For many years, Canadians have lamented the state of competition for Internet broadband services, pointing to concerns regarding price and lack of choice. Earlier this month, the CRTC seemed to agree, admitting in a decision involving competitive access that it is “important that the Commission revise its approach to promote competition and protect the interests of Canadians.” Andy Kaplan-Myrth is Vice-President, Regulatory and Carrier Affairs at TekSavvy, one of the few remaining independent competitors in Canada. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the current state of competition, the recent CRTC decision, and what this might mean for the Canadian market.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 186: Andy Kaplan-Myrth on the CRTC’s Last Ditch Attempt to Fix Canada’s Internet Competition Problem
Yesterday I was a guest on a Toronto-area radio station where I was asked to discuss the government’s plans to more than double the amount available per journalist as part of the labour journalism tax credit. After a discussion of the tax credit program and months of blocked news links on Facebook as a consequence of Bill C-18, the host shifted the discussion by suggesting that the media had largely become propaganda on behalf of the government, insisting that these measures were consistent with a strategy of either blocking or influencing news coverage. I paused for a moment and said I disagreed, noting that there was good journalism and bad journalism, and his take was bad journalism. The segment ended immediately after that.
That experience came to mind later in the day as the debate over media bias and government funding captured further attention after Jenni Byrne, a leader in the Pierre Poilievre team, tweeted that criticism of Poilievre’s interactions with a journalist could be chalked up to the increased funding and that the bailout would mean journalists “would do whatever the PMO says.” Byrne’s comment strikes me as absurd as those of the radio host. All journalists have some biases. They wouldn’t be human if they didn’t. But the suggestion that a government tax plan would influence their individual coverage is just not credible.
The federal government has quietly backed down from its plans to implement a new digital services tax as of January 2024 that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated would generate billions in revenue. It did not make the headlines or receive much promotion, but after months of insisting that a digital services tax would take effect in Canada in January 2024, the government has now removed that implementation deadline in the Fall Economic Statement. The battle over the proposed tax had sparked increasing anger between Canada and the U.S., with dozens of U.S. Senators and Representatives signing letters urging the government to delay its plans. The Canadian plan remains to establish a retroactive three percent tax that will hit a wide range of businesses, but given fears moving ahead now would jeopardize a global agreement that is designed to address the digital services tax issue, Canada has seemingly faced the obvious reality and backed down.
Bill C-18 Bailout: Government Announces Plans to Pay For 35% of Journalist Costs for News Outlets as It More Than Doubles Tax Credit Per Employee
The government has taken the first step to creating a bailout for its disastrous Bill C-18 by agreeing to News Media Canada demands to increase the support under the Labour Journalism Tax Credit. While the current system covers 25% of the journalist costs up to $55,000 per employee (or $13,750), the government’s fall economic statement increases both the percentage covered and cap per employee. Under the new system, which is retroactive to the start of this year, Qualified Canadian Journalism Organizations (which covers print and digital but not broadcasters) can now claim 35% of the costs of journalist expenditures up to $85,000 per employee. The increases the support to up to $29,750 per employee or an increase of 116%. This new support will run for four years at a cost of $129 million ($60 million this year alone).
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 185: Bill C-11 at the CRTC – A Preview of the Upcoming Online Streaming Act Hearing
The much-anticipated Bill C-11 hearing opens this week at the CRTC. For the next three weeks, the Commission will hear from a wide range of stakeholders, including digital and legacy creators, Internet giants, telecom companies, and consumer groups. This hearing, which builds on an earlier consultation on registration requirements, will address issues that include mandated Internet streaming company contributions and discoverability requirements. What brought us to this moment and what lies ahead? This week’s Law Bytes podcast reviews the lengthy legislative process, the key players at the hearings, and how this consultation fits within the broader Bill C-11 framework.