CRTC Ignores Freezenet Reporter After Claiming to Have an “Open Door Policy”

During the senate hearing on Bill C-18, the CRTC claimed to have an “open door policy”. It was more like a “do not disturb” policy.

More than a week ago, we published a summary and analysis of the CRTC’s appearance in front of committee discussing Bill C-18. During that hearing, the CRTC told senators that people are encouraged to contact the regulator to voice their concerns, offer suggestions, and ask questions. They said that they have an ‘open door policy’ in that regard. So, we were more than happy to put that to the test.

We went onto the CRTC website, filled out their online contact form, ticked the ‘request for followup’ box, and sent the following message:

Hello. I would like to express some of my thoughts, questions, and concerns regarding Bill C-18. I created a small news website,, and it looks like Section 27 would exclude my website. 27(1)(b)(iii) notes that the news organization should not focus “on a particular topic”. If my website reports news on technology, copyright, and digital rights while reviewing and documenting music and video games, does that trigger that particular provision for me to be excluded? Separately, I worry that the bill doesn’t seem to ensure that any funding that gets redirected to news organizations would actually go towards journalism. Is there anything stopping a news organization executive from, say, receiving the funding, laying everyone off, shuttering the business, and spending the money on themselves (or the funding gets placed on executive bonuses or sent to hedge funds) rather than spending that money on creating new journalism positions or upgrading old equipment for journalists for instance? It strikes me as a better idea to tie receiving funding to new spending on actual journalism and if funding doesn’t go to such expenditures, then the funding should be reimbursed with interest back to the platforms/DNI’s. One idea is for news organizations to give a general receipt of where the money would be spent on somewhere along the line to show that this will go to bettering journalism in this country rather than being, say, embezzled. Also, if you have any helpful advice on, say, what government programs are available for a small online only news operation like mine so that I could, one day, have the financial ability to hire enough staff to qualify under Section 27(1)(b)(i). It is only myself doing everything at the moment, but I have dreams of making this news website into a much larger news organization to help better understand technology and its impacts on law, culture, and more in a politically neutral manner. Thank you for your time.

As we noted at the time, the form didn’t allow for separate paragraphs, so it had to be sent in one large single paragraph. Not ideal, but what can you do in that situation?

At any rate, the message was sent on the 7th. So, more than a week ago. We wanted to give it a week, but we realized that the message was sent on a Sunday, so no one would likely be in the office the day it was sent. So, we waited an additional day for added fairness. We then reported on the bankruptcy of Vice Media Group and decided to give the CRTC that extra ‘wiggle room’ to respond. Today rolled around and we still hadn’t heard back. We checked the spam basket for good measure, but nothing turned up.

Well, so much for an “open door policy”. For smaller journalism outlets, it appears to be more like a “do not disturb” policy more than anything else.

Of course, this raises a number of interesting questions. This is the regulator that said that it fully intends on regulating the entire internet – a fools errand to be sure. During their appearance surrounding Bill C-18, they said that they have the manpower to regulate the internet with Bill C-11 and already have all the manpower they need for enforcing Bill C-18. So, you’d think this same regulator would be able to handle something as trivial as a simple message asking questions. Apparently, that isn’t the case. If you have questions or concerns about Bill C-18, sorry, but you are going to get put on hold.

Now, this isn’t even the first time a governmental organization has failed a simple test like this. During the Bill C-11 hearings, the Canada Media Fund made wild claims that they were looking for creators and went to the extreme of contacting YouTube to tell them where all the creators were. They wanted to contact them to find out how they can financially help them. So, in response, we cut out the middleman in this and contacted the Canada Media Fund directly, asking if we should apply for their ‘experimental fund’. After all, we have our own YouTube channel and someone like myself would be exactly the kind of people the organization was looking for.

As you can more or less gather, that attempt to contact the Canada Media Fund ended with the organization ghosting me. It was kind of amazing how much they didn’t want to hear from creators once they aren’t in the presence of senators.

So, to some degree, it probably isn’t a surprise that a journalism outlet such as ours would get ignored by the CRTC – a regulator that may soon also be tasked with regulating the news you read online as well. After all, we’re probably not important enough to even be dignified with a response, so why should the CRTC even bother reading messages from losers like small time journalists like us? Small journalism outlets aren’t that important to begin with.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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