The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 12: The “Regulate Everything” Approach – The CRTC Conditions

The Broadcasting Act Blunder, Day 12: The “Regulate Everything” Approach – The CRTC Conditions
Posted on December 8, 2020 | Michael Geist | Written on December 8, 2020
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The Broadcasting Act blunder series with a continued examination of the “regulate everything ” approach in Bill C-10. A previous post focused on the regulation and registration requirements which make a mockery of the government’s claim that there are no licensing requirements for Internet services since the requirements are little different than what is often found in a licence. Indeed, Section 10(1)(i) gives the CRTC the power to establish regulations that could require all broadcasting undertakings – including online undertakings – to register with the Commission, pay registration fees, and face regulations on Canadian programming, advertising rules, and audit rules.  Failure to comply with these regulations carries the possibility of stiff penalties.

But Bill C-10 goes beyond those regulatory requirements. Section 9.1 (1) features numerous conditions that can be imposed on any broadcast undertaking – including online undertakings. In addition the unnecessary discoverability conditions discussed in this previous post, the CRTC can impose conditions related to:

  • the proportion of programs to be broadcast that are Canadian
  • access by persons with disabilities to programming, including the identification, prevention and removal of barriers to such access
  • the carriage of emergency messages
  • providing the CRTC with information on ownership, governance and control of the services as well as any affiliates
  • providing the CRTC with any other information it requires, including financial or commercial information, programming information, expenditure information, and any information related to the provision of broadcasting services

While these provisions may fit within a licensed, Canadian-only environment, the conditions can be applied to the CRTC to foreign online services with no presence in Canada. In fact, without any economic thresholds in the bill, the starting point is that all services around the world are potentially covered by these conditions so long as they have some Canadian subscribers. The CRTC may ultimately limit the reach of the rules following extensive hearings, but for services thinking about the Canadian market, the regulatory environment may well be reason to block Canadian subscribers. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault claims that Bill C-10 will not result in less consumer choice, yet the more likely outcome is a Canadian regulatory firewall that has new entrant streaming services thinking twice before entering the market.

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Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He has obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Osgoode Hall Law School... More