Earlier today, the Liberal party convention approved (subject to a final vote) two stunning policy resolutions with enormous implications for freedom of expression. First, as discussed yesterday, it approved a resolution that seeks to “hold on-line information services accountable for the veracity of material published on their platforms and to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.” If enacted, the policy would undermine freedom of the press and could even spark widespread censorship on Internet platforms. In addition, it passed a resolution to develop “truth in political advertising” legislation to be administered by an oversight body. There are legitimate concerns about the “truthiness” of all political parties communications, but political truth oversight bodies carries great risk and is unlikely to foster enhanced public trust.
This Must Stop: Government and Liberal Party Go All-In On Speech Regulation With Political Truth Oversight Bodies, Mandated Press Source Tracing, and Disclosure of Critics’ Communications
Liberal Party Policy Proposal Would Limit Online Publication to Material “Whose Sources Can Be Traced”
The Liberal Party policy convention is underway in Ottawa with delegates preparing to debate a series of policy proposals that could ultimately make their way into their national election platforms. Party members voted on the top 20 proposals for discussion and included one involving the media and online information that seems obviously unconstitutional and a direct threat to a freedom of the press. The proposal, purportedly aimed at addressing misinformation, calls for more government funding for the media and that the government explore options to “hold on-line information services accountable for the veracity of material published on their platforms and to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.”
The debate over Bill C-11 was frequently marked by politician and lobby group claims that failure to act would place the future of Canadian film and television production at risk. While internal government documents admitted that claims regarding the contributions from Internet streaming services understated the actual contributions by failing to account for “unofficial Cancon”, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez was happy to feed the narrative that the bill was a critical support for an industry in jeopardy.
Profile 2022, the well-regarded annual report on the state of industry funding was released yesterday. It conclusively demonstrates that the claims on the state of Cancon production are wildly exaggerated. Indeed, the data speaks for itself: record production, record Cancon production, record French-language production. Over the past decade – as streaming services has grown in popularity, Canadian film and television production has more than doubled. The following three charts and graphics taken from the Profile 2022 report tell the story. There is no Cancon emergency and no risk to film and TV production in Canada. The Bill C-11 panic over the viability of the sector was little more than a fraudulent lobbyist-inspired talking point with little basis in reality.
Fixing Bill C-18: My Appearance Before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication
I was pleased to appear yesterday before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication on Bill C-18. The discussion focused on a wide range of issues, including the risks of mandating payments for links, the non-compliance with international copyright obligations, why the CBC should not be included in the payment for links system, and how a fund would be a better approach. My opening statement, which tried to identify some fixes to the bill, is posted below as text and as a Youtube video.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 165: Monica Auer on Whether the CBC Is As Independent As It Says It Is
The recent dust-up between Twitter and the CBC over a “government funded media” label sparked fiery rhetoric from both sides. Opponents of the CBC invoked the notion of propaganda from the public broadcaster, while supporters responded that such comments amounted to an attack on a Canadian institution. That heated debate obscures the reality that there is a discussion worth having about the CBC’s independence, its transparency, and public reporting. Monica Auer, the executive director of Canada’s Forum on Research and Policy in Communications, recently wrote about that issue and she joins the Law Bytes podcast to assess whether the CBC is as independent as it says it is.