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BritBox – a streaming platform that features only British TV programs and films – may have to promote Canadian content after a bill regulating online streaming services passes, unless the regulator explicitly rules it out, senators and experts are warning.

Senator Paula Simons called on Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to clarify that the online streaming bill, which would make platforms such as Netflix do more to promote Canadian films and TV programs, will not cover BritBox and other platforms showing only foreign programs in Canada.

The British platform, which has 2.7 million subscribers worldwide, was founded by the BBC and ITV and includes current British series, such as The Responder with Martin Freeman, and Karen Pirie, starring Lauren Lyle, as well as a library of classic British shows including Inspector Morse, Poirot and Prime Suspect.

The government has not clarified whether the online streaming bill will make BritBox and other platforms featuring foreign content, including Bollywood films, financially contribute to Canada’s creative industries and give prominence to Canadian TV and film.

The online streaming bill is meant to modernize Canada’s broadcasting laws and regulate streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, as well as YouTube and Spotify, making them promote Canadian creative work and contribute to its creation, alongside traditional broadcasters.

Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa’s Canada Research Chair in internet law, said the way Bill C-11 is worded would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the power to regulate niche streaming platforms featuring movies and TV programs from around the world, from India to Israel, if they are available in Canada.

He said whether BritBox comes within the scope of the bill now rests on “faith that the CRTC will decide not to regulate it.”

Prof. Geist said the bill, which is expected to reach its final stage in the Senate on Thursday, could give discretion to the CRTC to force BritBox and other foreign platforms with no Canadian content, to contribute to Canada’s creative industries, and promote Canadian film and TV.

Ms. Simons called on Mr. Rodriguez to clarify in the ministerial directive he plans to send to the CRTC once the bill becomes law, that platforms such as BritBox will not be obliged to promote Canadian content.

She said now there was nothing in the bill ruling it out, despite vague indications from the government that the streaming service might not be covered.

“Lots of Canadians have BritBox. The whole raison d’être of BritBox is everything on it is British so it can’t have Canadian content,” the senator told The Globe and Mail in an interview.

The senator, who raised the ambiguity of which platforms will come within the scope of the bill in the Senate on Tuesday, said clarity is needed as more and more bespoke platforms – such as those promoting Korean or Punjabi TV and films – are likely to become established here.

Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman for Mr. Rodriguez, said it would be up to the CRTC to decide which platforms should promote Canadian content and help fund it.

“As part of a public consultation process, it will be up to the independent regulator, not the government, to determine which platforms and how platforms contribute. Streaming platforms should contribute to our culture,” she said. “Bill C-11 gives them flexibility on how best to do that, recognizing that their business models are different.”

Senator Leo Housakos, Conservative chairman of Senate transport and communications committee, which scrutinized the bill, said on the floor of the Senate this week that the bill, even in its amended form, still gives too much discretionary power to the CRTC.

Conservative Senator Denise Batters said on Wednesday that by delegating decisions about how the bill is interpreted to the CRTC, the government can “dodge accountability” for the regulator’s actions and decisions.

“If controversy arises from any of the independent CRTC’s regulations, the government will claim distance,” she said.