The Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) has now passed second reading in the House of Commons and will be the subject of hearings at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in the coming weeks. With the prospect of user generated content regulation still a serious concern, outgoing CRTC Chair Ian Scott tried to provide assurances earlier this week that the Commission has no interest in exercising regulatory powers over user generated content. Yet Scott’s comments rang hollow as he twisted himself in a series of contradictory knots that lead to the inescapable conclusion that non-binding promises without actual reforms mean little.
Consider that Scott – who is set to be replaced later this year – told the conference that:
(1) the CRTC has no interest in regulating user content
(2) as chair he doesn’t make decisions for the Commission
(3) the CRTC relies on an exhaustive public record to make decisions, and
(4) platforms should be making contributions including discoverability.
If I have this right, the lame duck chair of the CRTC, who is currently under investigation by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, says that the Commission only makes decisions based on the public record, but he has nevertheless already made up his mind that it is not in the interest of the CRTC to regulate user content despite the absence of a public record. While trying to reconcile that position, Scott’s vision of “no regulation” still involves discoverability requirements, which are precisely the regulations that have sparked concerns for digital first creators. So Scott has made up his mind on no regulation or discoverability regulation all without a public record, but have no fear since he doesn’t make decisions for the CRTC anyway.
Is there anything other than “I resign” that Scott isn’t willing to say? The contradictory comments leave Canadians with empty assurances about future CRTC regulatory positions that will be developed by a different Commission chair, while Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez talks about fixing the CRTC rather than fixing the bill or releasing the still-secret policy direction to the Commission.