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Rodriguez screen shot, House of Commons, May 30, 2022,

Ask Rodriguez Anything: My Ten Questions for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez on Bill C-18

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has scheduled a press conference for later today to answer questions on the legislative mess that is Bill C-18. With Meta and Google announcing that they will block news sharing and links on their platforms before the law takes effect, the Canadian media sector stands to lose millions of dollars with lost links, the cancellation of dozens of existing deals, and a bill that might not generate any new revenues. Rodriguez has been flailing for a response in recent days with mounting doubts about the government’s strategy and its seeming failure to anticipate this reaction. He will be joined by MPs from the NDP and Bloc, who were supportive of the legislation during the committee process and joined forces to cut off debate and defeat potential amendments that would have address the concerns regarding mandated payments for linking. There are no shortage of questions that require answering and I’ve identified my ten on Bill C-18 below. 

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July 5, 2023 42 comments News
Fred VanVleet by Erik Drost (CC BY 2.0)

Process Failures: What the Raptors Losing Fred VanVleet Teaches About Bill C-18

Evan Scrimshaw, who writes an engaging Substack primarily focused on Canadian politics, posted an interesting piece over the holiday weekend that linked the Toronto Raptors failure to resign guard Fred VanVleet and the reaction to Google and Facebook’s announcement that they plan to block news sharing or links as a result of Bill C-18. Scrimshaw argues that the public commentary on both developments featured similar “I told you so’s”: those that argue the Raptors should have traded VanVleet at the trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing and those who now argue that Bill C-18 would invariably lead to Google and Facebook blocking news sharing or links. Scrimshaw makes the case that it is too early to conclude anything with respect to Bill C-18 and that the Internet companies and government are merely engaged in a very public negotiation that could well result in either or both seeking a compromise before the law takes effect.  

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July 4, 2023 47 comments News
Google News website screenshot by Spencer E Holtaway (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A Massive Own-Goal for the Government: Google to Stop News Links in Canada Due to Bill C-18

The worst case scenario for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the Canadian news sector, and the Canadian public has come to pass: Google has announced that it will block news links in Canada in response to the mandated payment for links approach established in Bill C-18. The decision, which the company says will be implemented before the law takes effect, will cover search, Google News, and Google Discover. The decision – which government seemingly tried to avoid with last minute discussions with Google executives after it became apparent that the risks of exit were real – will have lasting and enormously damaging consequences for Canadians and represents a remarkable own-goal by Rodriguez who has managed to take millions away from the news sector and left everyone in a far worse position than if he had done nothing at all.

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June 29, 2023 118 comments News
Cancelled by atgw (CC BY 2.0)

The Damage Continues to Grow: Meta Begins Cancelling Existing Media Deals In Light of Bill C-18

The damage caused by the government’s Bill C-18 continues to grow as Meta has started to cancel its existing agreements with Canadian publishers. The move should not come as a surprise since any deals that involve facilitating access to news content would bring the company into the legislative framework and mandate payments for links. Indeed, Meta said earlier this week that its 18 existing deals “did not have much of a future.” When this is coupled with a reported “impasse” between the government and Google over its approach to Bill C-18, the risks to the Canadian media sector look increasingly dire. 

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June 29, 2023 15 comments News
Théâtre du chaos - administration by Jeanne Menjoulet (CC BY 2.0)

Media Chaos: How the Government’s Legislative Plans to Support Canadian Media Have Backfired Spectacularly

The Online News Act may be only days removed from having received royal assent, but the government’s plans to support the Canadian media sector have already backfired spectacularly. While it claimed its Bill C-18 would add millions of dollars to the sector and support struggling media companies, the reality has quickly intervened: blocked news sharing on Internet platforms with cancelled deals on the horizon, reports of direct corporate intervention in news departments, massive layoffs and regulatory requests to decrease spending on news, and now a nightmare merger proposal between Postmedia and Torstar. And that is just over the past week. Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has amply demonstrated that there is no Plan B, offering up the prospect of further dependence on government through more public spending to mitigate the harms from his massive miscalculations. Not all of this is the government’s doing, but having relied on empty assurances that blocked news sharing was merely a bluff, Rodriguez picked politics and tough talk over good policy and is now left with media chaos.

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June 28, 2023 19 comments News