May 20, 2023
Ever since the CRTC issued its invitation for public submissions on the implementation of Bill C-11, a cottage industry in opinion pieces has flourished. Expect more of it. MediaPolicy.ca will be selective in posting about them: the full policy submissions that get filed by the public and the industry in June and July will generate more than a few posts.
Having said that, former CRTC Chair Konrad von Finkenstein published a reply in Cartt.ca to Doug Barrett’s piece on the definition of Canadian content and the hot button issue of copyright ownership of Canadian programs by American streamers. Von Finkenstein’s view is that international trade rules mean the Commission cannot deny copyright ownership to the US streamers while at the same time requiring them to spend money on Canadian content.
Barrett’s proposal is essentially a compromise, a King Solomon division of entrepreneurial opportunity. There are others who wouldn’t even go that far, we’ll hear from them soon enough.
As for information on C-11 that is of indisputable value, McCarthy’s lawyers Peter Grant and Grant Buchanan have generously re-issued their indispensable annotated Broadcasting Act publication as a free pdf file.
My recommended read this weekend is Peter Menzies’ op ed published in the Globe and Mail: “Should the CRTC ban Fox from Canada’s airwaves?”
It’s about a complaint filed by Égale Canada asking the CRTC to kick Fox News off of cable TV owing to some typically egregious transphobia from the now ex-Fox host Tucker Carlson. As Menzies points out, the CRTC has been here before, most recently when the Heritage Minister demanded the CRTC give Russia Today the heave. There are a few other occasions like the Radio-Canada ‘n-word’ case where the CRTC was dragged into the censorship business and floundered doing so.
Because these kinds of complaints are so infrequent, most Canadians are not aware that CRTC regulations passed in 1987 for television and radio include a content code that prohibits ‘abusive comment’ and ‘misinformation.’
Those legacy regulations do not as yet apply to the ‘online undertakings’ that are now recognized as broadcasters under the Online Streaming Act (although C-11 is drafted so that a private broadcaster distributing its programming through a social media platform cannot be held accountable by the Commission.)
Menzies is right in observing that in an Internet world, where Fox News can do an end-run around Canadian television regulations with ease, the Commission needs to re-establish a coherent policy on awful but lawful content. One new consideration is that C-11 gives the Commission new powers to issue fines instead of choosing between wrist slaps and de-platforming.
One of the peculiar features of Bill C-18 the Online News Act is that its central assumption, that Google and Facebook owe compensation to news outlets for making their unlicensed editorial content available to the public, has never been proven empirically. The Line columnist Jen Gerson even called it ‘a lie.’
The idea that the news outlets give Big Tech more value in monetizable news content than they get back in distribution was put forward by the Australian author of the Newsmedia Bargaining Code, the model for Canada’s Bill C-18.
Australia Competition Commissioner Rod Sims wrote in 2019 that Google and Meta’s anti-competitive duopolies in Search and Social made it impossible to accept the current rates of compensation (including no compensation) as a valid market price for news.
You might think that independent research would be available to settle the question, but it’s difficult in the absence of data which is proprietary and resides mostly with the Big Tech platforms.
But for the purposes of fighting this out as an issue in public policy, the contestants are beginning to publish opinions about the contested value exchange through sponsored third party studies.
It will not surprise you that a study sponsored by Meta went its way; another study about Google that was sponsored by news outlets went the other.
About a week ago a lot of commentators went over the top in expressing their outrage at a remarkably stupid resolution passed at the federal Liberal Party policy convention.
The resolution aimed at combatting ‘fake news’ —which is what we are still calling hyperpartisan opinion pocked with unverified facts or conspiracy theories— went so far as to demand federal legislation require the ‘disclosure of sources’ as a condition of publication. In other words, the proposal was on its face calling for a police state and the end of independent journalism.
It didn’t take long for Liberal politicians to disavow the resolution. Indeed its sponsor, a rank and file convention delegate, claimed she hadn’t thought it through, which is the most believable if dispiriting explanation.
The real story was that the Liberal Party officials running the convention didn’t spot the problem in advance and apparently did not speak against the resolution or otherwise shove it into the ditch.
Having attended my share of union conventions in the past thirty years I am sympathetic to the hands-off approach to a bad resolution but even so you would have expected much better floor management.
Lost in all of uproar is the legitimate if badly expressed motive behind a truly goofy resolution: we have moved into a new era of public debate in which the symbiotic relationship between trust and truth has been significantly disrupted by bad actors. And it’s legitimate to ask who should be held accountable for that.
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2 thoughts on “Catching Up on MediaPolicy – C-11 pitches keep coming – Banning Fox News – Gaming the C-18 debate – the Libs’ really bad policy resolution.”
Banning Fox is so tempting. But a fine first I think. Anyway, I would love to see some accountability and it would reflect well on Canada.
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Tricky. Heritage really euchred itself by excluding application of C-11 to ‘programming of high standard’ to social media content and therefore the ability to regulate for abusive content.