CBC Doubles Down, Calls for “Trusted” News Sources and Regulating The Rest

The lobbying effort to regulate free speech is continuing in Canada. The CBC is apparently calling for regulating news sources not deemed “trusted”.

It seems that the CBC is increasingly becoming a vocal opponent for free speech in the last few years. In January of 2018, the CBC joined a coalition known as Fairplay Canada to pressure the Canadian government to implement mass Internet censorship. The move was met with significant resistance both externally and internally. Of course, the effort to implement mass Internet censorship ended with a thoughtful and well-reasoned rejection.

Still, it seems that the CBC isn’t exactly giving up on the idea of curtailing free speech online. It seems that the organization, along with other major media outlets, are pushing for a “trusted” news source designation. The specifics are unclear, but the general idea is born out of so-called “fake news”. The media organizations cite Facebook and other social media platforms as being a source for this fake news. In addition, the organizations say that these platforms are continuing to steal advertising opportunities from traditional media outlets. So, in response, they are wanting to form what they call “trusted” news sources as designated by the government. From Michael Geist:

In fact, notwithstanding Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s attempts to walk-back initial comments that regulating news websites and services was “no big deal”, the reality is the regulatory structure envisioned by the panel also empowers the CRTC to require these organizations to disclose financial information, consumption data, and algorithmic information. It would also be given the power to regulate commercial negotiations between news providers and these sites and services.

Notwithstanding the public backlash against the proposals (including a House of Commons petition), there is another lobbying effort to get the government to regulate in support of “trusted” news sources. Led by the CBC, the initiative has succeeded in bringing the Toronto Star, Postmedia, Winnipeg Free Press, La Presse, Le Devoir, and others on board.

The open letter warns ominously about the impact of Internet platforms and calls on the government to establish “fair rules on competition, copyright, and taxation.” The involvement of the CBC, which over the past two years has supported website blocking, characterized Netflix as a cultural imperialist, and sued the Conservative Party during the federal election, continues to demonstrate that the public broadcaster has lost its way on public policy and the public interest.

The government has already committed hundreds of millions of dollars toward these groups (and over a billion dollars for the CBC alone) with the local journalism fund, tax credits for journalists, and a host of other measures. Yet the CBC and these media organizations apparently want more, including a link tax (which has proven unsuccessful in Europe and was not supported in the Canadian copyright review), new tax reforms that would make Internet advertising more expensive for small and medium sized business, and “competition” reforms that includes more regulation of algorithms and those that operate online.

The CBC and the news media organizations do not spell out how to determine who is a “trusted” news source, but the obvious implication is that they are the ones to be trusted and that the government should move to regulate their online competitors. When combined with the Broadcast panel report, the twin campaigns represent a massive lobbying effort by news and cultural groups (backed by the Public Policy Forum, which released the flawed Shattered Mirror report in 2017) to regulate freedom of expression online, undermine net neutrality, and increase consumers costs. The government should swiftly reject further calls for news regulation to support “trusted” sources as the effort serves as a reminder that all that trusting the CBC and self-interested news organizations on public policy invariably leads to are never-ending demands for hundreds of millions in tax dollars.

This, indeed, represents a very worrying trend in lobbying efforts by the powerful corporate interests. We here at Freezenet represent a source of independently produced news. Often, we find ourselves outperforming larger media conglomerates in producing high quality news items on a fairly regular basis. So, indeed, the first question is, who gets to be considered “trusted” anyway? If we, as a small news website, find facts that disagrees with a corporate talking point or perspective, would that mean we get placed on some sort of “naughty list” of news organizations because it represents a political leaning the establishment does not like?

Furthermore, if we find ourselves on a non “trusted” list, what kinds of taxes and additional fees are we talking about to continue operating independently? Everything about this says this is a move to curtail free speech and independent news and analysis. No matter what angle we can think of, we really can’t think of an angle which says that this is a great idea in the long run. If anything, it emboldens efforts to monopolize the news and who is and isn’t allowed to tell the stories that need to be told. Here’s hoping this is as successful as the effort to push for mass Internet censorship.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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