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GuilbeaultSteven-2 by michael_swan (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/HqxSMj

The CUSMA Culture Poison Pill: Why the Broadcast Panel Report Could Lead to Millions in Tariff Retaliation

As Parliament continues its review of legislation designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA), I have had the honour to appear before both the International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology committees to discuss the digital implications of the trade agreement. While Members of Parliament have expressed concern with copyright term extension that could cost millions of dollars and restrictions on future privacy safeguards, the issue that has sparked the greatest surprise arises from a provision frequently promoted as a “win” during the negotiations.

My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the inclusion of a cultural exemption was viewed as an important policy objective for the government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting “defending that cultural exemption is something fundamental to Canadians.” The USMCA does, indeed, feature a broad cultural exemption that covers a wide range of sectors. The exemption means that commitments such as equal treatment for U.S., Mexican and Canadian companies may be limited within the cultural sector.

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March 3, 2020 1 comment Columns
News on the Tablet by Dennis Sylvester Hurd https://flic.kr/p/b2fsCa (public domain)

Broadcast Panel Chair Says Canada Already Licenses News Organizations So Why Not Internet Companies?

Janet Yale, the chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, appeared earlier this week before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to provide an update on the report. Her opening remarks directly addressed concerns regarding the regulation of news, claiming that there has been some confusion on the issue. Yet far from clearing up any “confusion”, Yale proceeded to inaccurately describe the state of news regulation in Canada and advocate for an expansive regulatory framework for Internet-based news aggregators:

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February 26, 2020 6 comments News
Sonic at the North Shore by Dan Bergstrom (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/59yoAZ

The Broadcast Panel Report and Canadian Stories: Take the Cancon Quiz

The Motion Picture Association – Canada this week promoted the Canadian link to Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the top grossing movie in the world at the moment. Much of the movie was filmed in British Columbia, generating millions in production spending and creating nearly 1,500 jobs. Normally, this would be viewed as a good news story and indicative of the global competitiveness of film and production in Canada. Yet the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report downplays the importance of this production, crafting policy recommendations that emphasizes the importance of supporting Canadian stories as a critical aspect of its approach.

Indeed, the willingness to violate net neutrality norms, impose discoverability requirements, and establish a global levy system for websites and services around the world is primarily based on the argument that Canadian policy must work to promote the production of Canadian content. This policy goal is framed as the need for Canada “to continue to assert its cultural sovereignty and Canadians can continue to express their identity and culture through content.”

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February 21, 2020 5 comments News
Image by Simaah from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/cbc-interview-people-outdoors-4729171/

CBC Leads Call for New Government Regulations to Support “Trusted” News Sources

Last month, the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report sparked an immediate outcry as it recommended that the CRTC identify “trusted” news sites and require news aggregators to link to them:

We recommend that to promote the discoverability of Canadian news content, the CRTC impose the following requirements, as appropriate, on media aggregation and media sharing undertakings: links to the websites of Canadian sources of accurate, trusted, and reliable sources of news with a view to ensuring a diversity of voices; and prominence rules to ensure visibility and access to such sources of news.

In fact, notwithstanding Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s attempts to walk-back initial comments that regulating news websites and services was “no big deal”, the reality is the regulatory structure envisioned by the panel also empowers the CRTC to require these organizations to disclose financial information, consumption data, and algorithmic information. It would also be given the power to regulate commercial negotiations between news providers and these sites and services.

Notwithstanding the public backlash against the proposals (including a House of Commons petition), there is another lobbying effort to get the government to regulate in support of “trusted” news sources. Led by the CBC, the initiative has succeeded in bringing the Toronto Star, Postmedia, Winnipeg Free Press, La Presse, Le Devoir, and others on board.

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February 19, 2020 11 comments News
Nordicity, International Benchmarking Study of the Canadian Television Production Sector, March 2019, Figure 1

Broadcast Panel Commissioned Report Found Canada Ranks First Among Peer Countries in Spending on TV Production, Domestic TV Production, and Employment Per Capita

The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report calls for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law – leading to increased consumer costs, violations of net neutrality, news regulation, CRTC intervention into discoverability, and USMCA violations – due in large measure to concerns about support for the creation of Canadian content. While the data confirms fears about the Canadian film and television sector have been overblown with record setting production in Canada, the panel insists that measures are needed to preserve Canadian jobs.

Yet what the panel did not disclose – in either its report or subsequent comments – are the results of benchmarking research on the Canadian television production sector it commissioned from Nordicity. That report was made available yesterday to those who asked (all the commissioned research can be requested from panel secretariat) and it reveals that Canada ranks first among peer countries with respect to expenditures on television production per capita, expenditures on domestic television production (ie. Cancon or equivalent domestic production) per capita, hours of television production per capita, and employment in film and television production per per capita. In other words, the panel had data that Canada spends more on television production, produces more hours of television programs, and employs more people per capita in the film and television sector than peer countries yet said nothing about the findings in its report.

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February 14, 2020 3 comments News