Senate Hearings on Bill C-18 – A Look At Hearing 3 (Segment 2)

We continue with the second segment of hearing 3. This is part of our special coverage of the Bill C-18 hearing.

The special Bill C-18 coverage at the TRCM (Transport and Communications) committee is continuing. The hearings are proving difficult to analyze quickly simply because there is so much coming out of these hearings in the first place. Nevertheless, we are moving forward with the second segment of the third hearing.

Before we get into that hearing, though, we wanted to showcase the previous pieces of coverage of these hearings:

Past Hearings Covered

Hearing 1 – Heritage Ministry officials / Lobbyists / Konrad von Finckenstein
Hearing 2 – Missing/Not Available

The first segment of this hearing can be found here and it featured some big names in these debates. So, if you haven’t checked out that part of the hearing already, then it’s definitely recommended.

The video we are following with these hearings can be found here. It is the second half of the video where this segment starts. So, let’s get right to it!

Opening Statements

Scott Shortliffe started with his opening statement as part of the CRTC. He said that if it received royal assent, Bill C-18, the Online News Act would establish a new framework with online news businesses who enter into news agreements in regards to news content that is made available online. Those agreements would also need to respect journalistic independence and provide for investments in a diversity of Canadian news outlets. Should parties be unable to reach agreements on their own, they may turn to mediation or binding arbitration to resolve the impasse.

Shortliffe continued by saying that the CRTC would be present to perform a number of functions. They would asses which platforms would need to negotiate and which news outlets would be able to negotiate under the Act. He went on to talk about other obligations including producing an annual report on the Act’s impact on the Canadian digital news market.

From there, Shortliffe commented that the CRTC has been preparing for this legislation should the government choose to enact this bill. He spoke about the infrastructure that the CRTC has put in place in preparation for enforcing this bill. It’s worth noting that these deals aren’t going to happen over night. He said that the CRTC is still in need of feedback from news business on how to go about this new regime. The CRTC will base its decisions on public consultations, and that will take time. (Interesting, so this will more or less follow the blueprint of Bill C-11 – at least from the CRTC consultation process side of things. Also, this has ‘I’m ready to hear you out, but my mind is already made up’ vibes for me.)

Shortliffe said that they are being asked to oversee commercial agreements. They are not being asked to regulate the news industry (no, but you are being asked to regulate the internet. Tricky language, there), nor to determine what news Canadians will see or how they will receive it (it will, however, create market distortions designed to put further pressure on smaller players, however. So, that is an indirect way of doing this – running smaller players out of business while funnelling cash to the larger players.)

(So, right away, we are seeing instances of somewhat misleading statements. That’s not really a good sign for this hearing in my personal opinion.)

Questioning the Witnesses

Senator Julie Miville-Dechene noted that the CRTC is ready to react, but at what point, once royal assent is granted, will you be ready to conduct arbitration because we are talking about 650 media in all identified in the bill and some of them are very small organizations. (Whoa, whoa, whoa, we aren’t even anywhere near the start of any negotiation process and we are already talking about final offer arbitration? Seriously?) As far as she knows, the CRTC doesn’t have and arbitration experience. The regulator has experience in other fields, but not in this field. So, what can we expect in terms of a timeline because some of these small outlets can die before they even had a chance to be heard by the CRTC which, in the past, has taken quite a long time to render decisions. (Years. It will take years before this even has a hope of being implemented and enforced. Besides, this bill is definitely not about “saving” small media organizations in the first place. That was always just a cover for the larger media outlets.)

Shortliffe responded by saying that it’s important to understand that for arbitration, we would have to have a public hearing in order to determine the definitions. That takes a certain amount of time and he can’t be specific as to how long that would take (Yeah, I agree. There’s no way to put a timeline on all of this. You have hearings, implementation processes, international trade retaliation from the US, the inevitable lawsuits, etc. You’re never going to be able to look into a crystal ball and brand the end of the bill with a date of when all of this is enforced.) After that, they can begin the process, but there are various steps.

Daniel Pye commented that there are various steps that need to be taken. So, there is consultation with the public, then the commission will render a decision about certain aspects under the bill. Once the decisions have been finished, then there are regulations that would have to take effect.

Senator Miville-Dechene asked if this takes months or years.

Pye responded that, usually, the process for public consultations, giving decisions and the regulation process, which, at minimum, would take one or two years. (Man, I’m good! The Senator, not surprisingly, didn’t look exactly thrilled by the answer, but it was an entirely expected answer.)

Adam Balkovec commented that he would like to refer Senators to section 93 of the law. The coming into law is quite complex. They have to wait for the governor in council respects the regulations before they can put their regulation in process. So, they think there is an opportunity to simplify the effect of coming into law in order to give more flexibility to the commission for the implementation of the law.

Senator Miville-Dechene asked if they can propose something that is specific because she’s been looking for because she’s read Article 93 ten times and it’s giving hear a lot of trouble.

Balkovec offered a written submission for how things can be more flexible for the commission.

Senator Paula Simons commented that Shortliffe noted that it is not the CRTC that will be regulating the news itself, but only to supervise the negotiations. However, she wanted to turn to Section 27(1)(4) which says that in order to determine an eligible news organization, the Commission will decide based in part on having a code of ethics and standards of professional conduct which, she knows to her colleagues in broadcasting may seem normative, but which is an (didn’t catch that word) to a lot of journalists who do not believe that the government, the state, the crown, should in any way be regulating the ethics of newspapers. She is wondering how they square that part with Section 27 with their previous comments.

Shortliffe responded that he thinks their interpretation of Section 27, assuming that it passes as written, is that it they are meant to assure that it is a viable journalistic organization. They’ll have to get precise on that as part of their consultations. Their understanding of the intent of the bill, though, is that they should not be interpreting that in such a way that limits news for applying or it limits applications (yet Section 27 is quite limited when we are talking about online news outlets, go figure). The point Senator Simons raised about news organizations may come to them and say that this would be a limiter to them being able to apply, he thinks that it a valid point. It could be raised in front of them. He’s assuming that it will be raised in front of this (August?) body by people testifying for it.

Shortliffe continued that, but their understanding of it is that there should be clear definitions, they should be neutral in how they should apply, and that they should not be written in such a way that their included or excluded in particular kinds of news organizations as long as that news organization shows that it is a viable news organization (Man, that is some really slippery language that could mean anything.)

Senator Simons said that viability is different then credibility.

Shortliffe apologized and said that he meant a credible news organization. That’s a better word (hilarious because that term can be more easily abused). Again, their understanding of the intent of the bill is that a credible news organization is most clearly defined by Section (a). The government decided to bring in section (b) which, quite frankly, puts the onus on them to define that. Because their role is to administer this, which is very different from, say, Bill C-11 where they are interpreting a policy, frankly, the more concrete measures they have in the bill, the less they have to interpret or they are required to interpret, the better. This is because this is not a bill that asks them to administer a policy, it’s asking them to administer a process.

Senator Simons noted that Meta and Google have indicated very publicly their displeasure with this bill. There are parts of the bill that say that you have to make sure there are parts about fair dealing, that content is not being downvoted on the basis of whether or not it makes Google and Facebook happy. So, she’s wondering how they are going to conduct that algorithmic analysis to see whether news is being suppressed improperly and is there going to be enough independence and transparency in figuring that out?

Balkovec said that he’d point to Section 52 of the bill. That’s the undue preference provision. That would be the tool that the commission would envision using to deal with that sort of problem and he’d point out that the news organization would need to make a prima facia case of undue preference and, from there, the onus would shift to the platform to then demonstrate that there was no undue preference. They think that this would allow that sort of analysis to take place rather than the commission to tinker with the algorithm. It would be on the platform to demonstrate the context and show that this is not retaliatory, but rather, part of the normal course of business. (Basically, wait for someone to complain.)

Senator Simons said that so this would be entirely complaints driven. The onus would not be on the CRTC to monitor algorthmic guiding of results.

Balkovec referenced Senator Miville-Dechene and said that the CRTC does not have the ability to inquire into this sort of thing on its own motion. That’s an example of the type of flexibility that they think would assist in the implementation of the bill to allow the commission of its own motion to look into matters within its jurisdiction such as matters of undue preference.

Senator Simons commented that she would imagine that, for a smaller news organization, it would be difficult to make that prima facia case to access the back end of the algorithm (that is actually a good point). How do you know you are being suppressed, she feels like this is becoming the Monty Python skit of ‘help help I’m being repressed’, but suppressed if you don’t have the analytical tools to discover?

Balkovec responded that he would also point out that it would be consistent with the commissions mandates under the Telecom and Broadcasting Act to do that sort of thing of its own motion as well and, perhaps, they could assist Dennis the Peasant in that given example.

Senator Rene Cormier said that he wanted to talk about Article 51 and Article 6. Given the evidence of Konrad von Finckenstein (reference to Hearing 1, segment 2) who was expressing some concerns about this. Section 21 allows an eligible business to formulate a complaint if it feels unjustly discriminated, so they present content as a function of an algorithm so there is a discrimination of what the algorithm offers. Do the witnesses have any concerns about the number of complaints the CRTC might receive in relation to this issue? What is the CRTCs view of the potential number of complaints?

(Talking about algorithms and preferential treatment of search engines was definitely not a direction I expected things to go in these debates.)

Shortliffe responded that it’s difficult to foresee because they only have experience with part of the industry which is broadcasting, but not the other part which is the written press. Now we have a lot of experience with undue preference, not a huge number of cases because it’s not necessary that a party has a case where there is a certain amount of evidence where we can say there it is not enough to have preference. It’s OK to have preference. It’s necessary for them to have a framework about what is and what isn’t undue preference and to put that into application. It’s really difficult to anticipate because, frankly, it’s a new bill. They have internal resources and they are ready to react to this.

Senator Cormier said that, but through what kind of process that the CRTC will be determining if it’s undue or not?

Shortliffe responded by saying that he cannot specify that now because it will be the result of a public hearing.

Balkovec said that he could give an example with telecommunications. In the 2010’s, they held a hearing in order to create a regulatory framework that would explain how certain practices of what they would call ‘throttling’ are a violation of a similar section in the Telecommunications Act. There is a similar section. So, they examined an example in the industry of throttling. So, they now have a policy that governs that situation that they could do something similar in this bill.

Senator Cormier said that in terms of Section 6, the field of application announcing criteria so that the law would be applicable to various organizations. Konrad von Finckenstein said that there should be a certain level of income to see if a news outlet would corresponds to the criteria. What does the CRTC think about this issue?

Shortliffe responded by saying that, as he’s already said, he could accept the bill that was given to them, but his preference would be to have more specifics because there is always the question of the leeway that they have. So, when there are many questions for clarifying or asking for new definitions in the bill, it means more questions at the public hearings and so, the decisions happen later. So, if there are more things that are specifically expressed would help. He must say that the Canadian government has the possibility of bringing in regulations. He hasn’t seen the regulations proposed by Canadian Heritage, but this might add more specifics for article 6, but if there are more specifics, it makes the CRTC’s job a lot easier.

Senator Pamela Wallin said that one of the concerns raised by their discussions around Bill C-11 (our full coverage here on those hearings) was the power of the government to direct the CRTC as opposed to the CRTC being really an arms length body as it was originally conceived. She was told by sources close to the matter, shes not expecting them to confirm or deny it, that there is almost daily contact between the leadership of the CRTC and the ministers office about this bill and how it is proceeding. That troubles her greatly. So, if it’s true, is the CRTC having at least the same kind of contact with the players on this field directly on an ongoing basis with the streaming services, with others that are impacted. (I can definitely say that I’ve never had contact from anyone at the government about this, asking for my thoughts.)

Shortliffe responded that he can absolutely address both parts of that. He said that he’ll actually mention one thing that occurred to him when he saw some of the testimony. It’s interesting that Bill C-18, unlike the Broadcasting Act, there is no policy direction directly from the government (whoa! OK, yeah, that’s different.) That is a substantive change. As to contact between their various offices, he can’t speak to the Chair’s office, he doesn’t believe she is in daily or regular contact with the ministers office. Obviously, he’s not the Chair, so he cannot speak for her. He can say that at their level, they have ongoing contact mostly on technical issues. Mr. Balkovec said that they’ll provide an undertaking with concerns of the bill, they will provide those with their colleagues at Canadian Heritage. What they don’t do is try to engage with them about what the policy should be because that is their business. What they don’t allow them to do with the CRTC is tell the commission about how to approach it. They do have contacts.

Shortliffe continued that in terms of news media, he’s met with broadcasters, he’s met with newspaper publishers. Until this becomes law and they start public consultation, they’ve taken an open door approach. If someone wants to tell them their view the bill, they are very happy to hear it. (I’ve heard this comment with the Canada Media Fund and I very easily debunked their comments on how ‘open’ they really are. I’m tempted to see if I can make a second Canadian organization regret saying that.) The CRTC won’t necessarily tell them what to do with it, but they are free to come in and tell them what their views are and what potential issues they see. So, yes, they have ongoing contact with Heritage, but he thinks that it is at a fully appropriate level, respecting their individual responsibilities and they have had contact with parts of the news media where they have expressed their concerns and hopes for the bill.

Senator Wallin asked, ‘what about the streaming services?’

Shortliffe responded that he has not engaged with the streaming services. It’s interesting that he has appeared at a panel with them at a conference last year. He was there to describe how this bill was different from Australia. His discussions were limited to ‘hello, how are you’ and ‘nice to meet you’ and they did not have any substantive discussions. They haven’t approached them. that would be an interesting discussion to have, but they have not asked him to have a detailed discussion of this bill and they have not had one.

Senator Wallin said that one of the reasons she asks is because they have these bills in front of them. They have need of dozens and dozens and dozens of amendments, and perhaps they would have a better process if some of that was involved before bills were drafted. (Yeah, actual proper consultations would be nice, but the House of Commons don’t really have such a process these days, it seems. Just partisan attacks of anyone daring to criticize the government before being promptly ignored.) As Senators have heard from Konrad von Finckenstein, and others, the CRTC, at present, does not have the capability to deal with these two massive bills and whatever form this bill comes out as, so there would be contracting out in order to build the internal infrastructure. Has the CRTC started any of those contracts? Are they have a (Mackenzie?) around building this? At what stage is the CRTC at?

Shortliffe responded that he must, with great respect, disagree with the former chairperson. In fact, they are not anticipating any contract around Bill C-18 except for the two parts that are required in the structure of the bill which is that they have to have outside adjudicators and they have to have an outside auditor at the end. Otherwise, Mr. Pye has been building a team. They’ve started a work plan with all the pieces that are required in the bill. They believe they can do this with staff and resources that have been assigned to them. They do not believe they will anticipate any contracting around this bill. (Yeah, I’ve reported on the problems that cropped up in Europe surrounding the GDPR and the big problem with it wound up being manpower issues back in 2019. Even when the task seems to be a simple one, when it comes to regulating the internet, never, ever, ever, assume that such a task is going to be a small one. This is a recipe for getting very overwhelmed very quickly – especially when the CRTC is having to take on regulating the entire internet with respect to the recently passed Bill C-11. If I was working at the CRTC right now, I would probably make it a habit of wearing brown pants to work because the regulator is about to wrap themselves around the telephone pole of volume in a very big hurry once both of these bills start to take effect. It’s only a matter of time before those employees realize how screwed they are. Want to regulate the internet and wondering how many employees are needed? Well, think of a number and the answer is that you need way more then that.)

Senator Wallin asked, ‘no additional hiring to deal with C-11 and 18?’

Shortliffe responded that there has been additional hiring in the federal budget for 2022. They gave them $8.5 million over two years in order to set up Bill C-18. That is how he was able to assign Mr. Pye to start building a team. The idea is that, eventually, that would be replaced by fee recovery. There is also additional hiring around Bill C-11, but there’s no contracting out on Bill C-18.

Senator Andrew Cardozo said that he has a few questions about how things would roll out. First, as he would expect at this stage of the bill, there should be some contact between the Ministry and the CRTC to make sure you do what they are expecting you to do. He would expect them to say that this is what we want you to do. You do it or you would have a discussion about it. From his time, he recalls that there was very strictly no action between the ministry’s office or MPs or the public or industry and commissioners around issues that are before the Commission. So, when the CRTC is dealing with submissions, the CRTC would not expect the ministers office, at any time, to be saying ‘can you do this one quick’ or ‘can you let this one through?’ So, that’s his first thought. Second, in terms of Section 93, as he is reading this, it seems like it would be quite a while before that goes into effect fully. Third, if he could tell Senators how regulations are made, does the CRTC put out draft regulations for feedback or does the CRTC just ask for feedback totally open or how does that process work?

Shortliffe responded by saying that, first of all, he never deals with the minister’s office. They don’t see that as appropriate. They do deal with the heritage staff. when the bill became public, they had some technical concerns. They are not questioning the policy, that is the government’s role. They have interaction with them, but they have never spoken to the ministers staff. They have not spoken to MPs about it. Frankly, they don’t see that as appropriate. They see it as appropriate to interact with their colleagues, and to only interact on the level of they are trying to understand what is the governments intent and how they can make it better, but they are not engaging in a dialogue, for example, to say, ‘oh this would be better if it was a fund’ because it’s not their place. Their place is to take the legislation that is given to them, just to departmental officials. So, they are limited in that way.

Shortliffe continued by saying that something to bear in mind is once the bill is passed, DNI’s and news organizations couldn’t seriously signing deals immediately. They are not limited, well, they probably want to wait and see what their regulations are, but in theory, they could start immediately and, once the regulations are passed, a DNI or Google or Meta or another DNI who qualified, could come to them and say that they are going to start the exemption process quickly. So, it’s not that they necessarily have to wait for the entire process before there are any news deals with news organizations and, of course, they know some deals with news organizations are (didn’t catch that word).

Balkovec said that he’d give section 49 and 50, the Code of Conduct, as an example here. As it stands, the Commission needs to set up, but regulation, a Code of Conduct. The regulation making process, the commission makes regulations regularly. It’s able to do it. They would say that the process is prescribed fairly inflexible. The Statutory Instruments Act governs a lot of that. So, the Commission would usually have a public consultation from some draft regulations, then the Commissions sends those to the Department of Justice to have those examined as a requirement of the Statutory Instruments Act. That is a potential issue because it takes the timelines out of the Commissions hands in that case, once the draft regulations leave the building. They would get those back, publish them again for further comment to see if any amendments are needed to be made. Then, only after that second consultation, finally make those regulations. They would suggest that it may be possible that the Commission may move a bit more expediently if this Code of Conduct could be made by some other means, Commission decision for instance. (Time expired.)

Senator Donna Dasko said that she had some very important questions, but she can’t let this topic of throttling go by without explanation – especially when it was raised about undue preference. She asked about throttling (I’m guessing she thinks it has to do with algorithms and platforms, but I believe the throttling is in reference to internet connection speeds during the reign of BitTorrent.)

Balkovec apologized because he sometimes forgets that he’s not always speaking to other telecom nerds. He went on to talk about throttling of internet connections and confirmed what I figured he meant.

Senator Dasko said that they often focus on algorithms and how algorithms work and how it might involve some sort of undue preference. OF course, companies use algorithms all the time and they change them. Algorithms are not fixed by companies. They are flexible, they change, and so on. Is this considered a normal side of business? (Yes.) This especially in the way that the platforms profile links.

Balkovec responded by saying that these are all excellent questions and those are precisely the sort of questions that- why the Commission would have a public hearing, looking to flesh out some of the answers to those questions in a public and transparent setting.

Senator Dasko asked what the considerations be. If this is normal business, then this is normal business. It’s allowed?

Shortliffe responded by saying that they think that they do see it as normal business. Again, they would have to have a public record, but, taking a purely theoretical example, if you have negotiations that are going on, anyone who has signed a deal suddenly saw their impressions go up 100% and anyone who is still in negotiations saw their references drop off to 0, you would probably have a case of ‘well, someone is using their market power to favour who they’ve signed deals with and disadvantage the ones they are still in negotiations with as a negotiating tactic.’ That would be a case of someone needing to come in and say that it’s not just a question of preference, but a question of undue preference because you are trying to use it to destroy competition. When they deal with undue preference cases now in the broadcasting sphere, those are the kinds of metrics they are looking at. Not that you have selected, for example, one channel, or carry one channel and not another, but if you go, for example, to a channel you directly compete with with assets you own and say that you suddenly need to take a 70% cut to stay on our BDU, that looks like an undue preference because, suddenly, it’s not just the normal course of business.

That said, Shortliffe continues, algorithms change all of the time. Their job is to not try to tweak algorithms to determine how people get news, and the other thing is news businesses rise and fall. There may be a newspaper that is very relevant to its readers, has a change in its outlook reportage, and two years later, it is less popular. That will happen. This is not meant to backstop this. This is meant for where you would see an egregious case of- (time ran out.)

Senator Bernadette Clement said that she had a followup to the question about resources. The CRTC has Bill C-11, potentially Bill C-18, they talked about internal resources. (The Senator went too quickly from English to French to English and inadvertently got a small part of her comments cut off in the process) -successful here if this all goes through here. She heard their answers, but she’s wondering what more did they need. Balkovec talked about flexibility and how they may need more of that. What would the CRTC need in terms of supervising and what it needs to do around these two pieces of legislation. Second, with other comparison country models, apparently, Bill C-18 gets transparency a bit better in the transparency of the agreements, but did they go far enough? Do they have an opinion on Bill C-18 vs other country models?

Shortliffe responded by saying that they have to be cautious because they don’t want to comment on whether or not the bill is the right approach or not. That is Canadian Heritage. They will say that, in speaking to their colleagues in Australia, including to their regulatory colleagues, this bill provides for much greater transparency. We will have a much greater understanding of what is happening than their colleagues in Australia. He thinks that will be useful, especially when they get to questions like undue preference which are inherently complex. He think the public reporting measures say that they are able to track, year by year, is certainly something that would improve on the Australian model. Frankly, when they speak to their colleagues in Australia about how much the bill is worth, they have estimates, but because all of the deals are private, they cannot actually tell us what the value of the Australian model actually is.

Shortliffe continued by saying that, in terms of the resources that they need, and they will provide some material on what they need, Bill C-18, he thinks, they are quite comfortable that they have the right model. He turned it over to Pye.

Pye said that at this point, there’s been the creation of a dedicated team to Bill C-18. The team is in place. For the time being, the team is focused in on the implementation phase of the Act. Once they have additional clarity on royal assent, at that point, they will proceed with further resourcing of the team to ensure that they have the staffing to make sure the administration of the Act in an efficient and effective manner. At this stage, they got- the team is there, the work plan is in place, the capacity is there. The capacity is not an issue at this point and they have the funding to ensure that that capacity ramps up in a manner that is necessary to execute their mandate of the Act. So, from that standpoint, from a resource standpoint purely, they are in a good position.

Senator Leo Housakos thanked the panelists for being there today. He asked them to take a message back to the CRTC chair a message. It’s been over a month since the invitation was sent and they do feel that she is the one who is accountable for the CRTC. She is the one who will be interpreting this piece of legislation. It’s incumbent on her to show parliament a little bit more respect. With with that, the hearing adjourned.

Concluding Thoughts

So, it started off sounding like the hearing was going to go in a similar direction with when the CRTC appeared before senators over Bill C-11. However, it seemed to just be a lot more subdued. Definitely got a few interesting tidbits of how the CRTC anticipates the bill is going to look like moving forward. This includes the idea that there won’t be that policy direction from the government itself. Instead, it looks like the next stop after royal assent is planned to be the CRTC hearings.

It was definitely a little odd, however, hearing that the CRTC is saying that they are all set up and ready to go with enforcing the legislation already. At the same time, the hearings haven’t even gotten close to starting and they are going to supposedly help give the CRTC direction in enforcing the legislation. On the one hand, the training is already happening, so it almost sounds like they already know how they want to enforce the bill, but after that, they are going to get consulted on this. I really can’t help but see that as putting the cart before the horse on that one.

Obviously, there was another thing to note with some Senators not really pleased that new CRTC Chair, Vicky Eatrides, being essentially a no-show. Not surprisingly, senators like Leo Housakos were less than thrilled with this. If it was a timing issue, one can imagine that if the Chair needed more time familiarizing herself with the legislation, the hearing with them involved would probably get rescheduled for a later time. After all, Senators would really want to hear from the CRTC and would probably work something out. It almost sounds like the Chair just wanted to be a no-show for this, however.

One other point I noted was that the representatives said that they have an open door policy when it comes to feedback from the public. Whether it is questions or ideas on improving the bill, they are apparently happy to take that feedback – especially before the hearings on this legislation. I’m thinking that this may be a repeat of what happened with the Canada Media Fund where they said that they are desperately looking for Canadian creators to take advantage of their programs only to immediately ghost creators like me when we took them up on the offer.

Either way, we are happy to put the CRTC invitation to the test. So, we found their contact form and sent the following message (their form doesn’t allow multiple paragraphs, it seems). So, we wrote the following note which we think is more than reasonable for anyone in a similar situation as us looking at this debate. Yes, we still believe that most of the following will be rendered moot when the platforms end up blocking news links altogether in all of this, but we’re just going along with the unlikely scenario that they’ll just go along with this anyway.

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.

So, like last time, we’ll give this about a week and see if we actually get anything back or if we go 0-2 on getting any response from an organization like this. We did note the message of high volume after we submitted the question which read as follows:

Thank you for contacting the CRTC. Your request has been received. If you have asked to be contacted for follow-up, we will respond to you as soon as possible. We apologize in advance for any delay that may be caused by the high volume of correspondence received in the Commission.

So, we might give this week deadline a bit of wiggle room depending on the situation. Whether we hear back or not, we’ll issue a follow-up separate news article noting either success or failure. Either way, invitation received and offer taken up on. Either way, that should be interesting.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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