Last week, the CRTC issued the first two of what are likely to be at least a dozen decisions involving the Online Streaming Act. Those decisions are already sparking controversy, but as the Commission focuses on Bill C-11 and perhaps soon Bill C-18, there is mounting concern that its other responsibilities are falling by the wayside that its independence from the government is starting to show cracks. Peter Menzies is a former Vice-Chair of the CRTC and frequently commentator on broadcast, telecom and Internet regulatory issues. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the current state of the Commission, which has never seemed more important but also seemed more out of touch and incapable of meeting its duties.
Post Tagged with: "c-11"
I need to start this post by making it clear that I am a supporter of publicly funded broadcasting and the CBC. With the increased use of paywalls and dramatic shifts in the media landscape, there is value in a public broadcaster that fills the gaps in the privately owned media world by ensuring that all Canadians have open, freely available access to reliable news. That requires embracing all forms of distribution, maintaining steadfast independence, and limiting direct competitive overlap with the private side that is currently facing significant digital transition challenges. This should be an easy value proposition for the CBC and one that would provide a compelling case for public funding. Yet the CBC’s approach to Bill C-18 and other government digital policies seems determined to do the opposite and, in doing so, threatens its future support.
The Canadian government released a detailed document last week outlining the specifics behind its draft Digital Services Tax Act. No actual legislation has yet been passed, but the government is providing guidance on how the potential law would be interpreted assuming it takes effect next year. The document has sparked criticism from business groups and the U.S. government given that it envisions a retroactive three percent tax that will hit a wide range of businesses. Further, the Canadian plan is facing significant opposition from many OECD countries since it may jeopardize a global agreement that is designed to address the digital services tax issue. While the digital services tax (DST) is typically framed as a tax on big tech, the reality is that the Canadian version extends far beyond just companies such as Google and Facebook, potentially including major Canadian retailers such as Canadian Tire, Loblaws, and others.
My view is that unlike Bills C-11 and C-18, which create cross-industry subsidy models funded by tech companies to support government policy, appropriate taxation models is the far better approach to ensure that companies “pay their fair share”. While a DST may be a good approach (particularly if part of a global system), the Canadian plan to implement the tax retroactively next year creates some significant risks. In fact, our current approach raises the prospect of U.S. tariff retaliation, opposition from many allies at the OECD, and expanded news link blocking in response to Bill C-18.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 176: A Mid-Summer Update on Bills C-11, C-18, the Government’s Cabinet Shuffle, and the Brewing Battle over Digital Taxes
Coming off a week in which the government engineered a major cabinet overhaul that saw Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez replaced by Pascale St-Onge, an escalation of the battle over digital services taxes, and which featured significant news on both the Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 fronts, this week’s Law Bytes podcast provides a mid-summer update on recent developments. Barring some urgent news, the podcast will be taking a break in August and return in September.
Culture Lobby Groups Call on Government to Open Door to CRTC Regulation of Video Games, User Content and Algorithms Under Bill C-11 Implementation
Bill C-11 may have receded into the background of CRTC consultations and government policy directions, but Canadians concerned with user content, video game and algorithmic regulation would do well to pay attention. Lobby groups that fought for the inclusion of user content regulation in the bill have now turned their attention to the regulatory process and are seeking to undo government assurances that each of those issues – user content, algorithms and even video games – would fall outside of the scope of the regulatory implementation of the bill. In fact, if the groups get their way, Canadians would face unprecedented regulations with the CRTC empowered to create a host of new obligations that could even include requirements for Youtubers and TikTokers to register with the Commission. With a new Heritage Minister in place, the submissions raise serious concerns about whether the government will maintain its commitments regarding scoping out users, video games, and algorithms.
The most troubling publicly available document comes from a coalition that calls itself ACCORD, representing songwriters, composers, and music publishers. The group has posted its submission to the government’s consultation on the draft policy direction to the CRTC on Bill C-11. All submissions are not yet posted, but I should note that I also submitted a brief document, calling on the government to fully honour its commitment to exclude user content and algorithms from regulation and to establish limits on discoverability regulation.