CRTC registration for podcasts and streaming companies draws criticism

News that online streamers and podcasters will soon be required to register with Canada’s broadcasting regulator is raising confusion and concerns that heavier regulation may be coming.

Late Friday afternoon, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced that online streaming and podcasting services operating in Canada, with $10 million or more in annual revenue in this country, will have to register with it before Nov. 28.

Registration involves providing the legal name of a company, its address, its telephone number and email, and what type of services it offers. In its decision released Friday, the CRTC called registration a “very light” burden.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, describes the information being collected as “limited” but said he suspects there is more to come from the CRTC.

A man in a grey sweater, with papers and books covering the desk he's sitting at, looks at a laptop computer screen.
The CRTC’s move requiring podcasts to register could signal more regulation is coming, according to Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. (David Thurton/CBC)

“I think a lot of people take a look at this and feel like it’s the thin edge of the wedge [and] that more regulation is on the way,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

It’s a perspective echoed by Canadian podcaster Jesse Brown, publisher of Canadaland, who told CBC News Friday’s announcement by the CRTC is concerning to him.

“What they’re signalling is, ‘We are going to be regulating the space, but we’re not telling you how.’ That makes it very hard,” he said.

CRTC’s move related to Bill C-11

The move is part of the implementation of the Online Streaming Act, formerly known as Bill C-11, which became law in April. It updated the Broadcasting Act to require streaming and online services, such as Netflix and Spotify, to eventually pay into the domestic media ecosystem to support Canadian content, including music and TV shows.

The Act doesn’t define what that content should be or how much support will be required, and delegates that task to the CRTC.

Under the Online Streaming Act, social media and online services offering podcasts will now have to register with the regulator, while social media users, including those who share podcasts over social platforms, will not.

The CRTC said it does not expect podcasters who host their content on their own websites, or who make it available on subscription platforms, would be required to register “because their annual revenues, in most likelihood, would be below the proposed exemption threshold” of $10 million.

However, a larger company such as Spotify may need to register. Spotify told the CRTC during public hearings in July that it wanted to see podcasts exempted from regulation, due to “the economic strain the podcasting industry is currently experiencing.”

‘Uncertainty’ for podcasters

According to Brown, the CRTC’s move to include podcasting companies in the new…

Read More: CRTC registration for podcasts and streaming companies draws criticism

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