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Peter Menzies: Brace yourselves, Canadian media. The CRTC could be coming to ‘help’


Some time next spring, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is going to roll up its sleeves, whip out its notebook, and start figuring out how it can “help” Canada’s news organizations.

You might think, given the regulator’s quaint title, that its interest would be restricted to radio and television news—the type that it licences to broadcast over the air and on cable networks.

But no—the CRTC is now planning to hold a consultation, followed by a public hearing, into how news should be gathered by everyone except the few remaining dinosaurs—if there are any—that deliver the news in print only.

At least that’s what it says it’s doing.

On May 6, the CRTC “updated” its plan to implement the Online Streaming Act (aka Bill C-11). It was passed a year ago in order to amend and “modernize” the rather rustic 1991 Broadcasting Act, designed for cable, satellite, and over-the-air content providers. Back in those days, the World Wide Web was just a twinkle in the eye of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and people still subscribed routinely to newspapers that were printed and delivered, ultimately by hand, to their doorsteps. Fabulously profitable and fiercely independent, no one dared to even think about regulating them. That’s all changed.

The CRTC’s new Plan B tacitly concedes that the Plan A announced a year ago was wildly optimistic and underestimated the complexities of regulating the internet. Plan B delayed the announcement of a new regulatory framework from December of this year to December 2025, removed two previously planned consultations, and added five new ones.

Three of those are scheduled for the spring of 2025. One of them is a “consultation on news programming” about which the CRTC said:

“This consultation will study how to ensure everyone has access to strong, high quality and diverse local and national news programming on TV, radio and online in Canada. A public hearing will follow.”

The question quickly arises: does this mean the CRTC intends to muscle its way into regulating news delivered online in the same way it has overseen radio and television for decades? Can we expect, in two years time, that the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post, and The Hub will be subject to oversight by the CRTC’s cabinet-appointees to ensure their content is of “high standard,” as the Broadcasting Act insists?

Hard to say at this stage but it’s certainly more possible now than it was prior to May 6, and it is always unwise to underestimate the turf-expanding instincts of public servants.

This has come about because the CRTC was lobbied relentlessly about the sad state of news at last fall’s hearing into how to set the C-11 table. Commissioners were clearly sympathetic to the plight of licensed newshounds whose corporate overlords begged for a fund.

Broadcasters feel hard done by because they don’t have access to the government’s Journalism Labour Tax Credit (worth roughly $240 million annually) designed for “newspapers” and are restricted to 30 percent of the $100 million Google was forced to cough up via the Online News Act.

Given that only five percent of Canadians consume their news via a printed product, broadcasters want their “fair share” now that Canadian newsroom salaries are subsidized by government.

You might ask why these silos exist in a world in which it is perfectly obvious that the previous century’s news platforms are merging into a single method of delivery: the internet. You might very well ask. The only apparent answer is #becausecanada.

So it actually is sensible for the CRTC to consider the modern reality of news delivery if it’s going to figure out how to come up with a fund for the likes of CTV, Global, TVA, Rogers, etc.

The problem is that, while the Online Streaming Act gives the CRTC jurisdiction over the internet, its authority is restricted to the web’s audio and visual components, with text and even still images excluded.

A person navigates to the social-media pages of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on a cell phone in Ottawa on Monday, May 17, 2021. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.

That’s primarily because, as initially sold to the public, the Online Streaming Act wasn’t intended to be about news: it was just supposed to be about getting Netflix and Disney+ to shift their film and TV production investment from the free market into approved funds that guarantee at least one-third of the money goes to Quebec/francophone production.

But that was before the government so badly bungled the Online News Act that news links were banned by Meta on Facebook, costing the news industry tens of millions of dollars. Broadcasters then hijacked last fall’s CRTC hearing to bring their news “crisis” to the fore.

The CRTC won’t release its decisions from that hearing until summer but suffice to say it has carved news sustainability out as a separate process, likely correctly concluding that foreign streamers would rebel if they were told to fund something—news—which has zero value to them.

So, how could the CRTC get unlicensed news providers to its table when they believe they are exempt from the Online Streaming Act?

Because that may no longer be the case. News organizations now offer a feature that allows people—either due to disability or convenience—to have their stories read to them. That’s audio. And that could clearly put Canadian news organizations that offer it within the CRTC’s scope.

Even a year ago, those companies would’ve been expected to put up a fight. Today? If it means they might get money, all that’s left is to settle on the price.

It’s early days, but it’s looking very much as if newspapers and online-only news platforms will soon be assembling their regulatory affairs teams.

Because the CRTC is coming to help.

Michael Geist: Jewish students have the right to feel safe on campus


This is a post I never thought I would need to write in 2024. I have been a law professor at the University of Ottawa for nearly 26 years, and the principle that all students, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation have the right to be safe and feel safe on campus and in classrooms has been inviolable and accepted as central to our academic mission. Indeed, over the years I have seen and supported colleagues’ efforts to ensure that we practice what we preach on inclusivity and ensuring a community free from harassment and discrimination. I believe the same to be true at academic institutions across the country. Yet since October 7th, something has changed.

Last week, Jewish students from multiple universities appeared at a national press conference and before the House of Commons Justice Committee. They provided deeply troubling accounts of why many Jewish students are no longer safe—or do not feel safe—on campus and in some classrooms. The students spoke of physical violence, threats, and harassment simply for being Jewish. When asked, each said they did not feel safe on campus and warned of “the normalization of antisemitic rhetoric through inaction by university administrators, who fail to use even their own policies and their own code of conduct to act against antisemitism on their own campuses.”

The response to these accounts has frankly shocked me. If this was any other group, I believe the testimony would spark urgent calls to address the concerns alongside strong commitments from politicians and university leaders pledging to ensure that all feel safe. Yet in the days since the hearing, some have argued that while there is a right to be safe, there is no right to feel safe. I’ve seen professors criticize students from their own faculty, even as those students provided evidence of exclusion or discrimination from classes or public spaces on campus. Others argue that the lack of safety is deserved since those students’ views or affiliations make them a legitimate target or that feeling safe creates an unworkable standard.

To be absolutely clear, Jewish students have the right to be safe and feel safe just like any other student. There is no shortage of stories and studies focused on incidents involving LGBTQ students feeling unsafewomen feeling unsafeBlack students feeling unsafe, and Muslim students feeling unsafe. I can never recall anyone responding to those issues by arguing that those students have no right to feel safe or by dismissing their concerns on the grounds that somehow their fears are unwarranted or are being used as a weapon against others.

That only Jewish students seemingly elicit this response is antisemitism. Indeed, open antisemitism, Jewish exclusion or hate, denial of the right to hold legitimate views on the right of Israel to exist, and to express one’s political beliefs or religion are under active threat right now. It matters little that some Jewish students claim to still feel safe since there is ample evidence that many do not in communities in which policy dictates that everyone has the right to feel safe.

There is good reason for policies that emphasize the need for students to feel safe. Studies unsurprisingly find that there is a correlation between safety and academic performance as students cannot be expected to perform at their best if they feel unsafe. Further, safety is directly linked to mental health, which has become an increasing focus of concern for universities. Students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association rights are also directly implicated as safety fears often lead to the uncomfortable decision to hide one’s identity, restrict participation in campus activities, or refrain from speaking out. You cannot argue in favour of expression—as I see some doing in the context of some encampments on campus that have violated university policies—and then simply ignore or dismiss the expression and association rights of Jewish students.

I write this post having just concluded teaching an annual joint course on global technology law with students and faculty from the University of Ottawa, University of Haifa, and Bocconi University. The course brings together an incredible array of participants with different backgrounds, perspectives, and religions. It once again affirmed the importance of academic exchange and why calls for boycotts are so wrongheaded. But I mention the course not because of those values, but to note that this was the first time in ten years that I was forced to remove publicly available classroom information due to safety concerns. In fact, it was also the first time that campus security was alerted to the existence and location of the class.

Safety was a real issue, and the experience reinforced in a personal way that some students and faculty do not feel safe on campus right now. Universities are failing to uphold their own policies, and, in doing so, failing to live up to their own ideals as inclusive institutions in which all feel welcome and safe.

This column originally appeared at