CBC Finds A Couple of Podcasters to Downplay Speech Concerns in Bill C-10

It seems that Liberal party supporting news organizations are floating a new tactic to sell Bill C-10. Dig for people to downplay Bill C-10.

Throughout the Bill C-10 debates, we’ve seen media outlets employ a range of tactics to try and sell Bill C-10. Major media outlet are, of course, wanting Bill C-10 to pass because they see quite a nice chunk of cash flowing to their bank accounts. This through the requirements that large tech giants pay a chunk of cash to them simply because major media outlets exist in the first place.

When the main controversy first started blowing up, some of these outlets seemingly decided to get Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, in front of a camera to get him to explain how these whole free speech concerns were overblown and let him set the record straight. That backfired spectacularly because, for many critics, the Minister in question should be fired because of his terrible handling of this legislation.

That played out on CBC when he couldn’t even answer one single question about the legislation. The disastrous interview wound up being about Guilbeault dodging and evading questions and continually going off topic in an effort to avoid the main concerns.

So, when that tactic failed, some opted for a different tactic – utilize the staff to try and set the narrative that Bill C-10 doesn’t have free speech concerns. One instance involved the Toronto Star publishing an editorial saying how free speech concerns were just non-sense. The problem was that the article completely failed to explain why these concerns were non-sense, just that they were because they said so. Adding to that, the editorial padded the article with what ended up being misleading information on Bill C-10.

Later on, iPolitics, which is owned by the same major media corporation as the Toronto Star, tried a similar approach. This time around, they tried lumping in several debates into one package (Bill C-10, link taxes, and the online harms bill). They ended up trying to call all of this an important agenda that needs to go through and they said that they were calling the Prime Minister out for not pushing this agenda through fast enough.

Both efforts ended up backfiring pretty significantly because neither piece really made a dent in the concerns surrounding free speech in Bill C-10. Instead, both sources wound up coming out with a damaged credibility in these debates with pretty much nothing to show for it.

When the debates reached their heights as censorship efforts within the walls of government were under way, many of these media outlets employed what looked like a no coverage policy. If no one is talking about it in the major media outlets, then the controversy just goes away. That tactic too backfired pretty badly because Canadians still spoke out about Bill C-10 and the legislation now finds itself in limbo.

To be fair to the media, the Liberal party effectively handed them a fools errand: defend Bill C-10 and say that free speech concerns are fake news. When MPs vote three times to ensure this bill regulates free speech as well as a general analysis spelling this out clear as day, the facts are not and never will be on the side of journalists trying to stump for the Liberal party. What really wound up being needed is the bill to be scrapped completely and sent straight to the drawing board. The legislation, as it was, was literally indefensible.

So now, we are seeing a new tactic being employed: find people who say that the free speech concerns are a non-issue. From the CBC:

“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.

“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.”

You can almost hear the discussions that went into the making of this piece. Concerns get raised that the bill is losing public trust and previous efforts bore no fruit. Then, one reporter suggests getting creators in front of the camera saying free speech isn’t a concern. A counterargument is made that this will only cause other creators who know that their livelihoods at stake to speak out. We actually illustrated this effect in pictures at one point. Then, the conclusion is that just saying nothing is the best approach for the time being.

If that concern about creators speaking out against the legislation would be the obvious counterpoint, that concern was well founded. Back in May, we covered how creators are increasingly speaking out against Bill C-10.

So, with the legislation now in limbo, the risk of a misstep is now extremely low. So, it’s easy to see why a media outlet opted to try this anyway just to see what reception it gets. Thanks to us, they got their answer: the effort would have flopped hard anyway. If this idea to publish something like this before the legislation fell into limbo was shot down: good call. The effort was destined to go down in flames.

Since it would have been inevitable to ask about the perspectives expressed, we’re happy to address them. The issue is actually a straw man.

Let’s assume the best case scenario of the dollars being divvied up evenly amongst producers. First of all, that is an extremely unlikely scenario. When we produced our analysis and our follow-up reflections articles, the main themes in the text of the bill for independent producers was to regulate Canadian’s speech, collect as much information about the producers of content as possible, and the famous “get money from web giants”.

When it came to the funds, the legislation was about extracting the cash from the web giants. Very little, if anything at all, covered actually distributing the funds. If this was about putting the money into a pot where any producer could access it, it would have made sense that who got the funding would also get covered in this legislation. How big of a following should you have to receive funding? How does the CRTC deem you worthy of receiving said funds? Who shouldn’t get that funding if producers come asking? We didn’t see anything like that in the legislation.

If we did see this in the legislation, we would have been happy to report on it as a silver lining in this legislation. After all, we had the eye bleeding task of reading this legislation end to end, we’re going to extract as much intel from the experience as possible good or bad. So, let’s assume that when I read through this legislation that I somehow missed it. After all, the legislation is dry, dense, and long, so that’s not impossible. Those aspects would have easily been promoted by supporters long ago. They would cite the specific sections and say, “See??? This is about supporting creators! You are WRONG!” That didn’t happen that we saw.

So, if we are to assume that independent creators actually get access to the funding (brief pausing to stop laughing), then, hey, great, you get a little extra cash out of the deal. Problem is, your content is getting overruled by the algorithm because of the speech implications. Ultimately, best case scenario, you are getting paid to produce content no one will ever see or hear. This is because the larger players are occupying the results that nets the eye-balls and ears.

If thresholds are put in place (how can they not be?), then producers will ultimately find themselves choked out of the system either immediately or over time. So, you lose access to your audience, then you lose access to your funding sooner or later. Congratulations, you now have to seek work at the local McDonald’s instead.

The ultimate goal of the funding is to funnel it into the larger players bank accounts. Smaller players will very likely never get access to the funding in the first place. The last thing the larger players want is to share that free money with a bunch of nobodies like you. They will extract the cash wherever they can because they are businesses after all. Since they control the Liberal parties motivations, they will likely push to ensure that stays that way as well.

As for the point about how Bill C-10 was mishandled, one could really write an entire book of how this legislation was mishandled. It’s the equivalent of looking at the ocean and saying that you think there’s water out there. No kidding. Still, saying that the process was mishandled is an even greater concern than the implications of your speech rights is kind of looking at the situation backwards. It’s basically saying that the symptoms of the problem are a concern, but the cause of the symptoms are no big deal.

The reason why the legislation was so badly handled is because the legislation itself was terrible. With free speech concerns obviously being raised as a concern, the efforts from the Liberal benches ultimately turned to shutting down debate. This is because there is no answer to those concerns. Why do you think that things like gag orders and super motions happened in the first place? The legislation was bad, it was acknowledged as being a bad bill, and the only way to pass it from their perspective is to silence criticism of the bill wherever possible.

One question one might have is, why even go through with this piece in the first place? If the bill is effectively dead now, why bother trying to sell the legislation at this stage? This is a political question with a fairly clear cut answer. In all likelihood, the Liberals are going to win the next election anyway. This means that the legislation is destined to get re-introduced. So, selling the legislation now allows it to be more palatable later on.

One strategy clearly being employed here is to try and float the laughable idea that independent producers are going to make money off of this legislation. This was never the intent of the legislation nor would there ever be enough push to make this a reality. Still, the controversy was the problem of this legislation, so trying to sell it is a strategy being employed.

The problem with this strategy is that digital rights observers and reporters only care about the cold hard facts. So, it won’t matter if there is a huge sell job being employed throughout the Summer. Whenever the legislation hits once again, we’ll be happy to analyze it for what it is and offer conclusions on the effects accordingly. It renders the sell job in the interim useless. Even if you get a portion of Canadians on side with a fantasy version of the legislation, reality is going to kick in anyway one way or another. It did this time and will do so again.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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