Canada’s federal government has launched its review into the nation’s core broadcasting, radio and telecommunications laws.
Over the next 18 months, a government-appointed panel will redraft the laws governing the country’s broadcast, radio and telecom industries, aiming to modernize the Broadcasting Act, Radiocommunication Act and Telecommunications Act to better align with the global digital economy.
It will deliver an interim report next June — four months before the 2019 general election in October. The government expects the panel’s final report by January 31st, 2020.
“We want to ensure that our laws keep pace with Canada’s rapidly evolving telecommunications landscape.”
“In Budget 2017, we committed to reviewing Canada’s communications legislation. Today we are delivering on that commitment,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Navdeep Bains, in a June 5th, 2018 media release.
“We want to ensure that our laws keep pace with Canada’s rapidly evolving telecommunications landscape so that Canadians can continue to receive world-class services.
“The review will consider whether changes need to be made to support affordability and availability. The panel will also examine how to build on Canada’s existing net neutrality framework to ensure that all Canadians continue to benefit from an open and innovative internet.”
The panel, led by Janet Yale, former executive vice-president at Telus and former president and CEO of the Canadian Cable Television Association, was given instructions to look at how to support the creation, production and distribution of Canadian content in French and English.
Additionally, the panel will explore how to best promote competition and affordability for internet and wireless.
In the release, the government noted that the panel will be guided by the principle of net neutrality, and will explore opportunities to further enshrine in legislation the principles of net neutrality in the provision and carriage of all telecom services, per a recently passed motion in the House of Commons.
The panel will also consider the recommendations made last week by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in its Harnessing Change report.
In it, the Commission recommended that the federal government mandate that internet service providers and wireless operators contribute towards Canadian content funding in the same way that’s required of cable operators — a potential levy that has taken on the term ‘internet tax.’
“The panel will… examine how to build on Canada’s existing net neutrality framework.”
Additionally, the Commission’s report advocated for binding service agreements over the old licensing model — both for Canadian companies and foreign platforms like Netflix and Spotify.
However, the Harnessing Change report noted that the contributions from a company like Netflix would more likely be related to “discoverability” and promotion than monetary funding (i.e. a ‘Netflix tax’).
Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly came under fire for her Creative Canada plan, revealed in September 2017, which did not propose to regulate Netflix or demand any contributions from the streaming platform, but instead struck a deal in which Netflix promised to invest $500 million in Canadian productions over five years.
The panel will also be asked to modernize the mandates of the CRTC itself, as well as the CBC, and propose solutions for the difficulties besieging the television news industry.
In addition to Yale, it will include lawyers Peter S. Grant and Monica Song; law professors and lawyers Marina Pavlović and Pierre Trudel; lawyer turned adjunct law professor Hank Intven; and former director general of the National Film Board of Canada’s French program, Monique Simard.
Update 6/11/2018: This article formerly referred to Marina Pavlović and Pierre Trudel as lawyers, while both are also full-time law professors. It has been corrected.
Photography by Bradley Bennett.
Source: Canadian Heritage and ISED