Canada's proposed speech and media bills are a buffet of bad ideas
The Hub: Peter Menzies: 'The Online Streaming Act places the internet under the authority of the Broadcasting Act and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is best known for enforcing mandated levels of Canadian content (Cancon) and ensuring that which it governs is “of good standard.”3 Rodriguez says the aim is to make streaming companies such as Netflix, Disney Plus, Pornhub, and Amazon Prime pay into funds used to make Canadian films and television programs. But the legislation gives the CRTC powers far more sweeping than those that are necessary to achieve those relatively straightforward goals. The regulator will not only get money for the funds, but it will also be expected to force YouTube et al. to give priority to approved content as well as governing TikTok, podcasts, and social media posts. The impact on consumer freedom, preferred speech, online creators, and what has been a flourishing film and television sector fuelled by foreign investment is expected to be significant.
'Next up is the Online News Act, which forces American companies such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc to make payments to Canada’s struggling news industry, which insists it should be compensated for the value its posts add to social media.4 Facebook and the others believe the value they provide to news organizations (free access to billions of eyeballs) is much greater than any they receive but, regardless, Trudeau’s government is anxious to send revenue the publishers’ way. In doing so, it has again gone over the top. Despite the fact the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that hyperlinks do not have a commercial value, Bill C-18 nevertheless insists that they do—something no other country has done.
'The overreach doesn’t end there: the money comes with catches. Newsrooms wishing to benefit must be approved by a government-appointed panel that assesses applicants’ bona fides and also approves which media may (or in the case of Rebel News who may not) qualify for a tax credit which is not to be confused with another panel that doles out funds to pay reporters on panel-approved beats. (This year, one of those beats involves enhanced coverage of the Trudeau government’s presence in British Columbia). A digression, for sure, but one that fills out the picture.'