the same way they always have.

Bill C-10 is legislation based on a fallacy of popular Canadian Content. If it is passed Creators need to be at the table while the CRTC cleans it up. 

When we talk about the Canadian Media Landscape the truth nobody wants to talk about is that the sea change is already here. The most popular Canadian Storytellers and media are not traditional anymore. Watch Mojo might be the most successful export Canadian content history and it dwarfs the audience for programs as great as Schitt’s Creek but I don’t see them winning Canadian Screen Awards, TikTokers are being nominated for Juno’s, Peter McKinnon is probably Canada’s most famous photographer and while traditional infrastructure tries to find ways to be inclusive Molly Burke, Hitesh Sharma, Stef Sanjati, Julie Vu, King Bach, Shannon Boodram, Lily Singh and thousands more have already smashed barriers traditional media are still wrestling with. Evan Fong (Vanoss Gaming) and groups like Overactive Media are more popular than any NHL team or the Raptors. I’ll just leave a few names in music as well: Justin Beiber, Alessia Cara, and Shawn Mendes.

What they all have in common is they didn’t need the “Canadian Media Industry” for discoverability, they just needed it to not get in the way. I fear we are starting to get in the way when we should be finding ways to enable more voices, more stories, more Canada.