You turn on the radio and a song plays that you can’t recognize. Must be from a Canadian band. You sit down in front of your TV screen, and you see shows that you don’t recognize. Must be from a Canadian studio. Under Bill C-11, you could be scrolling YouTube with a patriotic glint in your eye alongside a federal and corporate algorithm; one for you and one for Canada.
The proposed bill, which underwent its first reading on Feb. 2, 2022 aims to reconstruct the way that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates all content under its jurisdiction, which would include online content. But don’t worry, they promise to be reasonable, and when has the government not been reasonable?
Reasonability and rabid media nationalism should never be on the same docket, especially under the guise of helping Canadian content creators, yet we see an unusual time for strong-arming. Regulations on television and radio have, both in the United States and Canada, been needlessly turned into their own microcosm of a nanny state.
And what does reasonable mean to the government? On the surface, all it would require is heavy-lifting from a small team of CRTC employees who will need to actually read and understand the proposed bill and its implications. That sounds reasonable, right?
Kevin Desjardins, the president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, is cautiously optimistic, in the same way a doctor might be before a wave of COVID.
“I think what C-11 does is it acknowledges the new reality of broadcasting in Canada and attempts to bring them in,” Desjardin said in an interview with Global News. “There will be talks of how they get reintegrated and how we rebalance the obligations between Canadian broadcasters and these giants.”
The internet is a separate, new and novel entity which should not be tampered with in the old style, method, and thinking of broadcasting.
This legislation does nothing to combat foreign influence; lord knows we do not turn away that, and for good reason to boot. Instead, it boosts Canadian content no matter the cost. This is a terrible reach of the CRTC’s jurisdiction into the online world, and is the wrong way of going about things. The proposed legislation is full of ‘what if’s’ and grey areas that vary from what the CRTC will take into consideration when a group of people or studio is under debate to fall under their jurisdiction.
Is VICE, for example, a Canadian company, with reporters and studios based not only in Canada but all over the world? Should their algorithmic results and distribution be tampered with because they happen to have a base of operations within Canada?
The CRTC, for all its trustworthiness or lack of notoriety in the eyes of the Canadian public, should not be regulating the internet in this manner. What about Rogers and Bell? These are two monopolies that have destroyed competitive internet rates, leaving us with two sole options at the end of the day.
The CRTC has bigger fish to fry; traditionalizing the internet is a mere regulatory tadpole.