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:
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.
I was pleased to appear yesterday before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication on Bill C-18. The discussion 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. My opening statement, which tried to identify some fixes to the bill, is posted below as text and as a Youtube video.
The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications completed its extensive review of Bill C-11 last week. After a review for grammatical, editorial, and translation issues, the committee is expected to finalize its report back to the Senate later today. While the next steps for Bill C-11 remain somewhat uncertain, the committee should be congratulated for providing a model for legislative review. Indeed, the Senate committee was everything the House committee was not: policy focused, open to hearing from a wide range of witnesses, and willing to engage in meaningful debate on potential amendments. Politics occasionally arose during the clause-by-clause review, but political considerations were never going to be entirely stripped from a highly politicized piece of legislation.
I may have missed the odd change, but the following amendments were approved by the committee: