The government has started its defence of Bill C-18, the Online News Act, in the House of Commons with claims that it simply requires compensation for use of news content and adopts a “minimal market intervention” approach. My post yesterday focused on the use claims and this post digs into the bill to see just how minimalist it is. Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez promoted the bill as a market-oriented approach on the day the bill was tabled, leading to an interview with Vassy Kapelos in which she was visibly puzzled at the claim.
Setting aside the fact that many leading Canadian media organizations have already struck news deals with Google and Facebook without government intervention, here is a look at what the government thinks constitutes “minimal market intervention”:
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With the Online Streaming Act having passed second reading in the House of Commons and headed for further study at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the government moved swiftly to second reading debate on Bill C-18, the Online News Act. I’ve already written several posts expressing concern about the overbreadth of the bill and its implications. The House of Commons debate is just getting underway with the opening defence of the bill delivered by Chris Bittle, the Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage, presenting a vision of minimal intervention based on fairness:
The compensation that tech giants would provide to Canadian media through Bill C-18 would represent a giant step in ensuring the viability of strong and independent journalism in Canada, which is essential to our democracy. That is what Bill C-18 would do. It is simple. Tech giants would fairly compensate Canadian journalists when they use their content. That is it: no more, no less. It is a market-based solution that involves minimal government intervention, and I think everyone in this place can agree on that.
The government is relying on two claims here: fair compensation for the use of journalist content and a market-based approach with minimal government intervention. While there might indeed be support for a bill that did that, the Bill C-18 reality is far different. The bill extends well beyond compensation for use, stretching the meaning of “use” far beyond a reasonable standard and creating a level of intervention that simply cannot be fairly described as minimalist. This post examines the notion of fair compensation for Canadian journalists when their content is used with a post on “minimal” intervention to follow.
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The Logic is a Toronto-based news startup that focuses on the innovation economy. Launched in 2018, it has attracted some great reporters with a subscription-based business model that starts at $299 per year. I’ve been a subscriber for several years, dating back to when it began providing extensive coverage of the Waterfront Toronto – Sidewalk smart city project and I was serving as chair of the Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory Board. The site, which tends to produce one or two new articles per day, uses a hard paywall as nearly all articles – other than an occasional Letter from the Editor – can only be accessed by paying subscribers.
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My post on the hundreds of submissions to the government’s online harms consultation has garnered significant attention, including a front page news story from the Globe and Mail (I was also pleased to appear on Evan Solomon’s show and the Dean Blundell podcast). The coverage has rightly focused on previously secret submissions such as those from Twitter likening the Canadian plan to China or North Korea and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, who warn that the legislation would have risked constituting “one of the most significant assaults on marginalized and racialized communities in years.” If you haven’t read it, please read my post summarizing some of the key findings or access the entire package that was obtained under the Access to Information Act.
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