Windsor law prof, politics podcaster want more clarity on Bill C-10 — including CRTC's role
Amendment to Broadcasting Act to regulate web giants fails to pass in Senate
Some legal and political interests in Windsor, Ont., are thankful Bill C-10 — an amendment to the Broadcasting Act — hasn't passed in the Senate, and say it needs more assessment and clarity on key issues such as the role of the CRTC, and how collected fees would be distributed.
Bill C-10, the first legislation of its kind since 1991, was designed to regulate web giants by holding them to the same standards of traditional broadcasting companies. Last week, the Senate adjourned for the summer, leaving the prioritized piece of legislation, in limbo.
Jon Liedtke, host of Rose City Politics, a local podcast which covers municipal politics, said the aims of the bill are laudable, but plenty of questions need to be answered.
Through changes in between House of Commons readings, the bill became contentious, raising concerns about censorship from media experts, including a former head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
"I'm not at all concerned about how a lot of people have been talking about this legislation in terms of the censorship of it. It's just more so, what are the actual business indications?" said Liedtke.
Liedtke wondered how an increase in fees for social media giants would affect independently run businesses and how the money collected would be distributed among Canadian content producers.
The bill was introduced in November 2020 as a means of promoting Canadian producers and creators. It's aim was to ensure digital streaming services pay their fair share, which would be redistributed back into Canadian production and cultural funds. It also paved the way for a certain amount of Canadian content to be distributed and discoverable on the companies' websites.
"There is the concern that with new fees coming in for the Canadian content system, will that money that's coming in, find its way again to one of the traditional broadcasters?" said Liedtke.
As an independent Canadian producer, Liedtke said he would like to see large subsidies pulled from major media companies and focused on independent content creators.
"It would be nice to just have an open playing field, allow them to be in business, allow us to be in business, but through that massive subsidization that keeps going on, it's tough to be able to build up anything," he said.
"There's only so many dollars that businesses can afford to spend and if we're allowing for the government to keep subsidizing major players, you know, their reach just keeps getting bigger and bigger and it's harder and harder for the smaller person to get involved."
The bill brought forward necessary updates regarding more representation of diverse communities such as Indigenous, LGBTQ, racialized communities, accessibility for those with disabilities and inclusiveness of both official languages and minority languages said Pascale Chapdelaine, an associate professor of law at the University of Windsor with expertise in consumer, privacy and cyber laws.
Her greatest concern is the process in which Bill C-10 was managed.
"For the adoption of a bill that impacts Canadian culture, expression, support for creators, the broadcasting industry, this needs to be done in respect of our democratic process, and ensure that proper debate takes place."
Relief from MP bill didn't pass
Conservative Essex MP Chris Lewis said he is glad Bill C-10 did not pass in the Senate.
"I sit on the justice committee as well. We listened to many witnesses, much, much testimony and at the end of the day, it's a very flawed bill. Truthfully, it's written very poorly and the Liberal government really wasn't open to having any conversation about what amendments we could bring forward to it."
Bill C-10 passed third reading in the House of Commons at approximately 1:30 a.m. ET on June 22. It was highly favoured by Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs, but Conservatives opposed it.
"Bill C-10 is about fairness," Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, said in a statement. "For decades, Canadian radio and TV stations were required to support and make financial contributions to our culture. However, the same rules do not apply to internet-based services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Spotify.
"Canadian artists and broadcasters have been waiting years for the Broadcasting Act to be modernized. Bill C-10 proposes to level the playing field for everyone."
Much of the criticism revolved around the impact it would have on user-generated content, and the removal of Section 4.1 of the bill.
Under Section 4.1, the bill would have exempted user-generated content posted on social media sites from being held accountable to the CRTC rules and regulations.
Earlier this spring, that section was removed, sparking controversy and raising concerns over the powers of the CRTC and infringement on freedom of speech.
When asked about the reasoning behind the removal, the heritage minister argued the section was not necessary and there were enough safeguards in place.
Chapdelaine said more clarity is needed around this issue to gain public consensus on the bill.
"Personally, I think the government needs to pay attention to those concerns. Law is a matter of interpretation. It's rarely absolutely cut and clear, so if there is enough concern, while there are different views and there are different approaches on the possible effects that Bill C-10 may have, it would be worth making sure that those concerns are being addressed."
Chapdelaine also points out the act in its current form gives a certain amount of powers to the CRTC within parameters.
"Bill C-10 would enlarge those powers, especially with respect to internet undertakings, so we need to ensure that CRTC has enough flexibility in light of constant technology, market and other changes without those powers being too broad and they need to be limited by important safeguards."
Chapdelaine suggests more protections of the viewers' personal data could be added.
"What about the personalization practices by internet platforms? The bill does not address this."
She hopes the bill is eventually passed, but after more debate and improvements to address public concerns.