The CRTC’s Bill C-11 hearings are in their third and final week as a steady stream of broadcasters and producers make their way to Gatineau to urge the Commission to force Internet streamers to hand over cash in a giant cross-industry subsidy scheme designed to support everyone from small producers to Bell’s news division. As the witnesses take turns seeking the mantle that they are facing the biggest crisis (even as there is record film and television production in Canada and broadcasters stand to be the biggest beneficiary of the Online News Act), there has been practically no interest or discussion of the risks to consumers and competition that could come from significant new regulatory costs.
I set out to change that yesterday in my appearance before the Commission. It was my first time to appear as a witness before the CRTC and I used the opportunity to emphasize the real risks of reduced competition and higher costs that can come with mandated payments that exceed global standards. Further, I argued that the Commission should not establish interim payments at all, noting that it was more appropriate to address all of the outstanding Bill C-11 regulatory questions before looking to streamers to start cutting cheques.
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The Canadian government tried to salvage the Online News Act last week as its struck a deal with Google that will bring in $100 million to support the news sector and remove concerns about blocked news links. The government had to overhaul its own law in order to reach the agreement, tossing aside most of the core elements in favour of a fund-style single payment from Google. The reaction to the agreement from the news sector has been mixed at best with relative silence from many supporters and outright opposition from the likes of Torstar.
So what to make the of the deal and what comes next? Jeff Elgie is the CEO of Village Media, one of the largest independent, digital-only news outlets in Canada. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to walk though his participation in the process, reaction to the agreement, and thoughts for the future.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge’s deal with Google on Bill C-18 for an annual $100 million contribution has sparked some unsurprising crowing from partisans who insist the fears that the government had mishandled the Online News Act failed to recognize a well-executed negotiation strategy. Yet the response from industry supporters of the bill has been noticeably muted: News Media Canada did not issue a press release with CEO Paul Deegan noting that the impact would depend on the forthcoming regulations, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters said it was relieved there was a deal and that links would not be blocked, Quebec broadcasters are already calling for more support, and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said the deal did not deliver the support it originally hoped for. These comments come closer to reflecting the reality of the deal, namely that the government misread the market, passed deeply flawed legislation, and was ultimately forced to row back core elements of the law and accept payments consistent with what was on the table over a year ago.
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Concerns about the terrifying growth of antisemitism in Canada have been top of mind for me and many in the Jewish community for weeks. While some have thankfully spoken up, discouragingly too many remain silent despite shootings at Jewish schools, molotov cocktails and vandalism at Jewish community centres, and threats at Jewish businesses and homes. We desperately need strong, unequivocal action from our leaders, colleagues, and neighbours. Yesterday, I appeared before the Canadian Heritage committee as part of its study on “Tech Giants’ Current and Ongoing Use of Intimidation and Subversion Tactics to Evade Regulations in Canada and Across the World”. I’ll post more on the appearance on this odd study shortly – my focus was on how regulatory capture from legacy creator groups and News Media Canada undermined the Bill C-11 and C-18 process – but the discussion provided the opportunity to urge the committee to ensure accountability on antisemitism.
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