June 4, 2022
This week’s Bill C-11 hearings at the Heritage Committee featured 25 witnesses and over 16 hours of MPs deliberating over the Online Streaming Act.
It was entertaining, illuminating and childish in the way that only Parliamentary squabbles can be. The big take away is that the Conservatives have begun on-again off-again filibuster tactics reminiscent of their efforts last year with C-10.
In another legislative forum Québec MLAs unanimously endorsed C-11’s inclusion of the CRTC’s general authority to regulate YouTube, Tik Tok, and Facebook, the hot button issue in federal Heritage Committee hearings.
The Committee was supposed to finish witness appearances this week (it didn’t) and move on to amendments next week and then, as far as the government is concerned, return the Bill to the House for third reading before the summer recess later this month.
Flipping over to the Online News Act C-18, the Liberals invoked cloture to force a Second Reading vote and move the Bill to the Heritage Committee. It now seems a foregone conclusion the Committee won’t get to C-18 until September.
That leaves more time for campaigning and lobbying against the “Facegoogle” legislation.
Google has written to all MPs and Senators critiquing C-18. Mindful of the fact it’s known the web giant ultimately played ball in Australia when faced with this kind of “pay-for-news-content” regulation, Google is arguing that additional aspects of the Canadian bill defining “news” and “eligible news outlets” are a problem.
In an interesting strategic move, Google appears to be making common cause with smaller Canadian news outlets who believe the Bill unfairly favours large mainstream publishers and broadcasters. Instead of the “commercial negotiations” model of C-18, Google says it is willing to write one cheque —-for an undetermined amount— to an independent news fund that would be distributed pro-rata to all news outlets in a manner similar to federal journalism tax credits.
Counterintuitively perhaps, Google just agreed to more deals with small publishers in Australia under legislation it says it does not want Canada to repeat.
A poll commissioned by Newsmedia Canada suggests a high level of popular support for “FaceGoogle-pay-for-news-content” legislation.
Meanwhile we get closer to the beginning of Competition Tribunal hearings on the Rogers Shaw merger. The word was it would begin this month, but the Tribunal has still not posted any hearing dates and has another file on its docket until June 17th.
Yesterday Rogers and Shaw filed their Reply to the Competition Bureau’s application to block the merger. As of this morning the Tribunal had not posted the document, but news reports suggest Rogers will be relying on the legislation’s controversial “efficiencies defense” which allows the Tribunal to bless the merger if its cost savings and non-price efficiencies outweigh any hit to consumer prices.