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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
buyer's remorse by Benjamí Villoslada Gil (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Buyer’s Remorse?: The Risks of Bill C-18 Leading to Blocked News Sharing Becoming Real to Canadian Media

When Le Devoir director Brian Myles appeared before the Senate committee studying Bill C-18 last month, he closed by urging the committee to pass the legislation quickly, stating “the time to act is now. We can’t wait two years between the passage of the bill and the CRTC regulations, because the delay will benefit opponents, giving them time to organize and undermine the spirit and the letter of the law.” While Myles acknowledged that claims regarding “theft” of news content by Internet platforms was overstated, he nevertheless expressed full support for the bill. One month later, the Online News Act is now law, Meta has confirmed that it will block news sharing before it takes effect, and the government is reportedly in last ditch negotiations with Google to stop it from doing the same.

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June 27, 2023 8 comments News
Qponpoli, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 172: Marc Edge on Bill C-18 and the Postmedia Effect

Bill C-18 passed the House and Senate and received royal assent last week, leading Meta to confirm that it will be blocking news sharing on its Facebook and Instagram platforms given the economic costs and uncertainty with the law. Meanwhile Google is reportedly in discussions with the government about whether regulations might be crafted in a way to avoid a similar outcome.

 I’ve covered Bill C-18 extensively on the Law Bytes podcast and on this website, but the history behind the legislation and associated lobbying provides valuable context for the current situation. Marc Edge has written several books on the newspaper industry. His most recent work, The Postmedia Effect, helps makes sense of Bill C-18 as a continuum of lobbying for government support that has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars. He joins me on the podcast to discuss. 

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June 26, 2023 3 comments Podcasts
The Hulu experience by Jakob Skjerning (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Made-in-Canada Internet Takes Shape with Risks of Blocked Streaming Services and News Sharing as Bill C-18 Receives Royal Assent

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, received royal assent yesterday, but any celebrations by the groups who lobbied for unprecedented government intervention into the news sector must surely have been tempered by the reality that quickly emerged. Meta confirmed that it would block news sharing from its Facebook and Instagram platforms in Canada, while Google met with Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to see whether a compromise could be reach to avoid a similar outcome. The end result – at least for now – is a legislative mess that leaves no clear winners with Meta downgrading its platforms in Canada, Canadians cut off from their ability to share news on popular social media platforms, Canadian news outlets losing their second most important source of referral traffic, and the government looking to have made an epic miscalculation for having ignored the risks it created by establishing a mandating payments for links system with uncapped liability for the Internet companies.

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June 23, 2023 14 comments News
ChatGPT by Prachatai (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As Government Moves to Cut Off Bill C-18 Debate, the Reality is Artificial Intelligence Renders Bill Already Out of Date

The Online News Act, the government’s legislative initiative to make Google and Meta pay hundreds of Canadian media companies for links to their news content, is likely to become law before politicians break for the summer later this week. In fact, despite plans for an evening debate on the bill last night, the government interrupted MP Martin Champoux in mid-speech, cut the debate short, and gave notice that it plans to limit debate altogether this week (the irony that the government is cutting off debate on a bill it claims is essential to holding it to account should not be lost on anyone). The bill will likely be passed by the House by mid-week. Since the government is rejecting two Senate amendments, the bill will go back to the Senate for approval.

The lion’s share of attention on Bill C-18 has thus far focused on the response of the two internet companies, as both have raised the prospect of blocking news content on their platforms if faced with new financial liability for linking. Yet my Globe and Mail op-ed argues that focus ignores a vital new reality that may already render the bill out of date.

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June 20, 2023 7 comments Columns