Global News Interview With CBA President Fails to Address Bill C-11 Criticisms

Global News recently conducted an interview with the CBA president. Criticisms of Bill C-11 were brought up.

Bill C-11, the bill that heavily regulates user generated content, would threaten Canadian online careers for digital first creators. With the way that the CRTC identifies Canadian content, Freezenet, by our own analysis, despite our best efforts, wouldn’t even be considered “Canadian”. This despite every person involved in its operations being completely 100% Canadian. Experts, of course, agree with our assessment, saying that it is unprecedented in Western democracy that a country sought to regulate user generated content.

In our own assessments, Bill C-11 is unconstitutional. This is because it violates free speech. This is through the demoting of content created by Canadian’s in favour of traditional broadcasters on the very platforms digital first creators call home. This is thanks to provisions that require algorithms pick the content the government deems “Canadian” and promote it over all other content. In fact, we fully expect the bill to be challenged in court for these and very similar reasons.

There is a very small minority, however, who are trying to push for this legislation. Unfortunately, they are the very news broadcasters that say that they are delivering the news to Canadian’s. As a result, they basically pick and choose which stories to cover for a large portion of Canadian’s. This means that they are in the position to help shape the story to make things like Bill C-11 look more benign. They have been, of course, doing this with their shoulder on the wheel. It’s not really surprising given how much they stand to benefit from all of this at the expense of everyone else. Among other things, they are financially motivated to do this.

It’s what makes a recently posted video by Global not entirely surprising. So, we’ll do what a real news outlet does and conduct a little bit of myth busting. A video was posted on the Global News outlet purporting to be an interview with the president of the Canadian Broadcasters Association (CBA). As always, we are open to other perspectives, but also keeping things as based on fact as best as possible. We have yet to see a sound argument for this legislation, so we were curious if there was finally a proponent that offered a good counterargument for the first time ever.

The Lead

The reporter opens the interview with a lead. In the lead, she says that Bill C-11 would give the Canadian regulator, the CRTC, the ability to regulate video and music streaming services and platforms. The comment is mostly there, though it is more accurate to say that it would regulate the content of those streaming services and platforms. It’s slightly misleading, but we can conclude that this is a nitpick and chalk it up to the reporter not actually understanding the full nuance of the legislation. Something that is actually reasonably fair.

Right afterwards, the reporter said that it would “level the playing field” for broadcasters who have a long list of regulations they need to follow that streaming services do not. This was said as a statement and, as such, can be classified as misinformation. What the legislation would actually do is compel platforms to promote content that the government has handpicked as designated “winners” in the recommendations section. It’s what the legislation’s goals were with Bill C-10 in the last government and is the goals for Bill C-11. So, it’s not even news at this point. So, that myth has long ago been debunked and knowledgeable people know that it would tilt the system in the traditional broadcasters favour over digital first creators.

The reporter then quickly glosses over who critics say it is a worry for free speech and over regulation while broadcasters say it would save Canadian broadcasting. This, of course, is an odd statement given how, according to financial statements by Bell (owner of multiple broadcasting stations), revenues are up and the increase in operating costs are thanks to the return of sporting events which have come back thanks to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

So, the interview isn’t exactly off to a great start, but we forge ahead.

The Start of the Interview

The reporter starts off by asking Kevin Desjardins, the president of the CBA if he is happy. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that they are happy with it. After all, they are one of the few organizations that stand to benefit from an Internet heavily tilted in their favour.

The President then comments about how it is important to bring broadcasting rules in line with the realities of the digital age. The problem, obviously, is that this is a really broad comment regarding a highly problematic bill. As mentioned earlier, no other country in the G7 regulates user generated content, yet, that is exactly what Bill C-11 does.

The interviewer then mentions an op-ed in the Toronto Star that he wrote. She asks about the disadvantages broadcasters face. That is actually a rather interesting question to ask given that broadcasters get heavily subsidized by the Canadian government while digital first creators do not. Broadcasters can also leverage their status as a legacy platform to swing algorithms into their favour. Platforms like YouTube have already been favouring traditional broadcasters through the front pages. If anything, traditional broadcasters have actually had a massive advantage in the digital age.

The president, however, says that the broadcasters have regulations to follow while the big platforms “have no rules”. Actually, they do have rules. There’s strict copyright rules that they follow over top of the already overly strict copyright rules put in place by lawmakers. That’s just to name one way where they do have to actually follow the rules.

The president then goes on to say that the big platforms have an increasing presence in their market. He says that they compete against them for subscribers, advertising dollars, and viewers. He then says that if they want to compete with them in the broadcasting sector, that they would have to abide by the same rules. He mentions how the platforms need to contribute to subsidies that help the production sector. This suggests that the larger platforms don’t contribute to Canadian production. If that is the suggestion, then the president is wrong.

For instance, Netflix has invested in hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian content production. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Netflix on Thursday said it has met a $400 million Canadian film and TV investment commitment three years ahead of schedule.

The video streaming giant in 2017 negotiated a five-year deal with Ottawa to establish a Canadian production hub that avoided taxes and local content obligations. “We have exceeded the minimum commitment of $500 million [Canadian dollars, which is $400 million U.S. dollars] and will continue to invest significantly in Canada. Our production in Canada has grown consistently over the last several years, and we expect to continue to produce at current levels,” the video streaming giant said in a statement.

Netflix has drawn fire from local broadcasters and cultural groups for its agreement with Ottawa, sparing the U.S. media giant fiscal and local content obligations already imposed on Canadian broadcasters and cable operators.

Netflix touting its accelerated Canadian investment came on the same day CBS Television Studios is set to unveil to the local media its own 260,000-square-foot studio with six sound stages in Toronto, where original series like Star Trek: Discovery and In the Dark are in production.

That local investment comes as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other U.S. streamers increasingly make Ontario their latest home away from home for original productions. And streamers from Disney (Disney+), Comcast (Peacock) and WarnerMedia (HBO Max), as well as Apple (Apple TV+) are positioning to launch in Canada against local competition from Netflix, CBS All Access and Amazon.

So, if the worry is that large platforms don’t contribute to Canadian content, not only is that happening now, but has been happening for years.

Criticisms of Bill C-11

At that point, the interviewer pivots to the criticisms of the bill. She mentions the (correct) concerns of how it interferes with free speech. She mentions the criticism that it would give the CRTC a lot of power over Internet regulation. In the same breath, she says that the government disagrees with the assessment that it interferes with free speech (the government would be wrong thanks to Section 4.2(2)). She also says that the government says that it does not regulate individual users (this is misleading because the criticism is that it regulates users content).

She then says that one of the concerns is that the door would be left open to regulate user generated content such as podcasts and TikTok video’s. The bill doesn’t just leave the door open, but actually does regulate podcasts. What’s more is that this completely ignores the digital first creators who stand to get hurt the most by this. So, in some regard, that part of those comments is oversimplifying things. Still, she asks the president about his thoughts on it.

The president just says that some of the concerns are vastly overstated. What concerns are vastly over stated? He doesn’t say. Probably not surprising given that the president doesn’t really have much of a leg to stand on when making that comment.

The president then says that the bill doesn’t grant the CRTC any regulations that they don’t already have. That comment is so wrong, it makes you wonder if the president is even listening to anything he is even saying. If it doesn’t change anything, then there is no point in having Bill C-11. As experts have long ago pointed out, the bill categorizes large swaths of human expression into a broadcast and uses the power of broadcasting regulation to regulate that content. Quite frankly, the president’s comment is, quite frankly, false.

After that, the president says that the bill just puts up guard rails on how the CRTC uses their power to how they regulate the Internet. This, again, is plain wrong. Bill C-11 does the exact opposite. Bill C-11 directs the CRTC to basically treat the Internet like another TV broadcasting channel. It compels the CRTC to tell sites like YouTube that they are legally obligated to make sure their white list of “Canadian content” gets promoted on their recommendations. It doesn’t tell them to implement an algorithm they came up with, but orders them to make an algorithm to ensure that what they call “Canadian” comes out on top.

From there, the president adds that it is very clear that they are not regulating content. For that point, I would encourage the president to actually read the bill. Here’s one section that completely debunks his statement:

Application — certain programs
(2) Despite subsection (1), this Act applies in respect of a program that is uploaded as described in that subsection if the program
(a) is uploaded to the social media service by the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or by the agent or mandatary of either of them; or
(b) is prescribed by regulations made under sec­tion 4.‍2.

That is not an analysis of the bill. That is not a summary of what the bill would do. In fact, that above is, black and white, the text of the bill. So, as a result, we have, once again, gotten to the point of a proponents word vs the actual text of the bill. Sorry, but the text of the bill wins here.

The president then concludes that fears of free speech is vastly overstated and pushed by those who don’t want any regulation of the Internet to occur. In other words, after all that, he doesn’t really have a counterargument to the criticisms. The only thing he has to work with are incorrect assessment and false assumptions of what the bill actually does. None of that actually addresses the criticisms of the bill. Instead, he ended up continuing to show that supporters of the bill really have no way to defend this indefensible bill.

Impacts on Users

The reporter then asks about the impact on consumers. She asks if content would disappear or if platforms just have to pay more or what is going on. The president dodges the question completely by saying that this is just about making sure large platforms pay their fair share for the production of Canadian content (which we earlier largely debunked).

The president says that there is no concern about users losing access to services. That was, of course, not the question. The question was whether content would start disappearing, not whether users would suddenly lose access to their Hulu account. In fact, I can’t even think of a single instance where that was a concern ever, let alone in the interview. Yet, the president insists that he’s heard people say that. That would be news to me, really. Yet, he continues to go on this bizarre tangent about how those services are not going to say that those millions of subscribers are gone one day because of Bill C-11. So, ultimately, that is a straw man argument because that is not what critics are saying about the bill.

From there, the president says that there will be no impact to consumers when it comes to digital services. Bill C-11, of course, would say otherwise. It, again, requires platforms to pick winners and losers in their recommendations page. Who those winners are would be what the Canadian government hand-picks as winners. The losers would be everyone else including Canadians that don’t make the cut. So, instead of maybe other video’s related to what you are looking at, the law would require those recommendations to be, say, a Global News broadcast instead of a vlogger talking about the news (who you happen to be watching in the first place). That does have an impact on the users. There’s no way you can say otherwise.

After that, he goes back to insisting on how this is just all about making the larger platforms be part of the system and to “level the playing field” (both remarks have been deunked long ago).

Interview Closing

The interviewer then asks about the prospects of this bill passing. The president does take on a more realistic tone and says that you never know for sure, but they are optimistic that the bill will pass. There was the ominous comment that he hopes that there would be a few minor amendments to the bill to make sure it is fair and equitable to all players. Given how much his paycheck depends on the system being tilted in the broadcasters favour, that suggests that he is hoping to make the bill even more unfair and even more legally questionable in favour of broadcasters.


So, after all of that, we have one more proponent unable to make a valid point to support the bill. We did see a number of incorrect statements that is very easily debunked. What’s more is that we have one more proponent who has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand what the bill is, the contents of the bill, and what it actually does. We even got to use a portion of the bill’s text to completely debunk his arguments in the process. Yes, this is an individual whose paycheck depends on parroting the propaganda and false statements about the legislation, but we were open to seeing if there was a defence of this legislation. After analyzing the interview, we can safely conclude that, no, there still isn’t a viable defence for this legislation.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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