Catching Up on – Brits soften Online Safety Bill – C-11 and C-18 plod through Parliament – Bunny Ears TV is back, only it’s online.

Journalist and Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show on November 30th to describe the impact of Facebook’s content moderation failure on political violence and democracy in Philippines.

December 3, 2022

The UK government announced this week it is backing away from take-down orders against social media platforms in its proposed Online Safety Act for legal but harmful content and will rely on self-regulation by the platforms.

Canada is still waiting for its own Online Safety Bill. It seems likely we won’t see it until Bills C-11 and C-18 make greater progress through Parliament.


Canada’s Online Streaming Act Bill C-11 made little progress during its two sessions this week in the Senate Transportation and Communications Committee. Senators are bogged down in section 3(1) of the Act which enumerates the goals of the national broadcasting policy, mostly in symbolic or general terms.

Ontario Senator Donna Dasko’s motion to make ‘audience’ satisfaction more explicit won government support (but not from Conservatives who preferred ‘consumers’) which means the House will accept the change.

New Brunswick Senator René Cormier also earned the government’s endorsement to reverse the House’s ill-advised change to the existing Act that puts broadcasters’ in-house production on the same level of priority as productions supplied to them by independent Canadian filmmakers. If not for Cormier’s amendment, C-11 would have put a big dent in the CRTC policy of supporting a viable Canadian TV production industry.

Cormier’s second motion was defeated by both government and Conservative senators. This was an attempt to undo C-11’s “two-tier” treatment of domestic and foreign film producers in section 3(1)(f-f.1). Expect to hear more about this issue, it isn’t going away.

In industry news relevant to C-11, two Canadian “FAST” (free, advertising-supported television) online platforms launched this week. CBC Explore and PlutoTV (a Corus/Paramount partnership) will offer a range of channels and programming without a paid subscription. Each will include their daily news shows, but other programming will be mostly non-premium entertainment and re-runs.

This new kind of platform has potential as a cord cutting option in tandem with premium streaming subscriptions. And for those of us who grew up watching bunny-eared over-the-air television, FAST may feel very Retro.


As for Bill C-18, MediaPolicy posted that Heritage MPs need to carefully define the parameters of ‘eligible news business,’ with attention paid to the line drawn between small publishers and citizen journalists. I posted a second time suggesting MPs look at Rebel News as a test case of distinguishing between professional journalism and political actors.

When MPs met yesterday to grapple with section 27(1) defining an eligible news business, they agreed to qualify any news organization staffed by a minimum of two journalists including a proprietor and a family member.

MPs are poised to approve Bloc MP Martin Champoux’s much needed amendment requiring news organizations to either belong to a recognized Press Council or adhere to a bone fide editorial code.

Heritage MPs have moved through about two-thirds of C-18 amendments now and may be headed for completion with four sessions left before the seasonal break (although one of them is earmarked for the Hockey Canada file).

By coincidence, this week the Australian Finance Minister released its first anniversary report on the implementation of its own FaceGoogle legislation, the forerunner of Bill C-18. Its report is less transparent than a similar report the CRTC will be required to publish annually after Bill C-18 passes.

But the headline on the Minister’s report was that the Australian government will allow Facebook to keep its three-year exemption from mandatory bargaining with news organizations even though its series of voluntary deals with news organizations excluded two important independent outlets.


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Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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