Claude_Moore_Colonial_Farm_P1010580_(506805279) tofer618 from Brooklyn, NY, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Claude_Moore_Colonial_Farm_P1010580_(506805279) tofer618 from Brooklyn, NY, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Limiting Public Participation: Why No One Should Be Surprised at the CRTC’s Internet Services Registration Requirement Ruling

The CRTC’s decision to require registration for a wide range of Internet sites and services that meet a $10 million revenue threshold, including podcasters, adult sites, and news sites, appears to have taken many Canadians by surprise. For anyone who closely followed Bill C-11, this was entirely expected given that the bill adopts an approach in which all audio and video content anywhere in the world is subject to Canada’s Broadcasting Act. I listed many of the sites that are now caught by the regulations back in 2021 based on an internal Heritage memo that identified many that no one would reasonably describe as web giants. In other words, this isn’t an outlier. Rather, it is how the government crafted the law with a “regulate everything” default and the expectation that the CRTC would establish some exemptions. But even if most Canadians were only vaguely aware of the exceptionally broad scope of Bill C-11, they might still have missed the regulatory process that led the CRTC to establish the $10 million threshold and acknowledge that this is the first step in a bigger regulatory plan. That is because the Commission intentionally limited public participation and rejected efforts to extend the timeline for submissions on the grounds that the issue was “industry focused and relatively narrow in scope.” 

The background of this decision is important because it helps explain how a flawed process led to a flawed decision. When Bill C-11 received royal assent last April, the expectation was that the government would release a draft policy direction to the CRTC, accept public comments, issue the final policy direction, and then the Commission would start its regulatory work (former chair Ian Scott described exactly this approach in a Senate appearance). Yet only weeks after the Bill C-11 became law, the CRTC issued three public consultations with exceptionally short timelines for public participation. I described it as a “ready, fire, aim” approach with less than a month to respond to the registration issue and no final government policy direction in sight. In response, a wide range of Canadian cultural, consumer, and independent groups formally requested that the CRTC extend the deadline to allow more time for public participation. I wrote in favour of the extension in a submission.

Several weeks later, the CRTC issued its decision, granting a brief extension one on proceeding, but rejecting any extension for the registration requirement process. Given the timing of the CRTC decision on the extension request, it left just one business day to participate. One day. As noted above, its rationale was that the issue was “industry focused and relatively narrow in scope.” It added that it did not think the various proceedings were connected, stating it “is of the view that the issues and questions covered in BNC 2023-138 [broader regulation] are distinct from the issues and questions in BNC 2023-139 [registration] and BNC 2023-140 [digital media exemption].” Its registration requirement decision (2023-139) makes it clear that they are intensely connected with repeated references to November proceeding arising from 2023-138.

This is admittedly arcane CRTC administrative process to which few people pay attention. Yet as Canadians wake up to the implications of Bill C-11 and new requirements for some podcasts, news sites, and adult sites to register with the government, they should not overlook the reality that the CRTC chose to design it this way. It did not want to wait for final policy direction from the government and did not want to give Canadians a reasonable opportunity to have their say. This is the result.



  1. Is this similarly what happened with radio and radio waves in the beginning? And now you need a license to have a station or use radio waves? Government putting their hands in everything and regulating it.

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    • Yes, it is, kind of.

      The massive difference between radio (and/or television) and Internet “broadcasting” is that the former is done on a finite resource. There can be only so many radio (tv) stations and then there can be no more. So getting access to that finite resource had to be controlled so as not to squander it on nonsense that nobody cared about.

      There are no limits to Internet broadcasting. There can be as many “broadcasters” as there are people who want to broadcast. Somebody broadcasting does not do so at the expense of somebody else. The market will decide who’s broadcast is interesting and thrives and potentially makes money and who’s is not and dies.

      Given this, there is no need to regulate Internet “broadcasting” the way there is with finite radio waves.

      These new Internet broadcast regulations are nothing more than shakedowns to make new innovative industries prop up old antiqued ones that need to be allowed to die.

      This would be like forcing automobile makers to pay out money to keep horse-and-buggy companies in business.

      • Fortinbras says:

        It’s not true that Bill C-11 adopted an approach in which all audio and video content “anywhere in the world” is subject to Canada’s Broadcasting Act. Bill C-11 only applies to content made available in Canada. Of this, the CRTC’s revenue threshold of $10 million will exempt the very vast majority of web sites available to Canadians. The approach of broad reach with vast exemptions is consistent with the Broadcasting Act’s traditional approach to regulation. Nothing new here…

        Now the Commission is trying to put the revised Broadcasting Act into effect, with the predictable whining from those who opposed Bill C-11 from the start. The Commission is damned if it moves quickly, and damned if it doesn’t. Thank goodness it didn’t listen to those, like Michael Geist, who clamoured for it to wait until Canadian Heritage’s policy directive is in place. (The submissions to Canadian Heritage still haven’t been made public and the final directive probably won’t be published before December.)

        The new registration requirement is accompanied by an exemption for the vast majority of players and, in any case, is completely benign. It is no more a sign of regulatory overreach that is the decennial Canada census. (Regrettably, there are some that see the census as government overreach.) Regulation will apply to a very small subset of the entities with more than $10 million in annual revenues.

        Unfortunately, Brian, “the market” which decides whose broadcasting is interesting and thrives is a market riddled with market imperfections such that it is web giants who decide. The days of an open and competitive Internet are long gone. This is what Bill C-11 set out to correct through regulation. So far, the CRTC’s regulatory plan, with a few hiccups here and there, is proceeding appropriately.

        • Hey. It’s Pablo or one of his shills.

          > riddled with market imperfections such that it is web giants who decide

          BS. I can decide what I want to consume whether that is delivered by a web giant or delivered by some small player on his own small platform. Web giants have no influence there. If the content is there for me to find, I can enjoy it if I want.

          Now the CRTC wants to make doing business in Canada so difficult (this registration is clearly just the thin end of a wedge) that everyone is going to leave leaving us with the CBC and Bell’s Crave — exactly what they want.

          More CRTC puppetry by industry.

          • Fortinbras seems to be of the opinion that the unwashed masses can’t be permitted to determine what they want to see/hear. If the idea that they need to be shown multiple points of view he may have a point, but there appears to be nothing in the regulations that would embrace that; rather it is simply that favoured lobby groups be promoted to the masses. Diversity stops when it comes to point of view.

        • If this is true why in the world is the CRTC forcing Spotify, Netflix, Disney+ and all other streaming giants to register.

          Your interpretation is off.

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  3. Paul Wilson says:

    I am certainly not an expert or well versed on these issues. I simply don’t have time. Thanks to Michael for providing much needed information and context. Controlling the Internet is like trying to control the weather. It’s not happening. My personal opinion of these issues is that they are largely Quebec driven. French Canadians (perhaps rightly) are terrified that their culture will disappear within a tidal wave of English content controlled by American led tech giants. Look at the origin and background of the recent Ministers responsible. There’s no mistake,

    • The French have always had a bit of a one-sided view on copyright; just have a look at the French’ demands in the original Berne Convention negotiations and in particular the role of French author Victor Hugo and today’s King of Copyright French musician Jean-Michel Jarre (indefinite copyright, etc.).

    • Ask the Chinese (or many other oppressed societies) whether the Internet can be controlled. The answer is that It can be if a government really wants it to be.

      We are heading in that direction.

      • Canada is approaching them at full steam. Bringing millions of 3rd contr ly frijoleros with no money and no understanding or will to know what rights are doesn’t help. And own pretty retarded population thar allowed all of thar (and lost any control) neither

  4. So basically, podcasts were the one part of independent Canadian media that was really thriving, without any CRTC involvement whatsoever.

    They were basically the counterexample that demonstrated that the CRTC is unnecessary in today’s day and age. If you produce decent content, Canadians will find it.

    So, instead of eliminating the CRTC, let’s bring podcasts under CRTC regulation, which will eliminate the counterexample.

    Brilliant! I can’t wait to see what these geniuses come up with next!

    Honestly, why does anyone bother trying to do business in this country.

    • I think we will soon find out who doesn’t want to bother.

      Wait and see what media that you consume from outside of Canada that disappears because all of this is simply not worth the effort.

      The Canadian government thinks the business of Canadians to the “Web Giants” is worth more than it really is. Facebook told them as much with their answer to C-18. Google will be next. Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon (Prime) will not be far behind.

      This sort of crap is *exactly* why Pandora never did enter the Canadian market.

  5. What has 50 years of Canadian content rules and CRTC regulations given us? The list is long and includes high prices, lack of choice and competition, paternalistic policies like viewer discretion advisories after every ad break, media companies more interested in pleasing the CRTC than their customers, a lack of innovation – Bell, Rogers and the CBC couldn’t ad lib a fart after eating a can of beans, an industry-captured regulator, an entitled media sector, and Canadian TV shows that range from awful to mediocre at best.

    And this is the model the government and the CRTC are going to inflict on the internet.

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  7. “new requirements for some podcasts … to register with the government”

    The CRTC has told Podnews that “online streaming services … like Apple and Spotify” are the required people to register. Podcasts aren’t required to register. It should be noted that Apple Podcasts does not commission content, and merely acts as a promoter of existing third-party content. I’m unclear what the CRTC is attempting to do here. (story 3)

  8. Freedom disappears one step at a time.

  9. Thank goodness for Encrypted VPN services.

    Sufficient to bypass China’s great firewall and sufficient to bypass Canada’s non elected regulator of special interests, the Canadian Roadblock of Television Content.

    • VPNs can be blocked by the Canadian government just as they are the Chinese government if they wanted to go that far. This Liberal government. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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