Senate Hearings on Bill C-18 – A Look At Hearing 10 (Segment 2)

This is it! The final segment of the Bill C-18 senate hearing special. This covers the second hearing of hearing 10.

(Note: This hearing took place before it passed the House of Commons and Meta’s announcement that it will block news links. Comments and analysis will rewind things and pretend that the bill hasn’t yet passed along with the events that unfolded afterwards.)

Our special coverage of the Bill C-18 senate hearings at the Transport and Communications (TRCM) committee has now finally reached the final segment. It’s been a long journey to get here, but we are now on the final stretch and approaching the finish line. Late as these analysis may be, we seem to be the only ones able to provide this level of coverage of these hearings. So, for us, we are close to wrapping up another massive journalistic accomplishment.

Before we get into this hearing, we wanted to showcase the previous hearings we covered to date.

Past Hearings Covered

Hearing 1 – Heritage Ministry officials / Lobbyists (1) / Konrad von Finckenstein
Hearing 2 – Missing/Not Available
Hearing 3 – Michael Geist / Peter Menzies / Lobbyists (2) / The CRTC
Hearing 4 – Alphabet / Google / Meta / Facebook
Hearing 5 – Lobbyists (3) / Lobbyists (4) / Western Standard
Hearing 6 – Lobbyists (5) / Lobbyists (6) / Dwayne Winseck
Hearing 7 – Lobbyists (7) / Digital News Organizations
Hearing 8 – Australian lobbyists / Lobbyist (8) / OpenMedia / Internet Society Canada Chapter
Hearing 9 – Indigenous organizations / Lobbyists (9) / Lobbyists (10) / Offline Newspaper

More recently, we covered the first segment of hearing 10. That one featured two witnesses from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). The hearing wound up being rather insightful and ended up being one of the more interesting hearings to analyze.

Now, we move on to the final segment of these hearings. As usual, the video we are following can be found here. Because of the slightly off start time, we’ll note that the start of this hearing is at 19:44:25. We will be happy to provide a detailed summary of the hearings as well as some of our analysis in brackets. Also, we will be happy to provide our own thoughts at the end in the concluding thoughts section. With that, enjoy!

Opening Statements

Pablo Rodriguez, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, opened with his statement. He said that he said it before and he’ll say it again. Since 2008, nearly 500 news outlets have shut down in 335 communities across Canada. These include newspapers, local papers, television stations, radio stations, websites, and the list goes on. At the end of the day, real people have lost their jobs.

Rodriguez continued by saying that it’s also about the future of our news industry in our own country. It’s about upholding democracy because our democracy, but any democracy needs a free and independent and thriving press. We all rely on fact-based and timely news to make rational decisions to counter disinformation and to participate in our democracy and there, he would say, and he is sure that senators agree, it’s more important than ever.

Rodriguez said that the internet has dramatically changed the way we create, we search, we consume content and this is especially true when it comes to news. More and more Canadians are using digital platforms to stay informed (actually, the data says that this is decreasing, not increasing), so it’s about 77% of Canadian’s that consume their news online including 55% of them on social media (This is a classic case of cherry picking and presenting evidence without context. The data is quite clear that this is far from the most popular reason to use social media. What’s more, such statistics typically come from what appears to be questions with multiple answers. This is the minister being misleading.)

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said, our traditional news sector is in crisis (there has been little to no evidence that there is a connection between the existence of platforms and the downward trend of the traditional news sector). So, we all know that there is a big power imbalance in the news marketplace (the platforms do not produce news and are, therefore, not in the same market as the traditional media.) That’s obvious, and and the recent actions of big platforms are a clear, very clear demonstration of this (no it is not).

Right now, Rodriguez claimed, there’s no incentive for digital platforms to pay our news businesses or journalists (that’s not the job of the platforms. That’s the job of the publishers). There’s no incentive to pay them fairly (allowing news links on platforms shouldn’t require payments. This is well established in copyright law) for their content (the platforms are not republishing whole works from news publishers). So, interests mentioned has a direct impact on our ability, as Canadians, to access reliable news.

Bill C-18, claimed Rodriguez, therefore proposes concrete measures to address everything that he just mentioned (it’s based on misleading and outright false claims). It proposes and end to the status quo. This is because, in his opinion, the status quo is not acceptable. It gives digital platforms a clear road map and criteria to follow in negotiation with news companies (it also motivates the platforms to drop news links altogether, leaving the entire news sector in a much worse position).

Rodriguez said that as soon as the Online News Act is adopted, they’ll be holding consultations with Canadians. This will be very important. Canadians will have their say and this process will therefore be transparent (the process, so far, has been the government dictating their way or the highway.)

During their study, Rodriguez claimed, MPs in the House introduced key amendments to help make the bill more inclusive for start ups and more news outlets. They should also mention that the collective bargaining process set out by the bill will allow news businesses to get together and negotiate their agreements collectively (this assumes that the platforms don’t just drop news links altogether). This will, therefore, increase significantly the bargaining power of small and racially diverse companies.

As senators know, Rodriguex continued, the bill was inspired by the Australian model which they studied in-depth and which achieved fair compensation for news outlets (this claim is disputed). They borrowed from a tried and tested model (the platforms were never designated under the Australian model. Therefore, it wasn’t actually a tried and tested model) and enhanced it with other elements like transparency and with other things that are Canada exclusive. He would say, senators, because he participated in conferences around the world, Canada is leading the way (potentially to financial ruin in the news sector).

Why are we doing this, Rodriguez asked? Well, they are doing this because Canadian’s expect them to take action to protect local news (evidence suggests that this legislation actually largely benefits the largest players), but also because they expect them to do so transparently. And, to that end, an independent auditor will be appointed to annually assess the extent to which the laws achieving its goal of a fairer news environment (witnesses have complained that the annual report offers very little information and, as a result, the legislation is not transparent enough to bring trust to the process.)

Rodriguez further claimed that this will allow them to make any adjustments every year as needed. This bill, they’ve studied it (the government has ignored and outright attacked anyone criticizing the bill), they made it better, they’ve listened to what everyone has to say (this has been heavily disputed by critics of the legislation). Senators are doing an amazing job here. They’ve addressed many of the concerns that stakeholders have raised in the House of Commons study (Actually, they flatly ignored all of the criticisms of the bill and even attacked witnesses for the crime of criticizing the bill during that study) and the bill is stronger for this and stronger because of the senators own work.

So, Rodriguez claimed, the Online News Act is not a silver bullet. It’s not going to solve all of the problems for all of the challenges facing the sector, but it will give Canadian news media a chance to rebuild and thrive (this assumes that news links won’t get blocked by the platforms) in a more sustainable, fairer news ecosystem and, he said it before, the world is watching Canada and he’s having many conversations with ministers from Europe and they’re watching what they are doing now and all of them in the House of Commons, all of them in the committee here in the Senate were taking a clear leadership on this, so, he wants to finish this by asking this very simple question: will we, collectively, have the courage to stand up to the big digital platforms (it’s not bravery, it’s pure stupidity)? In looking around the table, he thinks the answer – he knows the answer – will be yes.

Questioning the Witnesses

Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain said that in the debate on Bill C-18, there’s something that comes up often and Rodriguez spoke about it in his speech. There is an imbalance of the current powers – a current power imbalance, yes. Senators have heard of the trouble negotiating with Meta and Google, etc., but they’ve always had this impression that they are helping the media. She would like to hear Rodriguez talk about the other end of this debate. What advantages are large media taking from links to Canadian media. They consider that these media outlets have value and helps bolster their bottom line. Can Rodriguez talk to Senators about the other side of this issue that is benefits made by platforms from news media outlets.

Rodriguez responded by saying that he would say that drawing in people to platforms and keeping them there is how they generate revenue. People spend time and that time is monetizeable and they can sell that time. But, what they’re selling, the news content, has value (lolwut?). The other day, he was giving an interview and somebody asked him a question. He was at CN (a rail company) and what he said there is what Senator Saint-Germain is doing here has value. The time she took to prepare has value. Time that her researchers took to prepare. The time the cameraman spends on air has value, so collectively, this is worth something and, therefore, it is only fair that that you be compensated fairly (still the employers job) – not more, not less, but fairly because what you are doing has value and it has value for the platforms. (This made absolutely no sense in the context of Bill C-18, but that’s to be expected from Rodriguez at this point).

Senator Saint-Germain said that as a supplementary question, Rodriguez carried out various consultations at various media and the current media environment, do- Rodriguez said that the status quo is not an option, do companies believe that- does Rodriguez believe that if the bill is adopted, would it meet all of their concerns and then reestablish the kind of- this balance of powers that Rodriguez talked about initially as an objective?

Rodriguez responded by saying that he would say yes. He thinks that they all agree here- he said it in his opening remarks, it’s not a silver bullet. It’s not something that will solve all ills. But, it will reestablish a kind of balance and it will require platforms to negotiate (not really. It also allows them to drop news links, meaning no negotiations would actually happen in the first place) and he would go even further. He wants to say that the platforms don’t even want to be regulated with Bill C-11 and now we see it with Bill C-18 (Bill C-11 screwed over digital first creators and it was independent creators that were pushing back against Bill C-11. Also, smaller platforms are in the process of exiting the country while larger streaming services are pulling production investments out of Canada.)

Why, Rodriguez continued, you may ask? Well, because there are no regulations to force them to do anything. It’s kind of the wild west out there (This is false. There are regulations that the platforms do have to abide by including copyright laws and helping law enforcement to investigate obviously criminal activity) and they are pleased wit that arrangement. But, he says, that’s not how society works. There are rules to follow. We all follow the rules. Everyone follows the rules around the table here. So, as a corporation, you should follow them as well (Pretty sure the platforms follow the rules of the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act already.) Our Canadian businesses do and you should as well.

What Bill C-18 does, Rodriguez continued, is re-establish this balance and gives their media outlets the ability to negotiate and negotiate collectively. A lot of media outlets are too small to be able to go to the bargaining table alone against Meta or Google. They will be able to collectively bargain and he thinks that is a great solution.

Senator Saint-Germain said that in Canada, there seems to be an imbalance between the larger media and the smaller media outlets. Some consider that too many media outlets would be covered (that is a big problem in the bill). How would Rodriguez react to something like this?

Rodriguez responded by saying that they want the agreements to help the news environment thrive in Canada. There are regions in Canada that just don’t get news. There’s some members that go back to their constituencies and they don’t get any coverage. He thinks that every member of the region has the right to know what their member is doing when they go to Ottawa, what happens when they go to Ottawa or Quebec. This bill will strengthen this fundamental element, senator. This is a fundamental element of our democracy because without neutral, non-partisan independent journalism, other kinds of information will fill that void and he believes that is detrimental to our society. (He basically completely dodged the question.)

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene said that she is going to ask a question on principle. During their study of Bill C-18, some witnesses including Rodriguez’s own department officials recognized that there is a value exchange between the media companies and the large platforms. So, content is worth something for the platforms and the fact that the content is published on platforms have value for the outlets. According to the Australian Bargaining Code, which served as a model – she’s sure Rodriguez has heard of it – Rod Simms (reference to hearing 8, segment 1) said that they will only allow the arbitrators to recognize the value news businesses provide to the platforms with no reference to the value platforms provide to the media businesses. But this position was not defensible. The government accepted that the arbitrator had to consider the value flowing both ways.

Senator Miville-Dechene continued by saying that the Australian Code clearly stipulates these agreements must consider the monetary value of the agreements as received by each party. Does Bill C-18 do the same to Rodriguez’s understanding – based on what he understands of it?

Rodriguez responded by saying that yes, well, he always says it, what they want to do is set up a bargaining table. A bargaining table is based on free negotiations and how it works is that there would be the platforms on one side and the media on the other side and they would negotiate. The platforms say that they share content on their platforms and then the media outlets will say that they do all the research work, you know, like senator Miville-Dechene. So, then, both parties will negotiate based on the situation. (That’s two questions in a row he dodged.)

Senator Miville-Dechene said that, but, more specifically, is this a fundamental element of bill C-18 or is it the fundamental element of Bill C-18 as detailed by the media outlets is the fact that they are looking for a subsidy of 20% – 30%? So, we are hearing two different rationales here. So, she would like to hear from Rodriguez, the minister, what he wants to do with Bill C-18 because there’s no definition perse. (The large media companies are after a free lunch here and dressed that up with fancy terms like “fair compensation” or “bargaining imbalance”. Understandably, we see discrepancies like that as a result.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that, no, he does not want to give a definition. He doesn’t want to talk about a percentage (three questions in a row dodged). In Australia, they got 30%, but 30% wasn’t the objective. It could be 24%, 32%, 30%, you know? He just wants the negotiations to be carried out as freely as possible.

Senator Miville-Dechene asked but what about the value of the negotiations and the information?

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, if she asks him what’s the maximum amount, what’s possible under the law, there is none (thus proving the platforms point of uncapped liability) as what will be negotiated individually will be added up and considered collectively. But, they are not telling them what they need to consider several elements because it’s not based on the number of hits. It’s based on the total value, so they are making that vague on purpose. (No secret why the platforms would rather drop Canadian news links then pay uncapped liability.)

Senator Miville-Dechene asked if Rodriguez is not underestimating the value of media dissemination? The Le Devoir said that 80% of their traffic is dependent on Google (reference to hearing 7, segment 1). So, this isn’t an obvious fix. Rodriguez says this is a kind of one way relationship.

Rodriguez responded by saying that no, there is on both sides, you know? The platforms can say that the media uses them to disseminate information and reach people.

Senator Miville-Dechene asked but how will the media come out on top? Because the value for platforms seems to be in play here as well.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, in small media, it’s the case as well.

Senator Miville-Dechene said it’s not the worth, is it?

Rodriguez said that, no, the criteria would require the small media outlets to negotiate as well. You know, currently, he’s just going to make an aside here, the platforms have agreements with certain media outlets, but almost all of these agreements happened after the government announced that it intended to legislate. When you are given a little bit of a nudge, you’ll go faster. So, these agreements have to happen – these agreements will happen with both official language communities, indigenous communities-

Senator Miville-Dechene said, but what about the value?

Rodriguez responded by saying that he’s not talking about the value. He’s talking to Senator Miville-Dechene that all parties have to sit down and talk. Getting to the bargaining table allows you to talk. Before, they would not have been able to sit down with these platforms and the media outlets can bargain collectively (talking points aren’t saving you here, Rodriguez). If you have 250 small media outlets, they can all bargain collectively to get better results.

(Yup, the senator didn’t really get any answers, there.)

Senator Paula Simons said that Miville-Dechene taught her a new word tonight, (she said the French word). She’d like to ask Rodriguez a question without nonsense. The platforms have made clear that they intend to block all Canadian news and the sharing of all Canadian news the moment royal assent is given to this bill. Google has been more oblique, but the threat they have demonstrated their capacity to do this is very real. What happens, if on July 1st, the platforms have disengaged from the Canadian news market and have ceased to share Canadian content?

Rodriguez responded by saying that that’s the way Facebook would like us to look at it, right? Because what they are discussing right now is are we going to back down because of the threats? (Question 4 dodged in a row)

Seantor Simons said that this is not a question of backing down. If they- perhaps this is a question that Thomas Owen Ripley can answer too, if Facebook blocks the sharing of links, will Rodriguez still compel them to go to arbitration?

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, firstly, he has to explain why they have to make that business decision. It’s a business decision, but they make a lot of money here. There’s an impact for them to do that – a reputational impact (that’s not a deterrent), and then, at the end of the day, if that’s the case, they’ll analyze what happens (can’t wait for that brilliant next move). They have his number, he told them to reach him. He thinks he met them in the beginning. At the beginning, he met with everyone. Facebook, Google… they never called him back, he thinks (he looked around confused) for a meeting after that, right? No? Not him. So, he told them, they have his cell phone. (5th question dodged)

Senator Simons said, but that is not her question! Her question is, this entire Rube Goldberg device of a subsidy machine is predicated on the idea that Google and Facebook are going to continue to operate in the Canadian market. Now, maybe this is a big game of chicken, she has certainly expressed to both Google and Facebook her belief that if they pull out, they will cut off their nose to spite their faces. She does not think that for them to leave is an economically mutual decision. But that is what they claim they will do. So, she wants to understand and she wants it clearly on the record, if Facebook and Google ceases to share Canadian content, what happens to Bill C-18? Do you then go to TikTok? Do you then go to the next platform down the list or do we just say, well that was an interesting thought experiment, and now we’re not going to do that anymore?

(The two platforms pull out, then the large media companies suffer greatly with the loss of traffic and revenue. The government could go down the list, but because two bigger platforms pulled that service, they will likely pull out certain services as well. There’s no happy ending here.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that, no, he thinks this- this is- this is not an experiment. It’s a very important bill. Um, he thinks that Facebook went out of Australia for a bit, then they went back. But it’s up to them. It’s not up to him to explain what- what- it’s their decision to make that. He’s not going to comment on a hypothesis and then start to speculate and then- because you know what? He’s never going to make any decision on threats. Never. Never did and never will. Never! (6th question dodged)

(It’s not unreasonable to ask about a fallback plan. If this does happen, what is the response? Is there a law that will force them to negotiate? Is there an international agreement that the government has at their disposal? What tools are in the toolkit to protect the news companies should the platforms choose to drop news links? That doesn’t require hypothesizing by any means. All that is is a basic level of planning.)

Senator Simons said that’s not really what she’s asking. Perhaps Ripley can answer the question. The bill is silent. It does not name platforms. It doesn’t have the words Alphabet, Meta, Google, Instagram, are not in the bill. The bill refers to online intermediaries. So, in the event that Facebook and Google cease to be meaningful online intermediaries in the Canadian space, would the bill then contemplate looking at Bing, TikTok, Amazon, she means, whoever the next major players in terms of Canadian advertising and news links.

Rodriguez responded by saying that they said it clearly in the bill, you have to be in a dominant position. Dominant position, right? There will be thresholds of regulations and the regulations- actually in the thresholds we are looking at, there’s only two. That’s Facebook and Google. The rest are way way far away, right? (Yeah, YouTube (2), TikTok (14), and Bing (29) probably don’t even crack the top 1,000 most popular websites out there) Very very far away. He doesn’t know why they are discussing about the threats and trying to be scared about the threats- and also, the government has options, senator (yeah, and the senator is asking what those options are). There’s other things they can do. All options are on the table. (All none of them, I’m guessing.)

Senator Simons asked what would they be?

Rodriguez said, the options? All of the options! In terms of- in terms of the advertising. Different programs. There’s all kinds of stuff that they do- that they said they need to do. Maybe they decide to increase. Those options, they will explain if they get there, but we are not there. (Yeah, lots of options. Tonnes of options! They are practically pouring out of his sleeves! Obviously, they are top secret, so it’s all a big secret! Yup, 7th question in a row dodged.)

Senator Simons said that so options would be things like putting government advertising back in local news papers-

Rodriguez said, but, but we’re playing Facebooks game. They’re discussing the threats and not making decisions based on threats with all due respect.

Senator Leo Housakos said that there is no threatening going on here tonight, that’s for sure. Senator Housakos chuckled.

Senator Pamela Wallin said that Rodriguez has already conceded in his comments that he wasn’t afraid to use a little blackmail to threaten, use the presence of the bill, to get the carriers to the table or at least in discussions. She’s got two or three questions on this. She’ll try the first one in terms of the money Rodriguez thinks is necessary to subsidize the industry. They’ve got $300 million supposedly from the platforms, although, as Rodriguez just said, there’s no maximum amount on that and it’s kind of an arbitrary figure as they just heard from the PBO (Parliamentary Budget Officer). We could see folks sitting in news organizations and posting their stories 24 hours a day just to push that number up. They’ve got $1 billion+ for the CBC and at least a half a dozen journalistic subsidy programs: The Local Journalism Initiative, Digital News subscription Tax Credit.

Senator Wallin asked, does Rodriguez have any idea: A) The cost is already on all of that, and does he see this as- is there no ceiling on what Rodriguez is prepared to give the ailing media industry to survive?

Rodriguez responded by saying that well, if Senator Wallin speaks in terms of costs – like, for example, how much would it cost for the CRTC to manage this, that is covered, the money is in the budget- (The streak continues to 8 questions dodged. This is getting kind of impressive in a bad sort of way.)

Senator Wallin said that, no, she’s talking about the other programs that we are already involved in and the kind of movable $300 million that could be anything. It could be $400 million or $500 million. Is there any limit? Does Rodriguez think they should the government and the tax payers and the platforms should subsidize the ailing news sector- is there any limit on that?

Rodriguez responded by saying that they know the amounts of the programs (there’s a lot of secrecy on that). If you talk about the- the- the tax on the Labour Force. That’s $600 million. If you talk about the Local Journalism, that’s $70 million over 5 years. If you talk about the (political?) fund, they just added $40 million. So, they know exactly how much money is investing- (The question dodging streak reaches 9!)

Senator Wallin asked if there is any ceiling?

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, yeah, those (amounts?) because they’re in the budget, so he can’t spend more than what’s in the budget gives him. (We’ve made it to an eve 10 questions dodged in a row!)

Senator Wallin said, maybe not this year, but we got the $300 million for this program, do you say it might be larger?

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, this will depend on any negotiations Senator Wallin. We don’t know, and you know what? He doesn’t want to be involved in this because he- he- as a member of the government, he wants to be arms length-

Senator Wallin said that, but you are involved in this. Rodriguez put the legislation forward. (there was talking over talking)

Senator Wallin said that she wants to bring it back. Rodriguez talked about content having value and she doesn’t disagree with that. Content has value. That’s why advertisers pay for that. That’s why consumers subscribe and they pay for it. But, even the Supreme Court of Canada says, links don’t have commercial value. So, this legislation has now created- she means it’s not rooted in the market. We’ve kind of just declared that these links have value and, therefore, people have to negotiate (Her finger accidentally tapped the microphone) over it and come up with some arbitrary figure, but there are lots of pressure points in that that aren’t realistic.

Senator Wallin continued by saying that it’s not like a consumer subscribing and saying that they value this product and so they are prepared to pay for it. There’s a lot of potential coercion in this approach under Bill C-18. So, she’s wondering if, in light of the Supreme Court, in light of the concerns and questions raised by Senator Simons, is Rodriguez concerned about where this might go. She means, the impact that it might have when it’s so- there’s no market value here. It’s not a real thing, it’s a contrived thing.

Rodriguez responded by saying, look, it’s a real negotiation that takes place between the platforms and- and- and the media. And, what he was going to say, Senator Wallin, is that for him, and he guesses for all senators too, it’s the point that they are all on the same- the only thing they are doing here as a government is putting the table in the middle where you have, on one side, big techs, and on the other side, media. Now, what they come up to in terms of agreement, it depends on them. As for the rest, as he explained, they know exactly how much they are spending. Exactly to the cent. (Is this streak going to end? That’s 12 questions in a row dodged)

Senator Wallin said that, but you are telling the platforms, and the media companies, that they have to somehow create an arbitrary value for this link process which itself, in and of itself, has no value. Content has value, but we have other ways of indicating that. Meaning subscribers subscribe. Advertisers advertise. Links are not content. (Senator Wallin is really getting into the heart of the problem of Bill C-18 here. The bill assumes that links are content which is completely false. A link to a content is not the same as the original content itself. We’re talking about two totally different things that this bill and the supporters conflate.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that, but it’s the way you access news (I’ll just head desk here now). Take out the link and you don’t access it (that’s not how the internet works. Also, can’t technically call it a question dodge as there wasn’t a question asked, technically).

Senator Wallin responded by saying that people have been accessing- that’s what the internet is. To access information without costs. That’s why it was- it was an exchange. It was an exchange place.

Rodriguez responded by saying, but there will never be a cost for you. There is no cost for the people. There’s no cost for the government (so he has never paid server costs or ISP subscription costs to know otherwise. Got it.)

Senator Wallin said, well, there is a cost for the tax payer.

Rodriguez said that it’s a market based solution (no it is not). He thinks it’s the right one. It is arms length from the government. They have to come to agreements and conclusion and that’s it. It’s the simplest bill you can have (No it is not. That’s not what this bill does and it’s WAY more complex than that.)

Senator Wallin responded by saying, but it’s not actually market based. That’s her question.

Rodriguez argued, it is.

Senator Wallin continued by saying that the market is if she decides to pay for something that she likes, she therefore subscribes to it or an advertiser puts ads in a newspaper because they like a market that offers their particular product. A link doesn’t have value and now Rodriguez is saying it must have a value, sit down at the table and figure out what it is even though it is completely arbitrary.

Rodriguez said that it’s not per link and not per click or anything like that. It’s a general value to answer Senator Miville-Dechene where they sit down and then negotiate, bringing their own numbers to the table, and a free open discussion between business people, but at the end of the day, we have to go back on what they want to do. They want to preserve a free independent neutral non-partisan press. He thinks they all agree, we don’t disagree on that, any of us, he’s sure, because that’s one of the pillars of democracy and if that disappears, all democracy disappears. (I don’t think Rodriguez is even aware of his surroundings at this point)

Senator Andrew Cardozo said that he just wants to carry on with that last point he made in terms of defending the traditional media. Rodriguez mentions his- his- his, his words are the traditional news sector is in crisis and we need to help access to more reliable news. There is some who feel that there is no role for the government. The government should stand back, these are dinosaurs (just to point this out, the term of “dinosaurs” was invented by the supporters of the bill to trivialize and minimize the concerns of the critics. They really like the word because it makes the critics much more inflammatory than they really are.) They are ailing news media, how long are you going to do this for? What if we move into a world without this and you have- won’t the other media- wont there be online media- well, they’ve heard from a number of online media. Some who like this legislation and some how don’t. Why don’t we just allow that world to develop and forget about the traditional media?

Rodriguez responded by saying that because they are not- it’s a very interesting question. We are not in a neutral situation, actually. 80% of all of the advertising money is going to two companies, right? Google and Facebook. Let’s say $10 billion. It’s 8- it’s a bit more than that, but let’s say $10 billion. They are getting all the money, um, and they have pretty much all of the tools also to control all the advertising and media placement and all of this/. So, there’s a direct impact. Right? If you create something and something else appears, it has an impact on our traditional media.

Now, Rodriguez rambled, those people, and there are a few here, they’ve devoted their whole life- they study. They make sacrifice. They built a career looking for the truth. Digging, asking tough questions, sometimes he doesn’t feel like getting those tough questions. They are tough, but it is his job. It is his job to answer them. Right? They’re doing that job, but too many of them have disappeared. So what is happening when those media that are in the centre disappears. It goes like this and it gives two media on the extreme and it’s bad for our social tissue, it’s bad for our society and it’s bad for disinformation (Yeah, he really worded himself that badly).

So, Rodriguez rambled, we need to stabilize and to make it grow again. By doing this, we are reinforcing our democracy. (He shotgun blasted a whole bunch of random comments and one of those random comments kind of, sort of, answered the question, but it was clear that he didn’t really comprehend the question. Can’t call it a dodge technically, so the streak finally came to an end with that softball question.)

Senator Cardozo said that, and certainly, we are heading into a more polarized society when that happens. The estimates from the PBO (Parliamentary Budget Officer) suggests that most of the money would go to the large players. Does Rodriguez see a way in which we can ensure that the smaller players – many of whom are really interested in this bill (that’s debatable) – ethnic media, university media, indigenous media – can we- does Rodriguez think that can be done through regulation or do lawmakers have to do something in the Act to make sure the smaller players also get some assurance?

Rodriguez responded by saying that, well, he’s not going to defend the PBOs calculations because he’s not necessarily comfortable with the calculation. He thinks that he also took into consideration what he got as information from the big media players, not necessarily from the print or the smaller ones. If you look at the Australian example, proportionally, smaller media got more money than the big ones (this talking point is the result of a lot of creative accounting at best – not to mention something that can’t be confirmed either).

The fact that to get the exemption, Rodriguez said, the platforms have to negotiate with big and small and every province and territory and ethnic media and with indigenous media and this and that will benefit a lot to the small media and, even more, because of the fact that they are allowed to negotiate collectively – so to a group. He spoke to a lot of them. The way they are grouping, getting ready to negotiate and that gets them a little more strength around the table. (Basically, he dodged the question by saying that Australia worked out well. Nothing in that answer really addressed how to ensure that smaller players don’t get the raw end of the stick.)

Senator Cardozo said that, lastly, he just wants to ask Rodriguez about the CRTC. This is a bit of a trick question because he used to be a commissioner there so a very firm answer as to what the right answer is.

Rodriguez asked if there is a right answer.

Senator Cardozo said, but whats Rodriguez’s sense about it’s ability to play a role in the bill? One of the criticisms has been that it does not understand the newspaper industry. Did Rodrgiuez consider any other agency instead of the CRTC?

Rodriguez responded by saying that they always look at what’s there, what’s available. The CRTC has the- the experience closest to this. For example, we talk about final offer arbitration, the CRTC clearly has the experience at this in broadcasting. Do they have all the expertise? No. Um, they said it clearly from the start. Even if they were to tell him that they have- they know how to do everything, Rodriguez would have never believed them. That was not the discussion. They said ‘we need this, this, and this’, so they provided them with $8.5 million in two years to put in place everything they need to- to do a good job, but it- but their job is not as labour intense as Bill C-11.

Bill C-11, Rodriguez rambled on, do senators remember this bill (way to insult the senates intelligence)? he’s sure they do (laughter was heard). It’s not as labour intense as Bill C-11 (It’s still highly questionable if the CRTC can handle Bill C-11). For that, they provided the necessary money. This is cost recovery for the future.

Senator Cardozo asked if it was politically neutral enough.

Rodriguez responded by saying that it is. He- he- he- he has nothing to say to the CRTC. He doesn’t give orders, uh, their arms length, they’re independent, and… yes.

Senator Rene Cormier said that as Rodrgiuez knows, under the Official Languages Act, the federal government has committed to the vitality of OLMCs across Canada and to support the development, it is incumbent on federal institutions to take positive measures to implement this commitment. Does Rodriguez agree that Bill C-18 – that they have studied in detail – could dovetail initially this commitment and concretely support OLMC media outlets that are considered essential to so many Canadians and regions across Canada. Does Rodriguez also believe that the bill should ensure that Google and Meta will have to reach agreements with these media outlets.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, absolutely, it is intended this way in the bill. He spoke about bilingualism and talking about his personal history. He then said that how do we ensure that at the same time that the news environment in minority communities can survive as well? Well, that’s part of the bill as well. Platforms will have to sign agreements with OLMC media outlets and these community media also has access to other programs such as the Local Journalism program which provides $70 million over five years and allowed to support 435 journalists who report to- to provide journalism to 1,400 communities. He spoke about other programs.

Senator Cormier noted about how much Rodriguez cared about official languages. He then said that this bill is critical for small media outlets who are facing bankruptcy. If this bill was adopted before the Summer recess, does Rodriguez believe that these small media outlets will be able to enter into negotiation processes with Google and Meta and does Rodriguez agree that agreements stemming from these negotiations will be enough to help these companies, given their situation. You know, there is a balance to strike here of how to support these companies – ensure those companies are supported with this bill, but how can we ensure that these media companies have enough resources to carry out their work?

(This, once again, strikes at the “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” problem of this bill. On the one hand, how can you ensure that the smaller players aren’t getting crumbs at the end of the day. This at the same time that you don’t push the financial ask of platforms so high that they walk from providing Canadian news links in this country. There is no good answer here.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that, yes, this bill strengthens the balance or compliments it. He wants the bill to be adopted as quickly as possible. It obviously depends on the senators work. He knows that senators are doing so very carefully, but the time is an important factor here. You know, there are hundreds of news rooms that have closed and more will close in the next few weeks (if that’s the case, then this bill would never have saved them). The status quo ain’t working. If somebody says here at this table that the status quo is working, well it’s clearly not working for their small media, it’s not working for their indigenous media, it’s not working for the OLMC media, it’s not working for regional media, it’s not working for anyone.

(This may sound cold, but he just made the case that the status quo is, in fact, working. Numerous outlets continued to believe that the internet is just a frivolous thing that will go away on it’s own. So, they chose to operate as business as usual with the expectation that the internet would just die out and go away on its own. That never happened and some companies refused to accept defeat on this. As a result, a number of them collapsed and went bankrupt because of an outright refusal to adapt. Instead, for them, they just chose to believe that pushing out a cheap product and expecting to get rewarded for it without actually putting in the necessary time and effort to make their media something that consumers have a need to consume. They made poor business decisions and they suffered the consequences.)

(What this bill does is say to the remaining media companies that they shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of poor business decision making. They can continue to pump out garbage on dead trees and when no one wants to read it, the government is there to punish those who were successful and order an entirely different industry to pay for their expenses. There are, of course, exemptions as a few outlets do provide a viable physical newspaper, but those are, indeed, the exception and not the rule. The bill fails to take into account why these businesses are failing and, instead, assumes that the traditional outlets can do no wrong and shore up the losses they brought on themselves. In a sense, the bill is about maintaining the status quo by propping up failing business models simply because they are just not allowed to fail because of their poor business decisions.)

Rodriguez continued by saying that any one of these traditional media outlets. These media outlets keep our democracy alive and they ask difficult questions in a non-partisan manner (Yeah, right, the totally non-partisan traditional newspapers. Gotcha.) He truly hopes that this bill could be adopted as soon as possible and then the platforms would start negotiating with various media outlets as a result.

Senator Cormier asked, is there an appetite from these platforms to negotiate? Did Rodriguez assess this?

Rodriguez responded by saying that he thinks we’ll see it when this bill becomes adopted (Yeah, I’m sure that appetite will come riding a unicorn throwing pixie dust everywhere).

Senator Leo Housakos said that, with all due respect, he is skeptical when the government says that their pre-occupation is to support and diversified local media given the fact that Rodriguez’s government spends zero money when it comes to government media buying on local press, on ethnic media, and under Rodriguez’s governments leadership, the media buying has been completely concentrated on the large traditional media outlets.

The second issue, Senator Housakos added, very disturbing to him, is the government is currently before the court of the law with Blacklocks, of course, a successful print digital platform that uses paywalls, and they’re before the courts right now fighting because the government of Canada, Rodriguez’s government, pirated their content and spread it around without respecting their paywall. So, it brings into question- calls into question the integrity of the government, the commitment of the government when it says that they want to protect journalistic content.

Rodriguez responded by saying that they have exactly the same commitment that Senator Housako’s party had during the last election. If he may, he’s going to read the platform that says ‘intoduce a media royalty framework to ensure that ensures that Canadian media outlets are fairly compensated of the sharing of content from platforms like Google and Facebook. It will adopt a made in Canada approach that incorporates the best practices of jurisdictions like Australia and France, include a robust arbitration project for the creation of intellectual property right for article extraction on social media platforms, ensure that smaller media outlets are including that the government won’t be able to pick who has access to royalty frameworks.’

(… and people wonder why I don’t support the Conservative party.)

So, Rodrigues said, that;s exactly what they are doing. They don’t disagree with Conservatives unless Conservatives changed their mind. They don’t disagree with Conservatives on the fact that they need a program that is based on what existed in Australia to reinforce it, to make it Canadian, and to make sure that the small media benefit from it.

Senator Housakos said that, Minister, the Conservative party platform was and is consistant, but that’s not his question because he can assure Rodriguez that a Conservative government would not be pirating the content of Blacklocks and distributing it without respecting their paywall. And if he can go a step further, when he was the Chair of Internal Economy of the Senate of Canada, they had made it clear at the time, that they, as an organization, and as an institution, need to respect the paywall content of Blacklocks and any other journalist. He thinks that would only be appropriate and proper.

Like he said, Senator Housakos continue, Rodriguez’s government, not the Conservative party, he’s not being partisan with the question, but the government of Canada, the whole government, is before the courts of law defending themselves against Blacklocks and the fact that their content has been pirated.

Rodriguez turned this one over to Ripley.

Thomas Owen Ripley said that he obviously can’t comment on this specific case in question which is before the courts. That said, there is a copyright clearance program that is administered by Treasury Board to ensure that news articles that are shared respect copyright and that there are licensing fees paid for those and he can assure Senator Housakos that the government and the department takes those efforts seriously.

Senator Housakos said that he thanks them for those answers, but again, it does raise a lot of question marks, but, look, he’s not going to dwell on the issue.

Senator Donna Dasko said that she guesses that some of them have been concerned, or maybe they shouldn’t be concerned, about the vast increase in the number of news organizations that are now eligible to be- to receive- to be part of the negotiations (I’d say people have a right to be concerned since the bill for platforms keeps going up). So, she thinks, the number went from around 250 to 300 to now over 650. Does Rodriguez have any concerns about the expanding number of eligible news organizations and should senators have any concerns? They, you know, may want to make amendments or may wand to add 100 to the list. Would Rodriguez be concerned about that?

Rodriguez responded by saying that they are not anything, senators (LOL! That Section 27 amendment regarding indigenous story telling and the number of staff required to be eligible would beg to differ – amendments that were added at the House level). That’s one of the things he really likes about the bill is that when he said that it is different from Australia, it’s different- a lot of it is because they are very very transparent and even more arms length. So, they are not deciding who’s in and who’s out in terms of platforms (Uh, you just said Google and Meta) and they are not deciding who’s in and who’s out in terms of media outlets (The entirety of Section 27 is the government deciding who is in and who is out). There are independent criteria’s. If they meet the criteria, they are able to negotiate. If they don’t, they’re out (hilarious watching him contradict himself in the same breath).

Rodriguez continued by saying that, so, that determines who is able to negotiate and, at the end of the day, they don’t know how many of them want to negotiate (most wouldn’t have a choice in the matter). Also, at the end of the day even more, they don’t know how many of them will reach a deal. Platforms will have to reach a deal, 100%, they are very clear with that, but as a sufficient number for every province and this an that (I don’t think that answer made any sense, whatsoever).

Senator Dasko said, yes, she was going to ask Rodriguez about that, whether he is expecting everyone who is on the eligible list to make a deal.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, no, not 100%.

Senator Dasko said, so, that’s not going to happen.

Rodriguez said, no, not 100%. Maybe some will have with one with Google. Some with Facebook. Some with both of them. That will depend (actually, the bill pretty much compels them to do so because all links must be charged, but it is up to the individual news organizations to determine if they want the money or if they want to just let the other news organizations have them).

Senator Dasko said, yeah, so, no concerns with 650, 700… doesn’t matter.

Rodriguez responded by saying that no, if they are qualified, they are qualified. It’s not up to him to say what;’s a media and what’s not a media. He would be- it would be a very uncomfortable decisions to decide who’s allowed to negotiate. There are independent rules-

Senator Dasko said, and that assumes an expanding pie at the other end.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, or not. You know what, Senator Dasko, if they keep going this trend, it’s going to be a very small pie because they are all disappearing (the process will probably quicken if the platforms don’t play ball here).

Senator Dasko said that, yeah, OK, so, the pie- if there’s more organizations that are eligible and enter deals, then the pie is bigger. The expectation is that the value is going to be higher. She means, this is sort of just logical. You have more companies and then there’s more negotiations. More money at the end. She’s just saying that 1 + 1 = 2 sort of thing.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, but again, there could be more and maybe the platforms, they decide, is good for them to have a deal with all of them, but probably, that won’t be their decision. They negotiate with some of them. As long as there’s enough, and he’s not the one deciding if there’s enough or not- again, this is a more arms length bill that could create- they’re not there. Putting the table-

Senator Dasko said that she knows, it’s just, in the other place, it expanded vastly (I’m not the only one that noted this, then) and so, that’s all.

Rodriguez responded by saying, but, but again senator, at the end of the day, if a platform decides to have a deal with such- this amount- or more or less, it’s up to them and they have to qualify or not for the exemption. As long as, as they said, it includes indigenous media, and, you know, from- from different communities media, English, French, Indigenous, that’s- that’s what.

Senator Dasko said that Rodriguez mentioned earlier that there’s going to be an auditors report at the end of each year. It’s going to, kind of, tally up the total value and it’s going to look at the distribution of the, uh, the money and whether it has fulfilled various categories. Now, her question is this: Rodriguez also said, he also said- mentioned, because the bill is part of the context that other media organizations are making deals already, outside of the framework of this bill, so, are these auditors reports going to be able to capture this data as well in the framework so that it can be able to totally- she means, she would think that would be a good thing, she just wondered if that is envisioned in the bill, because they way she reads this section, it’s not clear that’s actually going to happen. So, she was- it is?

Rodriguez responded by saying that it is true in the same way that the bills that have been negotiated before this enters into force-

Senator Dasko said the deals?

Rodriguez said that, OK, the deals, they can include it in-

(Isabelle Mondou said off camera and off mic “the presentation”)

Rodriguez said that, yeah, the presentation of the exemption-

Senator Dasko said that, so this is captured in the data somewhere.

Rodriguez said “yes”.

Senator Dasko said, like the platforms, so they will have to report on the deals they’ve made whether or not they would be deals made within the actual framework of the bill.

Rodriguez responded by saying that he thinks so, yes. (He was looking at Ripley when he said that).

Ripley said that, yes, Senator Dasko, so there’s a transitional provision provided for that acknowledges that deals signed before the coming into force of the bill could be included as part of a platforms request to have an exemption, and therefore, would be caught by the transparency report.

Senator Dasko said that that’s important because if companies are making deals outside of the framework, but yet, because of the framework because the framework is there in the background, so that would be important to know.

(I like how quickly it felt like the senators were no longer spinning their wheels the moment Ripley started speaking.)

Senator Dasko checked with her time and then said that she is a little bit concerned about the fact that the platforms are the ones that have to determine- or- an appropriate amount of money that goes toward news rooms. So, does Rodriguez have any concerns about that? Is that-

Rodriguez asked if it’s the fact that money goes to news rooms.

Senator Dasko said that, yes, the platforms themselves are the ones that are required to assess and determine that an appropriate amount of money is going to the news rooms.

Rodriguez responded by saying that, no, thy had that originally.

Senator Dasko said that so Rodriguez has no concerns with that?

Rodriguez responded by saying that they want the money to go to news rooms.

Senator Dasko said that yes, she knows that. She’s asking about why the platforms being responsible for determining this.

Rodriguez responded (looking confused) by saying that, but it’s the CRTC. It’s not the platforms that decide that. The CRTC- the media will demonstrate that the money is going to the news rooms. It’s not the platforms that- because they don’t know.

Senator Dasko said that, well, it’s not- (time ran out)

Rodriguez said that it’s not the platforms, it’s the CRTC and the news rooms that decide that.

Senator Fabian Manning said that Richard Gingras, Google vice president of news, testified (reference to Hearing 4, segment 1) before their committee on the 3rd of May, and he said regrettably, Bill C-18 could see existing support to Canadian news publishers slow down or stop while Google and others will seek clarity they need to ensure a reasonable outcome. He’s just wondering what Rodriguez’s response is to what Google’s statement that existing deals with news publishers may be threatened by the passage of Bill C-18.

(This is a very real threat because if the platforms drop news links, what’s the point of continuing on with existing deals when they will unlikely be surfaced on their services?)

Rodriguez responded by asking that they would threaten their own bill? That they would break their deals? Their businesses, he doesn’t know if they would do that, but he doesn’t know why they would want to do that.

Senator Manning said that that’s what they stated. He’s just trying to see what- if they try to do that, what…? Can government respond in any way or how would Rodriguez deal with it?

(This is a very real threat that could happen. Existing deals could be imperilled by the passage of Bill C-18.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that if they break their deals, then he’s sure that the other ones will bring them to court. If they signed a deal, it’s a commercial… event, activity that took place. They agreed on something. One of them breaks the deal, he’s responsible for that, so there’s a price, he guesses, to pay, but he doesn’t know. It depends on what’s in the deal (Go figure Rodriguesz is absolutely clueless about this).

Senator Manning said that notwithstanding the fact news outlets themselves post their content on their platforms, and they benefit greatly from increased traffic to their websites as a result, he just wants to give Rodriguez the opportunity to explain how on one hand, he’s heard governments say that the platforms are stealing content and they say that, you know, they want to stop that. Then, on the other side, they say that, OK, fine, they will not carry the content any more, and then the government goes back and says, you know, you’re kind of acting like big boys in the room or big girls in the room or bullies because you are not carrying it any more (this was one of the main points I made in my submission that there is a contradiction in the government and supporters messaging).

Senator Manning continued by saying that, so, how does Rodriguez say on one hand that they are doing something wrong by allowing the news links to be carried, and on the other hand say that they are doing something wrong by not allowing them to be carried? how do you- where’s the middle ground here?

Rodriguez responded by saying that he never said that they’re stealing the content because there was no regulation before (Lisa Hepfner sure had no problem claiming this). There was no law. There was nothing. So, you know, putting- having those content on the platforms and pay nothing was not a problem because there’s nothing in the law. That’s what he called the “wild west”. That’s the problem that they have now in which societies are transitioning. We’re going from a society where these platforms- and not even the internet existed, to a society where it exists, but it is not regulated, to a society where not only do they exist, but they will join the club and be regulated like anyone else (sorry, but platforms do abide by numerous regulations already. They abide by criminal law, copyright law, in some cases, privacy law, and probably a whole slew of other laws. They certainly are not regulation free at the moment).

Rodriguez continued by saying that so, once that happens, then (long pause) having that content without paying anything for it becomes a problem because there is regulation which is the natural normal for a government and a society too.

Senator Manning said that he knows that they are different in Newfoundland and Labrador in that, right across the country, they’re have witnessed over the past number of years and Rodriguez have alluded to this here this evening, where many news outlets have closed up – have basically run out of business. There is some concern that have been raised here in their meetings in the past in relation to the small operators outcome, not the giants in our news media, not the Globe and Mail, not the- and there seems to be a, especially if you get to a case of arbitration, where it becomes part of the conversation, and how these small outlets will be able to finance, you know, the arbitration process against the larger- the Googles and the like. He’s just wondering where the protection- he knows that Rodriguez, you know, the intent of the bill, is to protect the smaller people in the game, but he’s just wondering how… how that can happen, you know, when Google is up against a small operator.

Rodriguez responded by saying that that’s a very good question, actually. One of the ways they are trying to help them is- is by allowing them to regroup, right? Because- the… one small outlet, he knows, one small outlet from a region in Newfoundland sitting in front of Google at the same table- eh, not that fair. The fact that they’re negotiating together, that’s- that allows them to get a better- a better deal.

Ripley said that he would highlight indeed, in the case of smaller players, he means, collective bargaining is being provided as an opportunity to share those costs together and then there are provisions in the bill that specifically deal with cost sharing between platforms and news businesses for costs that may be incurred throughout the mediation or final offer arbitration processes to ensure that those costs are spread between new businesses and the platforms.

(Really, Rodriguez should’ve let Ripley answer all of the questions. It would have improved his case significantly by not saying anything at all and letting Ripley answer everything. I don’t agree with him half of the time, but heck, he’s probably one of the only Bill C-18 supporters that I can fully respect for his intelligence. Again, that has proven to be an extremely rare thing in this debate. Not afraid to admit that Ripley is a bit of an intellectual nemesis to me given how many times he’s gotten me to think deeply on these subjects.)

Senator Manning said that he knows Rodriguez touched on earlier with some of his colleagues in relation to the fact that Google or Meta decides that they’re not going to carry news content any more. He means, that’s the concern that has been raised by especially some of the smaller operators that that’s their, in a lot of cases, that’s their only outlet to spread their news. So, he’s just wondering, like, he knows he touched on that earlier but, he guesses, he wants to get a clearer view from Rodriguez, what avenues does the government have if Meta or Google decides not to carry news content anymore? Because that would be detrimental, in a lot of cases, to a lot of the smaller players in the field.

Rodriguez responded by saying that that would be detrimental to them, absolutely. That would be detrimental to the platforms also because there is lots of revenue (not really), reputational also, he doesn’t think it’s the best move. He thinks that it is a good move to act as a good corporate citizen. They’re making a lot of money here, but again, then it’s up to the government to look at all of the options in terms of advertising, in terms of putting new programs in place, in terms of increasing the funding in other programs, but, he’s not necessarily comfortable answering questions like that at this moment because, for him, for now, it’s just a threat. Are they going to do it or not? It’s a threat and he can’t make decisions based on threats. He never did and he never will. (They’re not asking for decision making, they’re asking for a plan “B” or a contingency plan. Those are two entirely different things. One is, “we are doing this” and the other is “in the event of…”.)

Senator Peter Harder said that when the Australian’s were here, they described what they felt were improvements on their program. One of which was transparency and he thinks that it was worth reminding this table the way in which transparency is enhanced through this process while protecting the contractual privacy of negotiations – and that it is not a transparency that the government owns, it’s the transparency that the government establishes. He wonders if Rodriguez could comment on transparency (my issue is the attitude that any improvement at all is “good enough”. I don’t believe the transparency provisions are solid enough to allow for trust in the system. People like us are not asking for copies of the arrangements, just assurances that the money is actually going to journalism and not hedge fund profits or CEO bonuses. This bill provides on assurances on that.)

Rodriguez responded by saying that, absolutely, first, thank you senator for all the work Senator Harder has done on this bill.

Senator Harder said that, see what you say next week. (there was laughter in the room)

Rodriguez continued by saying that thank you very much as of now. What happens, a huge- a huge thank you (thank you’s all around for blowing up the news sector! A round of applause for everyone!). Transparency is probably the biggest difference between the Canadian- their version- the Canadian version and the Australian version, and this is something super important for the Prime Minister. He can’t go into details, their secret conversations, but he can tell senators that he was not getting out of that room if there was not transparent mechanism in place. That, for him, was like EH! You have to have that. And, it’s there in many ways.

For example, Rodriguez continued, in Australia, you can- you get to have a minister that decides which platforms is involved in the process. Here, no. It’s- it’s- you have, based on a set of criteria’s they’re included, they’re not included. Again, he mentioned about which media would be allowed to negotiate. He’s not deciding this, the government’s not deciding this. The criteria’s are in place. It the- the- the- the- those media fit in the- those criteria’s and their including they’re in. If not, they can’t negotiate. That’s it. Simple as that. He’s out of there. He wants to be out of there. Trust him. He has- he has- it… the freedom of the press is so important to him that every step in this process – at every second they are working on this bill, it was the number one consideration. how can they be as arms length as possible.

The only thing, Rodriguez said, they are doing in this bill is putting a table in the middle, you set the tech giants on one side and the media on the other side and the CRTC who is independent plays- has a minor role in it. That’s it. The government has no role in it. (It’s a transparent process because a table is involved, got it.) So, that’s why it’s so transparent and at the end of the process, senators- well, ongoing- he means there’s money in their also to make sure the- the- the- bill the- the- the- the- the- themselves see the bill, but the agreements are respected, but also, in the end of- of the day, there is uh, uh, an auditor that has to submit a report on everything that happen and that is happening so that you look at it and it’s hard to be more transparent and that’s exactly what they want.

(There’s a million ways you can be more transparent than talking about physical tables. For one, you can have reports that indicate that the money did go towards the production of journalism and not to a hedge fund managers account. For another, you can have a formula in place that allows smaller players to get a proportionate deal with the big publishers. You can also have the reports occur more frequent like every quarter to better track if more money is coming from deals over time or less. Even supporters of the legislation called for some of that and the government is responding to everyone by telling them to pound sand.)

Senator Bernadette Clement said that her question is on indigenous media outlets. Her question is on the fact that the bill addresses indigenous stories as news content. So, she’d like to know as a senator, as an ally, and as a Canadian, she is very compelled by the issue of reconciliation. So, she’d like to know how Rodriguez got to the fact that indigenous stories are considered as news content.

Rodriguez responded by saying that they held consultations with indigenous leaders. He was- he’s now minister of Canadian Heritage and before he was minister of official languages, and he was very proud of his Indigenous Languages Act and, through that, he discovered a whole world for which he has the utmost respect. He- the indigenous peoples has this level of resilience and this ability to survive in their own language and for that, they need indigenous language media. He said they were going to develop Indigenous Language Act. This was for all kinds of content. Cinema, radio, and news, and this is their objective. There is a major role here to fulfill for indigenous media outlets.

Senator Housakos said that he just wanted to make a comment in terms of the brief comment he asked the minister in terms of total advertising government of $140 million last year. traditional print advertising was just $6.5 million. Ethnic print got $1.6 million while the government spent $11 million on Facebook and Instagram alone. So, he thinks, minister, they all share the objective of the bill. They want to see diversified local media, print media supported, they want to see support for our democracy. He has his reservations on the bill, but he does hope the bill achieves its objectives.

Rodriguez said thank you, so does he.

Senator Housakos said that lets cross our fingers, but the government also has to be consistent sometimes some of these things.

Rodriguez said that they’ll do it together, senator. They will work together.

Senator Housakos then adjourned the hearing.

Concluding Thoughts

I honestly expected Rodriguez to be a complete disaster in this hearing. If there was anything that qualifies under “meets and exceeds expectations”, it was that. The way he dodged questions, contradicted himself at times, offered less than comprehensible answers, and rambled in areas not really related to questions being asked, he was proving to be everything I said was pretty much accurate.

What I did find particularly striking was that, on a rare occasion, Ripley was allowed to answer the questions. Ripley hasn’t been as strong on Bill C-18 as he was on Bill C-11. At the start of the hearings, he was able to directly answer questions from senators and I remember thinking at the time that he was a bit disappointing. However, after he got stuck with Rodriguez, he came off as an incredibly strong voice for the legislation. It was incredible how quickly it felt like senators were no longer spinning their tires whenever he answered the questions. So, as I said in the middle of the hearing, Rodriguez should’ve just let Ripley answer the questions because that alone would have bolstered his arguments. I mean, I don’t really agree with Ripley, but at least getting answers wasn’t like pulling teeth like when Rodriguez was answering.

I don’t believe the hearing, as a whole, really got anywhere. There were a lot of important questions that were asked and it just seemed like we got no answers. Some might argue that the introduction of cost recovery was something interesting, but this ground was actually covered earlier on in the hearings. So, this isn’t actually new necessarily. A case of stealing some thunder? Maybe, but no new ground was really covered in this one.

So, there you have it. The last of the hearings. I, again, apologize that it took this long to complete these hearings. It took a bit more effort than expected, not to mention delays in the process, but we actually got there in the end. At the same time, I do acknowledge that I am also unaware of any other source that covered these hearings to this great of detail. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is the second hearing we covered that was the best coverage out there (the other being, of course, the Bill C-11 senate hearings). If you stuck around to the end of our coverage, I thank you for your patience and hope you got something out of these hearings as well.

Next up, we’ll offer a quick wrap-up post with links to every hearing so that the series can be conveniently linked to.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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