After months of urging Heritage Ministers Pascale St-Onge and Pablo Rodriguez to stand up to Google and Meta’s response to Bill C-18, News Media Canada – the lead lobbyist for the legislation – appears to have waved the surrender flag as it is now urging the government to accommodate Google’s concerns with draft regulations. The shift in approach unquestionably marks a retreat for the group, which literally drafted a version of the bill for the government and wielded the power of major media outlets to skew national coverage in favour of the legislation. While it insisted that the companies were bluffing when they said they would block news links if a mandated payments for links approach were adopted, it is now readily apparent that they were mistaken. Meta has blocked news links on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for more than two months and shows no sign of changing its approach. Given that Google appears to be moving in the same direction, News Media Canada’s decision to toss the government under the bus reeks of desperation as its members recognize that blocked news links on both Meta and Google would create enormous harm in lost traffic, cancelled deals, and an Online News Act that generates no revenues.
Archive for October, 2023
Regulations Alone Can’t Fix Bill C-18: Why News Media Canada’s “Surrender” May Not Be Enough to Stop Google From Blocking News Links in Canada
The temperature over the government’s Internet legislation has increased this week as many Canadians wake up to the consequences of Bills C-11 and C-18. CRTC regulations on mandated registration requirements arising from the Online Streaming Act and the possibility that Google will follow Meta’s lead and remove news links for search results in Canada due to the Online News Act have placed the spotlight on harmful effects of the government’s approach. In response, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge has become more vocal on both social media and mainstream media in defence of the government’s approach. Unfortunately, her comments included repeated errors (suggesting that independent media has not reached any deals with Internet platforms which is not remotely accurate), maligned digital creators (saying that Bill C-11 wasn’t about them), were contradicted by the CRTC, or featured outright misinformation. I posted a pair of threads fact-checking the Minister, which are posted below. There can obviously be different views on the Internet regulation, but the Minister ought to know her file and stick to the facts.
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.”