On TikTok, Even Canadians Don’t Want to Be Labeled Canadian

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From The Wall Street Journal:

Canada is days away from passing a law to force digital platforms such as YouTube and TikTok to showcase more Canadian content.

While that might sound like good news for Canadian artists and content producers, many see it as about as welcome as a polar vortex.

“I prefer not to be certified as Canadian,” said Toronto TikToker Oorbee Roy, whose feed highlights the South Asian mother’s attempts to learn skateboarding, sometimes while wearing a sari. She worries that resulting algorithm changes by the platforms will reduce her global audience. “I don’t really think this is going to help me,” she said.

Professional content producers such as streaming services have different beefs. They don’t want quotas for Canadian content. And there is the confusing question: What makes content Canadian?

For more than 50 years, Canada has required domestically licensed television and radio stations to air a minimum amount of domestic programming known as Canadian content, or CanCon. Those rules arose from a government report calling for stronger cultural policies to unite a nation amid a “formidable” flood of American broadcasts, music and literature.

The new law will extend the concept to content served up to Canadian users by Google’s YouTube, ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok, streamers such as Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, and music service Spotify Technology SA.

The idea, said Peter Menzies, a former official at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is to promote Canadian artists, tell Canadian stories and “defend Canada from being completely swamped by American programming.”

In other words: more Canada. “I think we’re pretty good at what we do, so we should see a little bit more of us,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Canada’s heritage minister.

But Ms. Roy and other Canadian YouTube and TikTok creators are concerned that being labeled Canadian would be bad for business. The platforms have said the legislation will compel them to reconfigure their algorithms in Canada to ensure Canadian-made content gets preference over foreign stuff.

The Canadian artists contend this is the opposite of how algorithms are supposed to work: to match content with people’s interests.

“People will start to resent Canadian content that is being forced on them,” said Justin Tomchuk of Montreal, who makes short animated films he uploads to YouTube under the name Umami. “The algorithm will notice, ‘Oh, these Canadian users aren’t engaging with this video so much.’ And then, on a global scale, the algorithm could start deprioritizing my videos.”

. . . .

Defenders of the current system, which applies to traditional broadcasting, said Canadian-content rules created an ecosystem that yielded shows such as “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Kids in the Hall” and “Second City Television,” which became hits in the U.S. But Alan Cross, a Canadian radio personality and music historian, said that on the music side, in the 1970s and early 1980s, “a lot of substandard stuff made it to air only because of the quotas.”

Under the current rules, officials use a point system to judge whether a song, TV show or film is Canadian. Some rulings have been head-scratchers. A 1991 decision deemed an album by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, “Waking Up The Neighbours,” not Canadian enough. The regulator said that while Mr. Adams was Canadian, his songs didn’t qualify because they were co-written by a non-Canadian and recorded in London.

“Second City Television” created the beer-drinking, flannel-wearing characters Bob and Doug McKenzie because the public broadcaster, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., asked for two more minutes of Canada-centric content to meet quotas. Cast member Dave Thomas said in a 1996 CBC interview that he told network executives he could “put up a map of Canada, drink beer, fry back bacon, wear some parkas. Would that be Canadian enough for you?”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

1 thought on “On TikTok, Even Canadians Don’t Want to Be Labeled Canadian”

  1. Never mind that 90% of Hallmark, Lifetime, and CW content (among many othersl are filmed and produced in Canada.
    Hasn’t hurt American culture. They do that just fine by themselves.

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