The late Robert Fisk in a war bunker. Pic courtesy of TIFF
The late Robert Fisk in a war bunker. Pic courtesy of TIFF

Media Beat: November 05, 2020

Broadcasting Act changes could raise $800M+ annually from streaming services

The federal government tabled changes to the Broadcasting Act Tuesday that it says will require online streaming services to contribute as much as $830-million a year toward Canadian content by 2023.

Bill C-10, introduced Tuesday by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, would expand the authority of Canada’s broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to include online streaming services such as Crave, Netflix and Disney Plus.

The legislation is expected to generate a heated debate over the role of federal regulation of the internet. – Bill Curry & Janice Dickson, The Globe & Mail

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting pooh-pooh proposed Bill

The timing of Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault's reading of Bill C-10, containing long-awaited amendments to The Broadcasting Act, is suspect on the same day as the US election. 

“It's clear that the government hoped we'd be too distracted to notice that this long-awaited legislation falls far short of our expectations.

“This is a complex piece of legislation which we are still digesting. But it's my job to keep you informed, so here is my early analysis of the new bill.”

Here’s what Friends' has to say about the tabled Bill.

1. The bill says nothing about the CBC: The Liberals made big promises in 2019 to buttress CBC's local services. This bill does not deliver. And with CBC management contemplating a controversial sponsored content business, the bill does nothing to prevent CBC from becoming too commercial.

2. On making Netflix finance Canadian programming, the government has passed the buck back to the CRTC: The bill does say that the CRTC should regulate similar types of broadcasters in an equitable way, but it also leaves the CRTC the option to not regulate Netflix and the foreign streamers at all. It's entirely up to the CRTC, and given their history of inaction on this front, we have reason to be concerned that nothing will change.

3. The bill contains precise language that lets social media companies like Facebook and YouTube off the hook for promoting illegal content like child sexual abuse imagery and terrorist recruiting material. It also lets them off the hook for displaying misleading hyper-partisan political advertisements like the ones Donald Trump uses.

4. Canadian ownership rules are gone altogether, and policies around making maximum use of Canadian talent and stories have been watered down. This opens the door to foreign companies buying up what's left of our traditional broadcasting system, further reducing local coverage and representation. We'll keep studying the bill with the best experts in the country to ensure that we understand the full implications of the fine print.

So, here's what the Friends team is planning over the next few weeks:

  • We'll keep studying the bill with the best experts in the country to ensure that we understand the full implications of the fine print.

  • We'll prepare a series of productive recommended changes that would make the bill better, and ensure that every member of the Heritage Committee knows where we stand

  • Engage with the media to ensure accurate coverage of this important legislation. With the US election taking up all the oxygen yesterday, some reporters published stories without fully reading the bill. We'll engage with them to ensure accurate coverage and the most fulsome possible public debate.

We'll prepare a series of productive recommended changes that would make the bill better, and ensure that every member of the Heritage Committee knows where we standEngage with the media to ensure accurate coverage of this important legislation. With the US election taking up all the oxygen yesterday, some reporters published stories without fully reading the bill. We'll engage with them to ensure accurate coverage and the most fulsome possible public debate.

Read Friends' summary of the bill on its website.

Modernization of the Broadcast Act timelines

The Broadcasting Act outlines Canada’s broadcasting policy, defines the role of the CRTC as the regulator of the Canadian broadcasting system and sets out the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada. The Act is a key instrument in supporting Canada’s creative industries and in ensuring that Canadian music and stories are available and accessible.

The last major reform of the Broadcasting Act was in 1991 – before the Internet was widely available in Canada. Online streaming services have dramatically changed how we watch television and movies and listen to music. – Heritage Canada

Backgrounder to Bill C-10 Broadcasting Act amendment

Key changes to the Act would include:

Confirming that online broadcasting is covered under the Act

  • Currently, online undertakings that deliver audio and audio-visual content over the Internet are exempt from licensing and most other regulatory requirements. The Bill clarifies that online undertakings are within the scope of the broadcasting regulatory system.

  • The Bill provides the CRTC with new powers to regulate online audio and audio-visual services, allowing the commission to create conditions of service and other regulatory requirements under which these online broadcasters would operate in Canada. It also updates the CRTC’s regulatory powers as they relate to traditional broadcasters.

  • The Bill ensures that the Act will not apply to users of social media services, or social media services themselves for content posted by their users.

  • The Bill ensures that online broadcasters will only be regulated when doing so would contribute in a material manner to the objectives of the Act. It will be up to the CRTC to determine which services will be regulated.

Updating the Broadcasting and Regulatory Policies for Canada

  • The Bill recognizes that the Canadian broadcasting system should, through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests of all Canadians—including Francophones and Anglophones, Indigenous Peoples, Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and ages.

  • The Bill underscores that programming that reflects Indigenous cultures in Canada should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system, regardless of resource availability. It also says there must be a space for Indigenous media undertakings in the Canadian broadcasting system.

  • Additional amendments would also serve to promote greater accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Creating a more flexible approach to regulation and sustainable funding for Canadian stories

  • The Bill facilitates a flexible approach to regulation, which will allow the CRTC to tailor the conditions of service and other regulatory requirements imposed on broadcasters by considering the Act’s policy and regulatory objectives, the variety of broadcasters in the system (and the differences between them), and determining what is fair and equitable depending on the circumstances.

  • The Bill provides the CRTC with express powers to require broadcasting undertakings, including online undertakings, to make financial contributions to Canadian content and creators.

Modernizing the CRTC’s enforcement powers

  • The Bill provides the CRTC with new enforcement powers through an administrative monetary penalty scheme (AMPs), which aligns the CRTC’s enforcement powers with how it regulates telecommunications and spam. The objective of the AMPs scheme would be to promote compliance, not to punish.

Updating oversight and information-sharing provisions

  • The Bill ensures that the CRTC has the tools it needs as a modern regulator, so that it may gather information from stakeholders and liaise with other departments and agencies. It also ensures that commercially sensitive information that is collected by the CRTC in the course of its proceedings is properly protected. – Source: Heritage Canada

Facebook tried to recruit public servants amid regulatory review

As the Canadian government mulled regulations for internet and tech giants, Facebook sought to recruit from within the federal public service for a high-paying policy job.

Facebook Canada’s Kevin Chan emailed a senior official at Canadian Heritage in February to ask if there were “promising senior analysts” within the public service that might want to work for the social media behemoth.

“I promise the most challenging and fascinating experience, and the base pay is about EX3,” Chan wrote, referring to an executive-level public service position with a salary between $140,900 and $165,700. – Alex Boutilier, Toronto Star

Bruce Allen’s Reality Check on American election day.

Starts at the 30-second mark

Election's estimated cost: US$14B

The 2020 election has blown past previous records to become the most expensive campaign in American history, with the final tally for the battle for the White House and control of the Senate and the House expected to hit nearly $14 billion, according to new projections made by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That is double the previous high for federal races set just four years ago.

Much of the spending has gone into television ads: $1.8 billion worth of presidential race ads just this year, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. The total cost of the 2016 presidential campaign, even including the primaries, was $2.4 billion. – Shane Goldmacher, The New York Times

Election USA: It’s impact on Canada

As our neighbour to the south, the election’s outcome will affect us on a number of key fronts. Among them:

  • The original Keystone Pipeline cost US$5.2 billion with the Keystone XL expansion slated to cost approximately US$7 billion. President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, former vice-president Joe Biden, have very divergent ideas about whether it should go ahead. Trump supports it, but Biden has threatened to cancel Keystone XL if he’s elected, saying it’s “high pollutant.”

  • QAnon ⁠— a convoluted, sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory from the U.S. ⁠— gained new prevalence in Canada this year amid covid-19 and the presidential campaign.

  • The border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since March when the pandemic first took hold in Canada. When will it open again? Nobody knows ⁠— officials have said it’s likely to remain shuttered as long as the virus rages uncontrolled in America.

  • When the globe's two superpowers clash, Canada risks getting sideswiped. Just ask the Canadians in Chinese jail cells and the canola, pork and beef farmers punished by Beijing after Canada executed a U.S. arrest warrant against a high-profile Chinese telecom exec. China-U.S. tensions now loom over myriad global issues, touching the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, agriculture, educational exchanges, journalism, new technologies and sanctioned goods. Trump made these issues top priorities. And they're not going away.

  • Trump has indicated that for a second term, he would carry on with some of the more restrictive temporary work visa programs he established during his first term. Just recently, for example, he announced a major overhaul for H1-B visas. He is also seeking to end the temporary humanitarian protection of thousands of migrants who face threats back home and decrease the overall number of refugees who come to the U.S. All this could put pressure on Canadian borders. – Sources: CBC News, National Observer, MoneySense

The pollsters were wrong – again

As happened in 2016, Donald Trump appears to have been helped by 'shy' voters who turned out on election day but were not willing to admit who they were voting for ahead of time. 

Many experts and Trump supporters blamed the polling error on an increasing unwillingness of the public to declare their support for conservative candidates. 

The same has been true in other countries in recent years, where polls have under-estimated right-wing support. – Keith Griffith & Megan Sheets, The Daily Mail

Fox News wins election ratings ranking

Fox News Channel’s primetime coverage of election night 2020 topped all television networks and set a record for the most-watched election night coverage in cable news history, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research. FNC’s primetime coverage averaged 13.7 million in total viewers and nearly 5 million in the 25-54 demographic, making it the highest-rated election night coverage in all of television in total viewers and the A25-54 demographic, beating ABC, NBC, CBS and all cable news networks.

CNN (9.1 million) was second for the night in viewership, followed by MSNBC (7.3 million), ABC (6.1 million) and NBC (5.6 million). – Nellie Adreeva, Deadline

Election spurs surge in US gun sales.

Election impact on key foreign governments

For countries around the planet, the presidency of Donald Trump in its first term has been a singular experience to watch. Now that an inflection point in Trump’s time in office is at hand with Tuesday’s U.S. election, what’s at stake if his presidency ends — or if it continues? Nation by nation, how is Election Day in the United States being watched, considered, assessed? – The Associated Press

RIP

A record number of Australians sign ex-PM's call for Murdoch inquiry

More than 500,000 Australians have signed the petition to parliament since it launched three weeks ago.

News Corp Australia controls 70% of local newspaper circulation. Mr Murdoch has not commented on the petition. – BBC World News

Celebrated British-born veteran journalist Robert Fisk, who for decades covered events in the Middle East and elsewhere as a foreign correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, died Oct. 30 at age 74 after suffering a suspected stroke at his Dublin home.

Fisk joined The Independent in 1989, after falling out with the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Times, which he had initially joined as Northern Ireland correspondent in 1972.

During his decades-long career, he covered key international events including the Lebanese civil war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian revolution, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, conflicts in the Balkans and the Arab Spring.

Fisk also wrote 16 books that included Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War and The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Below, the trailer for This is Not a Movie, A Tinam Inc., Sutor KoLonko co-production with The National Film Board of Canada, directed by Yung Chang.

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