Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appeared last night before the Senate committee studying Bill C-18, facing repeated questions about how his government will respond if Internet platforms such as Facebook block news sharing in response to bill’s system of mandated payments for links. Much like Prime Minister Trudeau earlier in the day, Rodriguez had few answers, relying instead on tough talk about not backing down against the tech companies or warnings that even talking about the risks was playing into their hands. Yet the reality is that the government has boxed itself into a corner with fatally flawed legislation that could leave Canadian news organizations with lost revenues and Canadians with reduced exposure to reliable news.
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Globe Publisher Calls Bill C-18 a “Threat to the Independence of Media” As Government Senate Representative Smears Bill Critics
The Senate hearings on Bill C-18, the Online News Act, resumed yesterday with two blockbuster panels that included the Globe and Mail, News Media Canada, La Presse, Le Devoir, Canadaland, The Line, and Village Media. The unmistakable takeaway was the enormous risks the bill creates to the independence of the press, to the future of digital media, and to the bottom lines of Canadian news outlets across the country. Further, it is increasingly apparent that the government has no real answers to these risks other than sabre rattling with tech companies and questioning the motives of critics of the legislation.
The eagerness to smear anyone who dares criticize the bill provided the most jaw-dropping moment of the hearing with Senator Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate on the bill, suggesting that Bill C-18 criticism from Village Media’s Jeff Elgie, one of Canada’s most successful local digital news organizations, might be motivated by the business benefits of local media shutting down:
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 167: Inside My Senate Committee Appearance on the Many Risks of Bill C-18
Bill C-18, the Online News Act, has now shifted to the Senate, where the Transportation and Communications committee, is reviewing a bill that has led Meta to say it plans to block news sharing in Canada altogether in the bill passes in its current form. I appeared before the committee earlier this month with discussion that focused on a wide range of issues, including the risks of mandating payments for links, the non-compliance with international copyright obligations, why the CBC should not be included in the payment for links system, and how a fund would be a better approach. This week’s Lawbytes podcast goes inside the committee room for my opening statement and exchanges with half a dozen Senators.