Several weeks after Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, I started a 20 part blog post series called the Broadcasting Act Blunder (podcast edition here). The series examined many of concerns with the bill, including issues such as over-broad regulation and discoverability requirements that would only garner public attention many months later. I thought about that series yesterday as I watched Guilbeault try in the House of Commons to defend the indefensible: a gag order on committee review of the bill, the first such order in two decades. While the bill is in dire need of fixing, what occurred yesterday was far worse than a blunder. It was a betrayal. A betrayal of the government’s commitment to “strengthen Parliamentary committees so that they can better scrutinize legislation.” A betrayal of the promise to do things differently from previous governments. A betrayal of Canada’s values as a Parliamentary democracy.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has cited the need to improve the “discoverability” of Canadian content as a critical reason to support Bill C-10, his Broadcasting Act reform bill. Speaking of his daughter’s use of digital services, Guilbeault told the House of Commons that the bill “will allow her not only to take advantage of an international offering, but also to discover Canadian content.” While few would oppose ensuring that Canadian content is easy to find and well marketed, the Broadcasting Act blunder series continues today with a look at the evidence on the issue of discoverability, finding there is little to support claims that regulatory intervention for streaming services is needed.
With the introduction of the government’s plan to regulate Internet streaming services, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has touted new rules that will require companies such as Netflix and Spotify to make mandatory payments in support of Canadian content. The government’s bill also paves the way for the companies to both tinker with what they show to subscribers, so as to increase the “discoverability” of Canadian content, and open their books to Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator by granting access to confidential corporate information.
The Broadcasting Act blunder series continues today with my recent Hill Times op-ed which notes that although Mr. Guilbeault argues that the changes are long overdue and merely establish a level playing with conventional broadcasters, much of the policy that underlies the new bill rests on shaky ground ((prior posts in the Broadcasting Act Blunder series include Day 1: Why there is no Canadian Content Crisis, Day 2: What the Government Doesn’t Say About Creating a “Level Playing Field”, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t, Day 4: Why Many News Sites are Captured by Bill C-10), Day 5: Narrow Exclusion of User Generated Content Services, Day 6: The Beginning of the End of Canadian Broadcast Ownership and Control Requirements).
The Broadcasting Act Blunder series yesterday covered claims by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault that the bill contains significant economic thresholds as a guardrail against over-regulation. As I noted, the bill does no such thing, though the CRTC will be able to establish regulatory exemptions once it conducts extensive hearings on implementing the legislation should it pass (prior posts in the Broadcasting Act Blunder series include Day 1: Why there is no Canadian Content Crisis, Day 2: What the Government Doesn’t Say About Creating a “Level Playing Field”, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t).
Guilbeault also told the House of Commons that news is excluded from his bill:
The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t.
The Broadcasting Act Blunder series continues this week with posts focused on the uncertainty fuelled by a bill that was months in the making, yet leaves numerous issues unanswered (prior posts in the Broadcasting Act Blunder series include Day 1: Why there is no Canadian Content Crisis, Day 2: What the Government Doesn’t Say About Creating a “Level Playing Field”). Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault tried assure the House of Commons last week that the bill features several “guardrails” against over-broad regulation. In particular, he stated:
entities would need to reach a significant economic threshold before any regulation could be imposed. This keeps the nature of the Internet as it is. It simply asks companies that generate large revenues in Canada to contribute in a fair manner.
With all due respect, this is simply false. There is no specific economic threshold established by the bill. The starting point is that all Internet streaming services carried on in whole or in part within Canada are subject to Canadian regulation. In other words, if you have Canadian subscribers, the law applies regardless of where the service is located.