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.
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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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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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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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