The Broadcasting Telecommunications Legislative Review panel has issued 97 recommendations to government, including a redefinition of what classifies as “media” under the CRTC’s jurisdiction and an accompanying name change for the commission.
Canada’s communications future: Time to act also recommends mandating that streaming services contribute to Canadian content production, that sales tax be collected by foreign media content providers, that CBC/Radio-Canada be weaned off advertising in favour of a more stable funding model, and that the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada be combined into a singular entity.
Under the panel’s recommendations, the CRTC would be renamed the Canadian Communications Commission and its jurisdiction broadened.
The panel recommends that the Broadcasting Act extend to “media content undertakings” which would include both licensed broadcasters and those coming into Canada by way of the internet, classified into three categories:
- Media curation undertaking – an undertaking whose primary purpose is to provide a service for the dissemination of media content over which it exercises editorial control. In this context, editorial control means effective control over the creation or selection of media content, including through agreements with rights holders with respect to its creation or dissemination. Streaming services like Spotify and Netflix would fall under this definition and would be mandated to invest in Canadian content.
- Media aggregation undertaking – an undertaking that, in whole or in part, provides a service that aggregates and disseminates media content provided by media curation undertakings, which would be subject to a levy like cable companies are today.
- Media sharing undertaking – an undertaking that, in whole or in part, provides a service that enables users to share media content for which the provider does not have editorial control but which the provider organizes or controls.
Panel member Monique Simard told a press conference, what percentage these undertakings would be required to contribute to Canadian content, would be at the discretion of the commission.
The panel also recommends a new registration model for online media content undertakings, including the payment of registration fees. Chair Janet Yale cautioned however that the CRTC would have the power to exempt certain classes of media at its discretion, including whether there should be a revenue threshold.
“Given the crisis in news, we are not expecting those in the news business to make contributions to support Canadian content…we think news production needs support as opposed to obligations from a spending perspective. We have created mechanisms so the levies applied would go into an independent news fund that would support journalism and news,” noted Yale.
The panel recommends a re-focused CBC mandate that “should pursue a diversity of media content to reflect Canada’s own makeup and not focus just on lucrative mainstream audiences. This should include a mix of genres and not preclude categories such as entertainment content, in which CBC/Radio-Canada can make a significant contribution to the expression of Canada’s national identity by connecting Canadians and enabling them to tell their stories to each other and to the world.”
It also recommends a gradual departure from the public broadcaster’s reliance on advertising and a move toward more stable, longterm funding that would be negotiated between CBC/Radio-Canada and the government in five-year increments. The CRTC would oversee performance commitments and report to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Enshrining the right to a free and open internet
“All of our recommendations are rooted in the belief that Canadians deserve a connected life, but making that a reality means a communications infrastructure that is safe, accessible and affordable,” said Yale.
Among the panel’s telecommunications recommendations are more efficient rollout of broadband and 5G networks, with Yale noting the ongoing challenge of broadband expansion in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
“The federal government must step in and ensure these communities are not left out or left behind,” said Yale. “We would like to see the government commit to 100% broadband coverage by the year 2030. We also recommend the ISED minister submit an annual report to parliament on the progress of broadband deployment.”
Time to act
Of the 97 recommendations, Simard said three of the recommendations are quickly achievable: collecting GST/HST from foreign media content undertakings, a fast-tracking of the federal government’s broadband access plan and embracing the new definition of what classifies as media, so the CRTC is in a position to act.
“This is a process that belongs to the government and depends on how fast the government wants to move,” said Simard, in French. “The title of the report is quite clear ‘time to act.’ We’ve lost a lot of time. The digital world has completely transformed the world of media and Canadian culture, so our editorial message is they should act quickly.”
Subscribe Now – Free!
Broadcast Dialogue has been required reading in the Canadian broadcast media for 25 years. When you subscribe, you join a community of connected professionals from media and broadcast related sectors from across the country.
The Weekly Briefing from Broadcast Dialogue is delivered exclusively to subscribers by email every Thursday. It’s your link to critical industry news, timely people moves, and excellent career advancement opportunities.
Let’s get started right now.