One of the more controversial aspects of Bill C-10 has proven to be the decision to remove the very first policy declaration in the Broadcasting Act as found in Section 3(1)(a): “the Canadian broadcasting system shall be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians.” Critics have unsurprisingly jumped on the issue, expressing concern that removing the ownership and control requirements will ultimately undermine claims from Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault that the bill is essential to preserving Canadian cultural sovereignty. The Broadcasting Act blunder series continues with an examination of the issue, concluding that the critics are right and that Bill C-10 marks the beginning of the end of Canadian ownership requirements (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”, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t, Day 4: Why Many News Sites are Captured by Bill C-10), Day 5: Narrow Exclusion of User Generated Content Services).
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The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day Six: The Beginning of the End of Canadian Broadcast Ownership and Control Requirements
The Broadcasting Act Blunder series yesterday covered claims by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault that the bill contains significant economic thresholds as a guardrail against over-regulation. As I noted, the bill does no such thing, though the CRTC will be able to establish regulatory exemptions once it conducts extensive hearings on implementing the legislation should it pass (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”, Day 3: Minister Guilbeault Says Bill C-10 Contains Economic Thresholds That Limit Internet Regulation. It Doesn’t).
Guilbeault also told the House of Commons that news is excluded from his bill:
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).
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.