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GuilbeaultSteven-4 by michael_swan (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/HqxN6L

Canadian Heritage Minister Guilbeault Says Social Media Sites Linking to News Content Without Payment is “Immoral”

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault appeared on The West Block over the weekend in an interview that provides a strong – and disturbing – sense of where the government is headed on Internet regulation. Most problematic was the discussion on compensation from social media companies such as Facebook to news organizations for allowing their users to link to news articles. As I discussed in a post last week examining recent developments in Australia:

Facebook users post many things – photos, videos, personal updates, and links to various content online, including news articles. Those news articles do not appear in full. Rather, they are merely links that send users to the original news site. From Facebook’s perspective, there is enormous value in referring users to media sites, who benefit from advertising revenue from the visits.

Facebook has said that it will block all news sharing on its platform in Australia if the government proceeds with a mandated payment system, noting the limited value of the links and arguing that its referrals that are worth hundreds of millions to the news organizations. If Canada were to pursue the same strategy, Canadian news sites would also likely be blocked and a trade complaint under the USMCA would be a virtual certainty.

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September 8, 2020 6 comments News
Facebook by Sarah Marshall (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dP7ETd

There Are Many Serious Concerns About Facebook. Why the Australia News Fight Isn’t One of Them

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it plans to stop allowing publishers and users to share news on both Facebook and Instagram in Australia. The decision came after months of public debate and private negotiations on potential payments from the social media giant to news organizations. When the Internet platforms and the news organizations led by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (by the far the largest media organization in Australia) were unable to arrive at a deal, the Australian government and its regulator announced that it would legislate a solution by requiring Google and Facebook to pay publishers for content posted by its users on its site. The Facebook decision to block news sharing on its platforms has been described as a “threat” to the government and democracy, leading to supportive op-eds calling on the Australian government to push back against the company. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has denounced the move, stating “the Canadian government stands with our Australian partners and denounces any form of threats.”

There are many serious concerns about Facebook: it is in federal court in a battle over whether it violated Canadian privacy law, its response to potentially misleading political advertising has been inadequate, it has moved too slowly in removing posts that urge violence, it faces antitrust investigations, it has paid billions in penalties for its conduct, and many simply fear it is too powerful. But it is in the right in this battle over news in Australia and the Canadian government would be wrong to emulate the Australian approach.

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September 4, 2020 8 comments News
I have no opinions by Mark Morgan https://flic.kr/p/qsfTSp (CC BY 2.0)

No Opinions Permitted: Broadcast Panel Rules Jokingly Criticizing Canadian Content During Radio News Segment Violates Code of Ethics

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that a news broadcast that jokingly criticized Canadian content violates the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics. The complaint arose from a December 2019 broadcast on Toronto radio station CFRB. David McKee used his lead-in to a report on a possible Netflix tax to state “the libraries of streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ could soon have more of a Canadian flavour that nobody watches or wants if the federal government gets its way.”

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June 4, 2020 10 comments News
Kids in the Hall @ Cobb Energy PAC 05.24.2008 by Melanie McDermott (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4QTTDu

The Cancon Conundrum: Why Policies to Promote “Canadian Stories” Need an Overhaul

Cultural policy in Canada can be contentious, but there is one issue – support for Canadian content or Cancon – that unsurprisingly enjoys near unanimous backing. Given the economic benefits, federal and provincial policies encourage both domestic and foreign film and television production in Canada, but there is a special place for certified Canadian content, which is typically defended on the basis of the need to support cultural sovereignty by promoting “Canadian stories.”

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March 10, 2020 6 comments Columns
WhatsApp / iOS by Álvaro Ibáñez (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ksmHKt

Bains’ Other Wireless Affordability Problem: The Broadcast Panel Plan for WhatsApp, Skype and Other Internet Services to Pay Canadian Broadband Taxes

Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry today promoted the government’s plans for wireless affordability. The effort was largely an attempt to reiterate its wireless affordability platform, which targeted a 25 per cent reduction in consumer wireless bills by emphasizing more competition through MVNOs and spectrum set-asides. The renewed emphasis on the policy comes as an updated Wall Report finds that prices have been declining in some baskets (the long-overdue emergence of unlimited-ish plans a key factor), but not in the core middle tier of plans where prices remain high. The government states “Canadians have been paying more overall compared to consumers in other G7 countries and Australia” and noted that the government will track pricing on a quarterly basis starting from January 2020. Coming on the heels of threats from incumbent telecom companies such as Telus, it was good for the government to re-assert its policy objectives for the sector.

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March 5, 2020 2 comments News