The CRTC just concluded a three week hearing on Bill C-11 with its primary focus on the prospect of mandating interim payments by Internet streaming services. The result was predictable as just about everyone made their way to Gatineau to make their case for cash. I appeared for the first time before the CRTC where argued that it should prioritize competition, consumer choice and affordability, recognizing that the emerging system brings with it risks of market exit or higher prices. This week’s Law Bytes episode goes inside the Commission hearing for my opening statement and exchanges with the panel of Commissioners.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 188: Consumers, Competition or Corporate Cash Grab? – My Bill C-11 Appearance at the CRTC
My CRTC Appearance on Bill C-11: Why Isn’t the Commission Concerned with Competition, Consumer Choice, and Affordability?
The CRTC’s Bill C-11 hearings are in their third and final week as a steady stream of broadcasters and producers make their way to Gatineau to urge the Commission to force Internet streamers to hand over cash in a giant cross-industry subsidy scheme designed to support everyone from small producers to Bell’s news division. As the witnesses take turns seeking the mantle that they are facing the biggest crisis (even as there is record film and television production in Canada and broadcasters stand to be the biggest beneficiary of the Online News Act), there has been practically no interest or discussion of the risks to consumers and competition that could come from significant new regulatory costs.
I set out to change that yesterday in my appearance before the Commission. It was my first time to appear as a witness before the CRTC and I used the opportunity to emphasize the real risks of reduced competition and higher costs that can come with mandated payments that exceed global standards. Further, I argued that the Commission should not establish interim payments at all, noting that it was more appropriate to address all of the outstanding Bill C-11 regulatory questions before looking to streamers to start cutting cheques.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 187: Jeff Elgie on What the Bill C-18 Deal With Google Means for the Future of the Canadian News Sector
The Canadian government tried to salvage the Online News Act last week as its struck a deal with Google that will bring in $100 million to support the news sector and remove concerns about blocked news links. The government had to overhaul its own law in order to reach the agreement, tossing aside most of the core elements in favour of a fund-style single payment from Google. The reaction to the agreement from the news sector has been mixed at best with relative silence from many supporters and outright opposition from the likes of Torstar.
So what to make the of the deal and what comes next? Jeff Elgie is the CEO of Village Media, one of the largest independent, digital-only news outlets in Canada. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to walk though his participation in the process, reaction to the agreement, and thoughts for the future.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge’s deal with Google on Bill C-18 for an annual $100 million contribution has sparked some unsurprising crowing from partisans who insist the fears that the government had mishandled the Online News Act failed to recognize a well-executed negotiation strategy. Yet the response from industry supporters of the bill has been noticeably muted: News Media Canada did not issue a press release with CEO Paul Deegan noting that the impact would depend on the forthcoming regulations, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters said it was relieved there was a deal and that links would not be blocked, Quebec broadcasters are already calling for more support, and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said the deal did not deliver the support it originally hoped for. These comments come closer to reflecting the reality of the deal, namely that the government misread the market, passed deeply flawed legislation, and was ultimately forced to row back core elements of the law and accept payments consistent with what was on the table over a year ago.