Canadian web and media giants | CRTC gets $8.5 million to develop regulatory system

(Ottawa) Ottawa awards $8.5 million to the Canadian Radio, Television and Communications Commission (CRTC) to develop a regulatory system to manage the use of journalistic content by digital giants.

Updated April 11th

Mary Wolf
Canadian Press

Experts question whether the CRTC has the expertise or experience to regulate the “web giants” that generate revenue from sharing online journalistic content on their platforms.

“Never before has a Canadian government entrusted such responsibility to the CRTC at a time when it lacks so much public trust and expertise,” said Michael Guest, Canada’s Head of Research in Internet Law and E-Commerce from the University of Ottawa.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez last week introduced a bill to support independent Canadian media, inspired by an Australian law.

The online news bill, known as Bill C-18, would require tech companies like Google and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to compensate Canadian news outlets for reusing their content on their platforms.

Digital platforms that do not comply with the new law could face penalties of up to 15 million per day for repeated non-compliance.

The companies will have six months to negotiate special agreements to compensate Canadian media for reusing their news content or force them to come to an agreement, if the federal bill becomes law.

The CRTC will monitor non-compliance of online platforms and ensure that the independence of the media is not undermined by agreements.

Peter Menzies, a former CRTC vice president, said it was “ridiculous” to have him chosen as the regulator for the Internet News Bill.

“The CRTC has absolutely no history of publishing or user-generated content business models, making it the completely wrong organization to engage in censorship,” he said.

The regulator is already facing a major expansion of its role with the government’s parallel online streaming bill that extends streaming laws to platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime so that they also support and promote Canadian content.

In Bill C-11, Rodriguez asked the CRTC to regulate streaming services and video-sharing platforms, including YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.

A CRTC spokesperson said it will work with the Treasury Board, which oversees government spending, to secure funds to carry out its new duties.

“If passed by Parliament, Bills C-11 and C-18 would carry increased responsibilities for the CRTC,” Eric Rancourt said. With respect to Bill C-18 specifically, the CRTC has a proven track record of implementing effective policies and adapting its approaches over time to the evolving news market in both television and radio, and with ADR under the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act. »

Rodriguez’s press secretary, Laura Scavidi, said the Canadian Training Center “has served Canadians for more than 50 years”.

“Other than potential arbitration, the CRTC’s role in administering this legislation is very light and based on criteria clear in the bill,” she said.

“The CRTC will help ensure that the process is transparent and that the public interest is met as stipulated in Section 4 of the Act,” she added.

She said the $8.5 million budget would help the commission “quickly manage this legislation and build capacity when needed.”

After the law goes into effect, online platforms will have to cover all costs associated with administering the arbitration.

The Canadian news industry has welcomed the Online News Bill, with 451 news outlets closing their doors since 2008. Meanwhile, billions of dollars have moved from traditional news sources to technology platforms.

But experts predict that platforms like Meta and Google will be very resistant to putting a price tag on news links.

Meta funds a scholarship that supports journalism positions at The Canadian Press.

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