The future of Canadian communications law has emerged as political hot potato in recent weeks with political parties engaged in finger pointing over who is acting – or failing to act – on issues closely aligned to cultural policy. Just prior to the election call, Dwayne Winseck, a professor at Carleton who has been one of Canada’s most prominent experts on communications and cultural policy, joined the podcast to provide his take on the initial report from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, the tech-lash against companies such as Google and Facebook, and what the numbers tell us about the state of media and advertising in Canada.
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The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 26: There Is No Crisis – Dwayne Winseck on the State of Canadian Communications, Media and Cultural Policy
Building a Digital Wall: What Lies Behind The Emerging Battle Over New Taxes to Support Canadian Content
The battle over the future of Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications is quickly emerging as a hot-button policy issue, with a government-mandated review of the law recently garnering thousands of public responses. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that while recommendations from an expert panel are not expected for months, Canada’s broadcast regulator, the CBC, and several high-profile cultural groups are lining up behind a view that Canadian culture is facing an existential crisis. Among the ideas being proposed are new taxes on internet and wireless services, mandated Cancon requirements for Netflix and the prioritization of Canadian content in search results from online services to enhance its “discoverability.”
There are unquestionably real communications policy issues in Canada for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to grapple with: Some of the world’s highest wireless prices hamper adoption and usage, privacy safeguards have failed to keep pace with online threats and public-interest voices say they don’t feel heard at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) under chair Ian Scott.
Copyright and Culture: My Submission to the Canadian Heritage Committee Study on Remuneration Models for Artists and Creative Industries
The Canadian Heritage committee study on remuneration models for artists and creative industries, which was launched to support the Industry committee’s copyright review, wrapped up earlier this month. I appeared before the committee in late November, where I focused on recent allegations regarding educational copying practices, reconciled the increased spending on licensing with claims of reduced revenues, and concluded by providing the committee with some recommendations for action. My formal submission to the committee has yet to be posted (the committee has been slow in posting submissions), but it expanded on that presentation by focusing first on the state of piracy in Canada, followed by an examination of three sectors: (i) educational copying; (ii) the music industry and the value gap; and (iii) film and television production in Canada. The full submission can be found here.
The Full “Culture Exception” That Isn’t: Why Canada Caved on Independent Cultural Policy in the USMCA
In the final weeks of the USMCA negotiations, Canada signalled that a full cultural exception was a non-negotiable issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wading in to emphasize the importance of the issue. While the resulting deal has garnered applause from many culture lobby groups (music, magazines, publishers, ACTRA), the reality is that the government did not obtain a full cultural exception. In fact, after criticizing the Conservatives for accepting exceptions to the cultural exception in the TPP (and making it a key issue in the CPTPP once the U.S. exited the agreement), the Liberal government similarly included two exceptions and agreed to an extension in the term of copyright that will have a far more damaging impact on access to Canadian culture than any proposed USMCA provision.
The Internet is not an ATM: My Appearance at the Senate Transport and Communications Committee on Broadcast and Telecom Reform
Earlier this week, I appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications alongside Carleton professor Dwayne Winseck to discuss broadcast and telecom reform. The Senate study, which largely mirrors the government’s broadcast and telecommunications reform panel, is expected to run into 2019 with a broad mandate that covers everything from affordable access to net neutrality. The discussion was similarly wide ranging with discussion on the failings of the CRTC, the lack of telecom competition, and on the need for real data in assessing the impact of the Internet on the cultural sector.
My opening statement focused on the danger of treating the Internet as equivalent to the broadcast system, the realities of how the Canadian cultural sector is succeeding online, and how policy makers ought to respond the changing landscape for communications in Canada. It is posted below.