CRTC Clears its Schedule for Two Years to Work on Bill C-11

Bill C-11 apologists and the CRTC have long argued that implementing Bill C-11 is no big deal. The latest announcement says otherwise.

Throughout the Bill C-11 senate hearings, apologists for the then legislation and the CRTC insisted that implementing a law to regulate the internet is no big deal (insert audience laughter here). The talking point was that the CRTC is not only the right regulator for the job, but also was easily equipped to do so with resources they have. In fact, during the CRTC appearance during the Bill C-18 hearing, the CRTC said that they had the staff to manage both Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. The only additional staffing that is needed would be third party arbiters as mandated by regulations. In other words, they can totally handle regulating the internet with what they have.

Fast forward to recently and a notice published on the CRTC suggests that regulating the internet through the now called Online Streaming Act is turning out to be a bit more difficult than previously anticipated (to the shock of absolutely no one paying attention no doubt). In the notice, they have effectively cleared huge chunks of their schedule to deal with the implementation process for the next two years (yikes!). Here’s the CRTC notice:

Change to the processing time for applications and complaints relating to radio undertakings

  1. Following the adoption of the Online Streaming Act, the Commission issued on 8 May 2023 its regulatory plan to modernize Canada’s broadcasting system. The three-phase approach that was launched will bring major changes to the Canadian broadcasting system based on comments from Canadians, including licensees, associations and industry stakeholders. These changes will have a significant impact on current and future licensees, their conditions of service, and the regulations governing their activities. Implementing this approach will also require considerable resources on the part of both the Commission and the industry.
  2. The Commission examines each year hundreds of applications or complaints filed by the public or industry stakeholders in regard to radio undertakings and foresees significant delays in examining them during the modernization of its regulations. Consequently, the Commission is of the view that deferring the examination of any new application or complaint of any nature would allow the public and potential stakeholders, many of whom have limited resources, to focus their efforts on participating in the various Commission proceedings aimed at modernizing the Canadian broadcasting system.
  3. The Commission considers that it would be preferable for all to benefit from the measures and changes that will result from modernizing the Canadian broadcasting regulation framework before pursuing their regular activities. The Commission is also of the view that such a deferral will not cause any undue prejudice in general.
  4. In conclusion, the Commission announces today that it will defer the examination of any new application or complaint relating to radio during the implementation of its regulatory plan for modernizing the Canadian broadcasting system, for a period of approximately two years. Therefore, the Commission does not expect to receive any such applications or complaints during this period, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated that would justify, with supporting evidence when filing the request, the need to process them. Upon presentation of such justification, the Commission will analyze the justification and make a decision regarding the processing of the application. Such applications will be excluded from normal service standards and will be processed as time and resources permit. It should be noted that the Commission will continue to process applications for changes in the ownership or effective control of radio undertakings (asset or share transactions). These applications are therefore excluded from this information bulletin.

(emphasis mine)

Once again, the critics were right. It is going to prove to be no easy task trying to figure out how to implement the Online Streaming Act. Trying to determine what is and is not “Canadian content” (which excludes huge swaths of Canadian made content on the internet) was never ever going to be a task that was all but a fools errand. Unlike the Online News Act, the Online Streaming Act compels a huge array of large platforms into specific requirements – many of whom have no hope in doing so (such as CrunchyRoll and BritBox). YouTube alone has billions upon billions of hours of content to figure out all of this before the meddling in the algorithms begins.

Probably the fortunate thing in all of this is that the effects in all of this isn’t going to happen until, in all likelihood, 2025 or later anyway. From the sounds of things, it is finally starting to hit for the regulator that regulating the internet is no easy task. Ensuring that government approved Canadian content is being forcefully pushed onto users on such a huge list of platforms alone is going to be an extremely tall order in the first place.

At any rate, this may be the first admission by the CRTC that they may be attempting to bite off more than they can chew on this. This will inherently create a backlog of whatever they were supposed to be dealing with anywhere between today and the next two years (which may or may not include the letter I sent back in May to which I still haven’t received a response despite requesting one) – and that is assuming that things go smoothly with implementing the Online Streaming Act which is extremely unlikely.

At any rate, it is interesting seeing the cracks forming on this already. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

(via @MGeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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