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The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 1: Why There is No Canadian Content Crisis

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault rose in the House of Commons yesterday for the second reading of Bill C-10, his Internet regulation bill that reforms the Broadcasting Act. Guilbeault told the House that the bill would level the playing field, that it would establish a high revenue threshold before applying to Internet streamers, would not impact consumer choice, or raise consumer costs. He argued that even if you don’t believe in cultural sovereignty, you should still support his bill for the economic benefits it will bring, warning that Canadian producers will miss out on a billion dollars by 2023 if the legislation isn’t enacted. He painted a picture of Internet companies (invariably called “web giants”) that have millions of Canadian subscribers but do not contribute to the Canadian economy,

Guilbeault is wrong. He is wrong in his description of the bill (it does not contain thresholds), wrong about its impact on consumers (it is virtually certain to both decrease choice and increase costs), wrong about the contributions of Internet streamers (who have been described as the biggest contributor to Canadian production), wrong about level playing field claims (incumbent broadcasters enjoy a host of regulatory benefits not enjoyed by streamers), wrong about the economic impact of the bill (it is likely to decrease investment in the short term), and wrong about cultural sovereignty (it surrenders cultural sovereignty rather than protect it).

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November 19, 2020 15 comments News
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 69: Bram Abramson on the Government’s Plan to Regulate Internet Streaming Services

Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, legislation that would significantly reform Canada’s Broadcasting Act. A foundational part of what he has called a “get money from web giants” legislative strategy, the bill grants new powers to the CRTC to regulate online streaming services. Bram Abramson is one of Canada’s leading communications law lawyers and managing director of a new digital risk and rights strategy firm called 32M. Bram acted as an outside consultant on telecom regulation for the recent Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel – often called the Yale Report –  but he joins the podcast to talk about the past, present and future of broadcast regulation, in particular what Bill C-10 could mean for the regulation of online streaming services.

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November 9, 2020 2 comments Podcasts
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Cultural Uncertainty: A Closer Look at Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s Timeline For Internet Regulation

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has told the Wire Report (sub req) that he expects Bill C-10, his Internet regulation bill, to pass through the House and Senate by early 2021 and for the CRTC to establish the regulatory specifics within nine months so that the system is in place by the end of next year. Guilbeault says that he isn’t concerned that the process could drag out for years and create significant industry uncertainty, indicating that “I think this is a really high profile issue. I’m not sure that these companies want to bear the public scrutiny of…trying to delay and delay the implementation of this.”

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November 5, 2020 4 comments News
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The Government’s Internet Regulation Bill: Why Bill C-10 Will Mean a CRTC-Approved Netflix Service, Reduced Consumer Choice, and Less Investment in Canadian Culture

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault tabled his “get money from web giants” Internet regulation bill this morning. As expected, Bill C-10 hands massive new powers to Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator (the CRTC) to regulate online streaming services, opening the door to mandated Cancon payments, discoverability requirements, and confidential information disclosures all backed by new fining powers. Given that many of the details will be sorted out by the CRTC, the specifics will take years to unfold. In the short term, the bill creates considerable marketplace uncertainty that could lead to reduced spending on Canadian film and television production and delayed entry into Canada of new services. Once the policies are in place, the end result will be CRTC-approved versions of Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime in which the regulator decides how these services promote Canadian content to their subscribers.

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November 3, 2020 25 comments News
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Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s “Get Money from Web Giants” Internet Regulation Bill: An Unauthorized Backgrounder

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is set to introduce his “Get Money from Web Giants” Internet regulation bill on Monday (update: the bill is on the notice paper, but may be delayed until Tuesday). Based on his previous public comments, the bill is expected to grant the CRTC extensive new powers to regulate Internet-based video streaming services. In particular, expect the government to mandate payments to support Canadian content production for the streaming services and establish new “discoverability” requirements that will require online services to override user preferences by promoting Canadian content. The government is likely to issue a policy direction to the CRTC that identifies its specific priorities, but the much-discussed link licensing requirement for social media companies that Guilbeault has supported will not be part of this legislative package.

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November 1, 2020 12 comments News