Meta has announced that will test blocking news sharing in Canada on its platforms Facebook and Instagram in response to Bill C-18’s system of mandated payments for links. Even as some have suggested the position is bluff, the company has not wavered for months as this emerged as the most likely end game. Back in October, it said it was considering blocking news and in March it confirmed it. The government now says it won’t give in to “threats” but the reality is that Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez more accurately described it last year as a “business decision” when he appeared before the Heritage committee. Given that Facebook says news is responsible for only three percent of content on user feeds and that it is highly substitutable (ie. users spend the same amount of time on the platform whether scrolling through news or other content), the business choice seems like an obvious one.
Globe Publisher Calls Bill C-18 a “Threat to the Independence of Media” As Government Senate Representative Smears Bill Critics
The Senate hearings on Bill C-18, the Online News Act, resumed yesterday with two blockbuster panels that included the Globe and Mail, News Media Canada, La Presse, Le Devoir, Canadaland, The Line, and Village Media. The unmistakable takeaway was the enormous risks the bill creates to the independence of the press, to the future of digital media, and to the bottom lines of Canadian news outlets across the country. Further, it is increasingly apparent that the government has no real answers to these risks other than sabre rattling with tech companies and questioning the motives of critics of the legislation.
The eagerness to smear anyone who dares criticize the bill provided the most jaw-dropping moment of the hearing with Senator Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate on the bill, suggesting that Bill C-18 criticism from Village Media’s Jeff Elgie, one of Canada’s most successful local digital news organizations, might be motivated by the business benefits of local media shutting down:
Extend the Deadline: My Submission to the CRTC on its Deeply Flawed Bill C-11 Consultations
The CRTC’s Bill C-11 consultations are off to a rocky start with mounting concern over short deadlines that may limit public participation and reduce the quality of the submissions. A dozen groups have asked the Commission to extend the deadlines with more groups joining in the call. The deadline for comment on the extension ended yesterday and I navigated an exceptionally difficult consultation process (more on that shortly) to submit the comments posted below. I support the extension but argue that a better approach would be to wait until the government’s policy direction process is final and there is certainty on support for public interest group participation.
CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides Faces Her First Big Test: Is the Commission Serious About Public Participation on Bill C-11?
Earlier this month, the CRTC issued the first three of what may become at least nine public consultations on Bill C-11. As I lamented in a post on the consultations, “with short timelines, no resources or support mechanisms for new groups and entities interested in participating, and the absence of the policy direction, this is not a serious attempt to fully engage in Canadians.” A wide range of Canadian cultural, consumer, and independent groups have now escalated the issue by formally asking the CRTC to extend its submission period to late July rather than the current June deadlines. The request, which comes from groups that have both supported and criticized Bill C-11, should be a no-brainer given the absurdly short deadlines that severely limit the ability of many groups to effectively participate in the Bill C-11 consultation process.
Ready, Fire, Aim: Eleven Thoughts on the CRTC’s Bill C-11 Consultations
The CRTC last week released the first three of at least nine planned consultations on the implementation of Bill C-11 (I was out of the country teaching an intensive course so playing catch-up right now). The consultations focus on the broad structure of the regulatory framework, registration requirements, and transitions from the current system of exemptions to one of regulations. The timeline to participate in this consultation is extremely tight with comments due as early as June 12th for two of the consultations and June 27th for the larger regulatory framework one. As the title of this post suggests, the CRTC is adopting an approach of shoot first, aim later. The consultations suggest that there is little interest in hearing from anyone outside of the legacy groups that have long dominated CRTC hearings. Indeed, by moving forward with incredibly tight timelines, without the government’s promised policy directive, and without support for newer groups to back their participation, the documents leave the distinct impression that the Commission had surrendered its independence and already made up its mind on how to implement Bill C-11.