Canada isn’t trying to silence podcasters

Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

The Canadian regulatory body that oversees radio, television, and online streaming services put out a news release last week about a provocative new rule. Any online streaming service that operates in Canada, offers broadcasting content, and earns more than $10 million in annual revenue will need to complete a registration form by November. This includes online services that offer podcasts, the release stated.

The move has drawn some criticism on social media as well as in op-eds in a number of Canadian news outlets, which suggest that the rule is the beginning of an effort by the government to control speech on podcasts. A spokesperson for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) told Hot Pod that that simply isn’t the case — and a look at the actual text of the announcement backs that up.

“What is available online will not change. The CRTC will not censor content Canadians listen to and watch online. You will be able to continue to listen to and watch the content of your choice,” CRTC spokesperson Mirabella Salem wrote in an email.

CRTC also isn’t requiring individual podcasters to register, and it maintains that the law isn’t intended to police user-generated content. “Individuals who upload content or use social media to share podcasts will not be required to register. Content and digital creators will not be regulated, just as creators, artists and producers are not regulated today,” Salem wrote.

The registration rule appears to be a part of the Online Streaming Act — a wider effort by the Canadian government to get major tech companies like Netflix and Spotify to pay for and/or prioritize Canadian content on their platforms. This could mean anything from Netflix greenlighting Canadian movies and TV in order to keep doing business in Canada to YouTube users in Canada seeing more Canadian content.

Both Canadian radio and broadcast television have for decades been required to meet certain quotas of “CanCon,” or Canadian content. The CRTC’s goal now appears to be to rope online streaming into this equation. “The Decision taken by the CRTC relates to the registration of online services like Apple and Spotify,” wrote Salem.

The CRTC registration form (which is available for anyone to view in a Word doc online) is pretty straightforward. Streaming services are asked to note the languages of the content they host, the type of content, and some other pretty basic information that is easily Google-able.

But that likely won’t be the end of it. University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist tells 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,” said Geist in an interview with CBC News.

In a world where American tech giants (with the exception of the Swedish Spotify in this example) are behind the algorithms that influence the information we see online, Canada isn’t alone in trying to get some skin in the game. Since 2018, the European Commision mandated a “Netflix quota,” which requires that 30 percent of the content available on streaming services in Europe is made in the region. Indeed, CRTC’s goal appears to be to make sure Canadian and Indigenous content is available in an online content ecosystem controlled primarily by foreign companies.

Where this gets complicated is how it could eventually be applied to platforms like YouTube or Apple Podcasts, which primarily host user-generated content. YouTube believes it will have to promote some amount of Canadian content at the expense of recommendations tailored specifically to a user’s interests — and it sounds like major podcast platforms could face similar requirements.

What that looks like in practice is unexplored terrain, and we’ll have to wait on the CRTC to come out with rules to know the answer. But the result isn’t likely to be stifling censorship, as some fear, so much as less space devoted to international shows, so that local content can get a boost. In other words, a familiar world for radio listeners up in Canada.

WNYC lays cuts 20 roles — and More Perfect

WNYC has begun to hand out pink slips. In a post on X, WNYC producer Alyssa Edes announced that she and the rest of the team behind the Supreme Court history podcast More Perfect have been let go.

A total of 20 employees were cut across New York Public Radio, according to an internal memo viewed by Hot Pod. Three staffers accepted a voluntary buyout. The media outlet is also making a strategic shift to focus on local, New York City-focused news and doing away with its short-run and seasonal podcasts.

“With some rare exceptions, we won’t be moving forward with new seasons of our short-run and seasonal podcast-only titles, and, unfortunately, it means we’ll be saying goodbye to the colleagues who create those shows. While we are eliminating positions and closing open roles in many other departments, I want to acknowledge that the teams within Studios are the most impacted,” wrote New York Public Radio CEO LaFontaine Oliver in the memo.

WNYC’s plan to cut roles was announced last week. LaFontaine Oliver, New York Public Radio’s president and chief executive, attributed budget issues to a “free fall in the advertising marke,” according to The New York Times.

Amazon is shutting down the Amp live radio service

Amazon is planning to shut down its live radio app Amp, Bloomberg reported yesterday. The app will officially shut down on October 31st, according to a post on Amp’s official X account on Wednesday night. Back in August, Engadget wrote a profile on Amp that spelled out a lot of the service’s troubles — as well as why its homegrown feel was such a draw for users. Unfortunately (and as the profile points out), Amp’s low profile worked against it.

“Unlike Clubhouse, which enjoyed an early surge of popularity, Amp has largely gone under the radar since launch. ‘The thing we’re maniacally focused on every day is making sure that the product is right before stepping out and bigger and bigger fashion,’ Sandler said. But many people I’ve mentioned it to aren’t aware of it — and Amp’s not even included on the list of Amazon products/services Wikipedia page,” wrote Engadget’s James Trew.

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