Canadian Heritage Minister Says It’s No Big Deal Regulating Media Content

While discussing future broadcasting and telecommunications regulations, the Canadian Heritage Minister said that it’s no big deal to regulate news content.

Free speech advocates are expressing outrage after the Canadian Heritage Minister said it was no big deal that the Canadian government be able to control the content of news in the country. The minister has since walked back on those comments, but it has still upset a number of observers. From Michael Geist:

Over the weekend, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was asked about the proposal. In particular, he was asked about the proposal to licence foreign news sites (the example used was Breitbart but it could just as easily have been the New York Times, BBC, CNN, Fox or MSNBC). The answer should have been easy: no.

Instead of “no”, Minister Guilbeault’s response was that it was “no big deal.”

As I noted last week, the panel’s vision is to create a Canadian regulatory framework that knows no physical boundaries – the CRTC empowered to apply its power to any site or service anywhere in the world used by Canadians – and with few limitations as the regulator would dive deeply into mandated payments, what content is displayed, what news can be trusted, and what Canadians view or download. That is a big deal. It would mean establishing the most extensive speech regulation Canada has ever seen on the demonstrably false premise that doing so will level the playing field, support Canadian stories, or save a production sector that is thriving in the internet age.

The Minister cannot downplay the extreme and inappropriate recommendations on media regulation in the report. The Minister cannot avoid taking a position by stating that these are just panel recommendations and not government policy. There is only one answer to the BTLR’s extreme recommendations and it is an easy one. No.

Indeed, controlling what the media can and cannot say is no laughing matter. It is especially so when US lawmakers are already in the process of drafting the EARN IT bill. That legislation would, among other things, regulate general online speech and ban effective encryption. With so many threats to free speech already out there, it is little wonder why critics aren’t laughing at the comments at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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